Monthly Archives: January 2010

The night I didn’t practice

Last night I did not practice yoga. It was the first January day that I did not do at least 30 minutes of yoga, which means I am going to come up a little short of my 30 minutes for 31 days goal.

I’m not going to go into all of it here, but basically yesterday was a rough day. I didn’t get home until much later than usual, and I got some bad financial news as soon as I did get home. What it came down to is this: I had almost exactly 30 minutes to myself, and I chose to call my mom instead of practicing.

Now throughout the month of January I have had a couple of other days that I considered slightly-to-moderately stressful. I practiced yoga on those days, and it really helped relieve the stress. But those were run-of-the-mill stressors, and last night was something more. I could tell that what I really needed was a good cry and someone to listen. If I had gotten on my mat I would have had a hard time letting go of the things that were stressing me out, and what I needed to do was face them, discuss them, and come to peace with them. I knew I couldn’t shake those toxic feelings to focus on practice, and I didn’t want them on my mat with me.

Maybe to some people it sounds like I’m making excuses. But to me, last night was a real-world equivalent to taking child’s pose during a strenuous class. When that’s what my body needs, I acknowledge it. My practice (and my life) is about finding a balance between the healthy place of pushing myself to achieve goals and the not-so-healthy place of demanding too much of myself before I’m ready.

And sometimes, you just need a good cry with your mom. : )

Where I Practice

In the last months of our engagement and the first few months of our marriage, Andy and I lived together in an apartment which, while not small, did not exactly give us the space we wanted. When we found the house we live in now, I saw this room and immediately thought “YOGA ROOM!” Fortunately, Andy graciously agreed. : )

I feel so at peace in this room and I love it so much, that I decided to share it with you all tonight:

The painting was done by a friend of mine (Ben Gardner). The big white double doors open up into the living room, but are usually shut. The bamboo curtain divides the room from the study, where my hubby is usually writing while I practice.

And of course, my best buddy, who is always trying to get in the yoga room to see what exactly I’m doing in there (and give me a lick on the face).

Namaste,
Jamie

Yogaglo!

I read about yogaglo on EcoYogini’s blog at just the perfect time. I was in the middle of a yoga slump, and tempted by the thought of quitting the gym. Introducing: yogaglo! For all of your practice-at-home needs! (enough links for you, there?)

So far, I give yogaglo an A+.

For those of you who don’t know, the yogaglo studio is located in Santa Monica, California. It’s a real live yoga studio with real live teachers and real live people of all levels who come in to practice. The only difference is, there’s a small camera in the back of the studio that records each class. About 24-48 hours after a class concludes, it gets posted on the website.

For $18 a month (or one and a half classes at the fancy studio in my area), you have unlimited access to the classes they post. You can take as many as you want, at any time of day. Classes are organized by teacher, style, level (1, 2, and 3), duration (from 5 minutes to 125 minutes), and category.

The advantages and disadvantages of yogaglo are closely intertwined with the advantages and disadvantages of a home practice. But since I began both at the same time, they have become one and the same for me, so I’m going to review them together here.

I think the main advantage of practicing at home is the lack of inhibition. I feel like I can take more risks in the comfort of my own home, whereas in a studio I might be too afraid of losing my balance, or just looking weird in the pose. I also talk out loud to myself and to the instructors, which is kind of funny. Usually, my hubby is in the next room writing, and I think he gets a kick out of my commentary.

Another advantage: yogaglo has LOTS of variety. They have so many different instructors and styles that I feel like I can practice for months without repeating a class unless I want to. I have been doing primarily 30-minute sessions, and they have a limited number of classes that are only 30 minutes. But I have gotten into mixing and matching classes: a 10 minute Vinyasa warmup and a 20 minute Anusara class. A 5 minute “yoga at work” stretch and a 25 minute Vinyasa class. The classes with shorter durations are almost always selections from 60 or 90-minute classes, and I applaud the site’s administrators for pulling out the warm ups and cool downs as separate sessions. People like me really appreciate that!

In one way, having the teacher in a tiny version on the laptop is actually preferable to being in a studio: you can move the teacher around! It’s awesome! If my laptop is in standard “class format” in front of me, and I know we’re going to be working on shoulderstands, I just move the computer right up by my head. No more craning awkwardly around my own body to see the instructor. Very cool and, if you pardon the lit-geek part of me, postmodern!

