Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Gotta Yoga

Today's yoga adventure found me at Gotta Yoga on the North side of Charlotte. It's not too far from where I live. When Living Social offered a deal for new students to buy 16 classes for $32, I had to bite. $32? $2 per class, man! (note that their normal drop in rate is $15, and that package of 16 classes? $150. So...yeah.)

Normally, I go to RockstarStacy's home studio on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30am for yoga. On Mondays, it's normally hot yoga. This week we decided to change to Wednesday and Friday since Kiesha is traveling. When I checked Gotta Yoga's website and saw they had a hot yoga class at 6:00 a.m., I had to bite. From what I can tell, most studios just don't offer early yoga classes.

I arrived around 5:45 or so, and it was still dark inside the studio, so I sat in my car. I was thinking, did I read the schedule wrong? But right around 5:50 our instructor showed up, and then I noticed a couple other cars pulling up in the parking lot.

I had been at the studio on Saturday, to activate my 16 class pass and take a look around (they were having teacher training and a class so I couldn't look inside the actual rooms). One thing I like about their location is that they have two showers available for our use. Each shower room has a chair, and a table with a mirror. The showers have shower gel and shampoo and conditioner. They even have towels! Of course, I had my own towel and tools, but it was nice to know they had those as needed.

The hot yoga class was taught by Alexandra Arrandt. There were four of us total. From her conversation with the others, I could tell that two of them are regular attendees, and the other woman was new to yoga. She appeared to be friends with the other two. I asked her later how many people normally attend the class, and she said they usually have about 8 people.

The room we were in was huge. The lights had an amber glow to them, and there were plenty heaters to keep the temperature at 95 degrees. Sometimes I like to set up by the heater, but today I chose a space up front. They had all the usual yoga props - bolsters, yoga straps, and blocks available. Their bolsters were cylindrical and I wasn't used to that, so I didn't grab one. I did grab a block and a strap, but didn't end up using either.

Alexandra started class by introducing Erica, a teacher in training, who was going to be assisting her with the class. We started out with some quiet meditation and then got into some stretching. It was a little different from the flow classes I'm used to taking with Stacy. I wasn't sure if it would be "kick azz" enough for my liking. LOL!

She asked at the beginning if anyone wanted to work on any particular body parts or moves. One of the ladies asked for core, and the lone gentleman asked for shoulders. The newbie didn't request anything, and I had no preferences. And so it began.

I need to have a talk with that woman who asked for core work. We started out the class with boat and canoe. Not just lowering from boat to canoe and back up, but after doing that a few times, she had us "row the boat" - which meant balancing in boat and then taking the prayer hands going from side to side as if we were rowing, literally. My abs were ON FIRE! (I almost want to erase this, 'cause Stacy is probably taking notes...)

I didn't realize it until Alexandra pointed it out at the end of class, but we did no warrior poses except for airplane/warrior 3. We came out of down dog and stepped into low crescent lunges. That was different. I liked it. We even got to flip our dogs.

The yoga gods apparently are determined that I will have open hips and shoulders. Yesterday in deep stretch, we went into Eka Bhuja Swastikasana. What is that, you say? Why, this here:

(If you want to see the video of how to get into this pose, click
here. )

This morning, we went into this pose again. It was actually good to get back into it. With the 95 degree heat, I had an easier time. Of course, with my T-Rex arms (lol!), I cannot get into the bind without a strap. We were given the option of taking the other hand back to the smalls of our backs, so I did that.

I had forgotten all about Erica until I was in a forward fold, and she appeared like a ninja and pressed my back down. She caught me off guard for a second, 'cause I forgot she was there. LOL! It was nice that she had someone to assist, because we got lots of yummy assists during class to help us stretch. Someone came and pressed my shoulders down during savasana...not sure who, but it felt great! After class, Erica told me she felt me "melt" into my forward fold after she came and pushed on my back. Good stuff.

Overall, I enjoyed the class very much. I loved the assists, but I don't mind being touched. It definitely wasn't as kick azz as Stacy's class, but that's ok. Sometimes you need to try something different, to bring some balance to your life. I wonder if she took it easy because she knew the one student was new to yoga. I'll have to try the class again to see what else she has to offer.

The studio is a good size. The bigger room has storage cubbies for whatever you lug along with you, and there is also a storage bench in the lobby area. I definitely loved being able to take a shower right there after class. It almost felt like taking a shower at home. I did ask if they wanted me to spray the showers down with anything, but Alexandra let me know they have someone come in to clean the showers.

I have 15 more classes to take, so I will definitely make my way back there! :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Wanna Try Yoga - Now What?

Several people have seen my Curvy Girl Yoga post, and now they want to try yoga! I'm so excited! That is awesome news. No matter your age or athletic ability, you can do yoga. Just remember that.

