Squats Done Right!

Video

Not that long ago in the land of OZ, I posted a squat challenge on facebook and then posted a squat video: https://confessionsofahawaiianprincess.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/squats-away/

My squats in that video, for lack of a better look, reflected how tired my body felt after doing 40 squats. Actually, I wanted to say lazy but realized that’s not a very yogi-like attitude.

At any rate, not too long after my first squat video, my friends at Bikram Yoga Glasgow reposted my squat challenge and nine of them clicked like, so I thought this would be a fun opportunity to work at doing the squats to the best of my current ability.

After I did the first video, some people asked me questions about the curtsy/booty busting squats, so I tried to demonstrate them a little more clearly. At one point in the video I show myself doing the squats from the rear. Ideally the back leg will, at some point, rest horizontally on the ground. I’m not there yet, but will be someday.

In another couple of months I’ll do another squat video and show the two videos side by side, to show the progression of my squat practice. I’m a fan of showing progress in ways that have nothing to do with a number on a scale and different videos are a great way to show how much stronger my body is becoming. I encourage you to find ways to record your strengthening body. Embrace your body in the now, and celebrate as it becomes more of what you’re working for it to become!

Hot Tips for a Happy Hot/Bikram Yoga Class

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I’ve absolutely positively fallen in love with Bikram Yoga and the many blessings it has brought to my life in the 11 months I’ve been practicing. I thought it might be fun to share some of my thoughts about how to have a happy and successful Bikram experience. These are my thoughts only. I’m sure I’ve left something out, so please feel free to add in the comment section and please feel free to share with others if you feel my thoughts might be of help.

BEFORE CLASS:

1)      TIMELINESS: Show up early. Actually, show up at least fifteen minutes before the start of class. This will give sufficient time to place your belongings away, situate your mat, and use the lavatory. Showing up late (and someone almost always does) disrupts the class.

2)      CLOTHING (for the girls): What to wear: less is more. An acceptable amount of less, that is. About five months into my Bikram Yoga practice, I lost my inhibitions and started practicing in my bike shorts and sports bra, making my practice so much more enjoyable and the heat more bearable. I also wear cotton as it allows my skin to breathe more freely.

CLOTHING (for the guys): For the guys: less is more too! Speedo type yoga outfits give you much more coverage than regular shorts. They hold more in when you’re doing poses like standing bow, locust, etc.

3)      SCENTS: Avoid wearing perfume and/or lotion. Wearing perfume will make it difficult for others to breathe. If you wear lotion, it’ll be so much more difficult to hold your leg during standing bow or your feet during floor bow.  Think of how little grip anyone would have with sweaty, greasy skin!

4)      CELL PHONES: Leave them outside the door.  They’re distracting to you and to your fellow practitioners. Besides, do you really want stinky smelly sweat flung on your adored electronic device?

5)      WATCH WHERE YOU WALK: When walking into the yoga room, do your best not to step on others’ yoga mats. It’s polite AND sanitary!

6)      MENTAL ATTITUDE: Leave ALL your “stuff” outside the door. If you’re not in the moment, the moment won’t be in you!

7)      HAIR: If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up. If you forget hair ties/scrunchies, the studio usually has some. I prefer colorful scrunchies, but have discovered they start to stink after a while, so if you’re a fan of scrunchies, then you’ll want to make sure you can wash them! If you choose to leave your long hair down, you run the risk of flinging more sweat than you already do and of having sweat drenched hair fall in places that cause distraction and/or discomfort.

8)      HYDRATION: Hydration does not happen during class!  Hydrate the day before and the day of! Hydrate with water, with fruit, and with veggies!  Always hydrate!  Hydrate after class, too!  During class, water breaks wet your whistle; they don’t function as your hydration source. A well-hydrated body has more energy in the hot room!

DURING CLASS:

9)      HYDRATION PART TWO: Bring water to class. BUT, don’t drink until the instructor calls for the first water break, after eagle!  Following eagle, some instructors set water breaks; others allow you to drink as needed.  In the latter instance, wait until the class is between poses to dip for that water bottle. Drinking during a pose disrupts the flow of others’ poses.

