Tag Archives: body awareness

My vegetarian timeline

Day 1- This is awesome! I love vegetables! Who needs meat?
Week 2 – Yummmm I love cheese, cheese is my best friend. Mainly eating lots of snacks throughout the day in place of meals (apples with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, smoothies, etc).
Week 3 – Discover some really good vegetarian entrees, but still don’t have a lot of time for sit-down meals.
Week 4 – I REALLY NEED SOME CHICKEN, but I want to stick this out a while longer.
Week 5 – Start feeling kind of yucky. Stomach cramps and other digestive issues.
Week 6 – Eat meat for the first time: a chicken sandwich at Famous Dave’s, where the waiter’s t-shirt said “Vegetarians are free to change their ways.”
Next day – Wind up in the prompt care with abdominal discomfort (fearing a kidney stone or appendicitis), doctor asks me if I’ve made any large changes to my diet in the last month. Tells me to start eating regular meals at regular meal times and stop eating so much cheese.*

So, I tried vegetarianism and I’m very glad I did. I learned a lot of my favorite meals at restaurants (Flat Top, Chipotle, Noodles etc) don’t actually need meat and I prefer the vegetarian version anyway. I am still trying to cut meat out of my diet little by little and eat less of it, decreasing my demand. I’m also trying to make conscious choices. We bought some antibiotic-free, free-range chicken for dinner the other night and it was lovely. More than twice as much as the store-brand chicken full of all the junk ($6/lb instead of $2.50/lb), but we can afford it now and then.

I’m trying to assuage my conscious while also taking care of my belly. It’s about balance – just like everything else, right?

Namaste,
Jamie

*The visit to prompt care was serendipitous, because after going over my current medications, the doctor decided to share her infertility story with me. She couldn’t get pregnant (PCOS and some sort of awful embryo-killing antibody) but ended up conceiving through IVF at the age of 41 and again at the age of 44. What an incredible story!

Hyperextension: my newest nemesis

hyperextending elbows - the crooks of the elbows should face each other, not the front of the room

shoulders hyperextending, wrists should be over shoulders, not past them. I could illustrate this better, but it hurts to do it.

blurry picture (sorry) - my knees are hyperextending, so the backs of the knees are on the floor while the heels come slightly off the floor

Edit: please be sure to read the comments for further discussion on the pictures. It’s very hard to describe the motion that’s going on in words. : )

At my Anatomy weekend in July I learned something very valuable: I hyperextend everything.

I always knew that my elbows hyperextend while in all fours and down dog. And I’ve heard repeated warnings about hyperextension of the knees, but since I could look at my elbows and tell that they were hyperextended, I thought I’d just know if my knees were doing the same thing. And I had no idea that hyperextension of the shoulders was even possible.

During class at the training, the teacher gave a valuable clue that made it “click” in my brain. If you’re hyperextending a joint, then the joint is doing the work instead of the muscles. I already knew that – but how can you tell if the muscles are floating along letting the knee do all the work?

The key is that when your muscles are engaged, your patella (kneecap) is immobile. It follows that in a pose like triangle, if you can grab your kneecap and wiggle it, you’re hyperextending. If you add a slight bend to the knee, your muscles engage, and that kneecap becomes fixed.

This is one of those things I feel like I was the last to learn. But armed with this knowledge, I have slowly begun revolutionizing my practice. I feel like I need to re-learn every standing pose. It’s a big blow to my ego. I know adding the bend at the knee keeps my body safe and prevents injury, but darnit, the poses just don’t look as pretty as I’m used to!

So here’s to taking our ego out of our yoga and learning to modify the asanas for our own bodies, instead of the other way around : )

Namaste,
Jamie

PS- enter my giveaway! Currently you have an excellent chance of winning!

Adjustable

I have always been an A student, a perfectionist, an overachiever.

The first time I received an adjustment in a yoga class I felt like I had earned a “B” on that pose — like I had been doing something “wrong”, and the teacher was “correcting” me.

Well there’s a reason it’s called an adjustment and not a correction, and as my practice evolved I realized that I love adjustments. They always take me into a deeper (and sometimes safer) expression of the pose, and I can feel everything click into place under the skilled hands of a teacher.

Any discomfort I previously had with a teacher touching me disappated as I realized that yoga teachers view the body scientifically. They aren’t looking at flab, errant hairs, or curves in the wrong places. They’re looking at bones, muscles, joints, and alignment. It’s the mark of a true professional when a teacher can wrap her arms around my waist in down dog, without making me feel uncomfortable.

