Reasons to practice yoga

When people ask me why I do yoga, the answer is never a simple one word.  It’s not about flexibility, which is what brings most people into a yoga studio for the first time (including me).  It’s so much more than that.  It’s the mental clarity and strength that I receive from practicing yoga that always keeps me coming back to my mat.

Yoga teaches you to quiet your mind, to listen to your thoughts (and not judge them), to accept your feelings as they truly are, to truly be you.  And this is not something easily done in today’s society.  We see images of who we “should” be all over the place – television, movies, magazines, social media.  Picture perfect people in picture perfect settings.  That’s not life.  Life is messy and raw.  Life is full of ups and downs that constantly challenge you.  Life is far from picture perfect.  But we feel as though it should be – and we are failing if it is not.

Yoga teaches you that you are not a failure at any time and that what and where you are in that present moment is exactly where you should be.  You do not need to change a thought or feeling.  You do not need to be able to touch your toes, have enough strength to perform an arm balance, or lose 10 pounds.  You are exactly where you should be.

The journey to accept that fact is an ongoing process.  As humans, we always strive for more.  And having a goal to work towards is not a bad thing, as long as you are ok with the present moment status.  You do not have to meet that goal today, tomorrow, or even this year.  The goal will be met when the time is right and when you are ready.

That’s what yoga teaches me.  That while I wish I were more flexible or stronger in my practice, I am exactly where I should be at this time.  That it’s not only acceptable, but beautiful, that my practice and my being are not perfect.

It’s easy to forget this.  It’s easy to get caught up with life and away from the mat for a while.  And then the “shoulds” come back.  I “should” practice more.  I “should” be able to go deeper into a pose than I am.  I “should” not have taken so much time off.  Then I step back on the mat, and after class the “should”’s go away.  It’s like magic.  Every time I go to a yoga class, I learn something new.  I find a new level of clarity.  The learning never ends in yoga, and where ever you are in your yoga journey is always the perfect place to be!

 

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A Balance Exercise to easily fit into your daily routine

I’m learning a lot from my chiropractor.  Not only does he tell corny “Dad” jokes that I haven’t heard in a while, but he also teaches me new things.  The best thing I’ve learned from him so far is the easiest balance exercise to fit into a daily routine.

You ready for it?

Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth!

Keep your knee bent (never lock out legs) and your hands off the counter as much as possible.  It’s pretty crazy – when you switch from your left teeth to your right (or vice versa), it really is an extra balance challenge!  Plus you already brush your teeth twice a day (I hope) so you are not adding anything extra into your routine – but gaining lots of benefits.

Balance exercises help you:

  • become more body aware (you know where your body/limbs are in space), so you decrease the chance for falls and injuries
  • improve coordination by causing muscles and muscles groups to work together to balance.
  • improve the stability of your joints – especially your ankles, knees and hips!
  • improve your reaction time – when your balance is tested, your body has to learn to react fast to upright yourself.

If you are new to balance exercises, start out slow and use a progression:

  1. Hold on to a wall or steady piece of furniture with both hands.
  2. Hold on with one hand.
  3. Use only a few to one finger to hold.
  4. Lift both hands slightly away from the wall or furniture so they can grab on as needed.
  5. Move to trying it while brushing your teeth.  You may need to hold on with one hand or a few fingers, and that’s ok.  Work your way up!  You are improving your balance and doing a great job!!

I’ve been doing this daily for a week now and have really noticed a difference in how quickly my muscles fire and react when my balance is tested.

Lesson from a chiropractor

I wrote the other day about trying to be more true to myself, and not shy away from any potential conflict my true desires might create.

Well, today I was put in my place by the person I least expected that to happen from – my chiropractor.

I like my chiropractor – he’s skilled, friendly, a bit sarcastic and most importantly, is helping my hip heal.  But he’s always been more of a joker.  Teasing me about wearing my UNC sweatshirt the weekend after they lost in the NCAA tournament.  Telling me bad jokes about parenting.  Things like that.

Today, he said in his normal, casual voice – “Look, I know you are a busy Mom, but you got to take care of yourself.”  He took the example of the shoes I was wearing.  They are old (way too old for me to admit how long I’ve had them), worn and give me no support.  I only wear them when running errands – I have nice, new exercise shoes.  But he was like, look, you need to support yourself no matter what you are doing.  Wow.  He was talking about my body and footwear choice, but it hit me where I needed to hear it.

Yep, I put everybody first.  That’s how I was raised as a good southern girl.  And I like the way I was raised – and am not saying that it is a bad thing to want to care for others.  But you shouldn’t neglect yourself.  And he’s right – I do.

I do things for myself while my son is at preschool, like exercise, and feel like I’ve done my self care.  And while that is self care, I would never, ever go to an exercise class while my son is not at preschool – I would never “burden” my husband with having to care for him.  That’s just silly and needs to stop.  My husband is fully capable of caring for him.  And I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.

