Monthly Archives: May 2012

40 Days Challenge: Weeks 4 & 5

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Apologies for the late update! I’ve decided to combine these two weeks since they almost felt like they melded into one anyway.

Restoration was the theme for Week 4. Baptiste recommended a three-day fruit and juice cleanse. I wasn’t entirely successful, but instead of accepting failure, I added in veggies and simply concentrated on healthy eating in general. Here’s a snapshot of what I did for those days:

On Monday, I ate a banana before yoga, and I ordered one of breathe’s amazon cherry smoothies for “lunch” (with acerola cherries, papaya, strawberry, banana, and OJ—delicious!). I ate vegetable soup for dinner with a nine-grain bread and some tropical fruit and carrot juice to drink. I also drank water and had a couple of snacks—sort of cheating, but nothing truly awful (a slice of nine-grain bread with almond butter and cacao nibs). On Tuesday, I drank water mostly and a chai smoothie (chai, almond milk, banana, and honey—my favorite). I snacked on cantaloupe, and for dinner I ate sauteed veggies (eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms) in a balsamic marinade and sprinkled with no more than an ounce of goat cheese. I ate a nine-grain bread with it and drank a berry smoothie drink (from Bolthouse Farms). Dessert was a small piece of chocolate and herbal tea. Finally, on Wednesday, I started the day with chocolate granola with almond milk, and later I drank tropical fruit/carrot juice and ate a spring mix/spinach salad with campari tomato, yellow bell pepper, blueberries, goat cheese, walnuts, and pomegranate dressing (I like to call this a dessert salad because of how sweet it is).

I continued the rest of the week with snacking on cantaloupe, blueberries, and veggies, and drinking plenty of fruit smoothies and juices. While it wasn’t a traditional cleanse, I noticed that I felt amazing eating this way! I avoided things like soy products, eggs, dairy (except goat cheese, which doesn’t bother me), and alcohol until Sunday; I already don’t eat meat or seafood, so that wasn’t a problem. Not only did I feel happier, lighter, and not at all bloated like I do every now and then, but I also got a sense of accomplishment from fitting into a dress I haven’t worn in at least three years! I had gained a few stubborn pounds a while back that just would not come off, and with the regiment of the 40 day challenge, I’ve noticed a slight amount of weight loss—just enough to fit back into a few things that haven’t fit properly in a while. My metabolism is definitely “revved” thanks to some of Cyndi Weis’s advice from the Week 1 workshop. I’ve also been drinking kombucha tea drinks, a natural probiotic, which has definitely aided in digestion—plus they taste great!

The workshops I’ve taken for Weeks 4 and 5 were Discovering Shoulder Stand and Exploring Arm Balances. Other than using the wall for support, I am really not much closer with my shoulder stand, but I have been attempting to build strength in my shoulders. Part of the arm balance workshop focused on crow (bakasana), which I’ve always had trouble with. I’m much closer now—I just need to work on actually holding the pose rather than immediately falling out of it. The only downside is that I have ugly bruises on my triceps—yuck! I like the switch from lecture workshops to asana challenges. The lectures were great, but it’s been nice to get advice on some of the poses I’ve had trouble with for the second half of 40 days. For Week 6, I’ll be taking “Core-Focused Vinyasa.” I’m excited because, although core exercises used to frighten me, I actually look forward to it now because it’s one of the areas that needs the most work. Plus, I love the feeling I get when I leave a class with a tight abdomen. It hurts in a good way, I guess!

Now that we’re in the home stretch, I definitely feel a great sense of accomplishment. Getting back into an old outfit or two was a sort of informal goal of mine for 40 days, so I’m glad that I’m getting there. My energy levels are way up; yesterday, Joe and I went on an awesome six-mile hike through a park trail near us. I’ve even managed to get my friend Amanda interested in yoga, and she’ll be accompanying me to class on the last day of the challenge—what a way to end it! (She’s the fifth person I will have brought with me to breathe—think I can get a toaster oven or a subscription to Time for “converting” so many people?). Finally, Seane Corn’s full-day immersion is coming up on Saturday, so I’ll definitely have a great report for you guys after that! It’s amazing to me that it’s already here!

Watch out, Week 6! I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum!

Now, some inspiration. DDP Yoga might not be my thing or yours, but you can’t deny how inspiring this video is! Here’s an extended version of the shorter video that’s been going around.

40 Days Challenge: Week 3

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Week 3 is over! Here is your celebration song! (Well, the chorus is on point, but the rest of it is pretty unrelated.)

