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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Well, paper writing with a migraine didn't go too well, but I did have a lot of time to sit and think. I decided to be a vegetarian. I've been leaning towards it for a few months, but refused to label myself because of the rules that come with it. I'm just going to go for it. I would be vegan, but that's REALLY hard to do.

The vegetarian label itself means that I'm less likely to compromise eating healthy when I visit my in-laws. Yes, they'll probably give me a hard time about why I suddenly don't want to have anything to do with anything they're trying to feed me, but we'll work that out.

Brad got me to teach him some yoga poses. He's noticed that they ease the tension in his back. I'm teaching him a little each day. I did the assist on him that I learned from Sreedhara on Saturday where you pull the hips back with a yoga strap in down dog. He seemed to think this meant that I was going to hold him up with the strap. No, no, I'm just helping pull you back a little more, you still have to hold yourself up.

It's really neat to teach him one on one. I was able to guide him down into triangle without collapsing into it the way most people do. It's so much easier to be watching and touching to see when he tries to collapse as it happens.

Edit: the vegetarian thing only lasted a week :-P

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Bit Overwhelmed

Last week was rough. I had to work some long hours at work which made me bail on 2 practicum opportunities with Ken. I'm sure he understood, but it really sucks to ask someone to help me, and then back out at the last minute.

I didn't raid in WoW Friday night because I was upset and exhausted, and I had a busy weekend planned. Saturday morning was a Yoga workshop for how to assist students in poses. I learned some pretty neat stuff that included grabbing men's upper thighs. LOL The best assists that I took home from that are how to help people balance in half moon (mostly just by making them feel safe, it's really not a lot of work), opening the chest in side angle and triangle, and pushing the shoulders back in downward dog.

Immediately after that workshop was yoga teacher training, so that was a long, but good day. I was pretty tired when I got home, and the need to write my thesis paper is looming over my head. Sunday was more teacher training, and I still haven't started writing that paper. I have a solid outline that I wrote a few weeks ago, so I have a good start, I just need to sit down and do it. I'm scheduled to present my paper on February 7th, and I'd like to give Ken time to read it talk about it before then, so I don't want to wait until the last minute.

I didn't raid again Sunday night because I was really tired again.

This morning after being at work for an hour, I realized that I'm useless today. I had a headache, was very sensitive to the light, fatigued, and a little nauseous. Maybe all of this work hitting me at the same time is wearing me down. Since we just met that major deadline, I decided to take the rest of they day off. I feel a lot better after a few hours of sleep, and now I have time to write my paper.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Green Smoothie and Blender Soup

I went to a yoga workshop taught by Doug Swenson. He's a big name in the yoga world, and I got him to sign my book! Anyway he gave some nutrition advice that I've been trying.

Green Smoothie

This is actually really yummy! You put a banana, apple, orange, and spinach in the blender. You don't have to add any liquid because the orange and apple are juicy. You can also put in strawberries, blueberries, whatever you want... Spinach doesn't have a strong flavor, so you don't taste it at all, and no one at work will steal your smoothie from the fridge!

The other idea is blender vegetable soup. I've been working at making this one taste good, that's a bit more challenging. I put broccoli, carrots, and onion into a blender with hot water. That was very bland and not very yummy. I didn't want to give up, so I tossed in some vegetable beef soup at hand, still pretty bland. Then I added some rosemary and garlic. That made it a little more edible, but still not great. I gave up for the day and left it in the fridge overnight. After that it was a lot better. All the flavors had time to blend. Finally I put a little Almond milk in there and it was yummy! Next time I'm going to put tomato in there too. I think that will make a big difference.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teaching Yoga

I've been teaching yoga in a conference room at work since November. It's been going really well. People keep showing up. I used notes at first to keep myself from freaking out. That's a perk of teaching free classes, I don't feel bad about using notes. They know they're my practice bodies. :-) My last class I didn't have notes or even a specific plan. I just knew generally what I wanted to do and improvised. That was easier than trying to memorize an original sequence every time. I could just look at the clock and decide what do do from there. I really enjoyed that one.

