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Monday, January 25, 2016

A Year and A Half with Yoga

Happy 2016!  

I love January.  It always feels like a clean-slate, a do-over, a chance to change.  In reality, every day, or even every moment is a new beginning, but January just has that 'anything is possible' feel to's like an engraved INVITATION to change, to grow.

In 2016, I have planned to continue some successful actions, as I chase down my 6th year anniversary (coming up this summer) of embarking on a plant-based diet and I plan to implement new actions based on recent research and ruminations.  (More on that in a future post:  hint:  microbiome!).


One of my changes that I am now happily calling a fully-established habit, is Yoga.


Widely defined and even more widely practiced in its various forms, has become a integral part of my life.  I began practicing a year and a half ago, and I love thinking back to where I was when I started, to compare with where I am now.

I started with a few older programs I had and added in Trudy Styler (Mrs. Sting) & James D'Silva's DVD Warrior Yoga.   It remains one of my favorites and is in my practice at least one day per week.

Trudy's DVD, bottom center

I started with the 25 minute workout and remember painfully working towards making it through the 50 minute version at all, then adding it in one time per week while doing the shortened version two other days a week and gradually working up to doing that 50 minute workout 3 times a week.  I still find the flow of this workout challenging and beneficial and it has become like an old friend that I know very well.

I am currently doing yoga at least 5 times a week, with a preference for 6 days and I now cycle through a collection of DVDs that I have worked to find and that suit my goals.  My body craves the practice now (but I remember having to DRAG myself to the mat) and I notice that I move better, have improved balance and now enjoy almost zero joint issues despite having previously had chronic knee, back and hip issues.

Yoga is, I believe, a very personal journey, and I think it is a good idea to try various styles and instructors to find what works for you.  I went through a large number of DVDs (most sampled from the library, but some borrowed from friends) before I began to get a feel for what I could physically do and what music/teaching style/instructor's voice wouldn't irritate the heck out of me (some instructors just rub me the wrong way, despite how beautiful they look & how enticing the back drop settings may be; sorry, canNOT do Shiva Rea as lovely and energetic as she is...nope just can't do it).

My current favorites.  I know, the picture is terrible.  They are listed by title below.

So, with regular practice you can expect to get in better shape, to have better alignment and posture and better muscle tone, but beyond the many physical benefits of yoga, there is something more that is a little bit difficult to articulate.  Maybe it is due to the breathing that you learn to regulate and deepen, maybe it is just the act of 'showing up' for yourself on your mat on a regular basis, but somewhere within it all, you learn a bit more about might even find yourself feeling a bit more confident, challenging yourself in other areas of your life and learning to appreciate the here and now.  

Is that a bit far-fetched and too much to ask of a session with a DVD?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Maybe it's a bit like that great Harrison Ford line in Six Days Seven Nights in reference to 'finding' something on an island...."it's an island, babe....if you didn't bring it here, you won't find it here".  Maybe what we cultivate in yoga, or any other practice, is there within us all the time and we just need the time, space and attention devoted to it to bring it out or peel away the barriers.

Whatever it is, I know that I have grown to love this practice and despite being a night-person by nature, will get up long before dawn to make sure I have the time to do it.

Now, to master that camel pose....I'll put that on for 2016 as well.

Sue, facing my dogs downward, in Ohio

My newest set....Yoga Warrior 365 with Rudy Mettia.
I wasn't sure about adding this set to my mix.  I had sampled one of Rudy's DVDs and knew that it would be a challenge for me to learn from him.  He's a bit more, well, let's say 'chatty' than I like from an instructor; it's almost like he feels like he has to entertain or something and really, I prefer some quiet space in the instruction.  But, I am glad I got this set as I have found his detailed instruction has deepened my understanding of the movements as well as given me more options to allow for physical limitations if needed and his challenging flows of the movements are making me stronger.  I believe I may learn more patience/tolerance as well as I repeat the DVDs.  Also, there is a lovely spirit about the man that comes through even when he's being a bit annoying.  I found my set new on Ebay and was able to buy from a Canadian seller, which worked to my benefit currency-wise.

No Yoga DVD collection is complete without at least ONE Rodney Yee, in my opinion.  I have done many of his dvds in earlier years of practice and sought him out again while looking for DVDs in 2014 when I started again.  I settled on his Yoga Conditioning for Athletes and I do like it, but I believe I'll be adding more Rodney in later as I don't think it is necessarily his best.

Once a week I pop in my Yoga For Strength with Vytas Baskauskas (or Vytas, The Punisher as I call him).  I really enjoy this DVD (except for the opening core work which just KILLS me).  Vytas does have a separate core workout in the special features though that is a bit kinder than the opening of this set. I work on that with the goal of eventually being able to hang with him through the opener. I really enjoy Vytas' demeanor and tone of voice and lack of incessant chatter.  I am working towards being ready for his multiple-set called Deepen Your Practice.   Vytas has an interesting back story. Read about him here:

Once a week I spend some time with Caley Alyssa in her Yoga for Balance DVD and try not to swear at her young and graceful self.  I bought this DVD specifically for balance and it really has made a difference for me and I feel more balanced for the rest of the day after working through the set.  She is straight-forward, no nonsense, easy to follow.

I hope you give yoga a try and if you do, I hope it brings you all of the benefits, and more, that it is bringing into my life.   