Now - you've decided that you want to try yoga. What's the next step? I realize that everyone is not blessed to have a Rockstar Stacy in their lives. Which is a real shame. LOL! Yoga studios were opening all around me and I was convinced, after watching "Namaste" on Oxygen channel, that there was no way I was contorting my body like that. I didn't know anything about modifications. Stacy convinced me to give her class a try, and the rest was history! But since you probably don't have a Rockstar Stacy, I'll give you my 2 cents on what I think you should do to get started.

READING IS FUNDAMENTAL...SOMETIMES. Normally, if I was going to try something new, the first thing I would do is read and research. You CAN do that, but there is soooooo much information out here on yoga, I think it would be confusing. There is a Yoga for Dummies book out there (there's a "for Dummies" book on everything, isn't there? LOL) that really breaks down the basics, the types of yoga, takes you into some beginning breathing exercises, and talks about some of the poses. Honestly? If I had read that book first, I think my mind would have been doing too much, and I wouldn't have tried a class. Your mileage may vary. You might decide that you need your brain to be full. That said...

HOME VS STUDIO: The next thing you need to decide on is, will I start at home or start in a studio? Maybe you live in the boonies and don't have access to a studio. Or maybe you are intimidated by the studio environment - which, that's ok if you are. In that case, you may want to start with an at home video for beginners. Make sure you have a big enough space to practice. You don't want to be banging into furniture while you're trying to move. No bueno. The disadvantage to starting at home is that you don't have anyone to provide guidance to make sure you aren't going to injure yourself in a pose, or to provide modifications. I would just say that you should make sure your videos are geared to beginners.

If you want to make the leap to a studio, then check around your city. Do you know anybody who already does yoga? Ask them which studio they are going to. Check out the websites of the potential studios. What type of vibe are you feeling? In this case, you need to know what you want, in terms of environment. Some people just want their azz kicked, physically. They want some power yoga classes, they're not interested in the spiritual aspect or the meditation. They want to leave dripping in sweat, physically challenged, and good to go. Other people need a studio with a family environment, such as Charlotte Family Yoga Center. The provide Family Yoga classes on Sundays, where you can bring children 4 years and up to participate in yoga with you. They also provide child care during many of the classes, for a nominal fee. If you have young kids, this type of studio is for you. But you also have to be ready to possibly hear kids playing while you're down in savasana. If that's not for you, skip the family environment.

YOGA FASHION: Many of us are fashionistas outside of the studio, but might not know what to wear IN the studio. First things first - you need comfortable, light weight clothing. It's going to be warm in the studio. As you (and the rest of the bodies) start building heat, it's going to get even warmer. Don't go in there with sweats or UnderArmor on - recipe for disaster! You don't want to go in there with clothing that's too baggy, either. Oversized t-shirts will be falling all over the place as you try to move and get into poses. You'll want to get some clothes specifically geared to working out. At the same time, if you don't know how well you're going to take to yoga, or how often you're going to be practicing, you may not be ready for the likes of Lululemon or Prana. I know I'm not. LOL! Not yet, anyway. You can find clothing for yoga at Old Navy, Gap, Target, WalMart...lots of options. I tend to wear crop pants a lot. Something that's fitted and sometimes has the wicking fabric to get the sweat away from my body. I found some cute tops at WalMart, but they don't always stay put when I'm in down dog or inverted poses. That's the advantage of the more expensive brands. Just do what works within your budget. If you find yourself getting deeper and more involved in your practice, then you can upgrade your wardrobe.

TO MAT...OR NOT TO MAT? You don't HAVE to start with your own mat. Most of the studios have mats that you can borrow or rent for a nominal fee. If you are squeamish and need to know that only your "stuff" (LOL) has been on your mat, then check out retailers like Target and WalMart. If you decide that you want to continue you're practice, you'll likely find that those mats don't give you the stability or resistance you need, and you'll end up going for an upgrade. I personally use a Manduka eKO Mat (in the denim color, of course!). I use their mat sling to carry it to and fro.

WHICH CLASS DO I CHOOSE? Your first studio class will depend on what the studio has to offer. Hopefully they will have some kind of beginners series. Each class in the series will focus on certain movements.One class you may learn the sun salutations (Sun A and Sun B). Pretty much every flow class I've taken has started with these to build heat. In another class you may focus on the warrior poses, or triangles and forward bends. If you are fortunate enough to start with a beginners series of classes, you'll be well versed on the poses when you move on to the next level.

