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Category Archives: Inspirational

You are what you eat

Cliche, I know, but I remember the days of carb-loading before a race or bingeing on 64 ounces of Mountain Dew before the big game.

Now, athletes are paying greater attention to nutrition and considering food as fuel rather than just something you eat. eat-real-food

Today, I’m on day 10 of a 21-day cleanse, where I’m refusing soy, gluten, wheat, processed grains, sugar, eggs and dairy. It’s a huge departure for me and my regular diet. Where I thought I ate well was subsumed by the heavy dose of crap I ate every day.

Most of my diet, all my conscious life, revolved around the idea that I could eat whatever and just work out extra hard later. A big piece of chocolate cake? Yes, please! I’ll just run an extra 3 miles in the morning.

But that only goes so far. As I’ve aged, dealt with weight gain and injuries, I know deep down that my diet must change if I’m to stay active and healthy.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with yoga? The way I see it, eating well has to do with truthfulness (Satya), purity (Saucha), and non-violence (Ahimsa).

I’ll break it down:

Truthfulness/Satya

With my personal practice, and what I preach when I’m teaching, is to find your truth, my truth, the clear, honest truth that our psyches really have fun hiding from us.

We get glimpses of our truth from time to time. Sometimes it feels like a sucker punch in the gut. Other times it’s like having a reunion with a long-lost friend. It’s when things finally click. When they make sense. And that can be a fleeting moment, but the more you pay attention to what’s going on inside, what’s driving you, why are you doing what you’re doing, you’ll find that kernel of truth. It’s like that line from one of my favorite childhood classics (don’t judge) Mel Brooks’ “History of the World, Part I,”: “Keep searching, keep searching, you’ll find it.” Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, Mel Brooks nerds. 

When we are honest about our connection to the food we eat, what we put in our bodies, what we decide to feed ourselves, to nourish ourselves, we have to be also conscious about those decisions.

So, when I reach for that third piece of pizza, even though I’m already satisfied and I could benefit more from a second helping of steamed broccoli, I should be honest about that. Do I really need it? What am I trying to do when I eat this and not that?

Like when I choose to eat something like roasted beets because I know it’s good for me (and because I love them), and I know it will make me feel good inside and give won’t make me momentarily hate myself, my distended belly and my poor choices, as I would after I ate that third piece of pizza. Instant gratification over intuition? Perhaps. Maybe I’m still stuck in the belief that poor choices don’t really matter. But, indeed they do.

Be honest about your choices, and choose with consciousness and not impulse or habit.

Purity/Saucha

In these 10 days of cleansing, I have discovered a lot about my regular diet that isn’t quite so pure and simple. I eat a lot of processed sugar. I grab what’s easy and fast, like throwing a tortilla and a slice of cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds for an easy lunch. I eat granola bars and protein bars after workouts or on long rides. I have always thought of the food I eat in relation to the activity that I have done or what is coming up: Calorie intake and expenditure, rather than calorie quality and wholesomeness to optimize health.

My biggest discovery as of day 10, has been that I can still complete a strenuous workout without feeling completely spent while eating good, whole, clean food. A banana and some almond butter or a brown rice cake and bean dip give me enough oomph to finish the workout, and I feel good afterwards.

From now on, I will be rethinking the foods I use to fuel my activity, knowing that all those bars are not nearly as satisfying or nutritious as real, balanced food.

Plus, what’s all that processed crap and sugar doing to my body in the long term? I’m positive I don’t want to find out.

Non-violence/Ahimsa

This is the first tenet of yoga. Everything stems from non-violence. This applies to the outside world, but it also applies to oneself. While it may be easy to treat others with respect and compassion, it doesn’t always manifest in the way we talk or give to ourselves.

Yoga is a form of self care. A dedicated practice can seem inconvenient at times, but if you look at is as a necessity to enable productivity, kindness and compassion in the rest of your day, it can become indispensable.

Being kind to yourself can be as simple as pausing to breathe or to eat a healthy, nourishing meal. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.