Friday, July 17, 2015

Follow the Pain & "Superlife" by Darin Olien

"Follow the pain", I quipped to a friend of mine in an e-mail recently.

"Follow the's a compass point leading the way out".

The context of this comment is complicated and probably unnecessary to detail.  We are both working on our emotional fitness in a specific context that is often drama-filled; I'll just leave it at that.

But did you ever write or say something to someone and then it began to tickle a part of your brain, coming back to visit you as if to say, pay attention here, there may be something for you to learn?

I think we can and do use others as a mirror for ourselves....what bothers us about others can often merely be a reflection of our own foibles, short-comings and can point us to areas that need improvement.

Follow the pain.

In my own case as I work to stretch out of my comfort zone in a few areas of my life, I find the seductive pull of the status quo nearly irresistible.  Why am I resisting change?  Change is inevitable and can be exciting.  The universe abhors stagnation as does nature.  All arrows point to change and change is the only constant!

Why resist?

Follow the pain.

In my childhood, change meant pain.  I craved consistency, predictability, stability.  Even the mere sound of the automatic garage door opener starting up signaled a massive energetic response coursing thru my body....all systems on red prepared for anything, fight, flight or sink into despair.  It became a Pavlovian 'bell ring' to my adrenal glands.  Growing up in a home with an abusive alcoholic will do that to a person.

I thought I had long ago slayed that demon.

Follow the pain.

Could it be that the craving for stability was now, in my late adult life, planting itself firmly in my path to becoming the best me as a formidable road block?

I think so.

Follow the pain.  Embrace change.  Chart a new course.  The unknown does not always signal pain....sometimes it brings new discoveries and happiness only heretofore hinted at.......


Superlife, by Darin Olien.

I ordered this book after hearing Rich Roll's conversation with Darin on a recent podcast.    Darin's basic approach to nutrition and the 'superlife' is by integratingwhat he identifies as the five life forces (nutrition, hydration, oxygenation, alkalization and detoxification).

He talks about feeding our cells properly; that if we do that, we've got the rest covered.  I've only skimmed through parts of the book, but I already know I am going to find it quite useful.  I especially like the section in the book that categorizes food by purpose, so, for example, if you wanted to eat to address stress issues, you could look to see what foods support the systems/organs that help us cope with stress.

There are recipes and general guidelines.  (I will forgive Darin's inclusion of eggs and a tiny bit of dairy here and there as otherwise most of the information blends with my other research -- although he does use oil). 

I enjoy his clear writing style and statements that cut through to the crucial points such as these on p. 129:  "The mere fact that our immune systems react to animal-based food should tell us that it contains something unhealthy for us.   .........every meal triggers a new bout of inflammation, which we constantly renew with every plate placed before us.  At some point it becomes a chronic conditions.  Our immune systems don't get a breather."   He goes on further to define this condition as 'nutritional stress', something that I think is vital for us to understand and deal with properly in order to achieve optimal health.

I'm sure I'll do another post on Darin's book.  Learn more about him here:


Cool beans.  Wet conditions have made my garden go just crazy and I'm still harvesting lettuce which normally would be long past its prime.  Fresh garden lettuce in July in Ohio, hard to believe.

I doubled up on a bean I tried last year that I thought would be fun for my grand-daughter to grow....dragon tongue beans.  (I ordered from Baker's Creek:    The plants are huge and bushy and I harvested the first of the beans this week; not only are they fun, but they are mighty tasty just lightly steamed, plain.  And you gotta love a bean named after dragons.

Sue, enjoying the simple beauty of the garden, dragons and all, in Ohio

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Soggy July and The Rich Roll Podcast featuring Darin Olien

It's raining here in Ohio....again.  We seem to be in this pattern and can't get out; can't get the hay in because the fields are so wet, can't, can't, can't.

....but there is a lot that we CAN do.

For one thing, the raised garden beds are happy!  My garlic 'crop' is in.  This is my first try at garlic and I planted mostly the variety Music.  My bulbs seem to be smaller than those I see at the local farm market, but then I didn't add any fertilizer.  They smell wonderful though!  I'll definitely be planting more this fall.


 The kale, collards and lettuce
 especially have been spectacular.

 With the cooler temps, we've had a
 steady harvest of a variety of lettuces.

I've had some time to do some inside work too and catch up on my favorite podcast.  Rich Roll continues to put out interesting and timely content.  

Find him here: 

I recently listened to episode 153 featuring Darin Olien, dubbed the Indiana Jones of Superfoods.   Darin has a great story about how he came to look to food to find health and is a staunch believer in the healing capacity of foods.  I particularly like that Darin gives back and is immersed in helping indigenous cultures protect themselves from corporate greed.  

Find out more about Darin here:

I ordered his book and hope to glean a bit more knowledge about what it takes to fully thrive.  I'll carve out some time to review his book here later.

Speaking of books, I did pick up Rich Roll's new book, the Plantpower Way.  I've only glanced at it, and will write up a post about it when I've had a chance to do it's beautiful and colorful pages justice and to try out some of the recipes.


Tonight I'll get a chance to use some of these garlic having them fresh from my garden.

I'm going to try a pesto, but most recipes I find have tons of oil.  I'm going to try processing some scapes, sunflower seeds, a bit of nutritional yeast and avocado for fat/moisture.  Will snap some pix and upload later!

Happy (albeit soggy) Summer!

Sue, loving the garden, in soggy Ohio