Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

How Yoga Changes Your Body October 31, 2013

I’m loving this roundup of information from HuffPo on how yoga improves health and well-being. Click on the infographic for more information!


yoga infographic

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WTH, Toys R Us? October 28, 2013

Filed under: Miscellaneous,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 8:31 pm
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So there I was on Sunday evening, relaxing and watching a little TV with my husband, when this commercial comes on:

At the beginning of the commercial, there’s no indication of what exactly this is an ad for. Based on the setup, I thought this guy was taking a busful of children to a forest someplace, where, although they didn’t know it yet, they would learn about how wonderful nature is and it would be the best field trip ever. I believed him. I got a little excited for the heartwarming goodness that was sure to follow.

And then they went to Toys R Us. Cue scenes of running up and down the aisles in a frenzy of joyous commercialism. I was furious and horrified, and I obviously still can’t stop thinking about it.

Raz Godelnik, who wrote about this commercial for TriplePundit.com, agrees with me:

I find this ad irritating because it tries to communicate a message that is inherently unsustainable to both children and their parents. To children it says that true happiness lies in buying new toys and the subtext is that their wishes should be focused on asking their parents for new toys. To parents, it says that if they want to make their children happy they should buy them toys because this is what they wish for. This ad perpetuates everything that is wrong with the current unsustainable economy – from the notion that more stuff means more happiness to the idea that the holidays are about shopping to the idea that learning about and interacting with the environment is tedious and unimportant. I was even more irritated that this ad portrays a field trip to the forest as a boring experience for children that has nothing to do with fun or joy.

Here’s the thing, Toys R Us. Forests are way, way more fun than whatever you’ve got. Forests are fun for everyone, and if kids start liking forests when they’re kids, they can keep on liking forests for their whole lives, unlike Barbies and Elmos and whatever else you’re showing in this commercial that I refuse to rewatch and break my heart over again. Forests are not just about “what kind of leaf is this, oh it’s not an oak it’s a maple”. Forests are about growing and listening and being quiet, and forests let you learn about something much larger than yourself. My one-year-old knows that outside is way better than inside, and I’m going to do everything I can to help her keep that worldview.

 

Body Image, Body Love, Part 2 October 22, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 5:06 pm
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I recently saw some articles responding to this photo by Maria Kang. If you google “Maria Kang What’s Your Excuse” you’ll see quite a few articles on the subject, but here are the two I read:

I really like the first article by Jule Ann because she doesn’t lecture Maria Kang and finds a way to turn off blaming and really think about how she views her body, and she comes to some positive conclusions. And I like the second article because the writer looks at the issue from several different angles. I like her application of the “no excuses” concept to other things like tuba playing and her analysis of how the body image issue is different, is internalized, is something we are made to feel guilty about. And I like her recognition that Kang’s photo was posted for a specific community and has been taken out of context and applied to a wider audience.

Overall, I think the dust-up over this photo points to a lot of different issues, but here’s what I want to highlight: Maria Kang is a mom and is beautiful and she makes fitness a priority in her life, and that’s fine. Jule Ann is a mom and is beautiful and doesn’t make fitness a priority right now, and that’s also fine. Different things work for different people, and no one way is applicable to every person.

 

Link Round-up: Body Image, Body Love September 12, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:59 pm
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I’ve read some really excellent articles this week, all somehow revolving around the concept of body image, and the recognition that there’s a human person living in that body you’re looking at:

  • What People Really Look Like: A look at bodies from the perspective of a massage therapist. I love this because I don’t get to see what my body looks like on a massage table. I love this writer’s sense of reverence and joy in his work.
  • These Are the Lines of a Story: This piece about a woman’s body after giving birth brought me close to tears twice (the part with the hair, and then the story she tells to her son). For the first time, instead of feeling thankful and proud that I have no stretch marks, I feel a little sad that I have no visible marks to share with my daughter when she’s older.
  • To Me, Mean Pictures Aren’t Funny (Even the Really Funny Ones): A nice reflection on kindness and compassion to reflect on the next time you get one of those email forwards with photos of people at Walmart in horrible outfits.

