October 6, 2010

First day of Slim, Calm, Sexy Yoga

I heard about Slim, Calm, Sexy Yoga from Melissa’s blog, and was totally intrigued. After all, who doesn’t want to be slim, cool, and sexy? Melissa’s little tidbit that she could totally see herself bringing it with her when I travel also got me jazzed. Thanks to a super short waiting list at the local library, I got the book pretty quickly, and decided last night to toss it in my rollerboard suitcase for my week in DC. As for what motivated me to give it a try, all I can say is there’s nothing like getting staffed in the same town as your ex (who wants to get together for dinner/drinks) to get your (not-yet-slim, not-yet-cool, and not-yet-sexy) butt into gear!

Getting all into the mood, I put some Adiemus on my Grooveshark, got into my gym clothes, and opened the book. I was dismayed to find that I had about 20 pages of reading about the joyous benefits of yoga before I could get started. Darn it! I skimmed through (increased serenity -> decreased stress -> decreased ghrelin production -> decreased fat -> blah blah blah) and finally made it to some diagrams.

But this was not yet yoga. Before we could get into the stretching and bending and limb lengthening, we had to go through some breathing exercises… grr. The breathing/meditation/etc is always what I hated most about yoga. When I was 16, I used to do an hour of yoga most days, and I loved it. I was performing in a summer stock show and one of the Equity actors was a yoga instructor, so he led us in a yoga class every day before rehearsal/shows if we wanted to… but that was more the sweaty, athletic, stretch-your-limbs-till-they’re-about-to-snap yoga. None of this wussy breathing and meditating and “feel your breath go out of you like a hissing balloon.” Okay, so this book wasn’t quite so fluffy as that, but I still didn’t like doing a chapter of breathing before I could get to the stretches.

But finally, it was time for some real yoga. Yay! I turned the page to the poses, but realized I had celebrated prematurely. Turns out before you can get to the actual workouts, you have to slog through about 60 pages of “here are the essential poses you will need to know to do the workouts.” They each offered pointers about how to do that particular pose, but it struck me as kind of useless. For me, I had done yoga before, so as soon as I saw a pose I pretty much knew how to do it and what sort of flow it fit into. If you’ve never done yoga, though, I can’t imagine this helping – you really need an instructor to get your body in the right positions and know how to push yourself.

However, given that I haven’t done yoga in several years, and in the spirit of trying out the book start to finish, I opted to give the exercises a try. First up were some standing poses (more breathing!) and then stretching left and right. I did the requisite “hold each pose for 4-5 breaths,” to teach myself patience and at least kind-of-sort-of get the benefits of meditation.

Next up, however, was the forward bend.

When I went to do this pose, I started getting some pain in my upper back. It occurred to me that while this was the first time I had done official yoga in a while, my NYU voice training taught me to do the same sort of “leaning over and let your head and arms hang” thing, and I’ve occasionally given it a try when I’m feeling stressed/tense. However, for the last few years, I’ve gotten this same kind of pain in my upper back when I do it. It starts after a few seconds of hanging and gradually intensifies, but somehow feels like good pain (?). It’s like I’m finally stretching out my upper back and letting the tension in it be released, but it’s extremely painful while I do it, to the point where I usually can’t take it anymore and worry that I’m hurting myself, so I stand up. This time, though, in the spirit of “being patient” and holding difficult poses, I tried slowly playing around with letting my arms hang completely, vs holding my elbows (like in that particular picture), vs putting them on my head and applying gentle pressure (like in the next pic that I was too lazy to take a picture of for you), and after about five minutes of cycling between the different poses, the extreme pain went away and it was just slightly sore when I would hang over. Anyone know what that’s about? I’m wondering if it’s something about my spine being compressed and that pose lengthening it, since that’s the intent of the pose. I tried Googling, with no luck, and I suppose I ought to ask a qualified physician, but hey – much easier to just ask random blog readers 🙂

Moving right along, the next main pose in the book also had me quite confused – The Squat.

Based on that picture and those instructions, is anyone else able to successfully do The Squat? Because I couldn’t. Does that mean my hips are super tight? Every time I tried with my legs any less than four feet apart, I fell over backward. I finally held onto the desk leg to steady myself and try to get my balance before gingerly removing my hands and attempting to stay upright. It didn’t work out so well, and I was glad I was doing this in the privacy of my hotel room instead of at a gym.

Fortunately, the rest of the poses (I got about halfway through the 210 in the book) went pretty smoothly, and I actually started feeling really good. Doing poses like the Warrior and Standing Splits gave me a really good stretch, and all that hanging actually made my shoulders and upper back feel noticeably more relaxed, even though I hadn’t noticed the tension before. I didn’t work up any kind of sweat, but I’d say in general, I felt really mellowed out. So mellowed out that I might skip my cardio workout tonight.

Darn it, book, you are a bad influence! Note to self: cardio/weights before yoga tomorrow…


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