Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga for Cyclists July 30, 2013

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:37 pm
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In honor of Bike to Work Day a few weeks ago (on which day I actually rode my bike to the train station* without even realizing that I ought to!), and in honor of Stacey, who requested info on this subject probably six months ago at this point, I’m pleased to present you with a post on yoga for cyclists!

Much like runners, cyclists are typically very fit, but because of the repetitive motions of pedaling a bike and the need to maintain a certain body position while riding, they can develop problems in specific body areas. These problems can include:

  • Hamstrings and hips: These areas can become overly tight, and the resulting reduced range of motion can lead to injury.
  • Overdeveloped quads: All that uphill pedaling can build great strength, but unless the hips are kept flexible, those strong muscles can pull hips out of alignment!
  • Low back pain: Unless proper form is rigorously maintained, the hours spent flexed forward while cycling can result in muscle pain, or strain in the back and shoulders.
  • Feet: The ankles, toes, and feet can become stiff when they’re held in position on the pedals, so cyclists, like all athletes, would do well to stretch the foot to avoid injury.

Luckily, a yoga practice can provide solutions to these problems! For cyclists, yoga can be beneficial in the following ways:

  • Flexibility: Yogis are obviously known for being flexible. For cyclists, yoga can promote flexibility in the key problem areas of the hips and hamstrings, the legs overall, and the feet, which will help to avert injury.
  • Spine alignment: With a regular yoga practice, you become more aware of your posture and the alignment of the spine. For cyclists, this heightened awareness can improve your form, relieving pain.
  • Core strength: Key to having a healthy spine is the core strength to support it. Many yoga postures emphasize the core,  strengthening the muscles to give you the support you need.
  • Balance: Practicing yoga improves your sense of balance, which is key when riding on rough terrain.
  • Mental clarity: Practicing yoga regularly often leads to feeling calm, alert, and clear-minded, which can help a cyclist power through a tough ride or stay focused during a race.
  • Mind-body connection: As noted above, yogis become more aware of their posture and movements as a result of their yoga practice. With this level of awareness, you’ll be better able to recognize when any part of your body is out of alignment and can take steps to fix it before an injury.

With these points in mind, here’s a sample asana sequence designed for cyclists.

  • begin lying flat on the belly
  • locust pose (opens heart and shoulders, strengthens low back)
  • child’s pose
  • rabbit pose (I’m including the link for the visual only – for this sequence, you get into rabbit from child’s pose by clasping the hands behind the back and then lifting the arms)
  • dolphin pose (mirrors the upper body alignment needed on the bike)
  • cat/cow (healthy spine warmup!)
  • downward dog (bicycle the legs here to stretch out the calves)
  • standing forward bend
  • mountain pose
  • 5 half sun salutes
  • one full sun salutation with low lunges
  • one full sun salutation with high lunges
  • one full sun salutation with heart-opening high lunges (clasping hands behind the back to open the chest)
  • one full sun salutation with twisting high lunges (opening the chest and shoulders)
  • standing sequence:
  • balance pose: dancer (works balance, lengthens quadriceps)
  • toe balance squat (a variation on malasana, stretching toe and foot while working balance)
  • kneeling with toes curled under (gentle stretch for the foot)
  • hero pose
  • cobbler pose
  • seated forward fold
  • reclining pigeon (hip stretch)
  • bridge pose (strengthens the spine – a good counterpose for on-bike positioning)
  • reclining twist
  • legs up the wall (great restorative pose, allowing fluid to drain from the hardworking legs, preventing varicose veins)
  • savasana

For me, this full sequence would probably take about an hour and a half. If you flowed more quickly through the postures, you might be able to do it in an hour, but I recommend moving more slowly and spending time in each pose to really enjoy the stretch. If you have time constraints and can’t do the full routine, you can eliminate a couple of poses from the warmup (locust, child’s, rabbit, dolphin) or the cooldown (do cobbler or seated forward fold, reclining pigeon or reclining twist), or you can cut down to two or three half salutes, or only two sun salutes with lunges instead of four. I wanted to give you a full sequence so you’d have plenty of options and an order for the poses, but this is just a framework that you can modify to meet your needs. Enjoy!

