Do this much exercise each day, and these types of exercises.
Drink 8 glasses of water a day. No, 12. No, make that 16, or 24. Do it, and don’t fail or else!
This time of year we’re given a lot of rules, especially if our goal is to eat better or get more exercise or just try to embrace a healthier lifestyle.
I think rules work for some people. They want a clear set of guidelines and succeed when they can check off boxes. But others chafe when given a set of rules. That would be me.
If someone says I can’t do something, or can’t eat a certain type of food, or need to give up caffeine, I instantly want to do the exact opposite.
So my goal is to find a plan and adapt it to my lifestyle and schedule at the moment.
Ashtanga is a good example. The “rules” of Ashtanga say that you do the series for 90 minutes a day first thing in the morning, six days a week. That just doesn’t work for me right now. So instead, I aim for the six days, but my practice is anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. I trust that my body and mind will adapt to where I will be devoting more time to my practice.
I’m also experimenting with Ayurveda, both in terms of food and also lifestyle. Today I went to a workshop with Julianne Englander at Yoga Barre in Shakopee and learned some great details about Ayurveda. Julianne talked about the morning routine, which if you did everything would probably take about an hour. I know that’s not anything I’m going to do right now. I’m going to start small, like getting up and scraping my tongue and washing my face — getting “clean” before heading to my mat. Julianne also said this is like a yoga practice — it develops over years.
Regarding my diet, there are just some things I’m not ready to give up yet. These include:
An occasional social alcoholic drink with friends
If you want to succeed in a diet or exercise routine or other lifestyle change, you have to make it work for YOU. Find something that sounds doable and that you’ll enjoy, but ADAPT from there. Remember, a small change is better than nothing. See how that small change goes and if you feel good, add more changes. Because the second you dislike something you for sure will stop doing it.
How have you adapted a diet or exercise program or lifestyle change to make it work for YOU?
“Take a look at each deck. Choose from the one that speaks to you,” Melanie says.
I kneel down, inspect a few cards, finding myself drawn to the ones that are colorful. A couple of the decks feature whimsical illustrations, which are cute, but for me maybe a little too cute. I spot the deck from which I drew last year, but want something different. When I see “Goddess Guidance,” I know that’s the deck for me.
I shuffle once, twice. I almost pick the top card right then, but something inside said to shuffle one more time — something about the number three felt important. I shuffle again, then I take the top card:
My heart sings. This card, this notion of blossoming, feels exactly right.
We might think of people blossoming in terms of adolescence. How often are girls said to “blossom” into womanhood? But just because we hit middle age, or even older, that doesn’t mean we don’t keep blossoming into new things.
For 2019, my plan is to delve deeper into Ashtanga. I want to continue to build a home practice that I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. I want to attend more workshops and trainings. I’m excited to be teaching Ashtanga at SunMoon Yoga Studios starting in a couple of weeks.
I also have learned more about Ayurveda in the last three weeks or so. I’ve been trying out recipes and am loving the plant-based diet. I want to learn even more about this practice.
As always, I’ll be reading and writing, learning new things that way, both about other people and events and also about myself.
This seems like a good year to focus on “blossoming.” I’ve made an effort to put negativity behind me in the last year, and by doing so I feel ready to grow.
Yes, I want more people to check out yoga classes. But for yogis to promote yoga as a cure-all and as a way to prevent injuries is irresponsible. Of course I believe the benefits outweigh the risks, but new practitioners should be mindful going into it.
I liked an article (posted below) from the Washington Post that was reprinted in the Dec. 23 edition of the Minneapolis StarTribune. I thought it had a lot of good tips.
Yoga injuries are likely going to come from overuse and overstretching. But I believe that listening to your body is going to be the most important way to prevent injuries. I think a lot of yoga injuries result from people looking at others in a class and trying to do what they’re doing. They forget that the person on the mat next to them may have been practicing yoga for many years. Letting go of ego and letting go of competition will go a long way in keeping yourself healthy on the mat.
I’m only a few days into eating a primarily plant-based diet, but I’m already feeling better and seeing results.
I generally have eaten pretty healthy in the past few years. I like fruits and vegetables and make it a point to eat those every day. I like to eat well because I like to be active, and I can’t fuel my body on garbage. But my main challenges have been:
Simply eating too much, especially now that I’m not logging lots of miles like I was prior to the marathon in October.
Still lacking willpower to walk away from the sweet treats — totally my weakness! I would never eat chips or fries again in my life if it meant I could still eat cookies.
Drinking too much alcohol.
These have been my challenges for about three years. In 2014, I wasn’t happy with my eating habits or my body and made some major changes. I was able to keep this up mostly through 2016. But since then, I’ve struggled.
I’ve made half-hearted attempts to rediscover that good place I was in a few years ago. But nothing ever stuck and I’d quickly be back to my old habits (or more accurately, not even wanting to change).
But a couple of weeks ago, something happened. It was definitely an internal/mind change. I kind of just lost my taste for junk. I craved freshness. That’s what I wanted to put into my body. Whereas I hadn’t cut back on alcohol because I simply liked it, in the past couple of weeks the thought of drinking kind of turned my stomach.
