Friday, March 22, 2013

Highs and Lows

I was debating about writing about todays yoga experience, first because I know at some point this is going to sound like the same thing over and over again, and second because I had a bad yoga day and I've been so positive about yoga I kind of wanted to just pretend it didn't happen and move on with life. But I've decided to go ahead and talk about it because this path to outer skinniness is about being honest about the journey. Being fat is hard. Getting skinny is hard. Staying skinny, also hard.

I think there's this barrier that we create mentally towards each other. Fat people assume skinny people don't know how hard it is to get to be like them. We assume skinny people couldn't possibly have the same insecurities and body issues we have. Skinny people assume fat people are lazy or just not trying hard enough. I'm making rather broad generalities, but you know what I mean.

The truth is we all have a lot more in common than we have differences and if I didn't talk about when things are hard or unenjoyable it wouldn't be real now would it?

So let's just be candid about it.

I actually had a pretty good day. My middle school class didn't make me want to throw things, I lost and found my wallet and ended up getting some stuff done because of it. It was sunny and rainy all day and I managed not to get caught in the rain. Good things! So I went into yoga class feeling pretty good. But then people started to flood into the room and mats went down and I got stuck in the front of the room with nothing between me and the mirror. Not only that, there was a very strong looking fit male right behind me and several more fit ladies. As much as I tried not to beg the comparison and as much as I tried to focus on the things in my appearance that I felt were improving and appealing, I just couldn't shut the voices off and I kept seeing how wide I was. Even with nice looking poses I still looked wide.

Then the foot pain started to kick in. Then the headache. After that, frustration with the limitations of my body and my skill level followed by the lump in my throat and the mental dialogue about whether I should stay or leave the class.

I decided to stop putting so much pressure on myself. My feet hurt to the point where one was cramping and I didn't know it was cramping until I changed positions. I sat on my knees for a few minutes just trying to breath and let my foot relax. I could feel my temples starting to throb. Once I'd gotten past the urge to cry I went to my bag and took some ibuprofen. And then I kept going, making adjustments for when I just didn't feel like I could do something but still feeling frustrated with how not even close I got to some of the poses.

The last five minutes of class was spent in corpse pose just breathing. The mental battle kept raging in my head and then a song came on her playlist that just made me feel happy. It's one by a band from the Netherlands that I really love. One that hardly anyone has ever heard of. I smiled and started to feel the frustration subside.

After class I complimented the instructor for her music and asked her for help on the foot pain. She offered me some really helpful suggestions for what I could do. One thing she told me was to engage my big and pinkie toe into the ground and to almost try to lift the toes in between. I tried it and it took quite a bit of pressure off my flat arches. I am looking forward to trying this in my next class to see if I can't get much further with some of the progressions now that I might actually be able to stand on one foot for more than 3 seconds!

As much as this helped me feel better I still was fighting the urge to cry all the way out to my car. I met up with Paul and Charlotte for dinner and it wasn't until I was wolfing down my salad that I realized, my headache and lack of energy, and the cramping were probably all due to the fact that I hadn't eaten all day. No wonder I had such a bad class!

Okay, so there are two poses that I feel like I just don't get, and I want to write about them, research them and then come up with answers in case anyone else feels the same way!

Child's Pose. I'm renaming this "I Give Up"
First is child's pose. This is supposed to be a relax breathing thing I think, but the problem is, my thighs and belly are so plump that I can't actually sit on my feet in this pose. I feel like my butt's up in the air if I want my head to be down or my head is too high up if I put my butt down. I think they're suppose to both be down. It just feels awkward. Sometimes being chubby makes these poses feel like I'm doing them wrong.

Same goes for whatever this one is. It's a lunge with a spine twist, but I'm not sure what the name is. My challenge here is that my belly ends up resting on my thigh before I get very far and I feel like I'm cheating. If I try to draw my stomach in to keep from resting on my thigh, I can't breathe very low. Throw in the twisting and I just feel like there are too many body parts trying to occupy the same space at the same time. Awkward.

