Yoga, Mountain Biking and Nutrition.

 

18010699_1313078538779572_5901946677605887716_nA couple of weeks ago, I was asked by my friend and fellow shredder, Lisa Gifford Mueller of ALM Photography to participate in the Trek Women’s Advocate/Cedar Bluff Cycle event, Women’s Night: Fitness, Injury Prevention and Nutrition. She asked me to sit on the panel as a resource for women mountain bikers for nutrition, injury and prevention.  The topics that were discussed were centered around the following questions:

1.What Can Riders do to Increase Strength For Riding (especially those newer to mountain biking)? As far as yoga is concerned, yoga is strength training, some of the most easily accessible yoga poses for strengthening your body are:

  • Plank, Side Plank, Boat Pose (core strength and arm strength)
  • Chair and Chair with Twists
  • Locust Pose
  • Bridge Pose, Wheel Pose

2. What Can I Do To Increase Endurance For Riding?

  • hydrate properly (it is recommended to drink 18-24oz of water per hour of activity, in addition to your normal daily amount {drink your weight, divided in half in oz. of water})
  • eat properly (I recommend whole, natural foods, limiting “treats”)
  • increase time on saddle slowly (this applies to other exercise venues as well)

3. Preparing for Longer Rides (and taking time for Recovery)

  • know your body, practice the longer distance and food/water intake before a race, event or long day

4. What Are The Benefits of A Structured Fitness Program?

  • this is where endurance and strength are built
  • conditions are not always keen to ride, but the yoga studio and gym are open
  • mentally preps you for race day-training is a commitment-as is race day

5. Why Is Stretching Important?

  • reduces injury risk and able to bounce back from injuries quicker
  • lengthens muscles
  • ease of movement
  • longevity of being able to work out as we age
  • connective tissue (fascia) is restored and aids in recovery/healing process

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There were two other panelists, Susan Finney of KyBRa Athletics and Michelle Kenick of Health First Fitness who had a wealth of knowledge and information to share with all involved. I learned so much from these ladies!

Prior to this panel, I upped my research with several articles and podcasts.

…with any cycling event over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food), says Kelli Jennings, a registered dietitian with Apex Nutrition. If you weigh more than 180 pounds, aim for 24 to 32 ounces.

As for food:

an athlete can burn 1,000 calories per hour or more, the body can’t process that much nutrition while exercising. For efforts over five hours, Jennings suggests between 300 and 400 calories per hour that includes a mix of carbohydrate sources (glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin), but experiment to see how much food your body can handle.

This is the tricky part. My body is different from the next rider. I have learned on long trail rides (and road rides) that my I need more protein and fat and that my typical grab of a bar does not always do the trick, making me sluggish immediately, as my body works  harder to process the food (there can be a lot of hidden sugars in bars, goo and electrolyte supplements).

Today on a long ride, I took an orange and gluten free crackers. I have been playing around with nutrients in my own body, using my self as a test facility. This week has been fun watching my metabolism increase in large amounts and feeling my body rejuvenate at a cellular level.

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Some of my personal perspectives:

Food is fuel.

FUEL = food uniting energy + longevity

In research for top athletes, a LOT of technology is used to calculate caloric export vs. input. Even to the cellular levels. It’s kind of like your FitBit on steroids. However, without having lots of money to pay for this type of technology that can even show your mineral bone density, we have to rely on our mental awareness and wisdom from science. This is where yoga is beautiful and perfect. Yoga is not just the poses that you do to stretch, tone and strengthen your body. The practice of yoga actually has 8 limbs-meaning 8 parts total, including the poses, they are: Poses, Breath Control, Concentration, Meditation, Keys to Living with Self and Others, Enlightenment, Removal of Senses/Distraction.

Training mentally has become one of the newest and increasingly fundamental aspects of athletic training. Perhaps your mind even has more control over your body than you think. For example, the Spartan diet/races have included mental training into their regime.

