Throwback Thursday: Doing Downward-facing Dog

Video

There’s this phenomenon on Facebook called Throwback Thursday where people post pictures of themselves from times past. In the fitness world people show “before” pics of themselves. Last night, I had some low moments and found myself feeling not too good about my current emotional state. When I find myself feeling down, I look for a way out, a way through. As I drove home from yoga, in the rain no less, an idea filtered into my head: instead of a Throwback Thursday picture, I’d make a Throwback Thursday video—and thus my downward dog adventures were born!!!

I first started doing hatha yoga in the summer of 1996 with my friend Sharon. We’d get together for some semi-private classes (there were about 7 of us) at a friend’s house. Our teacher, Craig Balcom, had the patience of a saint to put up with us! The antics we, well I, pulled in yoga that summer are legendary! But it’s safe to say they’ll remain secret!! Most of the women have moved away and Sharon has passed on.

I’m digressing again!! Such a habit of mine!

Back in 1996 I couldn’t even imagine doing downward facing dog! My body was too big (I weighed a lot more than I do now). I wasn’t strong enough. There was NO WAY I was even going to try it!

I’m not sure exactly when I first tried doing downward dog. I think it might have been when one of my instructors taught me how to do it against a wall. In the first sequence of the video, you’ll see me demonstrating the “against the wall variation”. I found even this to be difficult as my instructor (I don’t remember which one) would be picky about the position of my back. If I could have angled my back up I would have been just fine! But NOOOO!!!! I was ordered to do it correctly!! Imagine the horror!!!

At some point I could enter the pose from from tabletop position, with my knees on the ground. This you’ll see in the second portion of the video. I felt so HAPPY the day I could enter the pose from this position! I still didn’t care for staying in the pose though. That took too much effort!

One day, I don’t remember exactly when, I progressed to being able to enter the pose with my body almost flat on the ground. I felt elated!!! SOOO HAPPY!!! Still I didn’t care to stay in the pose—it felt toooooo taxing!!!!!

It’s different these days though. As I lost more weight I began to really appreciate down dog. While in the pose I can see the excess skin on my arms, and this makes me smile, makes me happy, The loose skin is a sign of progress that I’m working toward my goal. There are days where I’ll just stop in the middle of whatever I’m doing and go into down dog and look at the puckered up wrinkled loose skin on my upper arms—it’s a cool look actually. And I’ll stay in down dog for a few minutes just because! It makes me feel good as I can sense the growing strength in my body and in my mind!

Watching myself in this video, it would be easy for me to focus on my abdomen, but I actually notice my back more. I see a flat back. And that to me is a miracle. I used to have sooooo much back fat. It looked like I had “back boobs”!! I’m so grateful now to have a flatter back. That’s why I love locust pose so much in Bikram Yoga—it helps me to keep working on my back, and these days I can FEEL my back muscles in ways I’ve never felt them before. That’s a miracle. That’s a testament to my hard work. That keeps me going because I know I’ll feel in other places as I keep working toward my goal—to have a happier healthier body that allows me to truly live without self-imposed or worldly-imposed limitations!

(apologies for the lighting. It was raining outside and I made the video in the early morning light inside my apartment.)

Pic is of me doing Downward-Facing Dog February 2014

 

 

 

Downward Facing Dog February 2014

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Strength through Vulnerability: Nancy Does Standing Bow

Video

Standing Bow isn’t really the hardest posture ever, but I have a ways to go before I can reach my foot on my own. I wasn’t planning on sharing this video. Heck, I wasn’t even planning on making it, but I found myself inspired by a conversation I had with my dermatologist, Dr. B. I’ve known him for over 20 years now and am always buoyed by his belief in me.

As I visited with him during my check-up today, I told him about my blog and my yoga and fitness efforts, and he said, in all earnestness, that I could really help people by showing how I do my yoga now. (Dr. B I hope you’re reading this because this blog is dedicated to YOU!).

I’ve shown you a couple of videos of postures I can do by myself, but that isn’t true of all postures. There are a couple of postures that I need some help with OR I don’t get benefit from them. It’s one thing for me to tell you this, but it’s another altogether for me to show you my struggles, very visible struggles with postures.

I’ve tried Standing Bow Pulling Pose on my own, with a towel, but I can’t quite reach my foot that way and it feels like I’m just pseudo holding my leg while sweating. I’m beyond fortunate, and I know it, that I have an instructor who helps me grab my leg so I can get the maximum benefit of the pose while working toward being able to grab my foot on my own.