There's another pose that you start with in order to transition to several different things that you do while lying on your back. The instructor always tells us to hug our knees to our chest. As far as I can see, no one is actually capable of accomplishing exactly this. (Okay, maybe a bunch of internet pictures prove this is possible) I'm lucky if my knees get even a little close to my belly button. And then they throw in the instruction to wrap your arms around your knees and grab your elbows as if to hug yourself into a tiny ball. I can barely hold on to my shins in this pose let alone reach my elbows! It's another issue with too many chubby parts trying to occupy the same space. Stomach, meet thighs. I'm sure there have to be modifications for fat people, and if there aren't, I'm going to make them and they will not sound nearly as pretty as downward facing dog.

I also had the thought as I was getting in my car after class that I should compose a choral piece that uses the indian phrases they use in yoga. Then maybe I'd actually remember what they're all called and I bet I could make a really cool piece of music with it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Warrior 3 FTW

This yoga stuff is starting to really grow on me. Tonight I made it to my third class with the same instructor at 24 hour. I decided to put my mat about halfway back the room right next to the window. There was a little patch of mirror so I could see myself but not the whole time.

I was really surprised at how much I've progressed in such a short time. I think I'm starting to understand the flow of the movement which really helps. I also know where I'm supposed to end up when she calls out a pose like warrior 1, 2, or 3, or low versus high lunge. I was able to actually go into a full warrior 3 pose with my right leg as a base! I held it for probably a good 10 seconds before I started to lose my balance and had to catch myself but I was pretty proud of myself for getting my leg in a straight line behind me.
Warrior 3 

Then she had us try standing split pose. I'll take my victory with warrior 3 thank you very much!
Standing Split Pose

I still haven't lost any weight, but I am really feeling good about myself. I can feel and see my body change for the better and I am starting to honestly not care about my number on the scale. I wore a black dress with turquoise tights and black heels today. The dress cuts off above the knee. I caught a glimpse of myself in the windows walking into my school building and was surprised at how nice my legs looked. I keep thinking that my reflection is making me look better than I actually do, but perhaps I should just believe what I see. Even in the mirror in yoga class I felt like my hips didn't look as wide as I imagine they do.

Things are going well.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Experiences

Last night I had planned to go to yoga at 24 hour fitness at 5:30. Since I had a bit of time between teaching and my class I decided to drive to the high school to catch up on some work. By the time I was satisfied with what I'd accomplished it was 5:30 already. In other words, I was going to miss my yoga class.

I figured I could just go to Zumba at 6:30 instead but it occurred to me that I didn't have my tennis shoes. I need a gym bag for my car that I keep all of these things in. *noted* So I decided to use the power of smart phones and find another drop in yoga class.

I must say, there are far more yoga studios than I expected in Portland. They aren't quite as frequent as Starbucks, but there's at least 3 in every neighborhood. Anyway, I found a drop in class that was reasonably priced so I made my way to the studio.

I took this picture outside the yoga center. I liked how
the flowers on the tree were the same color as the rusty wall
of the building.
I ended up going to The Bhaktishop Yoga Center on 26th and Division. When I first got there, the door was locked, but I could tell there were people because there were shoes and bags everywhere. I went back to my car to chill for a bit and then went back. I was pleasantly greeted by a very nice lady that could be the twin of a friend from high school.

The teacher for the class was a recent graduate from their yoga school. They have donation classes throughout the week taught by new teachers. It was a much slower paced yoga and I was really grateful to have things well explained. I know how to breathe for yoga now!

After the class she was really happy to show me modifications for some of the poses that I have a really hard time doing like plank and low lunge. I asked her about what sorts of things I could do for post-pregnancy as well and she had some ideas, but was really intrigued by my questions and said she'd ask some of her instructors for more ideas.

