Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 7 January 31, 2012

January is such a flash in the span of a year.  A signal of new beginnings, it is also a time of “back to reality” after the holiday season.  People start planning for the next twelve months, dealing with taxes from the previous year and basically looking forward and backward in time without savoring what is happening right now.  And then, suddenly – it’s January 31.

Where did the time go?

This is what today’s Ultimate Yogi Practice – Mountain Pose/Pranyama/Meditation was all about for me … staying present. 

The Mountain Pose series is about thirty minutes of standing, coordinated arm and breath movements.  It’s basically a standing meditation, very qigong/tai chi like.  I always have to let go of the “I’m about to get a workout” attitude before approaching a practice like this.  That is not what this is about.  It’s about fusing breath, movement, focus and awareness.  Highly beneficial for a kooky multi-tasker like me.  It took me about twenty minutes of mental list writing, internal dialog, mental chatter and monkey mind to reconcile this and once I did, the “whoa – zen” set in.  This is really good stuff. 

And I want to be wherever they filmed this!  Gorgeously captured in a meditation garden outside of a pagoda-like structure (I’m assuming that is what this is), you can’t help but be whisked away to this stunning locale in your mind.

Pranayama and Meditation are actually very advanced practices if you approach yoga from a traditional angle.  But, The Ultimate Yogi aims to integrate these practices into every yogi’s life.   Ambitious, yes.  But, highly beneficial.  Beginners will benefit from the early introduction to learning to sit still and being present.

A tip from me?

Be sure to blow your nose before this one!

The Pranayama practice consists of “Breath of Fire” and “Alternate Nostril Breathing,” so take time to clear your nasal passages before hitting the mat.

The four part meditation series is a blissful, calming, affirming practice. 

I experienced some tightness in my chest during this practice today, a physical manifestation of my resistance to sitting still.  By the fourth round of alternate nostril breathing I was very “there,” until Travis started counting in Spanish.

The language change threw me for a loop and kind of took me out of the zone.

Oh, well – I know for next time.  And for me – this is one of the lessons of breath work and meditation.  To just NOTICE these things, instead of letting them affect me so deeply.  And, ah yes, the parallel to my life … to not let the little things (or the big things for that matter) pierce me so intensely.  I am a feeler.   Learning to control my emotions, or at least recognize the impermanence of them is another of my lessons as I walk this earth this time around.

Gentle practice – intense changes.

Gotta get to life stuff now.  Work, smoothie … and some fun today!  Little road trip for a friend's wine tasting (really – just a taste) and acoustic show.

Today’s Smoothie: (use organic fruits and veggies when possible!)
Makes 2 servings

2 cups water
1 – pear
1 – apple
1 – cup berries (cherry, pomegranate, blackberry mix)
3 – cups raw spinach
1 – head romaine lettuce
1 – cup kale
1 - lemon
2 tbsp golden flax seed
3 tbsp Nutiva Hemp Protein
Vitamix and Serve!

(image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kleenex-small-box.jpg)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 6 January 30, 2012

Happy Monday!  

I made a promise to myself last night after a 15-minute evening meditation that I was going to wake up and do my Ultimate Yogi practice before I started work Monday morning at 7:00am.  I wore my sports bra and tank top into bed as a reminder of what I needed to do.

Alarm went off at 4:45am and I rolled out of bed, changed into my yoga pants, downed a glass of water and got right to it.

I messed up the order of the DVD’s yesterday, so today I did Detox.

Maybe it was the early morning mojo, but this was my favorite practice so far.

Comprised of lots of twists, the Detox workout gets serious during a delish triangle/twisting triangle/twisting half moon/standing splits /seated twist and double seated pigeon series.  This series gives rise to Travis Eliot's best instruction so far.  I love his attention to the physical details of these more advanced poses.  This allowed me to squeeze very deep and wring out lots of junk – culminating in some sweet sweat.

The Detox DVD also has an inventive bridge series right at the end that will challenge the hips of the strongest athletes.

I feel so ready for my day now! 

My goal is to continue these early morning practices (except for Yin) for the duration of the 108 days.

