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About this blog

Expressing my gratitude to yoga along with challenges and progress I may have along the way

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yogafire

January Reflection

Well, I was only able to actively participate in the yoga challenge for the first week before I got an injury. Since my doctor directed me to not to do yoga (barefoot exercises aggravate my foot), I've been trying to practice other parts of yoga, particularly meditation. But, I think there are the other principles beyond asana, such as ahimsa, being kind to oneself, that I learned.

Satya - not lying or truthfulness

Learning my own truth for me was to believe in my own intuition. I was afraid I was being a hypochondriac when I made a bunch of doctor appointments, but, it turns out I have midfoot arthritis. Now I am awaiting an MRI now to confirm forward treatment. I thought I failed not managing things on my own, but, I realized my pain was bigger than what I could control, so I sought outside help.

Sutra 1:12 on Vairagya - Non-attachment

I will pursue my health without "worrying ahead" about the outcome, but not be detached from my own well-being.

Ishvara Pranidhana - surrender to God or surrender to the universe

I'm not religious, but my teacher explained that it doesn't have to be "to God", but acknowledging that there is something bigger than yourself. Thus, I like the interpretation of "universe" more.

My pet rabbit of 10 years passed away from a stroke recently. I was surprised how intense my sadness was, even though we expected it since she was getting old. I was also surprised by my recurring dreams of "second chances" to save my rabbit.  Then my therapist explained that feeling guilt can be easier than feeling sadness, and, guilt is a way of trying to regain control of the situation.  After I acknowledged that death was out of my control, I could let go of the guilt. And, surrender.

yogafire

These are my pain points I assessed on Day 1 with their current status:

  1. Neck: Mild - only on left side now (when I've been feeling it mostly on the right for the past 2 years)
  2. Right shoulder: None (seems to have been relieved from a neck stretching incident)
  3. Right lower back: Faint, less than mild
  4. Left hip flexor: Faint, less than mild
  5. Top of foot pain (new, made me take a break from yoga and running from day 7): Dull ache after walking 5 miles intermittently on Sunday. Otherwise fine but not walking that much.

But, I didn't really work on my pain the way I envisioned with daily meditation and daily resistance band exercises.  Some people are more draconian than others in sticking to a strict schedule, so if reading about this laxity disgusts you, then please, switch to another thread.

Given my rest state, I'm investing the time and money to get motivated from professional guidance since trying my own self-care is not enough.  I kept thinking to myself that yoga was enough to relieve the pain so much, and with that gone, I feel a bit lost. I made these appointments so I can stop obsessing about what is wrong with me and make it someone else's problem. Yes, the whole body is connected, but, apparently there isn't enough time to address all my pain in one visit. I am parsing out each issue separately for now since I have the time, and it's a new year for me try to maximize my healthcare benefits.

  • Visit with new physical therapist visit was useful for my neck pain
    • He confirmed that my posture is good (when most people slump shoulders and head while working at a computer), but, my thoracic spine is so stiff / straight that it's so hard to round, and that may be why there is so pressure on my neck.
    • Cat and cow are the best stretches for me - I didn't realize how good it feels when I do cat, but I stopped because this position put the top of my foot down on the mat. My PT showed me how to just hook my right foot over my left ankle to protect my right foot.
  • Tomorrow: try out a meditation and stress reduction class co-taught by a Tibetan monk and clinical psychologist
    • It's also covered by insurance as group therapy, so, I'll see where it lies on the spectrum between traditional group therapy or free meditation classes I've been to before.
  • Next week: see an orthopedic foot specialist my foot pain
    • My PT told me they need separate referrals for each body part focus, and I only got one for neck/shoulder pain.  Pretty inefficient when I can see specialty doctors without referrals, and, the orthopedic will probably at the end give me a referral back to PT, but, at least I'll have another opinion from a different perspective.
  • Pending next week / next month: an orthopedic spine / back specialist to rule out joints misalignment (and minor scoliosis in my upper back as suspected by my massage therapist - it actually makes sense why I can't bend it forward or back easily if this were true)
    • Maybe there is some truth to vertebrae and joint alignment. 2 years ago, my previous physical therapist said she was popping my neck joints back in, but I didn't really believe her. But, yesterday while stretching my neck back and trying to massage out some parts, I felt a nub off-center to the right of my neck that retracted when I was gently touching it to figure out if it were just a knot. Then the craziest thing is all that right shoulder pain just disappeared after that, and, I've never felt so lightweight and free in more than 2 years.  
    • My massage therapist recommended a chiropractor to me, but I got scared about extreme adjustment stories. Yet, I also got scared to see an orthopedic because most of them are also surgeons, so I assumed it would be invasive. But, I realized I can just go to an orthopedic first for a diagnosis and then figure out my options. Again, I may just end up getting referred back to PT, but, with a new perspective.

