Category Archives: Strength

Yoga Streak Update

Shiva Nataraj, sculpture at the Musee Guimet, Paris, France

I’ve chosen this image of Shiva to represent my journey during my yoga streak for two reasons.  The first is simple:  I keep a small statue of the Nataraj on my meditation altar and focus my intention on it at the beginning and end of my yoga practice.  Secondly, Shiva as a deity and his dancing manifestation represents the passion and fire in yoga and meditation.  It’s not all serenity and clouds.

They say that it takes 21 days to instill a habit.  Tomorrow will be my 21st day of my yoga streak, and I can tell that I’m starting to build a routine.  Two days of the week, I have to do my practice in the evening, three days per week, I use yoga to re-center myself after a run, once a week I attend a class (right now, Bikram), and once a week in the early morning I do a full, hour-long practice, based on Ashtanga yoga fundamentals.

I’ve learned that I feel the most affinity to Ashtanga, and I hope to take a guided Ashtanga class in the next couple of weeks to build a regular home practice.  I still don’t know how this will fit with my other exercise.  But I’m working on it.  For now, I’m making sure to do some yoga every day, even if it’s 10 minutes of restorative practice to soothe my back after a day at work.


Excitement and Milestones

Today is a fun day. Yeah, it’s humid as anything and my run this morning was extremely sticky, but I’m still excited from yesterday. I increased my squat weight! Since I’ve been more aware of my calories, one of the metrics I use to be sure I’m getting enough to eat is whether or not my strength stays the same. Well, most of my weights have stayed consistent, so no worries, but it’s great that I’m still improving. I’m hoping soon I’ll be able to do a full pull-up, but I haven’t worked negatives in a long time, so we’ll see.

Also, today I figured out an awesome new breakfast that I’m going to continue when the weather cools down: soup!  I had leftover chicken breast and a half a cup of broth that didn’t fit in the containers in the freezer, so instead of a scramble, I figured I’d make a stew.  Spinach, mushrooms, chopped chicken, broth, and a slice of cheese melted over the top.  Maybe a little weird to eat in the middle of July, but delicious nonetheless.  I’ve been trying to come up with something besides oatmeal to eat on chilly mornings.

What’s keeping you happy this morning?


Yoga Streak, Day Two

Well, my yoga streak has lasted two days now. I woke up, went running, had a light breakfast, and then did my yoga practice after digesting. I did five rounds each of Surya A and B, plus a routine of standing poses, balancing poses, backbends, inversion, forward bends, and Shavasana. Then, I sat in meditation for a while. Did a round of my mala (108 beads) and sat to enjoy the glow of meditation.

I’d forgotten how intensely spiritual yoga practice is for me. Even the physical asanas flow together like a moving meditation, quieting my mind. I guess my body and mind need this streak equally, as I’ve been experiencing more anxiety and imbalance in my life lately. We’ll see how I feel in a month.


Girl Crush: Kara “Starbuck” Thrace

I thought I’d take some time to talk about a fictional character that I’ve found myself drawn towards today. Kara Thrace, or Starbuck, from the new Battlestar Galactica series is one seriously kick-ass woman. No, she’s not perfect, and she’s sure as hell not much of a role model in a lot of ways, but she’s real, and she reminds me of myself in a lot of ways.

Starbuck opens the series running the halls of Galactica, greeting people as she runs by.  And that’s pretty much how she spends the first two seasons: in constant motion.  When she’s stuck in the brig for assaulting a superior officer, she’s doing pushups, and when she has some stuff to get over, she’s in the gym.  She may not take great care of what goes into her body but she definitely cares about what she gets out.  She’s what I would call a “real” woman, because her body is functional.  She’s not any of this to look hot, but I think that comes along with it.  Part of it is the strength she projects.  She knows she could beat the crap out you, and that’s hot.

And she probably could beat the crap out of you.  That’s what she does.  If she has a problem, she beats the crap out of it.  Sure, that gets her into trouble when she has problems that can’t be solved by beating the crap out of something or someone, but it’s a very honest way to approach life.  Really, the only person with whom she has trouble being honest is herself.  And, while that’s a pretty serious flaw, it’s one that I relate to on an almost eerie level.

So yeah, I dig Starbuck’s style, and I definitely dig her body.  And what I wouldn’t give for the chance to beat the crap out of some of my ex-boyfriends in a boxing ring.

Image source


Let’s Go Streaking!

No, not running about without any clothes on. Inspired by Ag’s running blog, I’m considering starting a streak on July 1st. Mine won’t be a running streak or a general exercise streak, but I’m thinking of starting a yoga streak.

See, I started yoga in high school at the tender age of 14. I had B.K.S. Iyengar’s book for guidance. The pictures in it are really great, and years later when I took my first class with a teacher, she was impressed at how well I knew the postures.