*Note: While I love to ride my bike, I am definitively not a cyclist. I am a bike rider, in the same way that a 12-year-old girl is a bike rider. My bike is shiny and red, with classic-looking fenders, a really big basket, and a bell. However, while I might not experience all the trials and tribulations that actual cyclists experience, I can still offer yoga to help them!
References:
Drop, Tuck, and Hammer
Yoga for Cyclists: Pre-Ride Warm Up
Yoga for Cyclists: Post-Ride Cool Down
Yoga for Cyclists: 3 Poses You Should Practice

 

The Latest Fresh Start: Holidays, “I Should Be Better” Syndrome, and the Power of a Good Routine July 16, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm
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Last week I was feeling a little down: angry, overwhelmed, the works. In mid-June I had (re)started my daily yoga practice and it had been going great, even when I could only manage 5 or 10 minutes a day. I saw myself become more productive in other areas of my life, too: at work, on the blog, and I even finished a writing project that’d been hanging over me for months. And all of this while YB was having a rough phase of sleep! I was so impressed with myself. But last week things got away from me. The July 4 holiday weekend meant a break in our routine; we had some houseguests, one of whom stayed an extra few days longer than planned, which was wonderful but also outside of our usual routine; and we threw YB’s first birthday party, which was a lot of fun and a lot of work. At first I hung onto my yoga practice and even took time for a good long asana session on July 4, but soon I was only getting in some seated stretches on the floor during YB’s playtime – which isn’t necessarily bad, but isn’t what I want to do every day, either. And then Wednesday and Thursday last week, I missed my yoga practice entirely. After fitting it in every day for 20 days in a row! I felt so angry at myself, even though missing yoga gave me the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep. I also began feeling a bit overwhelmed at work, particularly in light of my upcoming job transition and all the things I need to accomplish before handing off my projects to other editors. When I feel overwhelmed by my projects, I sometimes cope by procrastinating and doing nothing at all, which is a terrible coping strategy and just makes everything worse. And Thursday night I fell down the emotional rabbit hole: I’ll never have a steady yoga practice again, I’m a bad mother, YB loves F more than she loves me, I can’t even water the garden right. You know how it goes. Another flare-up of “I Should Be Better” Syndrome. And thus did it happen that I neglected my blog all last week.

On Friday morning, I dragged myself to my mat, and after keeping my practice going over the weekend and catching up on some things at home, I’m feeling better now, but as I well know, “I Should Be Better” Syndrome is a chronic condition. It’ll be back at some point. So what have I learned this time around that can help me to deal with the problem next time? First, there’s the value of sticking to a routine, even on holidays and weekends, even when disruptions are occurring, even when I’m tired, because it makes a big difference in my mood. If I can stick to my routine and keep my practice going when things aren’t on a normal schedule, maybe it’ll give me the stamina to get through that non-normal more gracefully. And if I can stick to my routine in the long term, the practice might prepare me to deal better when life gets derailed on a larger scale.

And, as always, it doesn’t do any good to lay blame. There were certainly some events and issues in the past two weeks that I could have done a better job of handling, some behavior I could have improved and some yoga I could have done more of. But the past is in the past. Instead of laying blame on myself and looking backward, better to assess where I am right now and what I need to do to fix the situation and move forward. A friend of mine loves the saying “It is what it is,” but as F mentioned to me last week, “It was what it was” also holds true. No use worrying over what it is or what it was, since that can’t be changed; I may have some input into the future, but “it will be what it will be” is also an accurate thing to say. All I really can change is my attitude.