My third week of the 40 Days challenge started out in pain! I must have slept poorly on Sunday night because on Monday morning, the right side of my neck and part of my right shoulder were completely tense. It was so bad that I couldn’t tilt my head all the way back, and turning my head to the right made me want to scream in agony! Throughout Monday, I thought the pain would gradually disappear, but by the time I went to my class that night (in order to attend the meditation workshop afterward), I was still hurting. It’s kind of weird how much something simple like being able to move your head and neck freely allows you to do so much in your yoga practice. For my practices on Monday and Tuesday, I almost felt impeded by the pain; I found myself having to take child’s pose more often, and even “easy” poses like low cobra just weren’t happening because I couldn’t put my head back even a little. Needless to say, this was not a great way to start my week!

I skipped going to the studio on Wednesday, and I was starting to feel better on Thursday, but I was still a bit tense, so I opted for a Foundations class. I don’t go to them often, and usually if I do one, it’s because I did a vinyasa class before it and want to use Foundations as a cool-down. The Foundations classes at breathe are a lot of fun—you get some good stretches in and go for poses that might not necessarily “fit”in a vinyasa flow class. However, the classes are more low-impact, and if you’re looking for the same level of intensity you get in the hot classes, you probably won’t find it there. Still, Foundations was just what I needed that day. I’d been craving a Foundations class for a while; doing five power vinyasa classes in one week can be difficult! Sometimes I forget that it’s okay to slow my practice down and rest every now and then—even if it’s just taking child’s pose for a sort of yoga power nap! (As an added bonus, the Foundations classes that I have attended have always featured plenty of laughter! Many of the students in these classes are somewhere around my parents’ age, and they have a great sense of humor about what they’re doing and don’t take it too seriously. Picture doing yoga with a bunch of sarcastic aunts and uncles, and that’s pretty much a Foundations class!)

By Friday, my neck felt better, and I was able to complete my last two classes on Friday evening and Saturday morning. I was glad to get them done by that point because my husband and I attended a wedding on Saturday afternoon, and I just didn’t want to have to worry the whole time about getting up early the next day to make it to my last class for the week. This turned out to be useful since I felt a bit under the weather on Sunday. (Seasonal allergies maybe? Who knows?)

Baptiste’s theme for Week 3 was equanimity: “the art of meeting life as it meets you—calmly, without drama or fuss.” I admit that this theme didn’t feature prominently in my thoughts this week, but I noticed that I was able to let go of some stress from Week 2, thoughts that were unrelated to my practice and really not even helpful to hold on to. Also, despite attending a workshop dedicated entirely to meditation, and featuring a short period to practice meditating, I have still been totally failing at developing a meditation routine. I’ve noticed a wave of calm come over me in the past week, though, which could have resulted from making it to the halfway point of 40 Days or maybe just from learning to release those negative thoughts. (My choices in music the past few days may have had an effect as well, and I promise I’ll have some yoga practice playlists up soon!)

Week 4 is all about restoration. I’m supposed to be doing a fruit/juice cleanse for three days this week (I chose to add in veggies as well), but I’m not so sure how this is going to go. With the theme of restoration, though, a restorative yoga class might come in handy at some point this week.

And now, some Week 4 inspiration:

This is how I felt when I began doing yoga! What are all these crazy people doing? (Please note, this is totally not a pose in our classes. Honestly, unless you’re in Cirque du Soleil, I’m not sure if it’s even possible.)

This video makes me laugh every time I see it. Yes, it’s an advertisement, but penguins + yoga = winning combo!

Listen to the music I posted above! Seriously, it’s magical! See you next week!

40 Days Challenge: Week 2

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For the 40 Days challenge, Week 2 was all about vitality–“living a life of enlightened knowledge and action,” according to Baptiste. I didn’t really feel it much at the beginning of the week, or at all for most of the week. Even though I was happy that I made it through Week 1, Week 2 started miserably for me. The weather went from gorgeous on Friday of Week 1 (80 degrees and sunny!) to 30 degrees with (I hope) one last bit of snow on Monday morning. Crazy! On Monday, I was all set to go to a workshop on alignment, but I honestly looked out the window and wanted nothing to do with driving in that mess. I called breathe and rescheduled for Cyndi’s Digestion workshop on Tuesday night, and later on Monday I attended Dahn’s 1:00 p.m. class in Pittsford (one of my favorites). Even driving in that was horrible, but I made it to class and enjoyed myself. Despite the crap weather, my practice improved my mood, and suddenly the snow wasn’t so horrible.

On Day 2, I went to breathe owner Cyndi Weis’s class at 6:00 p.m., and we did a lot of core work; my abdomen felt magical by the end of the night! Afterward I stayed for her workshop on digestion to improve nutrition. I won’t go into detail on it, but it kind of reminded me of a certain song from the Scrubs musical episode. The information was, as always, very interesting and useful, so even though I was sad about missing the Principles of Alignment workshop (which I hope they’ll repeat at some point), I was happy to have attended this one.