Teaching yoga to beginners in a conference room at work is awesome and all, but now I'm starting to teach parts of classes at a real yoga studio for the practicum part of the teacher training. Saturday was my first time, and it's much harder than it looks. I was really intimidated by the room full of people who know what they're doing. Teaching intermediate to advanced students is actually easier because you don't have to explain the details, and they know how to avoid injury, but it's freaking intimidating because they also know if you screw up. Also, it was scary because it was the Ashtanga standing sequence. This is a specific, traditional sequence. No improvising or mixing stuff around is allowed in this one.

I don't think it was horrible, but I know it could have gone better. My in-laws came into town for Brad's birthday even though we told them a few times that it really wasn't a good weekend for company. Brad had just gotten home from training in California, I had a yoga workshop, and the yoga teaching at the studio going on, but they always come for his birthday and this is probably their last weekend to come see us until tax season is over, so they came.

Work is really busy right now. I may have to work overtime this weekend, but I'm in yoga school all day Saturday and Sunday, so if I do work overtime, it will be late evenings. Bummer. Balancing family, yoga, work, and WoW gets really difficult when family visits while I'm working on my practicum, thesis, and attending yoga workshops and teacher training, while work is super busy. WoW isn't a priority, of course, but I did just get promoted to officer, and I do like to attend all of the raids.

I still need to write my thesis on Ashtanga yoga, but I don't know when I'll have the time. If I don't have to work this weekend, I can probably knock it out Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. At least I have a solid outline to get me going.

I graduate from teacher training at the end of April. I feel like everything will calm down and I can get a normal schedule going then. Of course, when I start teaching, I'll have to balance that with practicing and WoW, but I can find a routine that I'm comfortable with and stick with it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eye Wash — Because Neti Pots Aren't Weird Anymore

Two yoga teachers who I respect a lot independently recommended eye wash. There are all kinds of recipes for herbal eye wash, and one of them even recommended putting a little cayenne pepper in the water. SCARY!

I'm not brave enough to play with my own concoction, so I bought this eye wash at the pharmacy today.

I swooshed the room temperature solution around my eyeballs. It was weird and reminded me of the first time I used a neti pot. I had to resist my natural urge to freak out about a rush of liquid on my eye. It didn't hurt because it's saline solution. It was a little cold. I could have tried to get it to just the right temperature, but I'd prefer "eeek cold" to "ow ow burn" any day.

My eyes feel great! Wow, they feel so clean and refreshed. If I keep doing this I might be able to wear contacts all the time again instead of only to yoga! This is much better than expensive eye drops! I'm so glad I tried it.

On Food

Yoga training and workshops are really hammering the food thing into my head.

We had a nutrition talk from a vegan doctor in early December who talked about how bad animal products and processed foods are, and how fresh vegetables and fruits are so much better for us. It really shook me up. Then I watch Food Inc. that same weekend, and was just a mess of shock.

The worst part was that it really wasn't that shocking. We know the meat industry is mass producing meat, and that they only care about money. We know that giant corporations are more powerful than the government and control the government with their donations. We know that vegetables are better for us than Oreos. Why is it so shocking to hear that what we eat and drink is bad for us?

Everyone else eats unhealthy food. It's awkward to eat with a group of people and turn down their chicken fried steak to eat a spinach salad. People are mean about it too. The cafeteria manager at work said, "You're trying to prove something," when I went through the register with my apple, banana, and salad. I just said, "No, I'm trying to be healthy."

My question is WHY? Why is everyone else eating food that's horribly unhealthy? Because advertisements work. I remember when I was a little kid. I thought eating healthy would be neat, so I cut the food pyramid off the Cheerios box and put it in my lunch box, so I could keep it. Too bad it's a bunch of lies from the people who stand to benefit from people buying their products.