 

Yoga for Athletes: Everybody’s new bag

Sometimes as a yoga teacher it can feel isolating. You come in, you teach, you connect with your students, you have an experience, you leave. Rinse, repeat. There’s not always someone there to debrief your class, to give you feedback, to talk about things that occurred in class that need discussing. Sometimes it can feel like you’re on an island.

So when, two days in a row just this week, I happened to randomly meet two yoga teachers, both of whom have a passion for teaching Yoga for Athletes, I was delighted and encouraged…but also a little bit protective, to be completely honest.

I love teaching yoga. I love teaching yoga to athletes. As an athlete myself, I am keenly aware of the muscle fatigue, the soreness and tightness that occurs by doing activities other than yoga. Without yoga, I feel like I probably wouldn’t be able to walk due to the rigor I put my body through on a regular basis on the bike, in the pool and on the trails.

It was so cool to meet these two teachers, and I hope to attend their classes and see what take they have on teaching to athletes. I also hope they come to my classes, and maybe through those experiences we can discuss and grow and become better teachers to offer our students more wisdom, more variety.

Now about that guarded feeling…

Can the market be saturated? Are there so many yoga teachers now turning their focus on working with athletes that there won’t be anyone left to come to my classes?

That’s my fear. And, fear is never a good place to come from. Fear darkens our spirits, it hampers our ability to dream and forge new paths. It can keep us from living life fully.

But we all have experienced fear in the past, and it will continue to come up from time to time as our lives go on.

So when I think to myself, can the market of yoga for athletes be flooded? Why does everyone want to teach to athletes? I have to temper that by adding, because everyone needs yoga. And the more yoga that’s out there, the better the world will be. There’s no room for judgment, for criticism or jealousy. We’re all working toward creating more options for ourselves, our yoga practice and for our students’ experiences in class and in the real world.

While Yoga for Athletes might be everyone’s new bag, it’s a great bag. And there’s room in that bag for all of us.

Success with Summer of Core

Sometimes it’s hard to stick with the program. It’s hard to commit, it’s hard to keep it going.

But those times when you do, when you really stick to your guns, the outcome can be more than what you expect.

Katy Mangan

When Katy Mangan signed up to be a part of Summer of Core, she said she did so reluctantly. Though she has a dedicated yoga practice of four to five times a week, she wasn’t sure she wanted to commit more time to working on strengthening her core.

She started getting the emails and dutifully carried out each day’s exercise, and soon she began to notice an improvement not only in her abs and arms but in her attitude. “I feel stronger, so I feel more confident,” she said, sitting outside of Soul Yoga after class.

“Now I can really begin to realign my poses. Like in Warrior I and II, I can work on fine-tuning it,” she said. “Because I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve noticed I don’t have [the poses] down.”

Katy said her balance has also improved as her core strength has grown. She also feels proud of herself that she stuck with the program. In fact, she said, holding plank has become quite enjoyable.

“Plank now is a very reassuring pose for me, instead of being difficult,” she said. “It’s obviously what I need.”

 

Summer of Core Day 23: Hip lift –> Jack Knife

We’re going to get onto our backs today, with a move that gets deep into the transverse abdominis.

Hip Lift

This move can be done simply by lifting the hips with the legs extended toward the sky. You’ll definitely start to feel it after a couple of lifts if you use lots of control.

Let’s Do It

  • Lie flat on your back, your arms alongside your body.
  • Extend your legs to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift your hips toward the sky, reaching the souls of your feet up as well.
  • Exhale, lower all the way back down slowly, with control. Legs stay lifted.
  • Repeat five to 10 times.

Add on To It

For a bit more dynamic work, add an upper body reach, coming into the Jack Knife exercise.

  • On your back with your legs elevated upward, extend your arms behind your head.
  • Take a big inhale to stretch long.
  • Exhale, reach your hands to touch your feet, while reaching your feet to touch your hands.
  • Your hips and shoulders should come off the ground as you reach.
  • Inhale, return to position one.
  • Repeat five to 10 rounds.

Have fun with this one!

~ Shoshana

Yogi-Athlete Spotlight: Ironwoman Amy Ware

I met Amy Ware on the pool deck before a Master’s swim practice about six months ago.