Until that time I work at stretches that will help me be able to reach my foot, but I also feel that there is a deeper metaphorical meaning to this pose. As I strive to get my life more in balance then my body will more readily adapt to this pose. I also know that when my leg actually reaches my hand on its own, I will have great reason to celebrate and even greater reason to keep working a delving into the deeper reaches of Standing Bow Pulling Pose.

It’s so difficult for me to be this vulnerable with all of you, but I’m hoping you’ll see my strength through my struggle, that I’m willing to persevere, knowing that I’m really worth working for. So are YOU! Work for what you want! You’ll be glad you did!

(I promise not to always do yoga videos. I’m just on a roll right now.)

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

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Nancy Does Standing Bow

Nancy Does Standing Bow

A Truly “Awkward” Position

Video

I had so much fun with the previous video I made that I decided to make another. For this video I chose one pose: the Awkward Pose (Utkatasana). It’s a nemesis of mine because it’s soooo easy for me to be lazy in this pose. It’s so easy for me to simply rest my abdomen on my thighs. It’s more challenging to keep my back straight. I wanted to show you exactly how easy it is for me to take it easy in this pose, so I did the video in two parts. The first part shows the “lazy” version, and the second part shows me doing the pose to the best of my current ability!

The Awkward Pose involves three parts (think of it as trying to sit down in a chair without there being a chair to support you): in the first part the feet are flat on the floor; in the second part the heels go up; in the third part the heels go up and you squeeze the knees together. For a more detailed discussion of the Awkward Pose please click on the following link: http://www.bikramyogales.com/bikram-yoga/bikram-26-postures/3-awkward-pose/

Bikram describes the Awkward sequence as “a very challenging posture for a lot of people.” It’s definitely a challenging posture for me, but it’s my mind that makes it challenging. I’m fully aware when I’m not coming from my core. I’m fully aware when I’m choosing to rest my abdomen on my thighs. I’m fully aware when I allow my monkey mind to keep me from realizing the full potential of my physical and mental bodies.

This isn’t about me being hard on myself by the way—it’s about me being kind to myself. Sometimes the kindest kindness is honesty to one’s self. And I deserve more, so much more, and that means I have to work for it. It may not be easy,but as the English historian Thomas Fuller once said “all things are difficult before they become easy.” And I’m worth the effort!

The honesty I show you here translates into a deeper honesty/realization of my soul. What truths am I willing to accept about me, about my life? What am I willing to work for?

I don’t know where my explanations and videos of my postures will lead, but I know this: the possibilities are endless and undreamed of……..

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

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The Winter Olympics Bikram Yoga Style

Video

II’ve been inspired lately by the Olympics and the Yoga Championships. I’m always looking for ways to improve my practice, and if you know me, you know that my practice isn’t just about the physical. The more space I create in the hot room, the most space I create in my heart, and that’s all I really seek to do: open my heart to all the possibilities life holds.

I’ve shown you pictures of my practice, written detailed descriptions, but I decided last night that I’d try taking it a step further. After watching some YouTube videos of the Yoga Championships, I decided to put together a short clip of me doing several asanas. I don’t hold these poses as long as I do in the hot room, or the video would be 90 minutes long! I wanted to simply do a few postures to show you and to show myself what I look like while doing yoga.

I chose the half-moon sequence, the triangle, and standing forward bend. I moved positions during the half-moon sequence as I wanted to see what I looked like in profile while doing a backbend. I did warm up before doing these poses. I love the half-moon sequence as I feel it helps to strengthen my arms. Someone once remarked to me that they felt they needed to lift weights in addition to Bikram. For me, my arms have better tone and definition than when I was lifting weights. I used to do weight machines at the gym several times a week. Now I only do it once in a while.

I also like the backbend portion of the half-moon sequence, but I do try to be careful not to put the entire backbend into my lower back as I’m prone to doing. I use to fall out of my backbends until my instructor guided me to push my hips slightly forward. Best piece of advice EVER!!

The triangle I have an odd predilection for because it helps me to focus on my alignment and my core. When I perform triangle correctly I come from my core and I DON’T lean on my leg. I don’t know how else to put it. I LOVE this posture for what it teaches me about my own sense of strength. I know I walk taller and straighter because I make the effort in this posture.

Standing forward bend. Eh. I just flowed into when I was making this short video. I want to work more on my alignment in this posture. I want to be able to have my head rest on the ground, but I’m not in a rush to get there. I want to get there when I can get there from my core because then I’ll be there from a space of strength AND flexibility!