Worky work is calling now … until tomorrow!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 5 January 29, 2012

I encourage anyone doing The Ultimate Yogi 108 day program – or undertaking any fitness program to keep a journal.  Even if you just scribble down the quick details of what you accomplished, journaling holds you accountable and creates a record of the ups and downs of your journey. 

Today, Sookie woke me up anxious to greet Sunday.  I can never refuse her enthusiasm so I hauled out of bed, had a quick cup of coffee and got right to it.

On the agenda was the Vitality class, HardCORE and 10 minutes of meditation.
(WOOPS! Looks like I did the wrong dvd - will do Detox tomorrow now.)

I really enjoyed a silent ten minute sitting meditation before bed last night, so I will be repeating that tonight.

I also swapped out the HardCore DVD for another core focused workout for about 20 minutes.

Then, I hit the mat for Vitality.  Vitality consists of several “circular” flows with an emphasis on heart opening and back bending.  Culminating in “ustrasana” or “camel pose,” this is a nice flowy, fun practice. 

I have started to notice the absence of inversions … but, this DVD has a lovely plow/shoulder stand sequence that quenched my desire to be upside down.  I know that headstand is difficult to put into a DVD program that is aimed toward a wide range of folks without tons of instruction.

On that note – the practices thus far – except for Yin, have been very standing pose heavy.  I get it … condensing down what is usually a 90-minute class into 60 – 75 minutes – something has to give.  I remember teaching yoga at the University here.  I had 50 minutes!  I always felt like our practice was on fast forward to fit in every element of a balanced practice.   Alas, you let it go.   You have to.  You do what you can.  It’s the Ashtangi in me that needs to give up the idea that unless you do an entire primary series – you haven’t practiced.  

Practice ended with a nice savasana – although I was very restless … ready to use all the Vitality the practice created!

For breakfast, I made something new … I was craving eggs … so here ya go:

Kale And Celery Saute with Eggs

2 – eggs (preferably cage free, vegetarian fed or organic)

2 cups Kale - chopped
4 tbsp chopped onion
2  large celery stalks – chopped
1 tsp coconut oil
Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
Garlic Powder

1.     In a pot – use ½ - ½ cup water to sauté onions and celery for about 5 minutes – or until they start to soften.
2.     Add Kale and cover to “steam” for about 3 minutes.
3.     Remove cover and add coconut oil.  Stir and “sauté” for a minute or so.  Turn off heat.  Add pepper and garlic powder to taste.
4.     Cook eggs as desired. 
5.     Serve eggs over  Kale and Celery.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 4 January 28, 2012

Just finished the Yin Yoga  Ultimate Yogi Practice.  As I sip the other half of my smoothie (stored in a spaghetti sauce jar) from yesterday, I realized I forgot to list  one lime in the recipe.  The citrus zing is crucial!

Just like a Yin Yoga practice is crucial to any well rounded yoga program.

I wish there was something on the schedule that recommended this particular practice be performed at night – before bed, then I would have timed my day for that.  Travis mentions this in the intro to the Yin practice – but, alas – it was too late.  I did it during the day and now I’m completely Zen-ed out.   It’s a good feeling, but I really just want to take a bath and go to be instead of getting on with the five million things I need to accomplish today!  Will most definitely do Yin in the evening from now on if my day allows for it.

I took Sookie for a 30 minute run before doing this DVD, which was great because this practice hones in on opening areas most runners need deep work on.

The Yin class is a slow, mellow practice with a focus on hip, hamstring and lower back opening.  Yin is difficult for me.  I’m a Type A  with a chatterbox monkey mind, so in many ways, Yin challenges me more than arm balances and rockin’ flows.  This is especially evident for me in seated forward folds like wide angle forward fold. 

In fact, fear kicked in during upavishta konasana   Fear is a crazy emotion to deal with in a yoga practice because it can really set you up for injury.  And since my fear was OF injury (I had “popped” some connective tissue in my left hip rotator and my hamstring insertion during this pose about three years ago) set in and I had to really focus on my breath to calm my mind.  I find ujayi breath to be extremely calming in scary yoga and life situations. 