As a yogi, this is one of the 8 Limbs, or foundational cores, of yoga, as mentioned above. In dharana, we work on focusing our attention on a single point. This single-pointedness is what clears your mind, and keeps you in-tune with how your body is functioning and even noticing the lack of nutrients. What are you craving? (Besides beer, pizza and ice cream?) Once I was at work and noticed that I felt really odd, like I was vibrating. I realized my electrolytes were dangerously low. After a quick gatorade (not my favorite choice, but what was available) fix, I could feel my body sorting itself out.  How I knew that, it was intuitive to me. What I credit the intuition to: constant attention to my physical, mental and emotional body. Meditation has been increasingly prevalent in the news. This limb of yoga, dyana, is where we focus singularly on one point, then add being aware but not focused. It’s focusing on breath, something that is automatic. Or the sound of your tennis shoes hitting the trail on a run, or the rhythm of your pedaling on your bike. I truly believe the repetitive motion of cycling (or running, swimming, etc) can be a meditative practice. One where dharana and dyana (single pointed focus and awareness) combine to create a beautiful harmony for your training.

A breath practice is a huge key. It keeps your organs flowing. Keeps you grounded, cleans the mind, and body. In Ayurveda, clear breath assists in all organ functions. The lungs are the wise judge. Liver has to do with emotion of anger, but also the free flow of the body, liver is general. Spleen is mind. Finding ease in life, rest, recovery days, meditation can actually increase the longevity of your athleticism. Pause and check in, slow your breath.

Food is performance and recovery. It is meant to have function. Look at your urine: completely clear is not the best. You want your urine to look like lemonade. You can actually deplete your electrolyte supply. Look at your poop, too. Eat with the seasons, eat clean.

In Summary:

  • Learn to listen attention to your body.
  • Hydrate (one ounce per 1/2 your body weight: i.e. 150lbs = 75oz. H20 per day-without exercise. With exercise, add with any workout over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food).

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References:

  • Resource: Outside Online
  • Physical Preparation, Condition and Recovery for Elite MMA Athletes, Sigma Nutrition Podcast.
  • Sports Nutrition 237: How Much Fat Can We Absorb Per Meal?, Endurance Planet.
  • Sports Nutrition, The McCarthy Project.
  • The Mystical Powers of Your Inner Organs A Chinese Medicine Perspective, Brodie Welch. The YogaHealer Podcast.
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Lower Back Yoga.

Ahhh, the sacrum and lumbar spine20121230-173252. This may be the number one area that I hear students talk about when referring to physical discomfort. Mostly, I hear the complaints from mountain bikers that I ride with, but lately, I have been hearing people in almost every area of life talk about this region of their backs. I do suggest yoga for this area of course, but I am highly cautious with students. I do not want students to overstretch their lower back and create even more trouble.

Maryjaryasana/Cat Pose is a most excellent warm up, especially when attached to the famous Bitilasana/Cow pose. My two favorite, which relieve pressure on the lumbar are Downdog and Puppy Pose. An entire list of these poses with examples can be found at here at yoga journal.

Some of the poses that work for me when my lower back is tight and even in pain, which occurs only while I am mountain biking are the twists: Bharadvaja’s Twist, Half Lord of the Fishes and Marichi’s Pose. I highly recommend Supta Padangusthasana/Reclining Hand to Big Toe for lower back and IT Band issues (I also recommend a strap with this series of poses, as outlined here).

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An entire sequence for lower back can be found here. The poses are highly recommended to loosen your fascia (Fascia, which means “band” or “bundle” in Latin, surrounds, connects and supports our muscles, organs, bones, tendons, ligaments and other structures of the body. Similar to the membrane around each section of an orange, fascia both separates and connects body parts at the same time. Containing nerves, these tissues also serve as a layer of protection and body awareness.)

 

A yoga sequence I created for a student to work with the lower back:

Lower Back Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement.

Great reference for specifics on poses in this sequence: http://www.yogajournal.com/category/poses/anatomy/lower-back/

Easy Pose/Sukhasana

Cat Pose

Cow Pose (these two poses in sequence are a warm up for the back)

Uttkatasana/Chair Pose (for strengthening lower back)

Utthita Trikonasana/Extended Triangle Pose.

