Ann on August 16th, 2014
Triangle Transformation

My year-long Triangle Transformation. Top left photo May/June 2013; bottom left December 2013; right May 2014.

A little more than a year ago I applied to the Piedmont Yoga teacher training program, which I graduated from at the end of June.

An optional part of the application was to include a picture of myself in Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), which is the picture in the top left corner, taken last May/June.

The bottom left photo is from an anatomy long-term homework assignment where we were instructed to pick three poses we could do but found challenging and do a write-up.

My three poses were Utthita Trikonasa (pictured); Dolphin; and Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby).

The bottom left photo was taken in mid-December 2013.

We took our first set of photos and did a write-up and turned in.

Over several months we explored our three poses and learned about our bodies in the poses in terms of alignment and feeling, whether emotional and/or physical.

The photo on the right is also from the anatomy long-term homework assignment. That photo was taken in early May 2014.

Over this past year I have learned how to work with my hyperextension in my front leg and eliminate it. (I can clearly see hyperextension in the first photo, but not in the second two.)

I have learned that the best position for my head is looking forward–it’s better for my head, neck and spine. I have found the extension of this pose in the side body on both sides.

My hand over the year has gotten lower on the block, and in the last picture the block went down one height. I have kept my shoulder from pushing toward my head and neck.

(In case any of my readers are wondering … no, it’s NOT cheating to use props. Props keep us safe, able to do things we couldn’t do without them and can get you deeper into poses. You can’t do a heart opener over blocks without blocks. See my teacher Vickie in a Yoga Journal article doing a supported chester opener in preparation for Salamba Sarvangasana [Shoulderstand].)

I am pretty excited about the transformation I have made in this pose. Being a perfectionist, my top left arm in the third photo not being completely perpendicular to the floor bugs me. But the transformation for me has been an amazing one over this year. My Triangle has a ways to go, but it is on a good and safe path. And I am OK where I am right now with that pose.

Extended Triangle isn’t the only pose I have transformed over the past year or so.

My practice in general has changed over the past year as I learned more about anatomy, alignment and my own body.

The longer one practices yoga the stronger the practice gets with what can be an amazing transformation. I have had fellow practitioners tell my that my practice has gotten stronger and my alignment has changed for the better in poses. A teacher and friend I highly respect recently told me that since I started taking classes with her (three to four years ago) my practice has really changed and grown.

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Ann on August 13th, 2014
MAB

When I traveled to Tucson in June/July I packed my yoga travel mat, strap, Make-A-Bolster, eye pillow (made by my mother-in-law) and yoga blocks (which don’t always make it in the suitcase if there is not enough room).

When I travel I usually pack exercise clothes and tennis shoes to make sure I keep up with my regular exercise routine. Sometimes hitting the gym at the hotel is successful and other times not at all.

Once I started my teacher training last year I developed a home yoga practice. The more I did it the easier it got.

I have a travel yoga mat, which makes practicing at a hotel a lot easier and easy to shove into a suitcase or even a carry on. Towels and blankets can help with other needed props.

In one of my last classes of my teacher training we had a class on props. We all presented different ways to use various props, some typical you would find in a studio or possibly a gym. A few presented props that were quite unique.

One of my fellow teachers in training brought in her Make-A-Bolster.

According to the website, Make-A-Bolster is portable, compact, and flat. A blanket from your hotel room or home is folded to approximate the bolster width, tightly rolled incorporating a sleep pillow, placed in the center and zipped to form the round bolster.

What a brilliant idea! I ordered one for myself and my mom. Soon after I submitted my order I got a personal e-mail from Lerna, who created and invented this cool item. (Because part of my job is looking up patents I had to look hers up.)

Lerna thanked me for my order and wanted to know what colors I wanted. I let her know how I heard about her bolsters. Her return e-mail told me she was happy to hear that her yoga travel bolster was becoming more well-known. She also said the she hoped I found it useful and would recommend it.

Yes, I love it! My mom loves hers! And I do recommend it.