 

Reorganization July 2, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:16 pm
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Last week, my usual posting routine got off-schedule because on Monday I received news of a division-wide reorganization at my company. Now, at my last job I weathered three reorgs (some with more successful results than others), and I saw dozens of colleagues lose their jobs. There are two key differences between those reorgs in the past and this one now. First, in the past I faced each last-minute mandatory meeting with some anticipation and excitement, hoping I might be ones of the ones to be let go; I was so unhappy in my job that the idea of losing it sounded less like a loss and more like an opportunity for a fresh start. Ultimately, I had to find my own opportunity for a fresh start instead having one handed to me with a layoff, and I found myself here, at my new company. I’ve only been here for eight months, but I love my group and enjoy my work, and I’ve been very happy, so the idea of anything changing now is actually intimidating! And, also unlike the reorgs I witnessed before, this one involves a change that directly affects me: my job title, and probably most of my responsibilities, will remain the same, but I’ll be transferring to a different group to work on developing a new line of electronic products.

Once I got past the initial shock of the news, I felt both excited and apprehensive about my new role. The VP of my group hand-picked me for the new team, which speaks well of my work and reputation, especially since I’ve been with the company for so short a time. I feel honored to be chosen for the job and trusted with some high-profile projects (even if I don’t know exactly what those projects will be yet!). And, since the market for electronic products just keeps growing, this change presents a lot of potential for career growth for me. Plus I’m genuinely interested in the practical details of how to go about developing these products! On the other hand, part of me is definitely nervous – I’ve been happy in my job here, for the first time in years! Why do we have to shake things up? Can’t everything just stay the same?

Whenever change comes, whether you expect it or not, it can be scary. Last fall when I accepted this job I was scared too, even though I knew the move was the right thing for me. From a yogic perspective, the thing to do at times like this is to stay calm: keep up with my yoga practice, focus on pranayama and deep breathing, and remind myself to stay in the present moment. I need to “reorganize” my own thoughts: it does me no good to worry, since I don’t know what the future holds. My job here has been great for me, but I can’t get so attached to it that I lose out on an opportunity to move forward. Staying calm and centered, keeping my attitude flexible, and practicing non-attachment will allow me to weather the change and be poised to make the most of it. This particular change provides a great opportunity for career growth, and like all change, it offers a chance of personal and spiritual growth as well. The change is happening whether I like it or not, so I might as well leap aboard!

 

Glennon Melton’s Beautiful Heart June 28, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:06 pm
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I recently read a couple of absolutely beautiful blog posts and wanted to share them with you:

A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On

I Love Gay People and I Love Christians. I Choose All.

These two posts by Glennon Melton made me so happy. I wish that all Christians had an attitude like hers. This is the sort of Christianity that I talk about and wish for here on the yoga blog, and the sort of loving kindness and openness that I think the yogic scriptures advocate.  A lot of people are saying nasty things about gay people in the name of Christianity, especially this week in light of the recent SCOTUS rulings, instead of remembering that Jesus said to love everyone. Thank you, Mrs. Melton, for sharing your heart with us, and thank you for being a voice of Christian love and acceptance. I’m not a Christian, but I’d be proud to be your friend.

 

Links: a minister responds to a “concerned Christian neighbor” about interfaith dialogue June 6, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:29 pm
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I love this open letter from the pastor of Fairview Community Church describing the reasons behind a planned interfaith dialogue between her church’s community and a Wiccan. I love Rev. Halverson’s desire to learn from our differences and to find the places where our faiths intersect, and I love that she responded to the concerned neighbor who wrote to her in such a public and affirming way. I love it when I get to say “Hooray for Christianity!”

 

Pond House Part 2 June 4, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:17 pm
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Last week, F and YB and I traveled to Rhode Island with some friends for the Memorial Day holiday, and stayed at the same house where we all stayed two years ago. The house was just the same, but things have certainly changed for our group of friends: last time, there were seven of us (three couples and a solo friend), and for this trip we had the same core group but also brought along our friend’s new partner, two babies, and one more on the way. It was fun to go back to the place where we had such fun two years ago and see our family of friends growing and changing and welcoming new people to love.