Virabhadrasana 2/Warrior 2.

 Padangusthasana/Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose.

Malasana/Garland Pose.

Bakasana/Crane Pose. (pillow on floor in front of face )

Uttana Shishosana/Extended Puppy Pose.

I find the twists help me most when I am IN pain to alleviate pain in the lower back area, especially due to mountain biking.

Marichi’s Pose/Marichiasana 3.

Bharadvaja’s Twist/Bharadvajasana.

Ardha Matseyandrasana/Half Lord of the Fishes.

To finish, bring both knees into the chest, squeeze and gently rock from side to side. Finally, come into Savasana/Corpse Pose.

((**I also highly recommend doing abdominal strengthening poses as well to increase strength in back:  Navasana/Boat Pose)) 

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Inner Thigh Yoga.

Right before Thanksgiving, a student asked me about poses to open the inner thighs. This student commented that this area was very tight. I did some research and am posting my notes here.

This video helped me to find these poses, which the instructor recommends staying in each pose in for one minute. During yoga teacher training, a guest lecturer recommended holding the pose for 72 seconds.The first pose is the yogi squat pictured here:

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The second pose is an extended leg squat, which I have been incorporating into my daily yoga classes:

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This entire visual contains poses that are useful for opening the inner thighs and the remaining information can be found on this page:

The three poses that I personally recommend are Upavista Konasana/Wide-Angle Forward Fold, Bhekasana/Frog Pose Agnistambhasana/Firelog Pose. With these poses any additional modifications can ease you into and out of the poses. Over time, you will notice an opening of your inner thighs. I personally recommend practicing at least two of these poses on a regular (daily or every other day) basis.

A sequence to loosen the inner thighs and increase mobility:

Inner Thigh Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. Do these poses and your inner thighs will begin to loosen. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement. 

Baddha Konasana/Bound Angle Pose.

Yogi Squat.

Extended Leg Squat (right and left sides)

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Forward Bend.

Bhekasana/Frog Pose.

Instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBb65G6NuYo

Supta Baddha Konasana/Supine Bound Angle Pose.

Bound Angle with a support (bolster or folded towel/blanket)

Bound Angle Pose without a bolster

legs up the wall Bound Angle Pose

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Pose at wall

Finish in Legs up the Wall, or in Savasana/Corpse Pose.

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15 Days Without Sugar.

There are 61 different names for sugar hiding in your food. Sixty-freaking-one. It is no wonder that we are a sugar-addicted society. Here they are. (Website Source.)

  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Free-flowing brown sugars
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Palm sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (granulated)
  • Sweet Sorghum
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Two weeks ago and one day, I stopped eating sugar in as many forms as I could find, (I JUST found this list of the 61 names of sugar…great). I worked hard to read EVERY label of EVERY food I put into my body. EVEN if I thought it would not contain sugar (i.e. cashews, corn tortilla chips, hummus), I read the label. I cut out as much sugar as possible. I did drink a coconut water containing 14g of sugar (the daily recommended dose by the American Heart Association is 20-25g for females and 38g for men) when I worked out hard this week to replace lost electrolytes.

A week ago, my body hated me and rejected me like I was a cocaine addict trying to quit cocaine. I found this fascinating and keep referring to it as my personal test, as I have not gone through withdraw before. However, what I am experiencing is JUST that. It is withdraw similar to that of a druggie.

Above is a photograph of an MRI comparing how sugar lights up your brain with how cocaine lights up your brain. IT IS THE SAME AREAS of the brain that are affected, and if you notice, the sugar light up area is brighter. This neuroscience stuff is fascinating, but it scared the fuck out of me. Cocaine and sugar?? I truly had no idea.

I had shakes. I had muscle fatigue (on a mountain bike ride, my muscles just quit). I was cranky. I was angry for no reason, full of rage. I had a piercing headache. See similar withdrawal symptoms here. The withdrawal IS the same as cocaine.