I think I will try to work both the donation or $5 classes at Bhaktishop and the classes at 24-hour fitness into my yoga practice. They really seem to compliment each other. Bhaktishop is more about perfecting the practice and learning to do yoga well where 24-hour is much more about getting a good workout and I feel sore every week.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Yoga and Nature

Apparently I need to earn 4.5 graduate level credits to renew my teaching license. This could have been done to some staggered expense if I'd thought about this about two years ago. But now it's due in May. Lucky (?) for me there is an entire program through PSU for continuing education that offers these credits for $55 each. The only catch is the course fee. These are typically in the $300-500 range. Bummer. I skimmed through the course catalog and stumbled across a class that was only $150. This I can figure out. 

So now I'm registered for a class called "Psychological Elements of Global Citizenship". The last time I took an online class it was for my cluster courses that were my alternative to general education classes. I took gender studies. It was basically an exercise in arguing with people who all agree with each other to be more liberal. Just because someone "identifies" as "male" doesn't mean he has an anger problem. It was pointless and I learned nothing I didn't know already. There are stereotypical gender roles that are projected onto us as a result of our individual, community, and global cultures. Not everyone is defined by these stereotypes. There are always exceptions. Blah blah blah. 

I consider myself pretty open minded. But I signed up for my Global Citizenship class with the expectation that I would be contemplating dirt and "opening my mind". Perhaps I would start a drum circle and hope for a cameo on Portlandia too. Jaded much? 

I started to do the reading and I could feel my barriers start to weaken. I was asked to write a sort of biographical introduction for class about my life as it connects to nature. In the process I realized that I really do have a deeper bond with natural things than I typically care to acknowledge, specifically trees. 

Something I've come to learn in this class is that nature can seem chaotic in moments but it is always reasonable and purposeful. Charlotte and I learned from Dinosaur Train this morning that forest fires may seem to destroy, but they clear out the dead plants to create an environment that is conducive to new growth. It's cyclical. Humans are natural beings and as crazy as I feel like I sound saying this sometimes the universe brings us to things that we need. We feel natural attractions. For instance, there's this guy in my yoga and zumba class that just seems incredibly fun. I want to say hi and find out who he is. But I suppress my natural attraction (this word is so sexualized isn't it? I mean it in that I find him interesting or I just want to find out more about him) to him because I don't want to be the weirdo that says "Hi you're neat! Wanna be my friend?" So instead I get to be the weirdo that he catches staring at him unintentionally. Don't lie, you so do this too!

I have lately been feeling a natural attraction towards yoga. Something about it draws me to it and has for a long time. This is my opportunity to trust my instincts and to follow them where they will take me. 

There is this big open window that overlooks the Willamette near Ross Island at the 24 Hour where I go to yoga. My first class I remember noticing the gray clouds over the West Hills and the rain on the windows thinking "When I see images like this from Japan I consider them beautiful and mysterious, but when I see this at home they feel depressing and mundane" Yesterday I decided to practice closer to the windows so I could enjoy the scenery more.

You may be wondering what all this granola has to do with fitness? I'm getting to that. 

 I'm so judgmental of myself when it comes to athletic things because I never follow through with anything and my body is a physical manifestation of my own weakness. I'm an incredibly efficient self-loather. So I typically don't notice the things that I do really well because I'm so hard on myself for what I could and should be doing better. This started to change for me yesterday.

downward facing dog
I found my yoga practice yesterday to be far less about fitness and far more about breathing and feeling my movements. Downward facing dog is a pose that we return to through each sequence. As we go through the pose sequences I'm mentally dreading when we have to go back to downward facing dog. The first two classes I felt like I was going to die. I sucked at downward facing dog. I felt like a jackass with my butt up in the air. Yesterday I didn't. Yesterday it felt comfortable and inviting. I think it helped that our instructor directed us to spread out our fingers and allow our entire hand to be grounded. This really helped me. I also started to really feel my strength and grace in the movements from one pose to another. I had to modify several of the planks because I'm just not strong enough to hold them, but I didn't feel down on myself for not being strong enough. I was actually able to be nice to myself. Like really. 

I think I'm on the verge of something very good.