My first class was a slow flow vinyasa class. That means that your movements will be done in conjunction with an inhale and an exhale. In a slow flow class, you will hold poses for several breaths before moving on to the next one. In a power flow class, you do a lot more moving. I've been on several yoga studio websites and almost all of them recommend that people transition from beginners classes into slow flow. If there's no beginners series, have no fear. You can make it through a slow flow class. Just make sure to let the instructor know that you're new and may need a bit more guidance. :)

I'M READY FOR MY FIRST IN-STUDIO CLASS. WHAT DO I BRING? HOW DO I PREPARE? If you've bought a mat, bring that with you. You may also want to bring a water bottle, and a small towel to wipe the sweat from your brow or from your hands. You may want a small bag to carry your personal items like your wallet, keys, phone, etc. Most of the studios I've been to have little "cubbies" outside for you to store your things.

You'll be practicing in your bare feet, so if you are OCD about your footsies looking good, then get a pedi. However, do NOT lotion your feet or hands before class. You'll just slide all over the mat and it'll be an exercise in futility. Honestly, most people are not going to be paying attention to your feet. And your yoga instructor has seen every kind of foot there is.

EXTRAS: Most flow classes end with savasana - you lie flat on the mat (or on a bolster if you choose), with your eyes closed. There's soft music playing in the background and everyone is quiet. We're usually given cool lavender cloths to put on our forehead/eyes during savasana. Lavender is calming, and also very few people seem to be allergic to it. However, if you are very sensitive to smells, you may want to decline the towel.

Many teachers like to give you a little extra nurturing at the end of class. They may come around and give each student a small foot rub, or a shoulder rub. They may press your shoulders and/or hips down to help your relax and release during savasana. I took a slow flow class today and she came and rubbed our foreheads. If you don't like to be touched, you may want to let the instructor know at the beginning of class.

Most of all, just come in with an open mind, and a willingness to leave the rest of the world outside the class room for an hour, so you can treat yourself to something yummy.

I hope I hit the highlights for you. If you have any specific questions, just ask! Happy Yoga!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back in Stride

As most of you know, after the weight gain, the issue with my knee, and then the broken toe (ouch!), I got back into stride with doing Couch to 5K. This has probably been the hardest time for me to get back to running again. It's not so much the injury as the weight gain. I'm trying to move 20 extra pounds and it's just not that cute. I will work it out, but it's going to take some time. I hate this weight gain and I feel like I've let myself down (and others, too), but I know it's not healthy for my joints and I'm taking the steps to get it gone the right way, so it's just a matter of time and effort.

Today I started back with physical therapy again. I don't know if I blogged about it, but the previous provider said that I had osteo-arthritis. When I tried to go back to CardioFunkytown and my knee started hurting again, his response was pretty much well, you're always going to have problems with your knees, etc. Huh? Nah. I need something better than that!

When I went to my PCP to follow up on the broken toe, I talked to her about the weight gain and also about my issues with my knee. I felt really comfortable talking to her because, in addition to being my PCP, she also does sports medicine, and she is a runner herself. She asked me if I'd be ok with doing another set of x-rays, just so she could take a look at my knees. She went over them with me thoroughly and did NOT see evidence of osteoarthritis. From the symptoms I described (pain and clicking in my knee, feeling like maybe it wasn't tracking properly), she felt that I had patella femoral syndrome. Finally - there's a name for it!

She referred me for PT with a new provider, and today was my first day. I really like my therapist. He was very thorough. He really read through my history and the notes from my doctor - I didn't have to rehash everything because he knew it already. He says that the problem with my knee is two fold:

1. like a lot of runners, I have tightness in my IT band. I never thought about it, but he pressed on it and it was tender/sore. That tightness is pulling my knee cap to track outward, when it should be tracking inward.

2. my inner thigh muscles are not strong enough to support my knee cap and sort of pull it back to where it needs to be.

Therapy is going to be 2x a week for 4 weeks to begin. I have exercises I can do at home, particularly some IT band stretches that should help. I chuckled because one of the stretches is something that we do at the end of yoga class sometimes. We are also going to do strengthening exercises like leg extensions, squats on the wall, and straight leg lifts. But for all of these I have to squeeze either a ball or a rolled up towels between my thighs, to keep my knees from sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies (snap, crackle, pop!). I am looking forward to it because I like lifting weights and I wouldn't mind getting stronger.

One of the things he tried today, which I didn't have at the previous provider, was electrical muscle stimulation. Now, as a claims rep, I've seen this coded on bills many times, from PT providers and from chiropractors. I never thought much about it and didn't really know how it would work.

He hooked up the electrodes to my inner thigh. I was lying down on a table. He said that if I could tolerate it, he'd want to get it up to a level where it caused the inner thigh muscle to actually twitch. I told him to go for it. He turned it up and the level where he stopped was a bit too much for me to tolerate for 10 minutes, so he turned it down a notch. Then he added in the kicker - every time the stim kicked in, I was to flex my leg and tighten up my quad.