And then one day, I was meditating in the morning, and boom-my cells literally felt as if they were doing a dump of the last remaining residue from sugar and my body felt light and airy and free. My cells were truly happy. My body is feeling amazing now, I am actually getting used to feeling this lightness. It is an amazing feeling and one that I should have found sooner.cells

I will not, however, beat myself up, as I did fall trap to a very easily accessible drug. One that is so subtle and so sneaky that I did not even realize it was a part of my system until it was almost too late. I am grateful that the sugar addiction is removed from my body, and here is what I learned:

  1. Sugar is hiding. Be careful.
  2. It sneaks in slowly (your ‘healthy’ granola or ‘healthy’ bread.
  3. Withdrawal symptoms are scary.
  4. Even healthy sugars contribute and can lead to addiction of sugar.
  5. Sugar substitutes may be linked to similar patterns of sugar addiction.
  6. The more you eat, the more you need.
  7. Quitting cold turkey is not easy and requires a lot of help. (I read books, blogs and talked about it until my co-workers and family were tired of hearing about it. But, it worked!)
  8. IT IS TOTALLY WORTH IT.

My health is valuable and every single thing that I put into my body can either promote my well-being, or destroy it. Mindful eating is a thing.

The Centers for Disease Control project a double- or triple-fold increase in the proportions of Americans with diabetes by 2050. On the low end, a study published in Population Health Metrics projects 21% of Americans will have diabetes. On the high end … 33%.

Virabhadrasana I | Warrior I.

Last week in my practice, I watched myself in a mirror. Some conflicting thoughts about using a mirror might be going through your head, for example: “You’re so vain, you prob’ly think this song is about you…”  or “it distracts from the work you are doing internally in your yoga practice, like checking to see if your bra tag is sticking out, or your hair looks cute”. Admittedly, I can be a giant cheeseball in the mirror, smiling and checking my facial expressions (especially in difficult poses, as they are quite amusing) but I use the mirror for my personal alignment. When I first started practicing vinyasa style of yoga, I had no idea what I was doing (vinyasa means flowing from pose to pose in yoga, usually at a quicker pace, while using breath as a guide -inhale to one pose, exhale to another) . I lasted for years without an injury, flopping once a week through a yoga session, which I deemed a workout. As I deepened my practice, however, things in my body had newly found creaks. As a result, alignment was one of the main reasons I stepped into Yoga Teacher Training. My teacher, gratefully, was an Iyengar-trained instructor. This remains a relief to me, as I now consider alignment and safety to be one of the most important aspects of frequent yoga practice.I also no longer flop haphazardly through a yoga session, like a fish out of water, whixh was never cute. 

In Virabhadrasana I, instructors, including myself, ask students to square hips toward the front of the room. While teaching last week, I realized this direction is not entirely helpful as it leaves students with a sense that one must turn hips parallel with the front of the room, which is basically impossible in this pose. Aligning both hip points TOWARD the front of the room is a more accurate description, and leads students towards making the correct adjustments. It also assists students with not feeling inferior nor like a broken hip is the way to go in this pose, in order to attain proper alignment.

As I continue in my study of yoga asana, I realize, also, that alignment in a pose is truly dependent as Cindy Dollar says, “on what you want out of the pose.” 

Cindy taught us to check alignment starting from the base of the pose up. In Warrior I, the front toes are turned toward the front of the room, 90 degrees from the body while the back foot is turned out slightly, from 25-45 degrees. The stance is different than in Warrior II. In Warrior I, the the heels are aligned. As you move up the leg, muscles are holding the pose in a lifted manner. Not sinking into pose. The front leg is bent at a 90 degree angle to the mat (if strength and flexibility permit) with the knee aligned over the ankle. If you glance down, you should be able to see the big toe of the front foot peeking out beside the knee. The front thigh is externally rotating, while the back leg is internally rotated. The irony here is that you are pressing into the feet at the same time you are lifting the knees and flexing the thigh muscles. It is somewhat of an equal and opposite action in the legs. All of the while, lifting your ribcage up, lengthening your arms up, palms towards each other. Each pose in yoga should create space. If there is crunching or tension, come out of the pose, check your alignment (in a mirror, perhaps….”you’re so vain….”) and move into a pose that allows you to create space while strengthening your legs. Warrior I strengthens both legs, the shoulders arms and back. If you feel stable and strong in the pose, you can look up toward your palms, pressing the palms together and bending back. This opens the chest and shoulders when you add this slight backbend.