I was recently at Restorative Yoga teacher training in Berkeley and I brought it to class one day to show my fellow students. There were a lot of ooohhhs and aaahhhs.

I have traveled twice since I got the Make-A-Bolster. It stores flat and pretty much takes up no room in your suitcase–it’s like packing a skirt.

My mom can happily and easily practice Queen’s Pose now that she has a bolster.

My only complaint is that it is a little short. But that is so minor. And when looking at Lerna’s site again I realize she has different-sized “bolsters.”

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The Make-A-Bolster is a great travel accessory for any yoga practitioner. I give it 4 1/2 dumbbells.

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Ann on August 10th, 2014
half.moon

Holding my balance in a modified version of Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose). Photo by Alabaster Crowley, my awesomely talented cousin.

Yoga poses are good for physical health, mental health, emotional health and also have an anatomical focus and therapeutic benefits.

Recently I took part in a 20-hour Restorative Yoga teacher training with one of my favorite teachers and people, Vickie.

Every day we focused on different issues. One day the class was dedicated to women’s issues.

According to  a study done by Yoga Journal in 2012, 82.2 percent of yoga practitioners are women.

Since the majority of my yoga students will be women I will encounter women in various stages of their life: menstruation; pregnancy; and menopause.

When I was still in my Deep Yoga teacher training I wrote about the day we learned about women’s issues and we practiced while being “pregnant.”

The benefits of Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose, which is pictured), according to Yoga Journal, are that the pose strengthens the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks, and spine; stretches the groins, hamstrings and calves, shoulders, chest, and spine; improves coordination and sense of balance; helps relieve stress; and improves digestion.

Some of the anatomical focuses are: groins, spine, abdomen among many others.

According to an article Geeta S. Iyengar wrote on the Iyengar Yoga website, Ardha Chandrasana helps with the heavy bleeding, backache and abdominal cramps caused by menstruation.

The therapeutic applications of this pose, according to Yoga Journal, are: anxiety; backache; osteoporosis; sciatica; fatigue; constipation; gastritis; indigestion; and menstrual pain.

According to The Woman’s Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of the Menstrual Cycle by Bobby Clennell, Ardha Chandrasana helps to reduce a heavy menstrual flow and relieves menstrual cramps.

According to Alternative Medicine, Half Moon Pose tones the pelvic floor, helps slow heavy bleeding, relieves backaches and increases circulation to chest, pelvis and legs.

Self says, the pose helps to open your pelvic region, help stop heavy bleeding and relieves cramps.

According to Yoga Wiz, performing yoga poses like Ardha Chandrasana can help ease the pain of menstrual cramps and make it more bearable.

Obviously, Ardha Chandrasana is not the only pose recommended to ease symptoms of menstruation. In fact, between the tips from one of my yoga teachers and my own research I wrote a sequence to practice during menstruation. Ardha Chandrasana is just one of many poses in my sequence.

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Ann on August 8th, 2014
lunch

My super yummy lunch today.

I took the day off from work today.

I ran some errands, had lunch out and got a mani/pedi.

While at lunch I practiced taking my time to eat and enjoy my food. Now I was guilty of checking e-mail, Facebook and text messages while eating. But I reminded myself that I should take the time to enjoy my lunch and be present.

I put the phone away and ate my super yummy thin crust pizza and drank my glass of white.

While eating lunch I also did some people watching and listening, which I may have missed had my face been stuck onto the screen of my phone.

I saw a teenager wearing an Awesome Oakland T-shirt. I overheard a high-strung woman ordering pizza and drinks for herself and those at her table. I watched as a kid struggled with the pizza board and trash. I flirted with a little guy in a stroller. I overheard a woman telling her lunch companion about a guy who is in his 50s and got into a bar fight. I overheard a woman asking, What’s in that pizza? (In front of every pizza on the counter is the name of the pizza and what’s in it.)

After lunch I headed to get a manicure and pedicure. Where I go (Galaxy Nails) they give the most amazing arm and leg massages. With my more recent mani/pedis I have decided to actually enjoy the mani/pedi and not be on my phone or read a book or magazine.

