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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.   


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