I continue to work with finding the proper alignment in a pose. Tonight, teaching  Warrrior I, I recognize that I hurried through the posture, and did not give alignment cues, but only did the asana as part of Surya Namaskar B. On Tuesday, at the Asthanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad, California, my instructor told me that my down dog is very Iyengar-trained. She assisted me in a more Asthangi version and it actually felt better for my shoulders. I had worked very hard to get my alignment ‘correct’ in down dog only to learn yesterday that it is not where I needed to be.

Yet, again, is it correct for what I want out of the pose?

I will continue to practice, as Guruji Patthabi Jois said, “Yoga is 90% practice and 10% theory.” So just show up, practice and your body will do the rest.

 

a short ode to bikram yoga.

Here we are again, sweet yoga that I love.
You meet me at any point in my day, and shroud me with nurturing and peace.

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*gasp*

I am supposed to hold the pose for how long?!
My room should be HOW HOT?!
oh yoga…yoga, yoga, yoga.

*shakes head*

You challenge me, bikram. And yet, you condition me. To the utmost. I break a sweat, and all the nonsense that has gathered into my head dissipates, and I’m left to simply sort it out on the mat.

Because, if I don’t, I’ll fall on my face.

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Bikram, at the end of practice, I feel that my entire body has been stretched AND worked to the maximum.

Thank you, bikram, thank you. We will meet again!

Stratton Bald, overnight.

A few weekends ago, we joined with a group of close friends to hike to Stratton Bald, North Carolina, for an overnight, winter backpacking trip. The idea started in October, when we were all too busy working to get outside; we knew if something was on the calendar, we would make it happen.

Immediately, I started to regret our happy-outdoorsy decision as I thought about sub 30 temps and how I would survive. I am by nature warm blooded.

I remembered somewhat post panic-attack that this, too, would be an adventure.

THE TREK – Stratton Bald from Naked Ground at Joyce Kilmer
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One story says that this area is where Bob Stratton would hang out and hike, especially in the cold. He loved the remoteness of the trail.This is the former domain of Bob Stratton, he liked cool weather and loved the remote location. He would hike through the bald saying “Hey oh, Hey oh” and that is how the “Haoe Lead” trail at the top was named.
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I planned the trek for this trip and I was very nervous doing so for our group. I am happy planning trips for Chad and I, but a group of us made me a bit nervous (especially to areas that I do not know). I started my research with Backpacker Magazine routes, which is how we found our Peru backpacking trek as well. In my planning, I found this loop online, which provided the most detail on a reasonable Stratton Bald hike. Here is another site, with photos, and a bit of info on the cons (one con-the trail is NOT well marked at the top, and washout makes it difficult to find…we did hike off the trail once, as it is a tricky trail to follow).Part of the trail is literally through a creek (or a small creek had formed on the trial due to the copious amount of rainfall we have received in this area) and water is plentiful for the trip. Another site talks about how it is 5.7 miles to Stratton Bald, and mentions the turns that are needed to be made on the trip; very useful! Here is one more site, again saying the trip is about 5.7 miles up to the bald. The trip is steep and the last portion, right before you reach the top is almost vertical, requiring us to climb, on the trail. We trekked with two dogs, who did superbly on this trip, also. The Naked Ground trail, starting to the right past Joyce Kilmer Forest, says it is only 4.3 miles. However, the elevation gain in that relatively short distance is almost 4,000 feet. Once we joyfully reached the top, we hiked another mile or so to the Stratton Bald camping area. The area is ideal and super remote. On our walk from the top to the camping area, we were not convinced that we were at a bald, we kept joking “it’s just around the corner” as we had no idea exactly where we were going nor how long it was going to take. Again, I should have reminded us again and again that it was remote and the trails were not well-marked. A friend said she knew the area, so I trusted her entirely. Honestly, by the time we trekked up and made it to the bald, we were so impressed with the 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and the wide open spaces, that no one cared much how difficult the hike had become. We pitched our tents, made fires, cooked our meals, hung our food and settled in with stories and drinks around the campfire.
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I will also say that when you hike a trail for the first time, especially a difficult one, it plays with your mind-I end up thinking it is way longer and harder than it actually is.