Brad and I have been having this argument for a few days, and had to just stop because neither one of us will budge. It is not natural for humans to drink milk from other species, and it's very unnatural for adults to drink milk at all. We don't need milk. Some people say it actually leeches calcium from our bodies. I don't know if it's actually bad for you, but don't be fooled into thinking you're going to get osteoporosis if you don't drink it. On top of all that, cows are forcibly impregnated and milked over and over again to produce that milk.

Doug Swenson talked about nutrition at the yoga workshop this weekend. I'd heard this all before a month or so ago, and this helped remind me. Eating well is hard, but not really THAT hard, and it is very important.

So here I am, eating my organic almond butter with organic cranberries sandwich on organic sprouted whole grain bread with a side of organic maple nut oatmeal. I can pronounce every ingredient, and there are no corn products in any of it. How was that any harder to make than a "normal" lunch?

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Yoga Story

The story of events leading up to yoga, how I began practicing, and how it has changed my life.

When I was a kid, I was interested in ballet and gymnastics, but I didn't stick with either one. I found it to be more work than fun. My family lived in Arizona until I was 9, and I spent most of my time swimming in our backyard pool. I loved the water and nothing could keep me away from it.

After moving to North Carolina when I was 9, then Virginia when I was 13, we finally settled in San Antonio at 15 where I still live.

Then, the summer before high school, my sister saw a commercial on TV for a diving class. We both loved playing on diving boards but hadn't since we lived in Arizona. She and I got really excited, and our parents eventually gave in to our persistent begging. We loved diving! I would look forward to practice all day every day. My biggest weakness in diving was my lack of flexibility in forward bending. I couldn't do a pike position for anything. I tried to stretch to gain that flexibility, but I didn't know how to do it properly. Stretching seems so simple, but gaining flexibility like that takes a lot of time, patience, and proper technique. I lacked all 3. My biggest strength was my back flexibility. I naturally have a crazy bendy back. This made back dives and reverse dives super easy for me, while they were hard for everyone else.

In 1998, when we turned 16 (we're identical twins, so it was the same day), our dad pushed us to get jobs and work. Our family didn't need the money, it was just very important to him that we got jobs. He drove us to Six Flags (down the street from our house) and made us apply for jobs. Then he discouraged diving (costs money) while encouraging work (makes money). He won, and diving didn't last.

Around this time, I started to get chronic back pain. Doctors x-rayed it, and nothing was wrong. I had a giant backpack that caused horrible posture, and constant lumbar arching as I walked around. Not only did I look really funny walking around like that, but it was wreaking havoc on my back. Since nothing was medically wrong, everyone treated me like I was lying about pain, so I just lived with the back pain.

Then in college there was a yoga class for PE credit. It was so popular that I could never get into it because it was always full. I figured it must be amazing if it's that hard just to get into the class. That's when the yoga seed was planted in my head.

Finally, in August 2006 a lady came to my office offering yoga classes during lunchtime. I was VERY excited about it and couldn't wait to sign up. I didn't know anything about yoga at all, but I really, really wanted to do it. I don't understand why I was so enthusiastic about something I knew so little about, but I went. The teacher wasn't very good at all. Her verbal cueing was so bad that we all strained our necks to see her demonstration, and she was mean and insulting. The room full of beginners who had each handed her $8 for class struggled to hold plank pose (top of a push up) for a long time. She said in a very insulting tone, "I'm a senior citizen, and I can do it, why can't you." Seriously, lady? Maybe because we've never done this before. I was very disappointed and didn't go back to her class, but it did sprout my yoga seed, planted just a few years before.

I immediately found yoga classes at the Spectrum gym near my house and got a week trial. I LOVED it. Saturday morning was a very gently easy yoga class, great for my beginner mind and body. Sunday morning was more vigorous, but I still loved it. Tuesday/Thursday were "yoga fitness" which were much more vigorous, but fantastic. They began with sun salutions and included vinyasas between poses. I'd come home from class every time talking about how great I felt. I joined the gym and went to every class that fit my schedule. I noticed my back pain disappeared as long as I consistently practiced yoga.

