Category Archives: Sweat

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.


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?


Climbing

Yesterday evening I went to the climbing wall for the first time this year.  It was awesome, especially since I found out a few of my coworkers are belay-certified, so I never had to wander around awkwardly looking for a volunteer to belay me.  Yeah, I really ought to get certified myself.  Since I was out with some more experienced climbers, I definitely felt the need to push myself to not seem like a wuss (sort of a problem I have), so after warming up by going up the easiest side of the wall, I opted to try my first climb on the straight vertical wall (as opposed to the one that slants away at an angle and is therefore easier).

Wow, big difference.  My fingers were so wobbly I could barely untie my harness afterwards.

But, y’know, that wasn’t enough.  So then I did a route on the vertical wall.  Okay, I didn’t make it the entire way.  I cheated a little, but I made it most of the way.  And my coworker told me that he was suspicious it was marked easier than it really was.  So who knows?

We’re trying to make this a weekly thing, which would be awesome.  My body feels like jelly this morning from the muscles I’m not used to using, but I definitely noticed an improvement in my confidence since I’ve been training more pull-ups and other upper-body strength.  Climbing is supposed to be driven by flexibility and leg/core strength, but if you have a weak upper body, it definitely makes you less confident.

Definitely recommend climbing, especially before it gets too hot (or if you have access to an indoor wall).

Photo credit: Chaiwat


Makeup at the Gym

First of all, I’d like to make it clear that I have always been confused by the idea of putting on makeup to go to the gym.  I mean, you’re going to get gross and sweaty and anyway, makeup isn’t the point of working out.  Maybe some girls don’t sweat like I do, or they feel the need to look cute in everything they do.

I like to look cute, but I realize this just isn’t possible all the time.

But that’s not what this is about.  I’ve recently started making the effort to wear makeup every day.  Just some eye makeup, a little concealer, lip color.  Nothing major.  But when I then exercise in the evening, I have the added step of removing said eye makeup, or else risk running.  Enter the E.L.F. waterproof eyeliner pen.  I already love this eyeliner because it’s not quite as dramatic as a full-on liquid liner, but it’s easier to deal with than a pencil.  I’ve taken to using this pen in Coffee to finish off my eye each day.  And, hey, it’s supposed to be water-proof.

But is it capoeira-proof?

So I figured that of all the people in my life, my capoeira buddies tend to see me at my least sexy, so who cares if I end up with some raccoon rings of melted eyeliner around my eye?  So I skipped the mascara and wore makeup to capoeira.

I admit, I felt a little ridiculous.  I mean, I was wearing makeup at the gym.  But I justified it by telling myself I was actually being lower-maintenance than if I took an extra 5 minutes to wash off the makeup.  Shorter prep time, right?

And, hey, it worked.  I didn’t end up smudgy, and I even had some eyeliner left at the end of class.  So I guess this is also an intense test of the E.L.F. waterproof eyeliner pen, which it passed with flying colors.


Post-Capoeira Glow

19th-century painting of a roda

Well, my pedicure is toast, my feet are blistered and scuffed, and I’m getting in touch with muscles I seem to forget I have each week.  Yup, last night was capoeira training.  Every week, for two hours one evening, I get together with a coworker who also teaches capoeira and a few people from around the university where I work.  And, above all, it is an intense workout.

No, wait, above all, it’s FUN.

Yeah, capoeira is one of those things that trips me up because it’s so much fun, you forget that you’re basically doing intense aerobics and calisthenics for two hours.  My favorite thing to do are cartwheels, since I never was able to do them as a kid.  I also like the martial arts aspect, though last night the instructor was trying to focus more on the rhythmic aspect.  Our drill was to play (you don’t fight or spar in capoeira, you play) but to maintain contact and closeness with the other person and to make sure you left your partner an escape with every move you made.  Your goal isn’t to make contact, but it’s not to avoid it either.

It was fun.  I spent a lot more time playing with staying low and crouching under arms and legs, rather than staying upright and throwing kicks like I usually do.  I’ve also started doing more foot sweeps.

Now, this isn’t an official capoeira school, with a mestre or anything (although I seem to have picked up an unofficial capoeira nickname), but it’s a lot of fun, and it really trains the body.  You have to be strong, flexible, aerobically fit, and adaptable to play capoeira well.  In some ways, it’s like chess, because you have to figure out what your partner is going to do and try to respond to that to keep the flow beautiful.

Plus, it’s viewed in popular culture as “sexy dance fighting” (thanks, Bob’s Burgers!).  I can live with that.

This post is part of Primal Toad’s Primal Cave Friday.


Pink and Purple

Saturday, I painted my nails.  I used Sally Hansen Diamond Strength polish in Champagne Toast on my fingers, which is a nice, pale, peachy-pinky-shimmer, and Sally Xtreme Wear in Hot Magenta on my toes.  Then, today, I went for my first walk in my Invisible Shoes huaraches and the magenta toes really looked fantastic with my purple-laced huaraches.

Purple huaraches, pink toes

With the weather warming, and my fitness rather shot from the week in Rome and a week recovering from Rome, it’s time for me to start trying to get back into barefoot running.  I had tried last summer, and even ran a 5k race in my huaraches, but I ended up with bottom-of-the-foot bruising and had to rest and go back to shoes for a while.  In the fall, I bought a pair of New Balance WT101’s to get used to a more natural gait over the winter, and my hope is to return to huaraches in the summer and purchase a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for the cooler weather.

Anyway, what could be more awesome than showing off your pedicure while running?


Roman Baths and a Workout

View of a side room and stairs to the tanning deck at the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla

Having just returned from a trip to Rome, I am feeling inspired by the things I learned about Roman life lately.  I’ve been having a cup of coffee with milk with my breakfast, and beautiful salads with oil and vinegar for lunch.  And, because I spent some of the time visiting the ruins of Roman baths, I’ve explored Roman bathing and fitness.

As I learned at the ruins of the baths built by the Emperor Caracalla, bathing was an import from Greece.  Romans originally turned their noses up at it, considering it something that the “soft” Greeks did, but eventually adopted it with gusto.  Ironically, it was this love of luxury and comfort that ended up lulling the Romans into a complacency that led to their undoing.  But softness aside, the baths were not just a place to clean up.  Bathing in ancient Rome was a complicated ritual.  A public bathhouse would also have a gymnasium, where patrons could lift weights or perform other exercises before bathing.  There would be a swimming pool for use in warmer months.  There would be masseurs and other service personnel selling beautification services.

The actual bathing ritual was carried out by moving among three main areas:  a cold pool, a warm room and/or pool, and a hot room.  One would plunge or swim in the cold pool, move into the warm area to prepare for the hot room, and then spend time in the hot room, where there would be a hot pool.  One would rub the body with oil and sweat in the hot room before returning to the cold pool for a quick plunge to rinse off.

In honor of my Roman holiday, I’ve come up with a Roman-inspired workout and beauty routine using the facilities at my gym.  First, I go upstairs to the mat room, where I can do calisthenics, stretching, and some acrobatics.  Today, I did 5 rounds of sun salutations, lunges, cartwheels, and crawls, then practiced cartwheels leading into a back bridge.  Then I did some handstands, and then did three rounds each of squats, push-ups, and planks.  I finished off with some light stretching.

Then I moved to the natatorium for my hydrotherapy, which consisted of a half an hour of light swimming in the 50-meter pool, and a 5-minute sauna.  Normally, I would spend time in the steam room instead.  This was followed with a self-massage with oil, a hot shower, and a cold rinse after.  I emerge invigorated from the exercise, and glowing from the combination of hot and cold water, and ready to start my day, strong and beautiful.