10)   WIPING THAT SWEAT: Don’t wipe. Yes, the room feels hot—it’s 105 degrees!  But the very second you wipe, even if it’s just to temporarily keep a drip of sweat off your face, you’ll just end up making yourself hotter. Think of it as the evaporative cooling effect. It might feel better for a second, but you WILL feel hotter. Also, unnecessary wiping of sweat disrupts the meditative stillness of the room.

11)   MORE ON SWEAT: You’ll sweat; others will sweat; if you’re a sweat fountain, bring an extra towel and wipe up your sweat between poses and after class.

12)   EVEN MORE ON SWEAT: If sweat bothers you in general. If you find yourself obsessing over where the sweat of your fellow practitioners’ falls, you’ll get over it once your practice becomes more regular. In the hot room you just can’t escape sweat.

13)   WHERE TO PRACTICE: Practice in the front of the room just once. You never know what you might see! The front row is usually reserved for seasoned practitioners, so make sure you’re having an “on” day when you try this!

14)   WHERE TO PRACTICE, PART TWO: Looking to place your mat in a cool spot in the room? Place it near a door or a window with a draft, but, generally, the room’s hot. You can’t escape that.  Being near the door might give you teasing, momentary relief.

15)   WHERE TO PRACTICE IN THE ROOM, PART THREE: Wherever you put your mat down, someone will put theirs near you, unless it’s a small class. All you need is the space on your mat. Trust me on this one. If you really want to go to a small class, pay for a private or try a middle of the day class in the middle of the week.

16)   APPEARANCE IN THE ROOM: Don’t worry about how you look doing poses. If anyone is watching you, they’re not in their moment, in their practice. Be in your practice.  That’s all that matters, anyway. I have felt so much happier and peaceful since the day I stopped worrying so much about the way my body looked in the hot room.

17)   BATHROOM/KLEENEX BREAKS: Not happening (unless you’re pregnant). Sure, nobody is going to lock the door, but seasoned practitioners know what “bathroom/kleenex breaks” are really about—they’re about getting yourself a few minutes relief from the heat. Fight through the urge to escape.  Your body will thank you and so will your fellow practitioners. Besides, the heat allows your body to go more deeply into poses, and leaving the room for cold air counteracts that benefit. Oh, and if you need a Kleenex, there’s usually some in the room or bring a few if you’re prone to sneezing fits.

18)   LISTEN TO YOUR BODY: If a pose hurts a portion of your body, before you decide to sit it out see if you can find a way to modify the pose do it doesn’t hurt. If you have a pre-existing injury, tell your instructor before class so s/he can offer suggestion. If a pose bothers/hurts you during class ask the instructor after class to see if they can offer an adjustment that will help.

19)   FEELING LIGHTHEADED AND/DIZZY: if you feel light-headed and/or dizzy and need to stop, just stand and breathe (or stay on the floor and breathe if you’re doing the floor series). If, while breathing, you start to reach for water or a towel, take that energy and put it into your pose. If you have the energy to reach for that water/towel, you have the energy to do your yoga. Your breath gives you all you need.

AFTER CLASS:

20)   LOCKER ROOM ETIQUETTE, PART ONE : Lose your inhibitions in the dressing room. You’ll be happier just throwing off your sweaty clothes after class and not worrying about what others may think of your body. All of us have the same body parts—they just don’t look the same! I learned fairly quickly that my body felt better the sooner I removed the sweat-drenched clothes from my skin. Most studios have too many students to have individual dressing rooms. Some people, I’ve noticed, like to use the bathrooms as changing rooms, but this results in unnecessary and sometimes painful delays for those who really need a lavatory!

21)   LOCKER ROOM ETIQUETTE, PART TWO: Take short showers, three minutes or less. This isn’t your home. Don’t shave your legs, your pits; don’t exfoliate your entire body; don’t give yourself that homemade facial that takes fifteen minutes! Get in the shower; wash the sweat off; give your hair a quick wash and get out! People are waiting!!!! FYI: not all studios have showers, so call ahead to make sure if you’re a person who needs a shower.

22)   BLOW DRYERS: If you really need to dry your hair, bring your own or call ahead, but, generally, a yoga studio changing room doesn’t have tons of space for primping (some do though!).