There are some cool things customizable to an account. Yogaglo donates 5% of their profits to non-profits, and I can choose which of the three I want my dues to benefit (they hope to add more organizations later on). Also, the account is portable. If I go visit my parents or am staying with a friend, I just find a computer with internet access and log in, and there’s my studio. They also have a commitment section, where it automatically logs your yogaglo hours, and you can log how much you practice elsewhere. They have a visual representation of a flower that “glows” when you reach 3.5 hours a week.

Of course, practicing at home also has its disadvantages. I feel much more prone to distraction than when I’m in a studio. While lying in savasana, I’m more likely to notice things like the paint job in the yoga room, the sound of the washer stopping, my cell phone buzzing in the other room, an errant toenail that’s annoying me. And there’s no one around to be annoyed when I stop the class to answer the phone (which I haven’t done yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time).

I also feel pretty distracted just by having my laptop there with me. My laptop does not represent yoga – it represents email, facebook, and other compulsive time-wasters. If I’m not feeling engaged or challenged, it’s easy to wonder about my inbox in the meantime. I don’t like this technologically obsessed side of me, but it’s there, so I’m accepting it.

Of course, the main disadvantage to any home practice is the chance that you’re settling into bad habits. It’s always good to visit a studio now and then to have someone keep an eye on your alignment!

For those who are interested, here is a complete list of categories offered by yogaglo:

Categories:

108 Sun Salutations
Absolute Beginner
Advanced Practice Anusara
Advanced Practice Vinyasa
Arm Balances
Backbend
Bhakti
Core Strengthening
Deep Relaxation
Gentle Yoga
Hip Opener
Inversions
Meditation
Partner Yoga
Pranayama
Restorative
Seated Poses
Shoulder Opener
Standing Poses
Sun Salutation Series
With Live Music
Workshops
Yin
Yoga at Work
Yoga Nidra

Namaste,
Jamie

Headstand, here I come

I am in love with headstands – I can’t stop trying to perfect mine. It’s funny because I only tried my first one a few months ago, but now I end every practice with some headstand work.

I am nowhere near coming off the wall, but I am noticing some serious progress.

I get all the way up and then place just my heels on the wall for balance. I’m not gracelessly whacking my heels and hips up there just to get it over with, like when I started. It helped when I started walking my feet in closer to my head than I had been, making the top half of my body almost vertical before I even try to get up there.

I had another “aha” moment when I learned how to really engage my arms and use my elbows as part of the tripod.

Every once in a while, I have a moment of enlightenment (mainly, core engagement) that gives me a glimpse of what it will feel like when I don’t need the wall. But I know it would be foolish to take away the wall right now. At the moment, I focus on balancing for five breaths with one heel off and one heel delicately on the wall, then I switch. Then I try to come all the way off for a few breaths.

I’m in a delicate and humbling place right now. I just did a level two class on yogaglo where the guy “in front of me” did a handstand flow between poses like it was nothing. It will be years before I get to that point (if it’s even attainable!). I try to ignore my competitive nature in yoga, but at times like that it’s very challenging! It’s tempting to just rush into things with false confidence (kind of like I did with crow a few posts back).

At the same time, I know moving too quickly here will set me back a few steps. If I get ahead of myself, I could end up falling or even injuring myself. It would severely damage the fledgling confidence I’ve built. So I need to take it nice and slowly and enjoy the ride.

I hope you’re enjoying your ride too! What poses did you have a long love affair with before you felt confident in them?

Namaste,
Jamie

Gaiam’s 5-day fit Yoga DVD

As I mentioned before, my friend Sarah loaned me the Gaiam 5-day fit yoga DVD. I actually only did the first three of the five classes because after that, I joined yogaglo and was too excited to do anything but that : ) (more on that later). So keep in mind when you read my review that maybe the last two classes are different.

Overall, I give the DVD a C+. Slightly better than average.