Now, as a more experienced yogini, I realize that classes with a certified teacher are really important, so I definitely recommend that to any beginner in yoga. I especially like Iyengar and Ansuara for beginners, as they stress proper alignment and form in the postures.

Anyway, I’ve fallen out of my yoga practice as I’ve started doing more vigorous exercise, but I think I could find the time to do at least a few rounds of Surya Namaskara each day. So, starting Friday, I’m going to start a yoga streak, where I do at least 5 rounds of Surya A and a closing Savasana, and try to do my entire home practice sequence, which is based loosely on the fundamentals of Ashtanga yoga.

Anyone else want to start a personal challenge streak in July?


On Feeling Strong

 

During the conference last week, I had a dream. In that dream, I was in high school and I had broken up with my popular boyfriend in order to date someone more rebellious. Pretty standard high-school-show stuff. It’s a dream, right?  Here’s where it gets interesting.

Seems my jilted boyfriend didn’t like that some loser had his girl and decided to wait outside one day and attack the new guy.  Beat him with a baseball bat.  Really screwed him up.  Kinda scary.

Then, the dream rewound.

And this time, I knew what was going to happen, and when he took the first swing at my new guy, I jumped in and caught the bat.  He kept trying to pull it away, but I held on.  And then I wrenched it away from him.  And told the [expletive expletive] to get the [expletive] out of here.

Go me.

This was a really cool dream for so many reasons, but the main one was that, for years, whenever I got in a physical altercation in a dream, I always lost.  I was completely ineffectual and could not so much as push someone away.  It made nightmares really, really scary because I always knew that once the dream started going bad, there was nothing I could do about it.

Then, I started lifting.  Since starting lifting, I’ve found that I feel strong, and this strength carries over.  It has nothing to do with physical strength because physical strength counts for nothing in a dream.  It’s all in your head.

And it reminds me of how my best periods of taking care of myself and eating properly are when I’m also doing activities like lifting and martial arts, which make me feel strong.  Yeah, you get good muscle tone and maybe an aerobic workout and it’s all very healthy for you.  But that’s not why I do this.  I do it to train my head to realize that I am a strong person.

Image Credit


Friday Five: Why Squats are Necessary

Primal toad?

This isn’t going to be a regular thing, but a lot of people write a “Friday Five.”  I thought I’d give five ways in which a particular exercise has made my life easier.

This week, I’ve thought a lot about squatting. First, I shared my favorite quickie workout, which involves squats. Then, I went climbing. I started to think about all the ways in which the squatting movement is essential to human life, or should be. Beyond the squats that are used as a part of a workout, there is also the resting squat, which can be a remarkable tool, if you have the flexibility to perform it correctly. Here are just a few ways in which squatting has improved my life:

1.) While standing around: If my legs get tired, a squat is an effective way to rest without bringing your clothing or person in contact with dubious surfaces. Be sure to consider your choice of wardrobe when resting thusly. Short skirts may result in inappropriate display.

2.) While climbing: I definitely noticed a difference on Tuesday evening.  It’s one thing to be able to put your foot on a hold that’s just below your armpit, but it’s quite another to then be able to lift your body weight on said leg while it’s bent so extremely.  I would say that climbing is just one big squat with a little bit of pulling up.  Learn to squat through the full range of motion and you’ll be scrambling up the walls like some sort of double-jointed lizard in no time.

3.) While playing capoeira: Yeah, this is a bit specific to me, but it’s my blog and I can do what I want.  The fact is, though, that when playing capoeira, people will be throwing kicks at you.  Possibly your head.  And the best way to dodge a kick is to get under it.  But if you bend over, you risk losing sight of your partner.  So most of the dodges and blocks seem to be squat-based.  Anyway, a full squat is on its way to being an upright kind of fetal position, which can be very effective at protecting vulnerable bits.

4.) While baking or broiling: If you are fortunate enough to have a window and a light in your oven, squatting down to view your food’s progress is much kinder on your back than bending (hunching) over to look.  And if you have a broiler under the oven, squatting is the most effective way to access your food while remaining stable.  Losing balance and falling into the broiler is bad.  Keep your center of gravity low and over your feet.

5.) While providing attention to a lovable beagle: Beagles are short, but terribly adorable and they love to play and be given attention.  Having lived with one for two years, I’m certain in this statement.  And who wants to play with someone looming over them like a big tsunami of affectionate human?  Squatting down gets you on the dog’s level, and gives you a stable base for games such as fetch and tug.  Those little guys can tug with the best of them, and you don’t want to be caught off your balance.

So those are my five reasons that I need to be able to do a full range of motion squat comfortably.  Remember, exercise is not just about looking hot, but about improving your life.  So how do squats improve your life?

This post is part of Primal Cave Friday at Primal Toad.