So, as I’ve traveled along the adjustment journey, I now enjoying receiving. However, I am a bit wary of giving adjustments. In YogaFit (at least for the first few levels) they teach verbal adjustments addressed to the whole room. If I see a student whose knee is past her toes in a lunge, I’ll address the whole class with a verbal reminder. Usually this works, but sometimes people don’t have the body awareness to realize I’m talking to them.

I’ve gotten comfortable giving adjustments using my hand as a guide to where the body should be. I’ll place it on the floor and have them walk their foot towards it, I’ll hold it in the air and have them meet it when they’re over-extending in triangle. But I’m light years away from doing something like this:

even though I know it’s a lovely feeling, I’m just not ready to take it there yet. Maybe with time I will be able to do it outside of the gym setting.

At the gym, there’s little chance I’ll ever give an adjustment. People don’t come to the gym for that. Even the physical setup of the room — I teach on a “stage” elevated from the rest of the class by about a foot — makes adjusting seem like correcting.

Any suggestions from fellow teachers on this? Is there a time when it stops feeling forced to adjust students?

I’d also love to hear from students who have gotten adjustments that felt wrong, awkward, or uncomfortable.

PS – While writing this post, I remembered two blog posts from other lovely yoginis where they discussed the same thing. Check out LaGitane at Yoga Gypsy and Babs at Babs Babbles on adjustments.

PPS- And for Yoga Gone Wrong, check out YogaDork’s take on that inane teacher in Couple’s Retreat. Apparently Vince Vaughn has his own opinions about adjustments.

PPPS- All of this talk about Giving and Receiving makes me think of The Giver, one of my all-time favorite books and my selection for our book club this month. Check it out at Amazon if you haven’t read it.

PPPPS- haha just kidding. I swear I’m done now.

Namaste,
Jamie

Achy Breaky Everything

Andy and me this April

Sometimes I get irritated with my husband because he doesn’t seem very sympathetic when I voice a complaints about the way my body feels. When I ask why I only get a grunt in response to these comments, he says that there’s “always something going on with your body.”

I grudgingly admit he may have a point.

For the past couple of weeks I have been keeping track of all the times I mention a pain, discomfort, or dis-ease, and I have said/complained about the following:

  • Headache: several times.
  • Dull ache in left shoulder, working its way up the neck: I first thought it was from the rainy weather, and then worried it was the beginning of a repetitive motion injury – it’s actually a result of sleeping in the same position every night for about a year.
  • Miscellaneous gastrointestinal problems: due to medicine I’ve been taking.
  • Sore feet – extremely achy arches: fixed by consciously choosing shoes with arch support for the evening dog walk.
  • Sharp twinge in my right ribcage: lasted about a week and it hurt any time I twisted, bent over or stretched my right side. Eventually a bruise worked its way up to the surface of my skin. Who knows what happened there.
  • Joint aches (particularly elbows and wrists): these actually did pertain to the weather.
  • An extremely tight right hip flexor: it wouldn’t seem to open no matter what I did. Over time it gradually stopped being so cranky – no explanation for that.
  • Nausea/dizziness: hypoglycemia, also due to medicine.
  • Feeling tired: pretty much every day.

Looking at this list, I realize that it’s perhaps a bit tiring to hear all of this from your partner in a space of about two and a half weeks. Furthermore, this was during at time that I was generally healthy. So during a week when I perhaps have a head cold or am recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction, I might be downright unbearable.

click for source

In my defense, probably only 20% of this is whiny complaining (seriously, my sore feet could have been remedied by a foot rub by you-know-who). The rest of my verbalizations regarding the state of my body are kind of a “wondering aloud” of thing.

My body seems to have a mind of its own a lot of the time. I don’t ever really know what to expect from it; however, I am incredibly in tune with it. Healthy or not, I notice every tiny thing that goes on in there and I’m always mindful of how it’s feeling.

Perhaps it goes without saying that I wasn’t this way before I got into yoga.

…and if I’m being honest, I also have this tiny irrational thing that I got from watching too much of the Discovery Health channel (or something like that) in college. It’s just that there were all sorts of programs where one partner collapsed, fell deathly ill, lapsed into a coma, etc. The other partner was left saying “This came out of nowhere!”

And then the person who remained healthy mentioned (like something was just beginning to dawn on him) “Well, come to think of it, she did complain about a sharp twinge in her right ribcage for about a week…could that have been the first signs of amniocardioorthostaticsclerosis?”

And the attentive partner saves the day, providing just enough information to lead to a diagnosis/treatment/explanation.

So yeah, that’s a little weird. Probably not a good enough reason to plague my husband with every ache and pain. Maybe I should keep it to myself from now own?

Readers – how “in tune” do you consider yourself and your body? Do you think yoga helps us determine why we feel the way we do?

Namaste,
Jamie