Surprisingly, before this challenge, I had never driven out to breathe’s Webster location. I usually stick to Pittsford, and I go to the downtown annex on East Ave. every now and then as well, if it fits my schedule better. I always thought Webster was too far away, but I found out that it is manageable to get to. I was supposed to go on Monday of Week 2, so on Wednesday, since the weather had improved, I decided to try Webster to attend Erica’s 4:30 class. Erica read selections from a book called Manual of the Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho, an inspirational book about manifesting courage and motivation in your life. I really liked her reading to the class; there was something very inspiring about that. I think that since the Webster studio was a brand new experience for me, it felt like a whole new yoga practice for me as well. I didn’t even groan when Erica asked the class to do eight (!) Sun Salutation B’s on our own! Normally, the instructors tell you to do two or three, but hey, like I said—whole new yoga class (almost)! (I also had the Amusing Thought of the Week (TM): my wheel pose is awful, and I have trouble lifting my head up when I’m in it. I decided instead that when I do it, it’s not a wheel–it’s a flat tire! This is probably only funny to me, and I don’t care.)

Even though I told myself I would try to do my classes Monday-Friday to free up my weekend, I ended up skipping class on Thursday. The weather became gloomy once more, and as a result, I just wanted to curl up and sleep. I actually missed being on my yoga mat, but not enough to go through a vinyasa class. I almost considered going to a restorative class that night, but I ended up staying in with my hubby instead. I went to class on Friday morning, and then Saturday morning, and I’m pretty certain that morning yoga is the best thing ever. I typically prefer morning classes, if they’ll fit into my schedule, and I notice that when I attend those, I feel energized for the remainder of my day. On Saturday I needed it; my dad and I organized a surprise dinner for my mom to celebrate her birthday and her retirement last week. It was great to see the family and spend time with them late into the evening just catching up (and they know all about my 40 Days challenge and are really supportive!).

I didn’t have quite the same level of energy during Week 2 that I carried in Week 1, but by the end of Week 2 I was happy that I had made it and hadn’t been tempted, despite bad weather and bad moods, to give up. Finally, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from page 13 of Baptiste’s 40 Days, which my instructor read at the end of my Saturday class. I like this particular anecdote about the simple (and maybe not so simple) ways in which we can manifest change in our lives by stepping out of our comfort zones.

“We can convince ourselves that we need to keep our identities as we know them intact. We think we need the stuff, the money, the status, the security, the big house, the persona we’ve created. Psychologist Carl Jung spoke openly about his lifelong desire to go to Rome to study the great written works within the Vatican library. For many years, he would periodically make train reservations and then cancel them. Though he longed to read these great works, at the same time he was afraid because he feared he would see within the great spiritual writings and works of the wise men of old that his life’s work was all wrong. Jung was very honest about his conflicted feelings. It was as if a voice within him whispered, ‘What if I’ve built my whole life on sand? What will that say about my thought systems, my achievements, my identity?’ Unfortunately, Jung never was able to step out of his comfort zone to make the journey to Rome because he so feared seeing himself in this new light.

“At some level, we all have this conflict within us, and it scares us. We are afraid to let go, to face the groundlessness and uncertainty. Way down deep, we feel that if people saw us unmasked, the naked us, the authentic us, they would recoil in horror. We are terrified of ourselves, so we maintain the illusions, patch the leaks, and hide. We have become so very sophisticated at presenting our masks that we almost fool ourselves, but not quite. Many of us sense that something is wrong and that deep change is needed—a brave unveiling of who we are at our core. But we doubt ourselves and our worth, so, like Jung, at some level we cling to what [we] already know and accept as reality. We veer away from taking that journey inward and therefore out of our comfort zone, not realizing that the way out is in.

“Once we’ve gone inward, we can then step out beyond our comfort zone and find the courage to flow from our hearts. Going out on the ledge, we have no choice but to be real. When you are standing directly in the face of the unknown, all the rest of the phony stuff doesn’t matter. In moments of great fear, everything else just falls away and there is nothing but you, your heartbeat, and your breath. Those are the moments of pure truth, when you are cornered into simply being.

“We cannot transform without leaving our comfort zone; there is no secret passage around this basic law. You must face your fears, abide in unconditional openness, and cut through all your tendencies to hold on.”

That idea of being “cornered into simply being” is how I tend to feel on my mat. The person I may be outside of the yoga studio, no matter what’s happening in my life, simply isn’t who I am when I’m immersed in my practice. Fear and doubt tend to leave my mind the more my mind connects with my body. If a great man like Carl Jung could feel that sense of fear and doubt, what can I do, even in some small way, to release my own doubts? I feel like I’m able to get some of my best “thinking” done on the mat, especially if it’s just being able to let something negative go and not give it any further thought.