I suppose all of the above is justification to myself that I am not scheduling random appointments to make myself feel better.

yogafire

Day 7 - Check-in

Well, on Day 5 the doctor ordered me to take a week's break from yoga and walking long distances. The tendon pain at the top of my right foot hasn't gone away in over two weeks, but I kept on doing yoga almost every day because, cheapskate me, I had a GroupOn for a monthly unlimited pass.  I got concerned because we thought about going skiing this weekend, but ski boots are intentionally tight and will likely push right into that top part of my foot!  So, I'm letting that notion go and not rushing to test my foot.

I stated my intention to still participate by following along with the suggested meditations, but I haven't. I'll try listening to a short guided one when I first wake up so it's more likely I'll follow through. 

I continued with my physical therapy exercises for my shoulder, hanging onto a pull-up bar, and doing eagle arms to stretch out my upperback and relieve my aches.  Our pull-up bar is one of those as-seen-on-TV kinds that fits across a doorway. So at the minimum, I jump onto it each time I walk by and try raising myself a few inches to warm up my achy back muscles.

Goal status: Upper back and neck pain is slightly worse since I'm less active overall.  Lower back right pain has disappeared now, so at least something is improving.  

I sucked it up and finally scheduled physical therapy next week with someone new. I realized I can't always have yoga practice to help manage pain due to my random injury prone body!

yogafire

Day 1 - New Me Goals!

Overall goal: Less pain + continue a set of physical therapy exercises each day I also do yoga.

My observations below are reminders for myself - not a lecture to anyone!

Informally, I've been observing whether I feel more intensity / discomfort in my "pain areas".  As Candace always remind us, we should work in a pain-free range, so, this may seem like a dangerous goal of mine to accomplish with yoga practice.  My situation may be different from others in that if there is pain, one should just rest.  I've taken a break for 1-2 months, and, the pain didn't go away on its own anymore because there's been too much muscle atrophy - my body is too uneven now. My left shoulder is higher than my right, my hips are slightly tilted when I stand, so my right lower back side is scrunched up (where I feel pain), and my right shoulder muscle is physically smaller and weaker than my left. I didn't believe this until I did some bicep curls again - I used to be able to do more curls with my right arm than my left, and now, my left arm is stronger.  I suspect everything gets worse cumulatively the more I sit and work, but since I can't always take breaks from work, I want to learn to manage this pain with a more consistent yoga practice.

Most of my chronic pain feels like DOMS, and if there is any sharp jolting pain or the discomfort level is more severe than it's been before, I immediately back off, do modifications, or do a resting pose instead.  But if the discomfort is at mild to moderate level, I feel I can keep going and learn how to relax those areas instead.

These are my "problem" areas with Day 1 status, with the details on how I am measuring the level of discomfort after:

  1. Neck: Moderate to Severe (based on my left side's tightness)
  2. Right shoulder: Moderate
  3. Right lower back: Moderate
  4. Left hip flexor: Mild

 

  • Neck pain (a more chronic issue for the past 2 years due to not ideal sleeping positions for the past decade.)
    • Check: Do my levator scapulae stretches and monitor my range of motion sideways
    • Day 1 Status: Left side stretch feels tight and stops at about 50 degree angle from my shoulder, but, no pain. Right side has minor discomfort but seems like full range of motion at 30 degree angle from my shoulder.
  • Shoulder pain (Related to my neck pain, but mostly between my shoulder blade and spine on my right side. Both my levator and rhomboids connect to the shoulder blade part, so it's not clear if both or just my levator are hurting.)
    • Check 1: Observe the level of discomfort in the front right of my shoulder when I do archer arms, with my right hand on the bottom.
    • Day 1 Status: Moderate discomfort
    • Check 2: See if I can reach out my right arm straight (while still in socket) and raise overhead to be parallel with my head. If I can, make sure I can do it without any "clicking" sound.
    • Day 1 Status: can't keep arm straight to go overhead without risking the clicking sound, so I stop.
  • Lower back pain on right side (quadratus lumborum)
    • Check: Right side hurts in trikonasana (triangle pose) when reaching out to the left
    • Day 1 Status: Moderate discomfort
  • Left side hip flexor (psoas)
    • Check 1: Warrior 1 with left leg back
    • Day 1 Status: No discomfort (was severe in the past when I had to take a break)
    • Check 2: Sit up from lying down in navasana (boat pose)
    • Day 1 Status: Mild discomfort
yogafire

This is myself thinking out loud here, especially since I've been stimulated after reading other people's experiences with "slumps".