How can you enjoy your mani/pedi if you are chatting away on the phone? And frankly, many of us are there to relax and would rather not have to hear your annoying one-sided conversation.

Taking the time to be present in what you do can make a huge difference in how you experience life.

Deepak Chopkra says this to a reader on Oprah.comBeing present in the spiritual sense is different from being absorbed in a movie. That kind of absorption is a distraction, an escape from your awareness. Being present needs to be in a highly aware state.

Denial is such an easy thing for many of us to escape to. I am guilty of it regularly. Sometimes being present and highly aware can be painful, which is why it is hard for many of us to face that.

Deepak Chopkra says on his site about being presentBeing fully present in the moment is valuable, not because you will remember it as a significant event, but because the present is the only place where you really live life. If you are imagining your future, then you aren’t here now, living life, making choices. Your attention is in the future where no choices can be made. If you are afraid or angry, then you are in the past, remembering old hurts and injustices. But to heal the past you need to bring your attention to the present, otherwise you are just reinforcing the old pain. There is nothing special to do or acknowledge in order to be present. It a matter of simply Being.

In case you didn’t read the paragraph above or it was way too much information, I want to point this out: “the present is the only place where you really live life.” Most of our worries and frustrations are from things that happened in the past. And the other worries and frustrations are for things we are anticipating, things that have not actually happened. 

I go over and over things in my head that have already happened, which upset me. With things that haven’t actually happened I come up with what could happen and get myself worked up over something that hasn’t happened and might not.

I work on being present. But I am human and that doesn’t always happen. But I regularly remind myself to stay present.

This month’s Go Fit Girl Monthly Challenge is about taking the time to enjoy food, being present while eating. And to just take things slower, not be so rushed. I tried to do that for myself today.

How is that going for you?

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Ann on August 1st, 2014
TV, dinner, computer

Eating dinner while on the computer and watching TV all at once is not the best way to go. Did I even enjoy that meal?

Hey, ya’ll, GFG!’s Monthly Challenges are back.

Thanks for your patience while the Monthly Challenges went on hiatus. Life is a little more calm so the Challenges will continue … on one condition … participation. I will try to keep them going for the rest of 2014 and evaluate at the end of the year.

It has been months since our last Monthly Challenge. And frankly, it took me some time to come up with challenges. How did I come up with something (nutrition and exercise) every single month?

Nutrition: Enjoy the food you are eating. How often do you drink your breakfast while commuting to work, eat dinner in front of the TV, stuff lunch down your throat while answering e-mail?

This is a tough one for me. I am a multi-tasker, which is not a positive trait to have. Yea, great you can do a whole bunch of things at the same time, but not very well.

If you can’t commit to all of your meals and snacks to just focus on the food you are eating, try it for one meal a day, one a week or if you really find this challenging, one meal the month of August. Take the time to eat and enjoy your meal. No TV, no computer, no reading. You get the idea. Taste your food. Smell it. Touch it. Look at it. Eat it.

Earlier this week I tried this. I sat at the kitchen table the other day and ate my lunch. I really tasted my food, enjoyed it, ate it slowly and didn’t have anything else distracting me.

An Exercise: Have we all been keeping up with exercise since the Challenges went on hiatus? I hope so. I have been doing my best.

This month’s exercise challenge is more of an exercise than just plain old exercise. Keep reading for more information.

This past week I have been in a Restorative Yoga 20-hour teacher training.

We were given homework each day. And one day it was to try to do everything 10% more slowly. (I have been trying to keep that up the whole week.)

I will admit that this past week it was not that difficult to do things 10% more slowly as I took the week off from work. Going back to work next week is where the real challenge will be.

We are all busy, stressed, have too much to do. But hurrying and rushing around, does that make it worse or better?