Here’s another one  that I didn’t read this week, but that I’ve been thinking about all week as the other articles above came across my screen:

  • When Your Mother Says She’s Fat: I love, love, love this piece and I think about it often. I remember how beautiful my mom was when I was little – I mean to say, she’s still beautiful, but I remember sitting on her bed and watching her and just knowing with little-kid certainty that she was the most beautiful mom there ever was. My heart breaks for the little girl this writer was, seeing her beautiful mom in that suddenly  harsh light; my heart breaks to think about YB having a realization like this. I am consciously trying, even now while YB is so little, to be careful about what I say to her about my appearance. If I practice now, it will come more naturally later on when she starts to understand more. When I’m feeling particularly down, I tell her, “Doesn’t Mama look so pretty today?” It makes me feel better, because it reminds me that to her, I am what beautiful is.
 

Yoga Plans August 8, 2013

The other day it struck me that I completed my yoga teacher training over a year and a half ago. I’ve been a registered yoga teacher since December 2011! What hit me, though, is a practical concern: yoga teachers have to fulfill certain requirements for teaching and continuing education every three years to keep our registration current with Yoga Alliance. That means I have a year and a half left to meet my requirements to stay registered – that seems like a long time, but with a full-time job and a little one at home, I need to start planning now if I’m going to get there.

The good news is that I have some of the work done already. Specifically, I have to teach 45 hours of classes: I’ve been keeping track and I’m more than halfway there (which is really reassuring, considering I took a huge break from teaching when I had YogaBaby). Clearly, though, I need to get back into a teaching groove somewhere in order to make the remaining hours.

I’m also required to complete 30 hours of continuing education: at least 10 “contact” hours, in a room with an actual instructor, and up to 20 “non-contact” hours, which can be met in a variety of ways like reading books, writing articles, or attending webinars. The good news here is that I’ve got a decent number of non-contact hours already, just from my reading and work on the blog. The bad news is that I have no contact hours yet, so that’s 10 hours of classes I need to find somewhere with an actual instructor. Luckily I really like taking classes.

If I’m going to make all this happen, I’ll need to get my own practice in good shape first. I’ve been pretty solid with staying on top of my daily 15-minute practice, but I feel like I’m losing momentum – doing the same poses every day, not feeling excited about yoga but just checking it off my To Do list. One thing I plan to do to fix this situation is to write some new short sequences that can be done in a 15-minute period. These will be themed (like “Balance”, “Energy Burst”, or “Gentle Wake Up”) and will use different poses so I won’t get into such a rut. I’ll put them all on a card that I’ll keep in my yoga space, so that when I’m sleepy at 5:45 in the morning I can easily hook into a set sequencing, won’t waste time trying to think of what poses to do next, and won’t just go back to the same poses over and over. And, of course, I’ll post each sequence here for you!

I’m really excited about this new project. It makes sense that, if I’d plan in advance for a yoga class to teach, I should also plan in advance when I’m only teaching myself! And writing the sequences is an interesting challenge because I don’t usually think about my yoga practice in such a focused way – it’s fun to brainstorm poses good for specific purposes and then figure out how to make them flow together.

So (if we’re thinking in terms of goals, resolutions, and habits), my overall goal is to maintain myself as a registered yoga teacher. My next major milestone date for this goal is December 10, 2014. That’s the three-year anniversary of my YTT graduation (Yoga Alliance counts by my anniversary date for registering with them, so if I count by my graduation date that will give me a little extra time to get everything into their system). In order to achieve this goal, I’m following my resolutions to cultivate a daily yoga practice, to continue to grow my practice by educating myself, and to explore teaching opportunities. Here’s what I’ve done lately to further those resolutions, and here are my specific plans for forward movement:

  • I’ll write ten short 15-minute asana sequences that I can use to keep my personal practice active and varied. I’m planning to have a few little rules for myself with how I use these sequences (for example, I’m thinking I won’t be allowed to do Gentle Wake Up more than once a week and will require myself to do Energy Burst at least once a week and Strength at least once every other week), but I’m going to see where the actual sequences lead me after they’re all written.
  • To keep myself accountable, I’ll post each sequence here on the blog, starting on Monday August 12. I’ll post ’em daily, Monday-Friday, for two weeks. This will interrupt the usual Tuesday-Thursday flow of the blog, but I’d rather post each sequence and have them all done than let it trail on. I want to have ten sequences written to choose from for my practice, and I don’t want any excuses for procrastinating on writing them!
  • I’ll be going to the Philly Wanderlust Festival on Saturday September 7 with the lovely Sarah Trout. This will be a great way to connect with the yoga community here in Philadelphia, meet some local teachers, and get my yoga groove going. Maybe we’ll see you there!
  • I’ve sent out email queries to a few local studios that offer continuing education workshops. So far, I’ve decided that I’ll be taking at least one workshop on hands-on adjustments with Amy at Yoga with Spirit, and I’m hoping to take the three-workshop series that she’ll be offering this fall. She’s also considering offering some anatomy workshops in the winter too; winter is not my best time of year, so I’ve put this on the calendar already in hopes that it’ll give me something to look forward to!
  • I’m also going to look into some meditation classes, since that would count for continuing education contact hours as well. I may explore options to travel for a long weekend next summer (maybe at Kripalu or the Himalayan Institute?). That’s pretty far off, but we’ll see what develops!
    • In terms of continuing ed and contact hours, I’m most interested in classes that will help me step up my teaching – learning more about anatomy and hands-on adjustments, for example, which is why Amy’s workshops sound so perfect for me. I’d love to do a real prenatal training, if the right one came my way, but that may be a project to postpone for a few years. Chair yoga and yoga for older people are topics I’d like to explore, but that may need to wait until I can bring more anatomy knowledge to the table.
  • I’ve ordered some new books and I plan to look into webinars offered by Yoga Alliance and other organizations.
  • Finally, I’m going to get serious about finding teaching opportunities. Short-term, I’m going to try to get back on the sub list at Awaken and EEY (where I think I am still on the sub list, actually, but they just don’t need subs very often!). Long-term, after Wanderlust, I’m going to explore options for classes that I can attend downtown on my lunch break or right after work, and I’ll go from there in looking for a an opportunity for a regular class to teach.

In summary: Plans! I have them!

 

Food Update: Life with a Garden August 1, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:09 pm
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This summer, F and I have been enjoying, and being challenged by, the produce coming out of our garden. We have the same two raised beds we had last year, but F planted them with different things: this time around the raised beds have eggplant, mexi-bell pepper, arugula, basil, strawberries, and three kinds of tomatoes (heirloom, yellow grape, and red grape). We also have an herb bed on one side of the house and a few zucchini and corn plants scattered in the flowerbeds. This arrangement has been working out well for most of the plants. The zucchini has been gleefully happy, and the tomato plants are so huge that three cages can’t contain them. Things haven’t worked out for the arugula, and something keeps eating the strawberries before I get any (next year: fences!), but overall, the garden has done extremely well this year.

Which has brought its own challenge: what to do with all these veggies! We’ve had sauteed zucchini a few ways: mixed in with pasta, in a wrap with hummus and cheese and spinach, and as a side dish by itself. We’ve had zucchini and tomato frittata, zucchini black bean quesadillas (which were such a hit with everyone that we had it twice), zucchini bread, and zucchini muffins. Then we got creative. We had a friend over and made zucchini “crab” cakes (minus the crab) on a recommendation from one of my coworkers, and they were awesome – YB was so excited to eat hers that she burned her mouth. We had a zucchini tomato bake, and I made another loaf of bread. Twice we’ve had caprese salad, and – lest we forget the eggplant – we had an eggplant parmesan that was pretty tasty. My helpful coworker also sent me her caponata recipe, so that’s on the agenda for the next eggplant. And none of this includes all the raw veggies we’ve been munching while we cook or between meals, the leftover grated zucchini that didn’t get used in a recipe being incorporated into the rare non-garden-inspired meal, the fresh-off-the-plant tomatoes YB happily chomps when we’re outside harvesting. (She’s always trying to bite the whole zucchinis but we won’t let her; I’m pretty sure she couldn’t eat the whole thing.) F and I have each taken a load of tomatoes to our offices to share with our colleagues. And there’s still more growing.

I feel grateful for all of this wonderful bounty! It’s the perfect time of year to be a vegetarian. If you had my garden, what would you cook up?

 

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