I credit the change to a few things:
Making yoga and meditation a daily routine. I wake up and immediately begin my practice. Sometimes it’s only 15 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. I’ve been sustaining this for about a month.
Disliking how my body feels when I’m not kind toward it. A morning practice is difficult and challenging when if the night before I drank and ate garbage. I got tired of feeling that way.
Letting go of psychic baggage.
Just in the past few days, I’ve noticed that I’m sleeping better and have lost weight. And the new diet is highly satisfying and filling! This is a HUGE change for me. As a pitta, I’m often ravenous and counting the hours until the next meal. I have never missed and meal and have never forgotten to eat! But something like the six-taste bowl pictured above sustains me for hours. This has been the biggest surprise of this new routine.
This is not a diet or a miracle fix. This is a way of life. I have never participated in any fad diet, because I know the key is being able to sustain the way you eat. I don’t anticipate a problem incorporating more vegetables and less meat and dairy into my diet.
At this moment, I’m not saying that I won’t ever eat meat or dairy or sugar again, or that I’ll never have another sip of alcohol. I resist strict rules. Even if the rules are good for me, my instinct is to break them just because they’re rules! I’m also a slow learner and like to dip my toe in the water before going all in. For example, I did several 5Ks and 10Ks before doing a marathon. I did sprint triathlons before moving on to Olympic-distance triathlons. Unlike someone I know, who signed up for a full Ironman triathlon without knowing how to swim!
So I’m considering this a primarily plant-based diet, with some exceptions. I think the key to making something work for you is to tailor it to your needs and lifestyle. Make it individual for you. What works for someone else may not work for you.
At the end of the Ashtanga prep class I’ve been teaching at SunMoon Yoga Studios, I like to read a short passage while students are in savasana. I usually read from Kino MacGregor’sThe Power of Ashtanga Yoga.
Last Thursday I read this:
“The asanas work first on a practice level to burn through the toxins in the physical, emotional, and energetic bodies The poses also work to change the basic hardwiring of the mind. Normally, when we confront difficult situations, we want to run away. If we encounter a scary memory, we often want to bury it. The pattern, while totally natural, is not effective at creating a truly happy, healthy life. Yoga trains the mind to stay in places of difficulty instead of running away and developing protective measures. In yoga, there is no room for defense mechanisms. In fact, the yoga poses are designed to strip away every protective layer you may have developed to reveal the inner purity at the heart of your being.”
Ashtanga, like most physical endeavors, is a challenging practice. I have never been on a run or a bike ride or done an Ashtanga practice and said, “Wow, that was easy today!” Part of the reward upon completing physical exertion is the satisfaction in knowing that you pushed yourself in a difficult situation.
What do we find challenging on an emotional or mental level? There’s a tendency to push it away and not want to go there, just like there’s a tendency to stay on the couch or stay in bed rather than move your body.
Because Ashtanga yoga is done in silence, with the focus on the audible breath, it creates a meditative state as you challenge your body in the asanas. Running and cycling for me also have a mind-clearing quality, but not as much as Ashtanga does.
We often turn toward more destructive habits when we don’t want to confront difficult thoughts and emotions. I have been guilty of this, but I find that since I’ve been practicing Ashtanga regularly I’m not running away from myself and I’m treating myself better. It’s a slow process — I’ve only been practicing regularly for about four months — but I am hopeful for continued growth and strength. For me, and for all of you, be patient and kind to yourselves and trust the process, whatever that may be.
I’m tired. This happens at the beginning of every semester. There’s always an adjustment period that comes with being in the office regularly, teaching classes, and meeting with students (at the beginning of the semester this usually means panicked students who haven’t yet registered for class or who are making changes to their schedules before the drop/add deadline passes).
My 5:15 a.m. alarm felt especially early this morning, especially since the craziness of the semester translates into middle-of-the-night wide-awake thoughts about to-do lists and such. But I got up because I have the 6 a.m. yoga class to teach.
I’m glad I have this reason to get to the gym, because I’m pretty sure I would have found it hard this morning to get up and out of bed otherwise. If I had a choice, today would have been a day to say “forget it” to the gym. I could have definitely used that hour or two to sleep, or I could have gotten up and worked on any number of tasks for my job.
If I didn’t have to teach yoga, I would have found many excuses to not go to the gym. “I’m too busy” is a really easy thing to say.
But there has never been a time when I have finished the yoga class or a workout and thought, “I shouldn’t have done that.” I am ALWAYS thankful that I did it and always feel better afterward.
When we’re the busiest is EXACTLY the time to make sure we don’t skip our workouts.
I understand that there are so many other things that can get done during gym or exercise time. But look at all the things that exercise accomplishes:
* Gives us energy.
* Gives us a break from work.
* Keeps us in touch with our physical selves.
* Reduces anxiety.
* Boosts metabolism.
When you’re busy, don’t you need those things more than ever? As you return to school or find yourself under water at work or take on new responsibilities, maybe you have to scale back your gym routine. Maybe you like to work out for an hour, but now maybe it has to be 30 minutes. Or 15 minutes. Or 5 really, really hard and intense minutes.
Point being, any minute is better than 0 minutes.
And when you can fit in a workout amid your busy day, you get an extra sense of accomplishment. You did something that at first didn’t seem feasible — you found the time to work out. Congratulate yourself!