 

How to Be Me

I’ve been struggling with this for a while.  With some aspects, I’m all me.  I’m stubborn to a fault with some things and will not change for anybody or anything.  But other things, I tend to hide, fade away, not show my true feelings.  Usually those things come at the expense of rocking a boat I do not want to rock.

I have found myself holding back a lot lately – not making my voice heard, and not doing what I want.  There are reasons, which I won’t go into here, but mainly it’s to keep the peace.  Whether or not me doing what I want or making my voice heard will break the peace is unknown – but it’s a possibility, so that’s what scares me from doing so.

But lately, I’ve been bored, sad and scared.  And that’s no way to live my life.

I’m bored with my normal routine.  I don’t see or interact with a lot of people during the day, except for my young son.  I do work, but I work from home so all my correspondence is pretty much via email.  And my daily routine, while efficient and typically flies by, does not excite me or bring me joy.

I’m sad because of all this.  I crave friendship – companionship – understanding, and I don’t get that during my day to day life.  I want to be challenge – both physically and mentally.  Right now with my injury, physical challenge is not to be had.  But mentally even that’s a bit dulled down.  I’m alone and bored, and that makes me sad.

And I’m scared.  Scared to step out of my comfort zone.  Scared to “rock the boat” and have to face the consequences.  Scared to fail.  Scared to upset someone.  Scared that my life will be this sad and boring for the rest of my life.

I feel like I need a personal coach sometimes – someone to tell me to get up, get going and stop sulking.  Someone to say – do this now.  It’s the right time.  Live your life.  Be happy.  Find joy.  Forget about your fears.  Do what you want to do.  See that vision you have for yourself – go out and make it happen.

I’m trying to be that for myself now.  Among the responsibilities and so forth, of course.  But trying to think of ways I can be joyful and do what I want – make my visions a reality.  It’s hard to think this way without bringing up fears.  It’s hard to set those aside and unleash the dream wagon.  But it’s time.  If not now, when?

And now that I’ve covered many clichés in this post, I’m off to try to think of a vision, and make it happen!

5 Tips for Surviving Injury Boredom

When you are an athlete or an avid exerciser, an injury is devastating.  Not only do you worry about losing strength, endurance and skill, but your whole schedule and routine is thrown for a loop.  What are you going to do now?

I injured my hip flexor a few weeks ago.  At first I thought it had just cramped up on me and I needed to work through it – so I did, without any issues, for 3 days.  Then day 4 came, and I don’t know if it was the speed skaters, the jump squats or the sprints that did me in, but boy oh boy did that create a very real hip injury.  It hurt to walk the next day.  So I quickly called the sports medicine clinic and made an appointment.  I was hoping a few treatments and I’d be good.  Here I am entering week 3 and I’m still not back to my normal routine.

So yes, I worry about all the progress I’ve made and now lost.  I worry about starting again at the gym.  I worry about being out of shape.

And I’m not really sure what to do with the extra time I have.  Most people would love having extra time – and me included, but not when it comes at the expensive of my workout.

So I go to the sports clinic twice a week for treatments.  And on days I don’t go there – I go to the gym and do upper body only machines – no I’m not allowed to do anything but that.  I try to challenge myself with heavy weights, or lots of repetitions with lighter weights, but it’s definitely not the same as my Burn Boot Camp workouts that I truly love.   I also do my obligatory 5 minutes of hip stretching every morning and night.  Yawn.  I’m bored.

So here’s a few things I’ve come up with to help me beat my injury-recovery boredom:

  1. Cook ahead of time.  I usually spend my weekends making waffles, pancakes, muffins, veggie nuggets, etc. for my son.  I bake and freeze whatever is needed.  So instead of going to the gym while the young one is learning and playing away at preschool, I go ahead and bake/freeze.
  2. Take care of myself in different ways.  For me, I love to read.  I usually have about 30 minutes at night that I can read – and I make the most of that time.  So I’ve been reading a lot more during the day.  It’s fantastic!
  3. Clean out.  I hate the amount of junk that’s in my house now.  I’m pretty sure it’s quadrupled since I’ve had my son.  So I’ve been cleaning out stuff.  Some for donation, some for selling, some are just trash.  But it feels good to have empty drawers and shelves in the house again (that I’m sure will be promptly filled up next week when my son turns 2).
  4. Run errands without a child.  It’s rare that I get a trip to the grocery store or Target without a toddler.  And it’s glorious to be able to take my time, browse a little, read a few nutrition labels, without a kid squirming and making his “I’m frustrated” noise.
  5. Keep your goals in mind – but look at them from a different perspective.  I love to workout – the exercise part of health has always come easy for me.  But the nutrition – well, I also love chocolate and burgers, so that’s the harder part.  And while I have in no way revamped my diet during these 2 weeks, I have noticed changes that need to be made and am working to improve upon them.  I’m eating more protein sources for snacks instead of crackers.  I’m cutting back on the amount of caffeine I’m consuming and drinking more water.  I’m making egg white sandwiches and oatmeal more of a breakfast routine than eating some of the waffles I prepared for my son.  (I have yet to kick the pb&j for lunch habit though.   I’m all about that lately.)