My teacher said at the end of class on Wednesday that we can treat our mats as a refuge.  I thought that was an effective way to remember what my practice represents to me. It usually cultivates a feeling of contentment from within.  So, why did I deny myself refuge for an entire month, finding solace instead by escaping via TV, sleeping in, forum browsing, and online shopping? Those were external factors that help distract, but what was I trying to avoid thinking about?

I didn't truly acknowledge this until now, after reflecting on a conversation with my sister earlier this week. I have some issues going on that I didn't want to acknowledge as big deals. I reaffirmed my decision not to visit my parents over the holidays so I won't have to explain why I don't want to see or ever talk to a certain family member again. I speculated with my husband about changing to a different job role so I don't have spurts of high stress and deadlines that require me to work on holidays and weekends.

I don't have the solutions to these issues, but now I'm ready to keep them in the back of my mind instead of escaping like before.  That's not the same as being ready to face them (hence, I'm not actively seeking advice), but, I won't run away anymore. I shared details to avoid minimizing or exaggerating. Now I can sit with the truth and breathe through it, just like how I get reminded to breathe during my twisted lunges.

yogafire

Pushing oneself is different for everyone - even in yoga when some teachers talk about "finding your edge" when stretching, I have to find a different focus to figure out which muscles to engage muscles to not stress my joints or ligaments.  Some of the high-energy aerobic classes I liked so much before triggered fainting spells and pulled muscles. I had to learn how to focus and endure discomfort done in a slow, subtle way (forcing me to look internally) rather than in a high impact way.

Today's class focused on twists and lunges.  We did a standing series that lasted probably 5 minutes or so on one single side, so my quads and glutes were burning as we held each pose - and amazingly, I stuck with the whole sequence without ending early or skipping.  As I walked home, I realized around exactly around this time, 6 years ago, I tried my first yoga with my sister at home using a pre-natal yoga video.  We did a bunch of high lunges in the video, and I kept whining to my sister the whole time, "It hurts!! How can you stand this!!!"  As I kept falling out of the poses (from agony and imbalance), my sister said, "Shut up! This is pregnant women yoga! You can do it!"  And yes, my pregnant sister was doing it!

I'm pleased now that I've learned how to cope and endure the terrible burning, how to recover when I feel my balance sway and... to not whine!  Learning how to endure was learning how to push myself safely in different ways than before.  Now I just need to see if the not whining part will follow off the mat, too!

 

yogafire

When I first started watching Candace's videos, I thought, why are there so many short ones? None of these can replace my 90 min classes in the studio. (such judgment! I admit it!)  

But! I am coming back from a rut - I didn't do any workouts for a whole month, including yoga.  2 weeks of this was due to vacation, and then, I got slammed by work and stress (working over Thanksgiving holidays).  I've been so exhausted - sleeping for more than 10 hours at a time.  I knew exercise and yoga could help re-energize me, but, I just couldn't bring myself to start. I had shamed myself for slacking off and was too embarrassed to go back into the studio, and was also not even sure if I could last an entire class.  

I finally stopped making excuses yesterday and finally did the 15 min hip opening video.  Siting at my desk all day causes my hip flexors get tight, and, this video make me re-appreciate lunges and make me feel more excited about resuming my yoga practice and not afraid to face my regular teacher even though I haven't seen her in over a month!

How do others use the short 15 min videos?  Do you view them alone as short breaks in the day, or do you bundle them with other videos to have a longer practice?

yogafire

I'm a bit late checking in - I extended my 30 day to Oct 1st because I took an extra rest day, and, I wanted to save my progress picture for a home practice. 

I had a sad start of the week - I lost my favorite teacher of 3 years last week. Then I found out my second favorite teacher of 2 years had to move, and I missed her last class and never got to say goodbye in person.  I wrote a thank you note for my studio to forward to her via e-mail, so, that was what mattered to me most - to let her know how much she changed my practice.  I'll expand my horizons to try more teachers and hopefully find adjustments I like.