GENERAL TIPS:

23)   HEAT: The room will be hot. You will survive. Just remember to breathe and do your best to stay in the room. Just staying in the room the first couple of times will give you a yoga high unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

24)   MAT: If you like hot/Bikram Yoga, really like it, invest in a good mat, or, at the very least, a good yoga mat towel, such as Yogitoes or eQua.  A solid mat/towel will provide you with so much more stability and will be more effective at soaking up sweat. A few weeks ago, after practicing 6-7 times a week for ten months, I decided to invest in a Manduka Pro-lite.  Not cheap by any means ($78), but worth the money. I feel more stability in my poses, and it doesn’t absorb odor.  Prior to the Manduka, I’d been using regular mats, which felt squishy, and they would retain the odor, requiring frequent washings.

25)   MORE ON MATS: If you use an inexpensive mat, buy a new one every year.  No amount of washing will completely remove the stench of a year’s worth of sweat.

26)   MAT TOWELS: See above. Buy new ones after a year.  Your nose and everyone else’s will thank you.

27)   GYM/YOGA BAG: Buy one that breathes and/or clean out the one you have with vinegar or some other cleaning solution.  Otherwise your car and your house will find themselves housing sweaty odors, and you’ll notice people not wanting to hang around you in your environment.

28)   WATER BOTTLE: Invest in a good water bottle.  It will pay for itself in time. I have a water bottle that keeps water cool, with the extra added benefit of unleashing a cool back draft onto my face after I take a sip. http://www.hydroflask.com/

29)   EATING: Consume lighter foods. Heavier foods make it more difficult to practice effectively, bogging down your body, mind, and spirit. Also, if you’ve ever found yourself having a difficult time in class, ask yourself what foods/drinks you ate the day before or the day of. Heavier foods/processed foods/sugary foods can be the cause of nausea and/or dizziness during class. Try not to eat two hours before class. You and your stomach will be happier. But show up no matter what!!  That counts more than anything!

30)   DRINKING (as in alcohol): alcohol dehydrates, so if you drink booze, don’t be a bozo, drink more water before and after class!

31)   GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY: When Bikram says “kill yourself” he means diminish all the little and not so little doubts that tell you can’t do a pose, you can’t be all you want, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t……….YOU CAN!!!!  Just show up and do IT!

32)   SMILE: Smiling makes every moment easier, happier, lighter, etc. Besides, have you noticed how unhappy people look when they don’t smile? I’m not advocating hiding pain, but smiling through pain can make it more bearable!

33)   LAUNDRY: You’ll be doing a lot of laundry. When you see your favorite detergent on sale, buy it in bulk. If you waited too long to wash your sweat-drenched clothes, add a drop of vinegar to your washing machine—it’ll take care of the added bacteria and odor. If you really wait too long you’ll want to buy new clothes.

34) WAXING: For the ladies and gents who wax. Don’t Don’t Don’t wax before you got to a Bikram class unless you are a glutton for punishment. I had my eyebrows waxed once before I went to a class and the pain felt excruciating, and that’s putting it mildly.

35)   SHARE GRATITUDE: Marcel Proust once said, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”  When you leave the studio, smile and say thank you to your instructor.  If they said something particularly helpful during class, tell them. If they adjusted you during class, thank them. Being a Bikram instructor takes a great deal of time and effort, more than you will ever see in the class. It’s a true labor of love that consumes more of their lives than the 90 minutes they just spent making you sweat more than you ever thought you would. Fill your karma bank account and theirs by showing them your appreciation and love.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: A regular Bikram yoga practice will change your life from the inside out. Much has been said about the sweating away of toxins. In the short time (11 months) that I’ve practiced, I can attest that I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I may not know exactly where I’m going, but I’m so much stronger for the time I spend in the hot room. It’s become my safe place, a place that allows me to dig deep within and pull from the reservoir of strength hiding within my soul. If you haven’t tried Bikram Yoga, give it a shot. You never know what you’ll find. And what you find might just be your Self. Namaste.

Follow more of my journey on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaYogaPrincess

Tricks Triangle Teaches Me

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I have fallen madly deeply utterly and completely in love with Triangle Pose in yoga, a pose most people don’t care for. Not me! I adore it! Why?

Every time I perform triangle I learn something new about my body. This past Wednesday the sky shifted completely for me during triangle. Why?

Alignment! Alignment!! Alignment!!! I work diligently at keeping my body properly aligned. As larger person I feel hyper-conscious about how I move because I know that I waddled more than moved before yoga became a regular part of my life. Now, you see why alignment and triangle and I have a deep passion for each other.