I am not entirely sure the distance of this trail is correct, we checked our step counters, our GPS data on our watches and averaged around 6-8 miles that day, while the online sites share that it is much less. Regardless, it was an intense hike and we were well rewarded for it.

While we were at the bald, we met Walter, an avid backpacker and blogger on an 18 day trip. He told us where the spring was at the top (if you face back to the trail from the bald, walk down the hill diagonally to find the spring). Walter knew a lot of the area and was working on some trail cleaning/marking. It made for a very interesting evening all around.

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The next morning, we awoke to 17 degree weather, made a fire, ate breakfast, drank our coffee and then packed up to head out. It was very cold and crisp, but we were soon warm and shedding layers as we hiked out. We hiked to the Hangover, stashing our packs behind rocks and in mountain laurel. The views were amazing and the trip out to the Hangover was worth the 1.4 mile trek out (2.8 miles roundtrip).

In all, we hiked, as mentioned by the above sites about 14.3 miles. This is an intensely steep, not very-well marked, trail.
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GEAR

As the month approached prior to our trip, we upgraded our tent to a 3-person Tungsten from Marmot that our friends also purchased after reading the reviews. We are thrilled with this tent, and desperately needed an upgrade since our current tents had been purchased from crappy department stores and were from in our high school days; one of our tents even smelled of mold. :-/ We also chose to upgrade after my friend and I spent an overnight in Savage Gulf and a massive thunderstorm rolled through our campsite. We stayed completely dry in her tent. We went with a three person tent because Chad and I are both tall, and we wanted the extra room. (On this trip, we did end up sleeping three people in this tent and had enough room entirely.)
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We also updated sleeping bags, got a water filter and Chad finally got fitted correctly for a backpack (outfitting someone who is tall, again, sometimes is not that easy-and he has been through several backpacks, until finally we got it right for him). My original mummy bag had been purchased back in high school. My sleeping bag was still warm and in decent condition, but it was too bulky for backpacking. I upgraded to the Mountain Hardwear Laminina Z, sold only through REI. My other friend also upgraded her sleeping bag to the same one. Even though temperatures on this trip dropped to 17 at night, I stayed very warm. The sleeping bag is rated to 34 degrees, but I had a silk liner, a fleece liner and zipped next to Chad. 🙂 We were all toasty.

Disclaimer: Gear is important for a winter trip, but not essential to backpacking. We have been on many trips where we just carried our own water (including this trip to Stratton Bald) for overnights and used our old tents and sleeping bags. We are not gear-junkies (it is easy to become one!) but we had not upgraded things in 15 years.

 

 

 

yoga teacher training: yamas + niyamas

I believe I have told my story of how yoga found me.

Now, I have been privileged enough to take my journey within yoga to a new level: Yoga Teacher Training.

For about three years now, I knew that this was a journey that I wanted to take, not necessarily as an end result to teach yoga, but more as a head first dive into something I love so much. I admittedly love to research a particular subject that I am fond of, getting all the details. I would no doubt be a professional student, were that possible.

At the end of September, I started my training. It is a weekend-long session happening until April. There are approximately ten books to read, four props to purchase and of course, a good, sturdy yoga mat. It was an investment, but already it has been worthwhile, as I have been able to bring home several of the poses for my family. I also taught my first group led class to my husband, my cousin and his girlfriend last weekend! They thanked me profusely, but I realized quickly into the session that I have a LOT to learn.