Anyway, let's look at comparison photos! Please comment on anything, I will lovingly accept all feedback and not be offended. Now I'm looking forward to picking a new photo outfit for the next challenge... haha!

The reason why I love adjustments so much is because a lot of my body is hypermobile, and I am working on my self-awareness to remember what proper form feels like.  Day 1 and earlier, I was just proud of myself that I could lift my leg up and only focused on extending my upper leg, and did not pay attention to what the rest of my body was doing.  This challenge allowed me to see all the nuances in the body - if I try to straighten my torso but forget to keep my upper body still, my shoulders will become uneven. If I focus on making my shoulders level, then my leg and torso lean over to one side more, or, in one picture, my neck tilts in the opposite direction of my torso to compensate for balance (Day 1, first pic)! My oh my, I have no idea how to control my body it seems.

This challenge gave me a chance to deepen my home practice and discover all these nice advantages from using a tablet instead of the TV:

  • Move the tablet around if I needed to see a demo and not crane my neck up to the TV in an awkward position
  • Use extended earphones and practice while my husband napped
  • Zero set up except for laying out a mat - with the TV, I had to move over a heavy coffee table, lift up the rug, and lay out my mat on the hardwood, and still run out of room sometimes.
  • Enjoying blue sky and a palm tree as my view out my backyard during the daytime
  • Add flexibility and lower stress in my life if something came up and I couldn't make the scheduled class times

What I learned from staring at myself:

  • It's a pain to make progress pics when there are two sides to keep track of. Double the work, but, it's revealing where places are tight when I compare sides. 
  • Tightness will come and go, just like balance is worse than some days than others. It appears my left shoulder was tight on day 30, which is why it looks exactly the same on day 1 (2nd picture). 
  • The inverse of the above - some days will better than others, independent of time.  The last picture I put Day 30 and Day 16 so I can see that Day 16 was a good day when my shoulders were level!
  • Some torso leaning from the standing leg is OK if it evens out the shoulders? Please confirm if you know, or if this will straighten out more with more consistent balance.  My hypothesis is based on the last picture - shoulders are even, but more tilt.  And first picture, shoulders are even, but torso is still tilted (but got rid of the neck tilt.)
  • Some more noticeable improvements just can't be captured in pictures.  First instance, the 2nd picture looks exactly the same to me. But, getting into the pose was definitely a different story! The videos revealed more that I wobbled instead of hopping around to try to save my balance, so getting into the pose felt much more stable, stronger, and also, slower / mindful. Does anyone have recommendations for a free video editor to speed up videos or make them into gifs?

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yogafire

Day 22: I decided to do a home video / progress pics when I did a practice at home rather than in studio, on Thursday.

Before practice: Felt a little ungrounded - knew I was going to my teacher's last class, who I've been going to consistently for almost four years.

After practice: Emotional.  Beginning of class my teacher talked about self-awareness being key, and it hit me hard.  My teacher said her main goal in teaching is just to share what has helped her and hopefully reduce suffering.  I started thinking back to all the times when what she said has helped me when I had rough times.. oh!  So much gratitude for my teacher. I'm pleased and content though. I gave her a somewhat symbolic gift and heartfelt card, so this was a great time to remind her of how much she is appreciated.
 
Day 23: Self-proclaimed rest day. The left side of my lower ab muscle (in front of my pelvis) has been rather tight for the past few days, so I decided to just give it a complete rest today. I still did my physical therapy exercises!
 
Day 24: Before practice: A little flustered - didn't finish everything on my to-do list before yoga practice, but I finally realized that was not going to happen and put it off till the next day. I then took a full hour break to do Candace's 60 min slow flow yoga.
After practice: Hopeful - I realized I've been over-worrying about my recent aches and joint pains because almost 2 years ago, I thought my neck pain would "just go away" with rest, but, it has evolved to impact my shoulder. But now I see I've backed off and regained my strength in my wrists, and when we did some boat work, my lower ab muscle didn't have that horrible tightness I felt a few days before. I was also pleased to realize what an advantageous view I have with a home practice when I lift my arms in tadasana.
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Progress pics from day 24 below. (On the right, I started smiling / laughing because my husband woke up from a nap and yelled, "I'm so tired!!!")
Now I wonder if my left shoulder is tighter (harder to bind behind), which is why it looks like my right shoulder is leaning forward in the first picture. Well, it's not the end of the 30-day challenge yet, so I'll compare with day 1 later!