We were both procrastinating getting into the water, knowing a tough workout was ahead and preferring to remain social. I asked her, in true athlete small talk, what she was training for. She said, “Well, I signed up for Vineman.”

“Half?” I asked, referring to the 70.3 distance some of my friends had on their schedule.

“The full,” she grinned. “I’m not sure I’m really going to do it. I don’t know what I got myself into.”

I nodded. I’ve never done an Ironman distance triathlon, but I am married to someone who has, and I know the training is grueling. It’s at least a part-time job, sometimes demanding more than 20 hours of training a week. It’s not for the faint of heart.

We got into the water and did our workout, and soon I’m following Amy on Strava. Then I’m riding with her and running with her (me working hard to keep up, mind you) after swim practices. Then we are carpooling to a race. Then she’s coming to my Active Recovery class. And then, just about two weeks ago, she not only finishes the full Vineman, she kills it.

Amy is inspiring. Here’s a little more about her journey and how yoga works into her life as a triathlete, nurse and partner.

When did you start doing yoga and why?
I started doing yoga after a knee injury side lined me from running in 2010. I started with Bikram yoga, as I was mostly interested in the “workout” aspect of the experience, so I attended class 2 to 3 times a week to “keep up my fitness” while I was unable to run.

As it turns out, I enjoyed the other aspects of yoga too, so have added vinyasa and restorative yoga to my schedule.

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Amy with lots of energy left and a big smile on the run at Ironman Vineman 2016.


How do you yoga has affected your triathlon training?
Yoga has been super helpful! I try to integrate it into active recovery days after hard training sessions for the stretching benefit and to change the way I’m working my body.

What’s your favorite thing about yoga?
I love that it challenges me in entirely different ways. I work different parts of myself and bring awareness to what I’ve got going on, and where I’ve got strength and weakness and what’s hurting or feeling really good.

What would you tell your athlete friends about why they should do yoga?
Yoga is an amazing addition to a training program of any distance! It helps strengthen both mental and physical elements and it has helped me bring awareness to what’s going on inside and outside of myself. Plus, who doesn’t need an hour or two of dedicated stretching a week in their training?!? Yoga is a perfect complement to the craziness that is Ironman training!

When’s your next Ironman? (wink, wink)
Haha! Good question! I’ll be doing the 70.3 in Palm Springs in December, but I technically don’t have another long course on the schedule… yet….

On Flexibility and Other Matters

At least once a week, a person, upon finding out I teach yoga, says something like “Oh, I can’t do yoga. I am not flexible.”Flex1

I chuckle, then promptly assure that doubtful person that yoga is not about being flexible or inflexible. Like anything—reading, writing, walking, riding a bike—flexibility takes practice, patience and time. But, staying away from yoga because of a perceived inflexibility issue shows this person is not just stiff in the body, but also stiff in the mind.

Take the runner. When someone decides to begin a running program, maybe with the goal of getting in shape or just losing weight, they are not going to go from zero miles to 20 miles in one day, or even one week. They may never even get to a 20 mile run, but that’s OK. That’s not the point. They are putting on their shoes, heading out the door and working toward something positive for their body.

Same with yoga. Grabbing your yoga mat and heading to class, or even just taking a few minutes after a workout to stretch out and calm the mind and relax the body, provides great benefit, and yes, will make you more flexible. Over time.Flex2

I read once that each person is born with a certain amount of flexibility, which gradually decreases as they age. Some people are naturally more flexible than others. Some are drawn to yoga because they can easily bend and contort into pretzel-like poses. And good for them, but most people will never touch the soles of their feet to the crown of their head in cobra pose.

But also, people who are super flexible might not have the strength they need to sustain those twists and backbends. Yoga provides that strengthening, too.

For athletes, tight muscles not only cause pain and discomfort, but can also lead to injury. So it’s important to stretch and to keep limber. The other night, a weight lifter said he couldn’t do yoga because he couldn’t reach his toes. He bent over to demonstrate. I said, bend your knees. Bend them more. More. More.  Then he touched his toes.

So be strong. But don’t forget to be flexible. In body and spirit.