My biggest complaint about this DVD is that there is no way to tell which class you’re selecting from the main menu. The back of the DVD lists the following:

AM Peak Performance Yoga
PM Peak Performance Yoga
AM Yoga for Weight Loss
PM Yoga for Weight Loss
Stress Relief Yoga

But on the main DVD menu, they are listed only as numbers 1-5. There’s no way to tell if you’re starting an AM or PM class, which really is quite a big difference to me. I don’t want to be lulled to sleep if I got up early to practice.

Suzanne Deason leads three of the classes, but I only did one of hers. After that one, I wasn’t overly eager to do the other ones. In my opinion, her voice wasn’t very soothing, and she repeatedly referred to a “brick” that we supposedly needed, although I never actually felt like I needed one while participating. I am hyper-sensitive to these things, because then I start thinking that the inclusion of the brick is just Gaiam advertising to me, and I definitely don’t want to be advertised to while practicing. If I had really needed the block, I would have felt differently, I’m sure.

Rod Stryker does two of the classes on the DVD, both of which I did and really enjoyed. Rod uses beautiful language and cues about what the body is supposed to be doing and feeling. That being said, I’m wary of some of his cues – I’m not a fan of teachers using words like “stronger” and “more flexible” (as in, “if you’re more flexible, put your hand on the floor”). That seems to set the participants up for competition – with others, with themselves, and with the person on the screen. Also, I don’t know that a beginner could have kept up with him, as he mentioned the poses without much direction as to how to get into them.

I’m glad I checked out the DVD (Thanks Sarah!). I’d be interested to hear what some of you think, if you’ve tried this particular item, or other classes with Rod and Suzanne.

Namaste,
Jamie

DIY yoga mat bag!

the materials

My friend Stephanie is a superhero.

She is a math teacher, so she gets the ultimate respect from me, the person who struggles balancing her checkbook. She is also awesome at all sorts of things I don’t really know how to do. She helped me paint my porch, she knows how to knit (really knit, because I can make scarves and nothing else), she can cook and bake, she does amazing things like making her own headboard for her bed, and on and on. Also, she owns a sewing machine and actually knows how to work it.

So a long time ago I found this page on yogajournal.com, but I kind of wrote it off as over my head. Meanwhile, I casually shopped for a yoga mat bag, but wasn’t flipped about any I saw. They were all either too expensive (lululemon’s start at $34) or just not very cute. But the other day, it dawned on me that maybe Stephanie could help me make my own yoga bag! And she agreed to help.

me, pretending to be a professional

The first thing I had to do was buy my materials. This took a lot of help from the kind Hobby Lobby employee, who seemed genuinely concerned for the success of my project due to my overwhelming ignorance of what I was shopping for. I finally picked everything out, and the total came to less than $11 (and I have a lot of fabric left over).

Then, we had to measure and cut the rectangle and circle. As you might expect, a rectangle is a lot easier to cut than a circle. First we had to figure out how big the circle should be if the circumference needed to be a certain measurement. I was over simplifying things, but once Stephanie remembered where “pi” fit in the equation, and got out her fancy graphing calculator, we got it figured out.

We tried a couple of different things to make the circle, and finally it dawned on me that Stephanie probably had a compass lying around somewhere (of course, at first I referred to it as a protractor, but she knew what I meant). So that was a great thing to have.

To save you guys some time, a 6″ circle is a good size to start with. I have a regular thin mat and 6″ was just slightly too big. You’ll need a bigger circle depending on how thin/thick your mat is. If you don’t have a compass, and don’t want to bother with pi, a small plate or bowl would work.

the finished product!Once we got everything all set up, I learned the basics of the sewing machine (which I could not replicate on my own anytime soon). I did a little sewing, but Stephanie took care of the hard stuff for me.

Overall, despite some difficult angles of the fabric under the needle, the bag was not incredibly hard to make. It should be easy for those of you who do this stuff more often.

One suggestion I have that differs from the pattern is in regards to the strap length. I think the measurements they give you for the length are much too short, and I would definitely suggest adding a few inches on to the pattern (I did).

All in all, I was very happy with the finished product. Thanks to my great friend, and the helpful lady at Hobby Lobby, I now have an adorable yoga mat bag. I can’t wait for the first time someone compliments it and I can say that I made it all by myself (well, almost)! : )

Happy crafting.

Namaste,
Jamie

Downward Facing Dogs

Happy Friday!

(found it here)