That’s what this entry is about: my own sense of inner strength. Sure I can tell you I don’t like seeing my stomach jiggle in the video, but it is what it is. I love doing yoga. I love being active, and with this body, there’s gonna be a bit of jiggle and wiggle and whatnot.

I have met some amazing people in my Bikram practice (and outside of it too), and I wouldn’t change any of that. It’s not easy by any means, but I love the life I’m creating. And I’m creating it from the inside out. I know amazing things await me because I’m willing to keep working for them through the tears and into the smiles.

(a comment about the video: I’m going to learn how to edit future videos. This was my first effort, and I was soooo excited that I didn’t want to wait! I hope to do future videos as markers of my progress)

IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue

My Life without Limitations!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post. Last week when I was in Arizona I had a bit of an unfortunate encounter. Someone who ought to have known better treated me patronizingly because of my size, because of my weight. This person made presumptive assumptions, which, in another time and place would have made me feel bad, would have left me in tears. The details of what happened do not matter. My reaction does.

I have almost never allowed people’s negative perceptions of me to stop me from living. I’ve always worn bright, colorful and happy clothes, even at my highest weight. I’ve traveled to places near and far. The very first time I bought a new car I traveled alone throughout the Southwest for three and a half weeks, without hotel reservations. I went to England and France twice by myself. I cruised to Alaska and Mexio with friends. When in Mazatlan in 2010 I climbed to the top of “El Faro”—most definitely not a hike for the faint of heart!  Here’s one person’s description of that climb: http://attractions.uptake.com/blog/worlds-highest-lighthouse-mazatlan-mexico-9705.html

My zest for life goes beyond travel. If there’s been a movie I wanted to go see and I couldn’t find a friend, I’d go by myself. The same is true for going out to eat. If I wanted to go out on a Saturday night and didn’t have someone to go with I’d just go by myself. It’s not that I lack(ed) friends. I never have. My point is that I didn’t depend on needing others to do something if I wanted to do it.

When I’d encounter attitudes, like the one referenced in the first paragraph, I’d maybe cry for a bit, but I’d get over it and do what I planned anyways. Sometimes it might have taken me a few days to recover, but I did. I didn’t allow people to stop me, most of the time. Certainly, I don’t allow them to stop me now. I don’t give people power over me. I don’t allow me to stop me, at least not now!!!

I’m living the life I’ve always wanted while working on the dreams that have heretofore been dormant. I love the place that I’m at now. I’m learning, more than anything to get out of my own way. What does that mean? It means I really have no limitations. I can go anywhere and do anything. My future is truly limitless!!  And whenever I catch myself going down a negative path—I get myself into the hot room because I know that after 90 (well, in my case, 180) minutes I won’t have any room for negativity, not mine and not anyone else’s!!!

Standing at the top of “El Faro”! It’s a really really really STEEP hike to the top!

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Cruising the River Seine!

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British Museum “Selfie”!!

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IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

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Secrets from the Hot Room Part Two: What YOU Think of ME is None of My Business!

Last week, after yoga, someone asked me how Bikram had changed me. I started to explain how it had changed me more on the inside, but I couldn’t quite find the words to express the deep fundamental changes that have taken place within me during these past 9 and 1/2 months. These changes are profound, and, at times, defy rational explanation and have occurred as a result of my efforts to improve my life by following a spiritual meditative lifestyle and engaging in Bikram Yoga.

For most of my adult life, I fit the model of a co-dependent personality. Every time I did or said something/anything the first thought to enter my mind would involve what someone/anyone thought of what I did or said.  Anything I did, any word I uttered, had to meet with the approval of others. For those of you who have known me, that might not seem to be the case, but inside my head, well that was my truth.

Sure, I always had a flair, an outspoken style. Hardly ever wore black. Heck, I don’t even wear black to funerals, but I have discovered lately a tendency to wear black on occasion as it does have that slimming effect! BUT I digress.

The colorful external flair didn’t match the internal drama of my “crazy brain”. I’d feel moments of terror if I did something someone didn’t like. What if they didn’t love me? What if they didn’t like me?  I’d feel this way with strangers, acquaintances, friends, intimates, with anyone. I lived with my stomach in knots a lot of the time. Food didn’t talk to me. Didn’t argue with me. Didn’t care what I did. And loved me no matter what.