One of my struggles with triangle involves keeping my torso in life with my leg and hip. As the bulk of my body weight rests in my abdomen I have a tendency to lean forward in triangle—it’s a rough battle to not rest the side of my torso on my bent leg!

This past Wednesday, during triangle, I looked in the mirror and noticed my torso leaning forward. I already felt too hot, too tired, but this voice in my head screamed “just lift up your torso, so it’s in line with your leg and hip.” Somehow I found the energy to comply with that little voice of mine, and, in that moment, I really understood, I had yet another “aha” yoga moment!

The very second I lifted my torso into the proper alignment, the thigh of my bent leg came alive, so alive I could feel the heat in the room intensify, and in that moment every muscle and nerve ending in the thigh of my bent leg woke up in ways they hadn’t in a very very long time! I experienced how triangle helps build thigh strength!

I feel so grateful every time I have an aha moment in yoga, ever time I have a body revelation in the hot room, for each time I have one of these experience experiences, I receive a gift, one that confirms my acceptance of my physical body. The more I accept my body in its current form, the more it tells me how I can work to improve it. And where the body improves so does the mind and spirit.

(a note on the video: the first part shows me performing triangle with my torso out of alignment and the second part shows me with my torso in alignment to the best of my ability. As I watched the completed video I found myself not entirely pleased with it, and I almost redid, but decided I would keep it as is and use it as a foundation upon which to keep improving my practice. I also did triangle from a side view to demonstrate another angle of alignment.)

For a more comprehensive discussion of triangle, please click on the following link: http://www.bikramyogales.com/bikram-yoga/bikram-26-postures/9-triangle-pose/

Follow more of my journey on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaYogaPrincess

More than a Number: the Story of How I Lost ??? Amount of Pounds

Video

When people ask me how much I weigh (and some do ask), I prefer not to answer. When people ask me how much weight I’ve lost (and they ask this as well), I prefer not to answer. Why? Assigning a number to my progress on this path to healing and wellness on all levels (mental, physical and spiritual) places my efforts in a box. Suddenly, all my hard work (and it is hard work) becomes reduced to a number.

The intense work on my emotional healing becomes less significant. My inner growth, which can’t be measured by a number, ceases to matter to the masses. It’s true, mind you, that I’m doing this work for me, but I’d like people to see, through my journey, that when it comes to losing weight, the number on the scale, in so many ways, needs not to have the biggest impact.

When it boils down to it, when it boils down to weight loss, the problem is that all most people want to see is a number. The number overshadows the person, the effort, the time it takes. People see a number, they don’t see a person, and I’ve been invisible long enough. While it may seem an oxymoronic statement, I have indeed been invisible by virtue of my visibility. I’ve lived this for most of my life.

At my heaviest, all most people saw was the outer shell, the fat. They didn’t see me. They saw fat. They felt superior to me.

How do I know this? I’ve had so many verbally abusive encounters it would take volumes of books to detail all of them. As a teenager, I clearly remember walking around the mall and being taunted by children, teenagers, and adults. I can still hear their voices: “You need to do something. You need Richard Simmons.” On one occasion, they followed me around the mall, continuously taunting me. Children teased me all the time. Parents did nothing. Well, okay, sometimes the parents joined in.

Some people would try to help me with my weight, but their lack of sensitivity created more damage, such as when in high school, one of my gym teachers wanted me to walk/run laps during P.E. while the other kids had fun playing tennis and other sports.

Did that help me lose weight? NO! I felt completely ostracized. Being obese, morbidly obese, in high school felt bad enough, but to have an adult set me further apart from my peers made my life much more painful.

Becoming an adult, growing up, didn’t bring much relief from the chronic verbal abuse society felt it had every right to throw at me. People would tell me all the time “You need to do something.” Well, duh! Actually, they were the ones who needed to do something.

Every person who has ever said to an overweight/obese individual that they need help needs to ask themselves if they’re saying something because they legitimately love the person or if they’re saying it because they feel more virtuous because they’re not fat themselves. In the majority of the cases, people feel superior to or better than fat people.

Given the personal history I’ve just revealed, why then am I considering telling you how much weight I’ve lost?