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yogafire

Day 17:

Before practice: I was sad that I re-injured my neck - I was sleeping with a u-shaped neck pillow on my back (not my side) and still managed to get hurt, but I have no idea how.
After practice: I decided to take it easy and do some static poses for 10 min to relieve shoulders and do gentle neck releases.  I felt relief and gratitude that I knew enough about my body to pick yoga stretches I found to be most helpful.
 
Day 18:
I meant to do some light yoga after a quick run, but I ended up doing neither - instead I squeezed in a quick round of physical therapy exercises before bed.  Then I learned the hard way after a pretty stubborn headed (on my part) conversation with my husband that I was not doing my physical therapy exercises correctly.  
 
I asked my husband, "How do I differentiate being easy on myself vs. making excuses for not doing yoga / running / physical therapy?"  He agreed I move from the extremes of judging myself too harshly and then being too easy on myself to the point I don't have motivation - currently I'm not trying hard enough. I did not take the news easily because I thought I was lying to myself all last week, patting myself on the pack for being more patient, when I haven't prioritized the most important thing - my health and neck. 
 
So, I guess a better method going forward for me to handle criticism is to remember that any current judgment doesn't take away my past victories.  I wasn't lying to myself, I just didn't know I was doing my exercises incorrectly.
 
Day 19:
Before practice: A little foggy, but, woke up to my alarm to attend a free yoga event in honor of National Yoga month instead of sleeping in.
After practice: Proud of myself for moving forward.  I modified about 75% of my vinyasas to address my wrist pain, but I did some full version ones without pain.  I even attempted side crow, for the second time in my life, and I was able to lift up a foot briefly.
 
I even had my husband check my form for my physical therapy resistance band exercises after. I realized I could approach them more mindfully and contracted slowly.
 
Finally, I looked at the schedule and realized Day 19 was a rest day - I didn't actually miss out on a day then and swapped out day 18 and 19. Funny how things work out.
 
Day 20:
Before practice: Went on "chores" mode, so did Candace's 30 min twists video (for a previous day) while letting something simmer on the stovetop.
After practice: Felt pleased and had some fun with a new pose (sun dial) that was not close at all, but I loved the build up of different stages on how to get there. I also liked this video because we held poses for longer than other vinyasa focused ones.
P.S. The muscles around my armpit have been sore! Yay, I've been doing my physical therapy exercises correctly!
 
Day 21:
Before practice: Tense - long day of sitting at work. My lower back sometimes feels somewhat sharp pain, which was already sore from walking 6+ miles over the weekend (I need to focus more on my posture). The chill out sequence looked perfect for me!
After practice: Head felt clearer after I stood up. The sequence helped release my lower back (it popped when I did the supine spinal twist). I will need to repeat this sequence as breaks from work more often!
yogafire

Day 15

Before practice: I felt slightly frazzled. I was trying to book a hotel for an upcoming international vacation before class, but I put it on hold so I could go to class on time (yay, I let go of finishing a task!)
 
After practice: Satisfied - my teacher gave me personal verbal cues on which muscles to engage to get deeper in a pose without assistance with weight. Specifically (I'm writing this so I can remember), I was able to touch my head to the ground in Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged forward fold) after I engaged my quads and then my bandha. Previously my teacher had to strongly assist me for me to understand where to go, pushing my hamstrings to the limit, but using this cues made me stop relying on stretching my hamstrings.
 
Day 16
Before practice: A little disappointed in myself for losing track of time while doing work and not being able to make it to the studio. I decided to follow Candace's 20 min upper body strength video instead and "gain back" some time so I didn't feel rushed to cook dinner that evening.  I also thought this would be a good way to build my home practice - I have grown attached to specific local teachers, so when I got focused on something else and lost track of time, I would cry out of frustration for not being able to make it to class on time. I was... that overwhelmed back then,  to put it nicely.  I figured to give myself a break, feeling more content with my home practice will take off the pressure to always try to make it to the studio.
 
After practice: Felt more grounded. When my wrists started acting up during the video, I just paused and did my wrist release stretches to warm them up more. I was pleased with myself that when I was doing my bird of paradise, I took my time lifting the leg and didn't hop around trying to readjust my balance like I did in previous attempts.
 
And now, for lovely pictures!  I realized that I always thought lifting my right leg was my "stronger" side because it's my dominant leg and more flexible. However, I realize the standing leg is my entire foundation - so in actuality, my left leg lifted side is stronger because my right standing leg is my base!
 