I started to lose weight before I ever went into the hot room. But I still carried with me so many emotionally destructive patterns that had haunted and tormented me for years. Does this sound harsh?  Well, it’s the truth. What YOU thought of me mattered far more than what I thought of myself. I’d give up my happiness if you might not like something I did or said. I’d wait for others’ approval before I made decisions that would bring me happiness. I GAVE UP my happiness on more occasions than I ever care to think about.

One day last April when I was having a difficult time, my spiritual advisor told me to go hang more with my friend MK. When I told her what he said, the first thing she suggested was that I go try Bikram.  I said “okay”. I didn’t know how much that chain of events would change me.

Over the course of the past few months, my sense of self, my self-respect has grown. In some ways I’ve watched my reactions go from that of an immature little girl to those of a self-confident woman. As I have emotions these days I observe them, watch them. I can see when they come from an irrational emotional realm as opposed to a calm observant realm. I can’t always stop myself from having emotional reactions (I’m human after all), but I catch them much more quickly and am more easily able to rectify them when need be.

I’m finding that I make decisions about my life that make me happy without stopping to think if someone else/anyone else will approve/disapprove. If it makes me happy the world needs to celebrate with me, and if the world chooses not to, well then it’s not my problem.

I spend at least 9 hours a week in that hot room. I don’t do it for fun; although, I often do have fun and giggle a lot!  I show up because every time I do show up, I’m showing up for me the other 159 hours of the week outside that hot room. (The other spiritual efforts I sometimes mention, which occupy some of those 159 hours, I’ll discuss when the time is right.)

I’m learning lately that I can slow down. I’ve been running and running and running since my father’s death (actually, I’ve been running away from self most of my adult life), but in these past few weeks, I’ve noticed I can stop and be okay. I can spend a day, a whole day just by myself and be. Just be.

My head is far from perfect, but I’m happier. I’m more confident than I’ve ever been. That can’t be measured by a scale, by a measuring tape, by any external evidence. Well, okay, maybe by some! I have a swagger to my step that hasn’t been there before. I wear whatever makes me happy. I am happy. I am also very lucky.

And that’s how the hot room has changed and is changing me. I’m sweating away the illusions that have covered up the essence of who I truly am.

BTW, what you think of me really is none of my business, and what I think of you is really none of yours…………………….But I do happen to think you’re all pretty awesome!

Here’s a pic of some roses I bought myself just because!

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Getting Rid of the OLD to Make Room for the Unknown NEW

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about underwear. What kind of underwear I wear. When I should wear my newer pairs versus my older pairs. Then a ligtbulb went on. And I understood. I got it.

The time has come for me to let go. Really let go. Of everything.

I’ve heard people say that how you conduct yourself in the yoga room is how you conduct yourself outside the yoga room, so when I decided to throw away/donate some of my old/too big clothes, I decided to look at my yoga/cycling/hiking wardrobe.

Intense physical activities, like Bikram yoga, cycling, hiking, wreak havoc on clothes with all the sweat and toxins that are released. Given the intense wear and tear on these clothes, I decided, at some point, to wear my old undies to workout in. Why would I wear newer undies in a Bikram class or for another workout when doing so would shorten their longevity.

Sometime last week I really started to think about how I wanted to do my best when engaging in any physical activity. “Why then” I asked myself “would I ever want to wear old baggy undies anywhere?”

So this morning as I was going through clothes, getting rid of “too big” and “I don’t feel good in this” clothes, I went through my undies and threw out the old ones, the too baggy ones, the ones that DON’T, for whatever reason, make me feel like the beautiful woman I am.

I’m keeping just a few items of larger clothing: the first designer dress I was able to buy at Nordie’s and a workout outfit I wore when I was likely near my heaviest, but the rest? They’re gone now.  Out of my apartment. Out of my space.

By the time you read this I will have donated a big bag of clothes and thrown away another bag of old undies. My body, my mind, and my spirit now have the space for all the wondrous soul-enriching experiences that await me! Throwing away old undies becomes, then a metaphor for tossing out that which no longer serves me, serves my soul.

P.S. I don’t recommend doing this at home unless you have new(er) undies to replace any you throw out!! Also, there was a time I wouldn’t have been able to go buy undies in a store and now I can!

P.P.S.S. Wear new undies when you work out. I can guarantee you’ll feel a new spring in your step and see a new sparkle in your eye! You’re worth it! I know I am!!

Here’s a couple of pics of the outfit I used to exercise in. At one point it JUST FIT me!!! (I’m not showing you pics of my old undies:))

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IF you’d like, please feel free to follow my daily journey on facebook via my community fitness page:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess

and my personal facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IggieSue