Let me just say that EMS is no joke! About halfway in that machine kicked in and I tightened up my thigh and I think I made a noise out! The longer you sit the more intense it gets. I had to do some yoga breathing for the last 4 minutes or so. Whoo! BUT, afterwards it felt really good. I was able to get up from the table without much pain. It's feeling pretty good as I sit here and type this. I definitely want to continue with that as part of my treatment.

The best news was that neither he nor my PCP want me to stop yoga or running. I was really hoping they would say that. I made sure to ask about that, because I don't want to derail my healing/therapy, but I don't want to derail my fitness goals, either. Depending on how late I work tonight, I want to hit the greenway and start week 7 of C25K, since I went to PT instead of running this morning.

Hope you all are having a healthy, injury-free week! :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Show Me Love

I was just reading on another blog, and the commenter said, "we all do not show love in the same way." Hmmmm. Yes, I guess this is true. Countless things can affect the way you show your love and affection for one another. Your background, when/where/how you grew up, and the people that you've met in this lifetime.

Me personally? I'm a "hugger." If I can give and receive a hug, that's the best. Some of the best moments with LDR are when he just hugs me and holds me. We don't talk or anything. We just hold on to each other. Or my sister...the one who retired from the military. She squeezes the LIVING BREATH out of me every time she hugs me. Like, I probably need a CT scan for cracked ribs, but I wouldn't have it any other way! In my family, we don't get off the phone with each other without saying "I love you." I know some people just aren't that vocal. I'm actually trying to think back to how many times my ex actually said that he loved me, and it wasn't in an email.. :::crickets chirping:::

Annnnnnywho (lol), I think part of showing people love is knowing what they like and HOW they like to be shown love/appreciated. Which I guess really only works if they reciprocate. For instance, I have a friend who just does not like to hug people. It's just not her thing. We would be at get togethers and people would try to hug her and then they'd remember, oh yeah, Y doesn't hug folks. I haven't seen her in quite a few months, but the last time I did she actually hugged me! I was like, "huh?" and it must have shown on my face, because she said, "I'm trying to do better with this." But I think she was ok with hugging me because I never tried to force her to hug me. Once she told me she didn't "do" hugging (lol), then I respected that. Others would be like, "well girl you need to get over that, I'ma hug you anyway." That's not the way to approach that. Not if you want those same people to respect how YOU feel!

I think that people just want you to KNOW them. Know what's important to them and then act accordingly. People get tired of giving and getting nothing in return. So maybe what they're expecting is not what YOU would do. So what! If you LOVE them, then sometimes you suck it up and you give them what THEY need. Especially if they'd do the same for you.

As Tamar Braxton would say, "point blank period." :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Yoga Off the Mat: Flexibility

This week's yoga principle is flexibility.

According to Merriam-Webster, definiteion #3 of flexible is the following: "characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements (a flexible foreign policy) (a flexible schedule)"

I was sleepy on Wednesday morning and a bit out of sorts. I really should have blogged this that day, so I'd remember more. Oops. LOL!

The first thing that came to my mind when Stacy mentioned flexibility was the physical act of being flexible. I mean, we're sitting on yoga mats and she's about to take us into a 1 hour routine that will most definitely require flexibility (don't even get me going on the crow push ups - whole 'nother post all together). Right?

But really, it was about you being flexible with what the world throws at you. If you're on the mat that day, and a pose just isn't coming to you, or you can't get it quite right, how do you react? Do you get frustrated with yourself and lose concentration for the rest of the class? Or do you continue to go with the flow (literally) and just do what you can?

The same applies in life. I like schedules and plans. And checklists. I get excited when I can check something off of a list. I feel like I've gotten something done. When I set a schedule/plan, that's what I want to go by. I get flustered if you (or life) come along changing the plan. In the past, I would let that throw my entire day off. I'd carry the pissivity (yeah, probably not a word but it is for the purpose of this blog, lol) into the rest of the day. At 4:00pm, still mad about what I didn't get to do at 9:00am and how it threw off my entire day. So that leads to stress and anxiety, and none of those are good for my health. See how that sucks?

I told Stacy about my initial thoughts in regard to I wasn't ready for all those push ups she had us doing in class - isn't that strength? What's that got to do with flexibility? I've been hoodwinked and bamboozled. Plymouth Rock landed on ME, man.

Her response: "I clearly stated that flexibility and strength are not mutually exclusive."

Oh. LOL! (well yeah, she probably didsay that, but it was 5:35am. Cut me some slack!)

There is strength in being flexible. We shouldn't feel like we're being weak or being defeated if we have to veer from the plan. It's ok. That's life! Duly noted.

So, take this lesson out into the world, my fellow yogis, yoginis and aspiring yogis and yoginis. Be flexible!

Fashion Find

I found this at Cato for $15.99 - you can't beat that, man!

I wore it with a white tank top, indigo colored crop pants, and some pewter colored shoes.

What are your latest finds?