Top picture: left standing foot isn't even straight (oops), and right shoulder is drooping a bit.  
Bottom picture: right standing leg looks strong, shoulders are level, and hey. my lifted left leg doesn't look that much lower than my lifted right leg now!
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yogafire

Day 8 photos posted here.

Day 9 was special to have its own entry, already shared here.

Day 10

Before practice: a unique day. Spent 1.5 hours waiting for a free concert, but I figured my husband and I would do it without question if we were on vacation. Turned out I was a bigger fan than I thought, so I jumped and danced without being self-conscious and just got into it - something entirely new for me. It felt refreshing - opposite of the experience we had a month ago when we went to a wedding with a friend who refused to dance. I realize now that we were passing judgment on others (in jest, not cruelly) so others couldn't pass judgment on us. Now I understand how tiring it was to think that way.

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I felt light and free when we got home and originally thought that would be perfect to do a longer yoga flow class.  But when I saw that the day's suggested yoga video was to de-stress, I realized it would make more sense to wind down since I certainly burned off enough energy. 

After practice: I felt more relaxed - my shoulder soreness subsided.  I was still happy but not pumped up.

Day 11

Rest day for yoga, but I made time for myself to go running

Day 12

I ended up being out all day, so I took a rest day but with a few poses and stretches before bed. I spent all day outside helping my sister take care of my nephews (3 and 6). I told my sister at the end I had fun but had no idea how she does it everyday. I was impressed that I maintained enough energy to patiently reason with my nephews (yes, even the toddler!), and simply wait for them to understand instead of trying to force them to do what they needed to do. (In retrospect, I did find it amusing to watch my 3 year old nephew grab and put back the same lollipop 10 times, but, hey, he finally let it go!)

Day 13

Before practice: groggy, just woke up. I originally set my alarm for earlier to try to make an in studio class, but, I felt tired and knew I had "sleep debt" for not sleeping as many hours as normal during the week. I gave myself a break to do a home practice instead.  I chose to do Day 9's 20 min video for tight legs since I have been on my feet constantly for the past 3 days.

After practice: Felt refreshed. I pleasantly realized I still had lots of patience because something happened right after practice ended that would previously annoy and frustrate me.  My husband came home from a pulled lower back at the gym. It seems unfair, but I would previously get annoyed whenever he got injured because he tends to push himself to the limits, and, I have to do more things on my own around the house when he's hurt.  My wrists and joints have also been feeling wonky lately (I think from Day 7 when I was doing some standing splits and put too much weight on my fingertips), but instead of having that get me down and frustrated on top of taking care of my husband, I just let my husband know, "My wrists and joints are still hurting. So, I can and want to help you, but I won't be moving as fast." He wasn't rushing me, but, I know previously I would have rushed myself and unnecessarily stress myself out.

Day 14

Oops, I ended up reflecting on my practice today rather than practicing. I pushed off my home practice for later, but my husband's injury shifted our schedule, and I couldn't practice before dinner. Instead of beating myself up, I will view this as a lesson learned to do my home practice earlier in the day. I'll probably set an alarm time so I treat it like attending a studio class. Opportunity for improvement for week 3!

yogafire

Is my contentment... joy?

Day 9 reflections:

As part of the mindfulness challenge, I reflected on how I felt before and after yoga class.  Before, I felt pretty tense in my neck and slightly annoyed that I keep re-injuring my neck in my sleep - it's been so hot that I didn't sleep with a neck collar one night, and, now I'm paying for it.  

At today's Forrest yoga class, I spent a lot of time breathing in and out of twisting poses that challenged me while allowing my neck release.  At the end of class, my teacher, as usual, asked us to observe if there were a shift from the beginning of class to now, and to be grateful that we were able to make that shift.  I felt content (as I usually do) and light.  So light to the point of absent-mindedness - when I got home, I didn't even remember if I picked up my house keys at the studio after class (I did).

Then I remembered something I read earlier this week from "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown (read in parallel with Candace's recent gratitude post and KristiSmithYoga's advice #2 - the universe keeps telling me how important gratitude is!)

  1. People were quick to point out the differences between happiness and joy as the difference between a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.

  2. [...] They say [joy's] opposite is not sadness, but fear.