This lasted until March 2007 when we moved across town. I had become bored with the classes that used to challenge me, but didn't anymore, and I didn't realize that there was a Spectrum very close to my new house. As far as I knew, yoga classes were inconvenient to get to, so I didn't bother.

In August 2007 I started looking for yoga studios. I went to San Antonio yoga and loved it at first, but I didn't stick with it. The studio is beautiful and the classes were challenging, but it wasn't fun or enjoyable. He made an example of me in class for having my knee slightly bent in Triangle pose. My knee easily hyperextends, so it was a struggle for me to keep it straight. That one position between bent and hyperextended was difficult for me to achieve and hold. I'm sure he saw it as a teaching opportunity about the importance of perfect alignment, but I didn't like being in the spotlight for doing it wrong, especially since I hadn't been going there for very long at that point.

In January 2008, my back pain got unbearable again, and I was fed up. I had been living with back pain for 10 years. I realized just how messed up it was for a 26-year old to be able to say, "I've had back pain for 10 years." People didn't take my pain seriously because I was too young to have back pain. This was the moment I realized that it should be taken MORE seriously because I was too young to have back pain. What would happen when I got pregnant, if my back was this bad normally? I didn't want to find out.

Instead of getting back into yoga again like I should have, I tried to take the lazy approach by going to a chiropractor. He seemed to know what he was doing and gave me temporary relief. I was still going to him regularly in March when I sprained my ankle very badly. This meant that I couldn't do yoga, even if I wanted to. Even though I didn't seem interested in going back to yoga before I sprained my ankle, once I couldn't do yoga, I wanted to again. I was getting tired of depending on the chiropractor, and by this point it was pretty obvious that he just wanted me to keep coming back and dropping off more money. He originally outlined a plan to get me better, so I'd stay better, but it seemed to me like he wanted me to keep coming back as much as possible forever.

So I did nothing. No chiropractor or yoga. I played a lot of World of Warcraft. Some days I'd have to stop playing WoW because my back hurt so bad that I couldn't sit any longer.

Finally, one morning in December 2008, I woke up with a terrible crick in my neck. I looked up yoga studio schedules online, and found that there was a yoga class at Nydia's Yoga Therapy at 5:30. I didn't have yoga clothes or a mat with me, but I didn't use that as an excuse. I'd been nothing but excuses for a long time. They sell yoga clothes there and have loaner mats. So I went, and it was great. I love that teacher. She's fantastic. Her style, her demeanor, everything was wonderful. Then she stopped teaching in February because she was going to spend a year in Afghanistan to help rebuild their legal system. Very noble and scary, but I wanted her to stay and keep teaching yoga! I took a few weeks off, mourning the loss of my new favorite teacher, then I started going to other teachers at Nydia's, but no one clicked with me the way Karen had.

That's when I tried Bikram, once, and only once. EVER. That was a terrible experience. The heat was unbearable. My pale white complexion was BRIGHT RED before the class even began. The poses were very easy beginners poses. The only challenge was tolerating that heat. I felt woozy and had to lie down through a lot of it, but I was determined, so I kept getting back up and doing what I could. The teacher knew it was my first time, so he made a point to know my name and use it, a lot. He called me out when I wasn't doing a pose just right several times, but didn't call anyone else by name. I felt picked on and annoyed. He talked like an auctioneer even during Savasana. I just wanted him to be quiet and let me relax.

After that terrible experience, I took a month off of yoga. I had read a lot about benefits of heat, and I wanted to try hot yoga again, but the authoritarian, mean environment wasn't something that I was interested in putting my money and free time into.

Emilie, the teacher of the yoga teacher training program here in town, sent me an email about a free yoga class at the Synergy Studio taught by the graduating students. I signed up for it, and read more about the studio.