This is definitely going to be a challenge and you won’t hit it all the time. But I think it is a great idea for us to slow down a bit. This is also allowing yourself more time to get where you need to get to, to get a task done … Yup, the to do list is long. But what can wait for tomorrow? What can someone else help you with?

~~~~~

Everyone is busy and stressed. We all are. And we don’t think we have time for certain things. But how you can be the best person, professional, mom, teacher, caretaker, lawyer … if you don’t take care of yourself. Right? If you are exhausted, anxious, tired, pissy, upset, etc. there is NO way you can take care of others in the caring way you want to.

My themes are going to regularly be about taking care of No. 1. I have to remind myself of this.

Hey, and any suggestions for nutrition or exercise challenges you may have, send my way.

You can post any updates below or post to the Go Fit Girl! Monthly Challenge Facebook Group page and comment, update and converse there.  This is an open group. Anyone can join. So invite your friends. 

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Ann on July 30th, 2014
go walk

My Go Walk Skechers while in Amsterdam.

For our recent trip to Amsterdam I wanted comfy walking shoes. I have tennis shoes but I wanted something else.

I bought the Skechers Go Walk shoes. I have a couple of other pairs of Skechers and like them.

The first time I put them on I couldn’t believe how good they felt. They are lightweight, flexible and super comfortable.

The Skechers website says this about these shoes: They elevate the natural walking experience, allowing you to interact with and respond to practically any surface, while offering the additional benefit of real world protection.

My shoe box claims this about the shoes: circular sensors flex and twist so your foot can move more naturally; proprietary lightweight, injection-molded compound with memory retention; anti-microbial insole wicks away moisture; scent protection built-in to combat odor; and lightweight.

We didn’t do a ton of walking. But my feet never felt tired or over walked. They were always comfortable and well supported.

And believe me, with some of the shoes I wear my feet hurt, are uncomfortable, can cause blisters, can squish my toes, etc. But not the Go Walks.

I like these shoes so much that I just might be ordering another pair so when the first ones run out I have back up.

 

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I give my Skechers Go Walk shoes 4 1/2 dumbbells.

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Ann on July 25th, 2014

DY Flier-web-version-2As a yoga teacher challenges can come up in a class you hadn’t planned for or expected.

Last night my friend Sandra and I co-taught a beginner yoga class, which is part of the Summer Series fellow Deep Yoga teacher graduates and I are involved in.

We taught a beginner backbend class, which we titled Bringing Your Heart Into Backbends.

In the Bay Area we are having a sort of heat wave. It’s no Arizona heat wave. But when you don’t have air conditioning or ceiling fans it can get pretty sweaty.

With any sort of physical activity you have to be careful with the heat. About a third of our students were true beginners. We wanted everyone to take care of themselves and be safe.

Sandra and I didn’t plan for the heat or some of the challenges some of our beginner students were going to have in class. But all of it was a great learning experience. And that was what this was about, learning and getting some teaching under our belts.

I was much less nervous this time than my first class at Mindful Yoga in Tucson at the end of June. (I wrote about my first class here.)

One of the great things about this series of classes for my fellow graduates and me is that after each class we sit and debrief and get feedback from one of our teachers, Richard.

Thank you to all of our students last night. Thank you for letting us teach you and letting us learn at the same time.

There are four more classes in the Summer Series. Great for beginners and a reasonable price for a yoga class. See attached flier above for more details.

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Ann on July 24th, 2014
Wow, I guess I only have three pairs of flats. (If flip flops count then I have a ton of flats.)

Wow, I guess I only have three pairs of flats. (If flip flops count then I have a ton of flats.)

On Tuesday and yesterday I took public transport to work: BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The Bay Area’s version of a subway.

Normally I drive to a parking area close to my house and jump on a shuttle, which takes us the rest of the roughly 20 miles to work.

But the shuttle schedule recently changed, which means if I take the shuttle I don’t make my evening 5:45 and 6 p.m. yoga classes.

(I was supposed to go to yoga last night. But a last minute decision with friends at work had us having a fun night out drinking and eating, which we really needed.)