I've been wanting to escape and feeling disconnected for awhile, even though I know I have a "sunny disposition" and all my friends describe me as "super happy".  I can easily point out funny or cute things and laugh about it with others - that's all externally based on circumstances. When I read the above, I thought joy had to be a state of exuberance or even enlightenment due to the spiritual aspect, but now I see it's just the opposite of fear.  When I'm content, that lightness I feel is because I have no worries going through my head - I never connected that until today.

I've been struggling to cultivate my own sense of self-worth. I have equated making others happy with my own happiness for a long time, and wondered why my happiness isn't always enough. Now I understand my yoga practice is a constant cultivation of gratitude that leads to me feeling content, and that is my joy.

 

 

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Before practice: Felt sore, so it hurt whenever I moved.
After practice: Felt more loose. Enjoyed learning the "leg up on a block" alternative from Candace's video whenever a wall isn't readily available.

When I worked on my bird of paradise, I focused on remaining grounded instead of trying to lift my leg so high.  Does my torso need to vertically line up with my balancing leg? Or is the proper alignment be focused on keeping my shoulders / torso horizontally straight?  In my previous photos, my shoulders weren't always even (the shoulder that was in a bind looked more forward).  Here, they look pretty even to me, but, I'm not sure if I'm looking at the right things?

Day 8 Resized.jpg

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Updates for the past 3 days:

Day 5 - Realizing I'm not being mindful off the mat

I've been using yoga and running as an escape from some hard realizations I'm working through emotionally.  But today, when some things disappointed me, I didn't voice it and instead, stewed about it, and passively-aggressively took it out on my husband.  I will try to be mindful not only during this yoga challenge but in my everyday life - for example, let my husband know at the time, not later, what is bothering me. And if I don't know yet, just admit that.  It's too much pressure to always try to figure things out first - it doesn't have to be that way.

The good news though.. my knees hurt slightly today, so, I swapped out today's suggested yoga practice for a rest day instead.

Day 6 - Restorative was just what I needed

I had an honest talk with my husband in the morning - that helped lift most of my tension.

I still developed a mild headache throughout the day, mostly from sleep deprivation. I followed Candace's restorative yin session - my chest is especially tight (hard for me to do backbends and twists), so I appreciated the poses.  I focused on just breathing deeply (no ujjayi, just breathe), and, my headache did subside.

Day 7 - Stalking my fear

Feeling more motivated today, I decided to sit down and watch a recorded session from Wanderlust with Ana Forrest.  The 2 hour playtime scared me, but then I realized she spends time to demo and describe what to do first, so, it's not holding dolphin for 2 hours! The theme was "stalking your fear", and, being more aware of where we hold tension when we get scared. I know my tight spots are my neck and between my shoulder blades, but, I found out today that it was my throat - you know that, lump in your throat when you receive bad news? That's tightness, not a lump! It made sense, if I'm constricting my throat and lowering my chin down, of course my neck and shoulders are going to suffer.  I always love when I learn something new about myself.

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I tried to be mindful today to focus on my alignment - to keep my body centered.  After I reviewed today's pics, I see that I am still compromising my foundation with my flexibility to extend my leg. Today I felt so good and warmed up (did the yoga after running), I didn't even realize I went out of alignment. I think it's best for me to focus on the basics and work on the foundation first before extending the leg now - lay off by keeping my knee bent but practice on centering myself in the bind.  It's fun to try the full expression of a pose, but, now I know I can't improve until I back off and fix my foundation.  I let my progress in flexibility excite me too much so that I ignored everything else - my day 1 left leg picture looked the most legit, and, had the lowest leg lift!

I tried two methods today: method 1 from bound extended side angle with hops (like in Candace's video), and method 2 from forward fold / uttanasana.   It took more strength to get up with method 2, but I think I wasn't rotating my shoulders enough.  I compared pictures between the two methods - method 2 actually makes me feel I lift my leg higher but at the expense of me hunching over.  I'll stick to method 1 for now! My body looks aligned in bound side angle pose, so it's a natural prep for me to open up.

Also, to help with comparison photos, I am wearing this outfit only when I film myself (as per Candace's tips!), so please don't think I don't do laundry... :)

resized day 4 bird of paradise compare.jpg

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I followed the suggested schedule today in the 30 day Mindful challenge.  At first, I thought it was too troublesome to piecemeal the different components, but I kept a tab open to the page that showed the warm up poses and diligently paused between the two videos and followed the course.