Good thing I have seven months to do it in!

The first homework that we had included several readings and drawings of poses, practicing daily and a work on the first two limbs of yoga, the yamas and the niyamas. The yamas are the guideposts to how we approach life, there are five yamas.

  1. ahimsa – nonharming
  2. satya – truthfulness
  3. asteya – nonstealing
  4. brahmacharya – nonexcess, moderation
  5. aparigraha – noncoveteousness

The niyamas, are for us, they are tools for our selves; self-discipline. There are also five.

  1. saucha – cleanliness
  2. samtosa – contentment
  3. tapas – heat, spiritual austerities
  4. svadhyaya – self-study and spiritual study
  5. isvana pranidihana – surrender to God

These ten aspects we studied each day, learning to apply them to our daily lives. At times, it is easy to apply them, sure, I’m not going to steal, but at times, it is very difficult to apply them (satya, brahmacharya). I did the assignment and realized that these are very similar to the principles that I grew up with in my childhood. However, I especially appreciate the niayamas. In my culture of growing up, these were things that were not entirely expressed, but taught through daily living. I love to see the words written here of these suggestions for living.

I am now into the 2nd month of my classes and my training keeps amazing me. Each weekend, we check in and listen to how we have grown, how an awareness has developed, how living a yoga lifestyle is truly changing our worlds–and how we love it.

This past week, I delved into meditation a bit more and found a grounding in my spirit and a new awareness that I was hither to unaware of in my life. I am very new at this and still learning, but I feel that SOMETHING has broken through and a release has happened. It is very exciting. Our teacher continues to comment how much things change when we do yoga teacher training.

She is so right on.

yoga: my journey to a practice

i started doing yoga unbeknownst to me in the 8th grade. i was stranded at home in a snowstorm and slowly going nuts from nothing to do besides sled down our gigantic hill (and i love sledding, needless to say). my mom casually suggested i try a VHS video by raquel welch called, “total body fitness.” i had nothing else to do. what i found was the mental concentration and movement of my body was just what i wanted, it made me feel so good. (i had no idea that the poses in her video are the 26 Bikram Yoga poses, which i still do today and still clear my head and make my entire body feel amazing, i have done research to find the connection between her video and Bikram, but haven’t found anything there yet.)

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in high school, i mountain biked on the hills of Tennessee and played volleyball. when i got to college, i found myself gaining weight and unhappy. i still worked out, but was very uncomfortable in my skin. after college, i got married and moved to Virginia. my marriage was very unhappy. i won’t go into all the details, but i was slowly slipping into someone i did not want to be. i was active (thank goodness) but miserable. it was a series of unfortunate events that lead to something so beautiful, that is now my life.

in 2006, i left. it was so scary and received so much ridicule from being in a very, very fundamental christian environment and deciding that divorce was for me. i was lost. luckily, i stumbled upon dave farmar on itunes leading a vinyasa flow podcast. i will forever credit him as helping me through this process, though i have never actually met the guy (thank goodness for technology). i started doing yoga every day. his manner of being real opened me up physically and emotionally (it was during this time i would repetitively cry on my mat). but, my body started changing. pretty soon, i dropped a lot of weight and my free spirit smile returned.

when i started doing vinyasa flow yoga with dave farmar, i was listening to him on a podcast, as i mentioned. i had no earthly idea what side crow meant or utkatasana meant, but i would pause the podcast, google the pose, and then go right back to doing the vinyasa. that year, i learned so much. i also attended classes led by a woman who told us that her MS had all but disappeared from practicing yoga. she taught a private class for my mom and i, and i loved being in her presence.

moving to knoxville in 2010 opened up 1 billion doors. i found a great job, a great mountain biking community, a small wealth of artistic opportunities and my future husband. life was so grand. through my future husband, i met his cousin, a certified yoga instructor who taught me the illusive side crow (in a matter of 2 minutes) and we started doing yoga challenges last summer together on instagram). this has poured me over into reading books, magazines, and starting this blog about yoga. through the inspiration of yogis such as kino macgregor, kerri verna, shiva rea and a slew of others, i am learning constantly about new postures, new alignments, breath, health and my life is so sunny right now, i couldn’t be more thrilled to be on this journey.