People ask me all the time how much weight I’ve lost, and maybe it’s time I stop hiding behind the question, stop giving it power over me. “A life lived in fear is no life at all.” I have no room in my heart for fear anymore. And I have feared that when people hear the number, they will no longer see me, see my efforts, see that the number doesn’t represent the most important kind of progress.

I also believe that the story I tell you here might help you and others. I have that hope.
People may not realize how they can help, really help, someone struggling with weight loss/food addiction.

Let me tell you by sharing part of my journey. I had to want it first. No matter what others may have said, I had to want it. I had to want to eat healthier, to work out, to look at all the emotional triggers that made me want to overindulge to begin with—that’s where the real work begins. I needed to find that piece of me that desired real change and would work for it.

From the start of my journey three years ago, I knew it had to be an inside job—for this to last it had to come from the inside out. Sure, I wanted a quick fix. I dreamed of instant fixes like we see on television shows like The Biggest Loser.

But more than anything, more than that overnight pill, I wanted permanent, lasting change—I still do. I started walking outside and on the treadmill. I started keeping a regular hatha yoga practice. I started taking a closer look at my food. I worked at counting calories. That worked for me slowly. I introduced healthier foods into my days. I journaled about how I felt on days I ate unhealthy foods. I looked at people, places, situations that made me want to eat emotionally, and I slowly (well not so slowly) changed some of those situations.

It felt like hell sometimes; some days it still feels like hell. Some people supported me. Others didn’t. I’ve changed a lot.

I became my own person. Actually, I still am becoming that woman, maybe for the first time in my life.

I’m learning to sculpt the essence of who I am by incorporating more meditation into my life and learning to appreciate the sheer beauty of silence, my silence.

I lifted weights. I worked my buns at becoming more fit. Then, last April, during a rough spot in my life, I discovered Bikram Yoga and fell in love, really fell in love with sweat and discovered the real meaning of sweating away emotional toxins. I’m finding my inner strength, learning to rely on self, learning to see I’m beautiful just the way I am. And I’m learning to love my body in this moment. I’m making peace with my physical self.

That’s how I came to lose 168 pounds in three years. There I said it.

But that number in no way defines me, defines who I am, defines my soul. My journey will always be defined by more than a number. I’m more than a number. Whatever your number is, you have value just the way you are. What you weigh, how much you want to lose, how much you want to gain—those are numbers. They are not now, nor will they ever be, you.

I know that with continued intense internal and external work, that I’ll achieve my goals: a healthier spirit, mind, and, yes, body. I hope that by sharing this sensitive piece of my journey, you’ll see that you, too, can have the life you want, if you work for it.

Here’s one of my favorite transformational pics:

One of my favorite transformation pics.

One of my favorite transformation pics.

Here’s the link to a Bob Seger song that reflects my thoughts on numbers:

Follow more of my journey on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaYogaPrincess

Squats Away!

Video

It started simply enough. I posted a note on Facebook “If 30 people like this post, I’ll video tape myself doing 30 squats.” I posted this on a Thursday afternoon, figuring I wouldn’t reach 30 people. I have almost 200 friends, but, in Facebook land, who knows how many of those people block me or just don’t happen to be online when my post shows up? Thursdays also happen to be notoriously slow.

As luck would have it, exactly 30 people clicked like! Knowing me, I probably would have completed the squats anyway. That’s my nature. I like to challenge myself to go places I haven’t gone before, to experience new facets of life, to feel my body meld into new spaces, for each time my body maneuvers into unknown territory so does my soul.

I’m finding with each new discovery that my inner strength has become more resilient than I ever imagined it could. That I have far more in front of me yet to be known. I could philosophize forever about newness and the beauty therein, but there’ll be plenty of time for that later.

Know this: if I can do 40 (imperfect) squats today, imagine what I’ll be able to accomplish tomorrow and the next day and the day after that! The possibilites feel rather infinite!!!

BTW, I’m not necessarily happy with the quality of the video, but this body had no desire to redo the squats! Maybe another day! Also, I’m not happy with the camera angle, the way I look, etc. But……. Oh well…… Maybe next time I’ll do 10 perfect squats! Oh and I did two different types of squats, using 2.5 pound weights!

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

https://www.facebook.com/ConfessionsofaHawaiianPrincess