Today's main video was Candace's tone-up sequence with blocks.  I only have foam blocks and at first thought I would not get any benefit from the class.  But, I used the opportunity to try it out, and noticed that using blocks between the hands in my high lunge focuses me to not hyperextend my elbows when reaching upward.  I also made sure not to overextend my shoulder out from my socket when doing some of the tone up exercises that extends the arm in front of the shoulder.  Without the weight of the block to distract me, I realized I could better focus on my form.  I've definitely held blocks between my thighs or shins to engage my core, and holding between my arms helped engage my upper body.  I get the cues and adjustments to "wrap my shoulders", and that is so difficult for me to spread my shoulder blades apart on demand, but, imagining that I am squeezing a block between my hands might help.

Does anyone else like using blocks to engage? Is it appropriate to apply the same method to my arms?

 

Lastly, a funny story that happened today.  While doing the meditation part today, Candace cued to feel the navel expand on the inhale and contract on the exhale. I realized then I was doing ujjayi breath and not relaxing because my belly remained engaged during both inhale and exhale.  I am a natural mouth breather, but when I get cued to breathe deeply, I always refer to ujjayi breath. During meditation, I almost laughed because I remembered that I also was doing ujjayi breath without realizing this morning, when I had my physical check up with my primary care doctor.  A few months ago, I saw my doctor in the same yoga class. I said hi to her after class and let her know I was her patient, but have only seen her twice.  I was wondering today when an appropriate time would be to ask if she's still going to yoga classes as small talk.  When she was listening to my chest and back and asked me to breathe deeply, I kept doing it through my nose, like ujjayi breath. Then she said, "ok, now through your mouth". ha!  I was about to admit I was doing "yoga breathing", but then I chickened out because the next part was the pap smear. I realized then it was not really the best time to try to bond with my doctor over yoga!

Have you guys encountered other people in your yoga classes outside of normal class? Would you have still said hi if it were your doctor during your annual / intimate exam?

 

 

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Today's my first YBC challenge participation and first yoga selfie! These are both things I stubbornly refused to do before because I was afraid a challenge would stress me out or motivate me to push beyond my limits when I am nursing a chronic neck injury.  But now I know my body better, so I can truly be mindful in this challenge and do modifications or rest if needed.

Now, for my yoga selfie... I recorded myself and then took a screenshot, as per Candace's advice. Overall, I realized I don't "look" as good as I feel, but, that's fine - I still feel good! Trying to find a place to prop my phone was challenging - I couldn't find a high enough or far back enough platform to capture the top of my head properly, and had to film it vertically. But I did find that using a cooling rack was a great device to prop my phone!  I now appreciate everyone who manages to take pictures of their practice now.

My chosen pose is bird of paradise because I first saw this pose demoed 5 years ago when I started, and then did not mindfully do the pose. I forced myself into the bind and pulled a shoulder muscle. Luckily it was a small tweak that went away quickly, but now I know I can't afford to do that anymore with my body now that I'm getting older.

Here we go! I always thought my right side was stronger because I could straighten my leg more, but, I see now that is at the expense of my upper body tilting.  Meanwhile, my left side is more bent, but, more stable looking in the upper body.  Maybe at the end of the challenge, I can post the before-and-after comparison videos to see how rocky / stable I am getting into the pose!  Now that I finally figured out how to film myself, I want to study the rest of my practice! I realized looking into a mirror is not the same.

 

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Thank you, yoga practice, for teaching me core strength and balance that saved me from feeling like a fool today in my first TRX class!

Thank you, yoga practice, for making me do hard one-legged bridge poses that gave me the confidence that I could last through my first class. I was out of breath already after the warm up of doing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S6NSvsAcu8. But then the next exercise was hamstring-focused with one foot strapped in the air while doing hip raises on our back. After I heard everyone else in class groan after that exercise when I felt like I could keep going, I knew yoga would help me finish the class.

Thank you, yoga practice, for showing me how to keep my core engaged and how to breathe through discomfort and hold a position.

Thank you, yoga practice, for developing my balance, which I utilized when we did the TRX exercise transitioning between a one-legged squat and a Warrior 3.

Thank you, yoga practice, for introducing me the concepts of restraint and listening to my body. I skipped many reps throughout the class without judging myself, knowing I had already reached my own personal point of exhaustion or needed well-deserved rest.

Thank you, YBC Forum, for reminding me the importance to engage muscles in ALL exercise and not hyperextend! Many of the TRX exercises required "straight" elbows, so I made sure I was relying on my arm muscles to pull myself up, keeping the elbow slightly bent and never locked.

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