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my journey has become a practice. it is called a practice because that is exactly what you must do! if i take off on a new mountain bike trail, i am hesitant, nervous, unsure. if i continue to ride it, it becomes second nature. this is why we practice the things we want to become better at someday. my practice is something i continue to grow in, to move my body in, to become more stable and knowledgeable. it is something that i feel i will never be a master of, and therefore it challenges me consistently. i have never stepped on my yoga mat and not been rewarded. currently, i am attempting to do a portion of the primary series in ashtanga yoga (it is so difficult). at the same time, i have made a promise to myself to learn as much as i can about yoga, it’s benefits and my goal is to share this with others.

namaste.

Day 10|Elephant Encounters, Not Eaten by a Lion and a Long Trek in the Woods

Today, our goal was to head through the Main Camp at Addo to another park of the Park, called the Woody Cape, for a nice hike through the coastal section of the park. We took off around 9 in the morning and felt confident in our journey. The sun was out again and it was clearing up from the rain of yesterday.

As we traveled these past days, a news bulletin came out that a young American female tourist was killed by a lion in Johannesburg. She was 22. Many friends and family were worried. But we were not hurt. Thankfully.

As we drive, we spotted many zebra, wart hog, colorful birds and kudu. What we weren’t expecting was to encounter an elephant…right BEHIND OUR CAR.

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We had stopped to watch a family of elephant somberly eating the bushes, when out strolled this magnificent, stumning, HUGE animal. I was in awe.

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Perhaps it was a but dangerous to stay put and let him walk around us, but I could not resist! I begged Chad to stay put. This guy kept his eyes focused right on us as he walked around the back of the car, and then down the road!

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The exhilaration on seeing him in this way speeds up my heart rate even now, while writing this some nine hours later!
We drive down the road, as it was where we were heading, and he just kept walking the same way. There was no way we would pass him, even though he did speed up.

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He seemed to be looking for a way into the bush. He was beautiful and graceful. When you look into the eyes of these wild creatures, you feel peace. Eventually, he found the route he wanted to take, and off he went. We drove on, past zebra, hartebeest, ans kudu warming in the sun after the  rains.

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It was at the end of the main camp that we discovered that our drive to the hike would be another hour, just to get there, and it was about one in the afternoon. We would not have time to drive to Woody Camp and endure in the long hike. Instead, we decided to head to the Zuurberg Mountain Inn, where we knew some trails were. An hour later, we left our car and decided to hike the three hou, Doringnek Loop Trail at Zuurberg.

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The trail went through a section of Addo Park that was sage to hike. We went down a large mountain into the valley, where a river was flowing.

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It looked as though a dirt bike race had just gone through here, as we saw signs of a race and dirt bike tires. The trial was filled with spiderwebs and we crossed the creek many times. We were so thankful to be walking in the woods, however, and it felt great to be moving. We had admittedly needed this!!

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Towards the end of the hike, we walked up, up, up! It was incredible!!!! We just imagined riding a horse or being a gazelle through this steep part…as it would have been nice to experience a break! We had, however, cut our time close, as the gates to Addo Main Camp closed at six, and we had to be on our way by five p.m.

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We started hiking at 2 on the dot. And we finished sharply at 5:00. We had hiked fast and hard, and really only stopped once, for a group photo.

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We highly recommended this hike as a way to truly get into the mountains of Addo and the Eastern Cape of South Africa. However, we feel we are in decent shape and definitely needed the  entire three hours for this hike, so plan accordingly! What breathtaking views and fun we had.

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{There are no roaming wild animals besides the hartebeest, kudu, and small animals on this hike, as it is in a different section from the Main Camp at Addo.}