I decided to experiment this week with public transport. Besides the long ride and the crowded train where a seat isn’t available until people start offloading into the city (aka San Francisco) there are wardrobe issues.

I usually wear heels to work (yes, I know they are terrible for your feet).

In fact, I did a whole feet week on GFG! a few years ago. (The worst shoes for your feet; It’s feet week; And feet week concludes; and Comment Contest Tuesday.)

And most of my pants are rather long since I wear heels, which means flats are not an option with those pants.

Anyway, I wore flats on Tuesday and shorter length pants. I do have a a few pairs.

As I was on the train observing other women I noticed that there is a wardrobe culture for women riding public transport. Most women were wearing pants, which went to their ankles in length, and were wearing flats.

I tried to find information on this topic and didn’t. I, of course, didn’t do a ton of digging but I spent a considerable amount of time looking. But I did find specific instructions on how to take a bus.

I found a blog post asking us: Will you join the flat shoe society? But this was more about “high heel hell.” There’s one quick mention of public transport: … public transport would cease if women habitually wore high heels.

I normally plan my outfits for the weather. And some days it will also be for easy access to and for public transport.

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Ann on July 22nd, 2014
chia

Chia seeds I purchased at the grocery.

A friend at work recently recommended I try chia seeds. I have heard of them before and knew they were supposed to be good for you. But I hadn’t sought them out.

Recently at the grocery I saw them and decided to buy them and try them out.

My friend uses the seeds in her morning smoothies.

I don’t make morning smoothies. So I have been adding a tablespoon of them into my 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt snack.

I like the texture and consistency of the seeds.

I also like the health benefits. (There are some claims that chia seeds help you lose weight. Not sure if that is true. And frankly, I don’t want to explore it. A healthy and balanced diet is what helps you lose and maintain weight. There is no quick fix or pill for that.)

According to WebMD, chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. … Chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants and calcium.

Livestrong lists the top 10 health benefits of chia seeds: high in fiber; increases Omega-3 fats; contains niacin and thiamine; source of selenium; increases iron intake; contains calcium; source of maganese; provide phosphorous; source of magnesium; and contains copper.

The Livestrong article says you can mix a tablespoon of chia seeds with water, which can be used as a replacement for an egg in baked goods. Hmmm, interesting.

The nutritional information on one large egg: 71 calories; 5 grams fat; 0 grams carbohydrates, 0 fiber; 6 grams protein.

And the nutritional information on 1 tablespoon of Foxy chia seeds: 53 calories; 3 grams fat; 4.5 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 1.5 grams protein.

My snack of a 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt and one tablespoon of chia seeds is yummy, filling and contains: 113 calories; 8 grams fat; 4.5 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 7.5 grams protein.

Chia seeds seem like a nice supplement to certain foods with some added nutrition.

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Ann on July 17th, 2014
CH

Stand up and the charley horse goes away.

Occasionally I get a charley horse in one of my legs in the middle of the night while sleeping. One time I got one in each calf. Wow, ouch!

Over the past few nights I have woken up in the middle of the night twice with a charley horse in my left leg.

According to WebMD, a charley horse is a cramp, particularly in the calf muscles, caused by muscle spasms, involuntary contractions of one or more muscles.

For me the cramps and muscles spasms are terribly painful. I used to try to massage them out.

Years ago I learned a tip that if you can stand on your feet the cramps will go away immediately. It’s true. But to get out of bed and stand up takes a lot of might and strength. But once I step my feet to the floor the cramps and spasms completely disappear.

I’ve heard a variety of reasons why I could get them. Such as dehydration or potassium deficiency. Many more possible causes are listed in the WebMD article.

According the MedLine Plus, when a muscle goes into spasm it feels very tight. It is sometimes described as a knot. The pain can be severe.

MedLine Plus also says, muscle spasms often occur when a muscle is overused or injured. Things that might bring on a muscle spasm include: Exercising when you have not had enough fluids (you’re dehydrated). Or having low levels of minerals such as potassium or calcium.

I drink a lot of water and eat fairly healthy so I am sure my potassium level is decent.

I guess I just keep doing what I have been doing.

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