And we had some yoga on this trip too. We didn’t lay our mats out by the pond again, but three of us ladies snuck off to the attic room on a chilly Sunday morning, pushed back the furniture, and had a nice yoga practice while the dads watched the babies. It was great to see my pregnant friend developing such a nice yoga practice – two years ago she had only a little experience with yoga, but nowadays she gets to class twice a week and is feeling great in her second trimester. Our other yoga buddy was the mom of the other baby in the house, and it was nice to see, together, that we haven’t totally lost our yoga practice (or our figures) in our new motherhood. I was so glad to have the opportunity to share this practice, and this vacation, with my friends.

The trip also reminded me again of how lucky I am in my amazing daughter. YB is such a happy kid, always smiling even on rough days. We took the train home on Tuesday, and what should have been a five-hour ride turned into an almost eight-hour ride because of Amtrak delays. YB had a tough time, and so did we, but she was a real trooper and found things to laugh about even in hour 8 of traveling. And when we finally got home, she was so happy just to be there, laughing and clapping and banging on the table. I had to put aside my own tiredness and frustration and just be there with her, in the present moment, glad to be back home.

 

Happy Mother’s Day May 14, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:00 pm
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For Mother’s Day this year, I wanted to share just a few of the things that inspire me about my mother, Diane. My mom has been struggling with a chronic illness for the past 25-30 years and has had three major surgeries, as well as countless unpleasant procedures and medication regimens. She’s had long periods of remission, but also long periods when her illness flares up and causes her frequent bouts of debilitating pain. She’s had to make drastic changes to her diet and other habits in order to keep her disease in check – it’s something she manages on a daily basis.

But what I want to share about my mom isn’t the disease that life has handed her – it’s her refusal to let that disease define her life. When I was a kid, Mom went back to school part-time to earn her associate’s degree, and later her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, all while working, taking care of her family, and dealing with her illness (she had two of her surgeries during this period). I get my respect and love for education from her. She also jumps at every possible opportunity to see and experience the world and just have fun. She loves to travel, always makes time for her friends, and will drop everything to hang out with her granddaughter. She always has some project going, like repainting the bathroom or digging a pond in the backyard. Everyone I know is inspired by her wild holiday decorations. As a teacher, my mom has inspired many students to achieve their best, all while pretending she doesn’t really care. Mom is passionate, enthusiastic, and has a great sense of humor, and rarely do people realize how much of what she does is done in the presence of great physical pain. Mom accepts what is but lives in the moment, never letting hold her back from living her life. I may be a yoga teacher, but I can learn a lot from her attitude.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 

Guest Post at 5 Cities 6 Women May 13, 2013

I’m happy to announce that I have a guest post up this week at one of my favorite blogs, 5 Cities 6 Women!

My post is about breastfeeding, pumping, and mom-life balance. It was fun to write a blog post and not feel like I somehow had to bring it around and relate it back to yoga and wellness. I hope you’ll go check it out, and while you’re there, take a look at what Katie and the other ladies are up to. There’s always something interesting happening at 5 Cities 6 Women.

 

practicing non-attachment at the car dealership May 9, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:46 pm
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This past weekend brought me a new opportunity to practice non-attachment and letting go when my husband F and I bought a new car. We traded in our old car, which had previously been MY old car: a 2007 two-door black VW Rabbit I called “Buddy.” Trading Buddy in was definitely the right decision – it had been increasingly difficult to get YogaBaby in and out of the backseat, let alone travel any distance with her and her stuff. But it brought up a lot of memories.