The important thing to do when recovering from an injury is to focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t.  Have a lower body injury?  Focus on gaining strength in your upper body.  It’s all in the way you view things!

Book Review: The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I bought this book for a book club in December, but just now got around to reading it.  It is a haunting tale of 3 siblings born into a family of witches in the 1960s.  They discover they have special powers at a young age, despite their parent’s trying to hide it from them.

The siblings, 2 girls: Franny and Jet, and 1 boy: Vincent, learn of a family curse while visiting their aunt one summer.  Terrible things will happen if they fall in love.  The siblings try to stay away from love, but it somehow finds them.  The curse is strong, and many sad and troubling events occur.  Do they give in to the curse or fight it?  That’s the internal struggle of all three.

I enjoyed this book, though it took me a bit to get into it.  The beginning was full of magic and potions, which isn’t exactly my cup of tea.  But as the book progressed, and the siblings aged, the story of the battle with love and the curse was breathtaking.  It kept me going back for more.  It was dark, sad and at times very depressing.  I found myself routing for the siblings to overcome the curse and find love and happiness.  The ending, while it can be seen as happy, was still true to the story in it’s darker theme.

The author does a great job of tying the curse into a real life lesson.  Terrible things happen – that’s a fact of life.  Is it because of a curse – or is it just part of life?

I would recommend this book.  I enjoyed it more than I thought it would.  If you are a fan of magic and don’t need a traditional happy ending, this is definitely a good choice for you.  If you are looking for something different to read, this is also a great choice.

Fear & Sadness

I’m hesitant to put this out there but I feel the need to write about it.  I’ll try to steer away from specifics as to not hurt feelings and make a mess.  Because that’s not the intention.  The intention is self healing.

There are people in my life I’ve always had a bad relationship with, and they are people that I must have a relationship with.  The how’s and whys of how it got bad are not needed – but it’s not healthy in any kind of way.

Lately the words that have been said by certain people have gotten harsher, bolder and just plain mean and hurtful.  And while I’m one of the parties being hurt, I also feel stuck in the middle.  How can I keep having a relationship with someone who consistently says mean things about me?  I haven’t found an answer to that.  And that brings about a lot of fear and sadness.

I’m scared.  I’m scared this is just going to ruin my beautiful little family.  I have so many blessings and an intense love for my little family.  And the anxiety and anger this unhealthy relationship brings about threatens the happiness of my little family.  And I’m scared for the beautiful visions of the future I have for my family.  Will they happen?  I hope so – but I feel it’s not certain.  And that scares me.

I’m scared because I’ve tried.  Whether people realize it or not – I have tried a lot and I have tried very, very hard.  I’ve done everything someone else has suggested to me, and it doesn’t help – ignoring it, seeing it from the other person’s point of view, even counseling.  Nothing has helped.

I’m not the type of person who deals with negativity well.  And I can’t ignore it when it’s in my face.  I have accepted this flaw about myself.  I can’t make something that is personal, not personal.  That’s not my nature.

I’m sad.  I’m sad that I can’t make this work.  I feel like I’m less of a person since I can’t seem to handle the stress of this bad relationship.  Even though I know I’ve tried, I still feel like a failure because I can’t ignore it.  The problem is not going away – I just have to find a way to deal with it.  And it hurts me too much for me to do that.  And that makes me sad.

And I’m sad that this is happening.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  Of course, none of us really think it makes sense for someone to mistreat us.  But I just don’t get it.  I mean, I do understand the root issue of it, because, as I’ve said before, I did put myself in the other persons shoes.  But the root issue is not something to mistreat me over – and frankly it’s not even about me.  Though I doubt the other person has thought deep enough to realize it’s not personally about me – so they make it personal.  It’s just sad that this is happening because there is no need, no use, no true reason for it.  Things could be happy for ALL of us, but one person decided that it can’t be.  That’s not fair.  And my life may be torn apart because of it.  And that makes me sad.

Core Exercise Routine

Last week I tweaked a hip flexor/adductor.  I’m not really sure which one, but it was pretty tight on me last week.  Luckily I could stretch it out a bit and all was fine.  Until Friday – oh Friday.  Athletic Conditioning day really made that tendon angry.  So now I’m a bit hobbled and oh so missing my workouts.

