Monday, April 15, 2013

The Ultimate Yogi - Yin Yoga

When I slipped this DVD into my TV I thought to myself, "I wonder what Yin Yoga is." I seen the word before and I know I've heard of it, but I never really took the time to investigate what it's all about. I was quite pleased when the very first thing that Travis said during the intro was, "What is Yin Yoga?" and then he went ahead and explained it. It's like he was reading my mind.

So what is it? Yin Yoga is literally the fountain of youth. It targets the connective tissues, ligaments, and joints of the body. Most importantly it accesses the hyaluronan which is distributed amongst the connective tissue of the body. It is a scientific fact that the more hyularonan a person has the more supple they are and the less inflammation they are subjected to. This is supposed to be the perfect complement to all the other physically dynamic styles of yoga. It's really nothing more than holding stretches for long periods of time challenges. The longer you hold, the deeper you heal, and the better you are supposed to feel.

The entire session was performed while either sitting or laying on our yoga mats and although it looked simply if you were just watching it, it was incredibly challenging to hold each stretch for either 3 or 5 minutes. That is like an eternity if you're not very flexible and each stretch feels like a pulling burn. I can't even believe that I made it all the way through. There was only one stretch that I had to give up and take a break. It was a seated stretch with legs straight out in front. We had to just fold over and grab our feet (preferably forehead to knees, but I'm not quite there yet). This was supposed to be a 5 minute hold and I got about 2 minutes into it before I decided that I MUST get a sweat shirt right then and there. It was really just a cheap excuse to get up and take a break. I slowly walked to my bedroom, got my sweatshirt on and came back to my mat to finish the stretch . . . and still it was too long. Come to find out, Travis got a bit carried away and held the stretch for a total of 7 minutes. Boy am I glad that I'm on to that now and I will not even attempt to complete that stretch the next time around.

This was a very different experience for me as I never ever held any stretches for this long. The best part about it was listening to all the fascinating things that Travis talked about. He explained the importance of these deep tissue stretches and it all made so much sense. It gave me hope that just maybe this sort of practice would help me with my chronic tight neck and pinching nerve issues. He also stated that it would "take us to a different dimension" and I think he was right. I found it truly amazing how clear my usually always busy mind became. During these poses I felt so relaxed and tired. If I could have gotten more comfortable in these stretches I could have fallen asleep. That last Savasana was like no other in my life and last night I sleep like a rock and woke up this morning with the brightest eyes and tightest skin I've had in a long time. I'm looking forward to this experience again.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Ultimate Yogi - Balance

After having such a good experience with the Ultimate Yogi Flexibility video a couple of days ago I was excited to pop the Ultimate Yogi Balance DVD into my TV today. I feel like I'm finally getting on a roll with regular and steady yoga practice. Granted I'm not doing the Ultimate Yogi program 'as directed,' but I am committed to practicing at least 3 times a week. I'm just taking my time and using my off days to run and lift weights. Right now this feels good and right and I will therefore continue this program.

I think taking the pressure off myself to commit to a daily practice and making it all the way through every video was too scary. I promised the doctor that I would take this slow and I really do think that I'm doing this the smart way. So I entered into Balance with that same outlook. I knew I would probably be very shaky, but that didn't really matter. After all, nobody was watching me. I could fall as many times as I needed to.

Well, I'm happy to report that I never actually fell completely over. I did lose my balance several times and there were times that I just couldn't do the moves, but at the same time I also did things that I never dreamed I could do. It's amazing how, just like with flexibility and how you get more and more limber as you go through the routine, you also seem to get better and better with balance throughout the hour.

I have to admit, I had a ball with this video. So far it's my favorite one. I love being challenged by things that don't necessarily require an over abundance of strength. These challenges just require more focus and determination. It's easier to muster that up than it is to find more strength when it's just not there. I'm very much looking forward to doing this routine again. I'm still intrigued by something that Travis said at the beginning of this video. He explained that your entire brain comes alive when you practice balance asanas. If your brain was hooked up to machine that reads brain activity you would see that all regions would be lit up during balance poses. That is just remarkable. Of course, testing this theory would not be practical, but I'm going to take his word for it and know that my brain is getting a workout as well as my body.

For more information on the Ultimate Yogi 108 Day Yoga Challenge, please click here.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ultimate Yoga - Flexibility

Today was my first attempt at dusting off my Ultimate Yogi DVDs. I (stupidly) attempted to start this program way before I should have and realized on the second day that I was in over my head. It's been another month or so of recovering from neck surgery and today I decided to try another one of these videos. I'm not sure how my logic is working because I wanted a change from the 30 minute yoga routine that I've been regularly doing because it has been causing me a lot of pain. As if this session would be any less painful.

At least I was smart about which video I picked. So far I did video #1 Cross Training, and then I tried video #2 Cardio (and that one about killed me). Video #3 was Strength and there was no way I was attempting that one any time soon. I don't need another reminder of how weak I am! So I ultimately (pun intended) picked Flexibility. I thought maybe I could handle that one and figured it would be good for my already-sore-from-running muscles.

I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by the entire experience. I really liked the entire session. It's broken into two basic parts. The first part is standing stretches and asanas and the second part is mat work and deeper stretches. During the first half I came to an incredible realization that was, well . . . life changing. I entered into this yoga session today with positively no expectations of completing it, nor even doing a particularly good job. I was simply looking for a change of pace and something that "might not hurt as much." I knew at the start that I would modify as much as I needed and, if I had to quit, that would be OK. I wouldn't consider myself a weak failure and if all I got from this hour was material to blog about then it was still a success. That's when it hit me.

My whole life I've been an over-achiever. I'm not a competitive person at all and never care about winning a game, a race, or anything that involves other people. But when it comes to myself, that's another story. I have to know that my current run was faster than my last run, that I climbed the hill in a higher gear than I did last time, or the amount of weight on my barbell was greater than last time. I have a never-ending desire to better myself and for some reason I always feel that I have to be better, faster, stronger than what is expected of me.

I remember back to all my P90X sessions. I paid close attention to the weights that the girls in the video were using and I had to make sure that my weights at least matched theirs (preferably I would lift even more). In every exercise video I ever did, I felt the need to do more. If the leader suggested alternate moves to "give you more challenge" well, that was a no-brainer. I HAD to go the more aggressive route. I don't even know why. I guess I always felt that it was essential if I wanted to sell myself as a "fitness expert."

Well today, for the first time in my life, I took all that pressure off myself. I realized that my neck surgery may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. Now I finally have an excuse (because for some reason I felt that I needed one) to just be a normal regular person. It's OK that I'm weak and it's OK that I'm going to "do the best I can."

And with that new outlook I completely enjoyed the yoga session. Sure I had to "cheat" a little and no I wasn't always as flexible as I needed to be . . . but it was amazingly OK. I finally accepted that I don't always need to over-achieve and that was the most refreshing enlightening experience to date. Thank you Ultimate Yogi for giving me this gift!

I will continue to hunt and peck for videos that I think I can get through. I'm not yet ready to take on "The Ultimate Challenge" but I will thoroughly enjoy doing what I can.

For more information on the Ultimate Yogi 108 Day Yoga Challenge, please click here.