I bought Buddy brand-new in summer 2006. I had just moved back home to Philly after being laid off from job in Boston and breaking up with my boyfriend of over six years. On the drive from Boston to Philly, my old car, full of my stuff, had started making funny noises, and while the car made it to PA, the issue turned out to be unfixable. I needed a car: I was living in the suburbs with my parents, I had no idea where I’d end up working, and I also had made big plans for a solo road trip. I was single, and so I bought a two-door car since I didn’t need to think of anyone but myself. (This situation resulted in some other purchases that later turned out to be unfortunate, such as a beige couch, but I digress.) After making so many changes in my life at once, the car was just the latest, and it came to represent my fresh start. Being in the car was like having my own little sanctuary when my parents’ house didn’t quite feel like my home anymore. I have great memories of the first road trip Buddy and I went on together, just a few days after I bought him: we drove to western Massachusetts for a wedding, then to Tennessee for another wedding, then to visit friends in North Carolina. It was a great trip, driving for hours with the windows down, singing along with the radio, just the two of us. Once F and I started dating long-distance, Buddy drove me to the airport many times so I could pick F up or fly to meet him somewhere for an adventure. Buddy and F got to be better friends once F moved cross-country to settle with me in Philly (F drove Buddy to work every day while I took the train). When we moved from my one-bedroom to a place large enough for both of us, Buddy drove us there; the day after our wedding, we stuck a “Just Married” sticker on Buddy and headed for the Poconos for a mini-honeymoon. Buddy’s been house-hunting, yard sale deal hunting, and to and from IKEA many times. Then in July, Buddy carried two of us to the Birth Center, and brought three of us home.

That little VW was a damn good car, and it was hard to say goodbye. But even as I personify my car and talk about Buddy like he was a real person, I know that it was just a car. What made Buddy seem like, well, a buddy was all the good times I had in the car, and all the different milestones that happened while I owned it. I don’t need to keep the car to remember my history. Buddy served me well, and it was time to move on. He’ll be a good car to some other single woman on her own, and he’ll have lots of new adventures.

So on Saturday, I let Buddy go, and we welcomed a Subaru Forester to the family. With its heated seats, sunroof, and roomy backseat and trunk, the Forester has a lot of positive qualities, and we’re getting along well so far. I can already see that I’ll have to practice non-attachment with the Forester too, but I’m looking forward to making many new memories as YogaBaby grows.

 

goals in mainstream fitness May 7, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:12 pm
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Earlier this week, Heather turned me on to this interesting post: It’s Time for a Makeover of Mainstream Fitness, by Ruthie Streiter. When Heather read it, it reminded her of the identity-based habits I was talking about earlier this year, and I agree completely.

First of all, I love that Streiter is advocating that people really think through their body’s particular needs and problems before embarking on an exercise program. So often, people take up a diet or fitness regimen just because it’s the latest fad, or it worked for a friend, but every body is different and has different needs. What is fantastic for one person’s body could be catastrophic for another, and result in no change at all for someone else. Planning out your exercise program in a thoughtful way can help you to save time and ensure that your actions will result in positive change – after all, who wants to spend hours on vigorous exercise if you don’t enjoy it (which is how most Americans feel about working out) and if it’s hurting you?

And Streiter’s article fits in well with the idea of identity-based habits. Remember, identity-based goals are the opposite of appearance-based goals (like “I want to lose ten pounds” or “I want a flatter tummy”). With an identity-based goal, you’re thinking, “I want to be a healthier person”, “I want to be a balanced person”, and, starting from there, you work on making healthier choices, day by day. Just starting out with that frame of mind could make the difference and keep you from throwing yourself into an exercise regime that’s not right for you. You’re not focusing all your energy on this one small aspect of yourself (your weight, your tummy), which could go wrong so easily; instead, you’re working on gradually changing your whole identity to that of a more healthful person, so you’ll naturally think in more holistic terms. And when you set an identity-based goal, the changes you make will last longer because you’re not only creating a new habit, you’re reinventing yourself, reimagining yourself, as a healthy sort of person, so your behavior will naturally come more and more in line with your goal.

A new month has just begun, and spring is springing up all over. It’s a great time to go play outside, enjoy the fresh air, and pick up the season’s first fresh produce at the farmers’ market. It’s a great time of year to think back on your New Year’s resolutions and recommit to working toward a balanced, healthy lifestyle in the way that’s best for you.