Then I found a Hot Bodhi Yoga class at the Synergy Studio. I was nervous and curious after my Bikram experience, so I emailed the teacher a bunch of questions to make sure it wasn't authoritarian like Bikram. She convinced me to come, and I really loved it. She and the other Hot Bodhi Yoga teacher had a very similar style that I liked a lot.

After the classes taught by the graduating yoga teachers, I was really excited. I talked to Emilie afterwards, and signed up for the next year's class. I love yoga, I love teaching, and this level of commitment was sure to keep me from quitting yoga again.

I continued to go to Hot Bodhi yoga twice a week, and I noticed a lot of benefits. It was a vinyasa flow class in a heated room, not as hot as Bikram, but hot enough to make you sweat. I was getting stronger, used to the heat, and my skin got much prettier. My skin wasn't bad before, but consistent yoga practice gave it a healthy glow. People at work noticed. They asked what I was doing and said they wanted to do whatever I was doing. Wow, what a compliment!

As I told people I was signed up for Yoga Teacher Training, I was told about a yoga teacher who works in my office, Ken. I was too shy to go find his office to introduce myself, but someone told him about me, and he came to my desk to introduce himself. Then he sent me a link to Yoga Shala, the studio where he teaches. The description said intermediate to advanced. I considered myself intermediate, so I figured it'd be about what I was used to.

Wow, his class was REALLY HARD! I spent a good portion of it collapsed on the floor. I sweated more than I did in Hot Bodhi Yoga because I was working so hard. This class was what I needed. I'd become too used to the hot vinyasa and it wasn't challenging me anymore. I was a big fish in a small pond. Ken's class humbled me and showed me that I should never get bored of yoga, because there is always room for more challenge. I kept going to Hot Bodhi Yoga and Ken's class, bumping my yoga days up to 3 days a week. Then I tried the other teachers at Yoga Shala and abandoned the 12 classes left on my Synergy Studio class pass to go to Yoga Shala as much as my schedule would allow (usually 3-4 days a week). The classes I attend at Yoga Shala are Ashtanga based. Ashtanga is the most vigorous style of yoga there is, and I love it. I've been consistently practicing Ashtanga and Ashtanga-based vinyasa classes since September, and I feel great. All the benefits of every other yoga class are magnified by Ashtanga. People even describe me as "fit" now. I've never in my life considered myself to be fit.

With Ashtanga yoga practice I've become pain-free, stronger, thinner, happier, more energetic, healthier, and much much more. My doctor hasn't seen me in a year now. Last time I saw him he lectured me to exercise more. Next time I see him, he'll be shocked, and I'll get to say, "I teach yoga now." Also, I can almost bend into a pike position, but I still struggle with forward bending flexibility. I've very grateful to Ken, and the people who introduced us to each other, for exposing me to this life-changing style of yoga.

Revamping This Blog

About a year ago, when I started and soon abandoned this blog was the beginning of a big change for me. It was right after I got back into yoga after an on and off relationship. I've very happy to say that it is still VERY MUCH ON and it's wonderful.

It was also a year ago that I joined a new guild in World of Warcraft (WoW). I was on the verge of quitting the game completely. I had lost hope in the possibility of the existence of a successful casual guild where people are nice to each other and yelling and verbal abuse are not tolerated. Brad went on an internet search for such a guild, and found one.

Yoga and WoW have been my two main leisure activities. They're so different, and I love them both. They've come in conflict with each other many times, and I've managed to balance them both very well up to this point.

I'm incapable of pursuing an activity without going all the way. I've become a leader in every activity that I've ever taken seriously. I don't try to, it just happens. Things need to get done, someone needs to do them, I can't resist volunteering to help. This eventually leads to formal leadership positions. Activities include: The Philosophy Club at Texas A&M, Toastmasters at ETS, Exiled Kings (my previous guild in WoW), Clandestine Circle (my current guild in WoW), and of course yoga, as I'm currently in yoga teacher training.