While I can go to 2 workouts this week that are upper body – the rest involve too much hip action so I’m at home trying to figure out my own hip-friendly routine.  Luckily a lot of core work is fairly hip friendly and I’m able to do a good bit of it at home.  And since I love working abs – that makes some of the frustration of not being able to go to the gym every day less.

Here’s an at home Ab Workout I did this week.  There are a few links below for some of the exercises in case you are not familiar with my vernacular.

ab exercises

Hope you have fun!

I’m off to the chiropractor to figure out what is causing my hip pain.  Fingers crossed for me!!

Supermans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cc6UVRS7PW4
Side Plank Dips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgaYt4Hi6-g
Side Crunches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVfzmxQYTdA
Forearm plank toe taps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtgjQYcL1NI

 

Social Comfort Zones

I’m an introvert.  Totally.  I can talk to anyone about subjects I’m comfortable with, and I can talk to those I’m comfortable with about any subject.  But new people and new subjects, I’m a little lost.

Being an introvert brings about lots of loneliness.  For several reasons.  The most obvious, it’s hard to make friends when you are quiet and don’t like to put yourself out there.  Some of the less obvious.  It’s hard to keep friends you make because social situations drain you.  Literally – I have to recover from social situations, even with my favorite people – because the amount of energy I have to put into being social is high.  It’s not that I don’t want to be social – it’s just that it’s like running a marathon for me.  So it’s not something I do as often as most outgoing people do.  Therefore, maintaining friendships is really difficult when you don’t want to be social too much.  Third, learning about new subjects or talking to people who are different from what you are used to is like doing an ironman – so it’s really, really hard to meet new people.  Talking about things I’m not used to talking about is crazy hard.  So if you put yourself out there, and you have nothing in common, but still like the person, it’s really hard for me to get to know them just out of the shear overwhelmingness I feel when I have to come up with unfamiliar conversation.

Most people think if you are an introvert, you don’t want to be around people and you never feel loneliness.  And this is simply not true.  It’s like we are fighting an internal battle over our own nature of being an introvert versus the human nature of needing to be around other people.  It’s a rough ride – but we do need people in our lives.

So this past weekend I tried out a Moms Book Club.  I was greeted by some very bold personalities while I was there.  I guess my internal picture of the book club was of less boisterous people, but boy was I wrong.  And being an introvert surrounded by extroverts – well, can you say awkward?  While they were all very pleasant and friendly, I maybe said 2 sentences the 1 hour and 15 minutes I was there.  It got so awkward I had to leave early.  I just felt like I was sitting in on other people’s conversations.

But you know what, even if I didn’t find my soul sister there, at least I tried.  I have to say I’m a little disappointed it didn’t go as I hoped, but I’m more proud of myself for going.  And I am even more proud of myself that I haven’t ruled out going again.  So yay for stepping out of your comfort zones – sometimes it doesn’t go as planned or thought, but you still can learn so much from just taking the step.

A Week of Croup

Well, just when I thought that Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease was the worst it could get in toddler illness, my son developed croup.

Croup, which is inflammation of the trachea, is caused by a group of viruses that mascarade as the common cold, but in young children can turn into much more.

You know your child has croup when his or her cough starts sounding like a weird bark.  You may also hear a gasping noise when they cry, talk, exert themselves and in really bad cases at rest.  My son had a fever of around 101 and was fatigued, clingy and had a poor appetite.

My son’s croup started on a Wednesday.  His cough had the trademark bark noise and I knew right away he had croup.  What I didn’t know was what to do.  Do I need to get him to a doctor right away?  Is this something to care for at home?  I just had no idea – and when it comes to your kid breathing, you don’t want to be guessing.

So I called the doctor’s office and talked to a nurse.  She assured me unless he was clearly having difficulty breathing, he was ok and set up an appointment for the next morning.

That night was rough.  He couldn’t sleep – he was wheezing, barking and generally miserable.  Myself or my husband was in the room with him at all times – one because he needed us there for comfort – and two because we needed to hear him breathing in case he started struggling.

The next morning his doctor took one listen to him and immediately said he needed steroids.  He got the one dose steroid treatment and by that afternoon was feeling much better.

But this croup virus was not nice.  It came back over the weekend, sending us to urgent care and getting him on a dose of 3 days of steroids.

Now he’s on day 2 of being off of medicine and feeling just fine.  I’m finally convinced he can go back to school.  I’m terrified of what illness he will bring home next, but its clear that he needs that outlet and needs to have fun.

Oh, and if you thought croup was just a childhood disease, think again.  I’m on day 4 and just now starting to get my voice back.  While I never developed a barking noise, my throat definitely has been very swollen and I’ve felt worse than I have in a long time.  Whenever I get these illnesses several days after my son does, I always am shocked that he did so freakin’ well considering how crappy I feel.  If I was 1, I would not handle feeling that bad as well as he does.  My little man is a trooper!