I took full advantage of the longer savasana in this practice.  After I peeled myself off my mat, I sprayed my decade old Manduka mat down with a water/tea tree oili mixture to freshen her up a bit.

Will be doing my meditation this evening before bed.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 3 January 27, 2012

Day 3 January 27, 2012

Had to get up extra early for an airport drop off this morning.  Sookie (my beloved Boxer - see pic) didn't mind the schedule adjustment on her morning walk so we hit the chilly streets.  The darkness was a  reminder of those magical morning hours long before dawn.  I've got to get back into waking up earlier than early.

Woot Woot!  90 minutes and I’ve done HardCore, the Stength Class and ten minute gratitude meditation!

Time crunched today … so this will be short.

Very glad I did HardCORE before Strength.  Would have never happened the other way around.  This is quite the program for beginners.  I feel the need to repeat again to new yogis to not get discouraged.  I perform all sorts of fitness feats and the combo of these two DVD’s is beyond a killer workout.

My hip flexors, inner thighs and glutes were so worked from the previous days, I really just wanted to hold anjani asana (low lunge) for 90 minutes today, but I got through it.

The strength class is another tough flow of mostly standing poses with lots of yoga pushups and a side arm balance series thrown in.  I had my heater rockin’ today, but remembered something I learned in my Ashtanga studies … that heat lends itself more towards a flexibility practice, that it will zap your energy for strength.  And it did.  I kept it on, but made a mental note to just have the room at “room temp” next time.

Still thinking a lot about food during practice.  So funny!

But, today was all about salad dressings.  I am not really watching calories or fat … so if anyone has any good whole food salad dressing recipes – bring ‘em on. 

On my last visit to San Francisco I had the Dino Kale salad at The Plant Organic Café.  Kale, greens, red quinoa, avocado, almonds, cucumbers … and this amazing lemon cumin dressing!  I’m fixated.

Today’s Smoothie:
Makes 2 servings
2 cups water
1 lime 
½ Bag Trader Joes Organic Baby Spinach
1 Organic Romaine Heart
1 banana
¼ cup frozen pineapple
¼ cup frozen mango
3 tbsp Nutiva Hemp Protein
2 tbsp flax
Blend in Vitamix and enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 2 January 26, 2012

The Ultimate Yogi is fast medicine.

I had to resist jumping up from my practice to hit the keyboard to share all of my thoughts with you.

Yes, monkey mind and inner chatter were crazy active today – but, in a good way.

This morning, the effects of my first day were deliciously evident.  I pleaded with my husband to let me sleep awhile longer as my aching muscles felt so tremendously delish wrapped by my warm sheets.  He indulged me, but I was so anxious to hit the mat again that I just lay there awake - imaging today’s Cardio class.

I must admit, I had my doubts as to whether this DVD would actually get my heart rate up or make me sweat.  Lesson learned – do not second guess Travis.  He makes good on his promise. 

The Cardio DVD delivers a fast paced standing flow workout that consists of repeating several sets of varying “crescent” poses with lots of vinyasas in between.  Beginners should not let ego get in the way here – rest when needed.  More experienced yogis will enjoy the constant movement linked with breath and Travis’ guidance to find the subtleties within the speedy flow. 

I thought the sequence was coming to a close with the side angle series, but this was when I really started to burn and sweat.  Look forward to this glute sculpting set of alternating between side angle and reverse warrior.  Yowza!

You are rewarded with drowsy pigeon pose on both sides followed by plow and shoulder stand.

And then you twist.  And here is where the magic of yoga revealed itself to me.  As I took the second side, tears began to flow.  I was thinking about food – how my palette had begun to change a couple of weeks ago – way before I had even become conscious of The Ultimate Yogi Program.  And then, I started to think of my brother.

My brother Jesse loved food.  He loved to indulge in decadent meals at both fancy restaurants and divey diners.  Toward the end of his life, living in Santa Monica – he discovered vegan and vegetarian cuisine.  He would call me up to meet him at Vegan Thai food or the Farmer’s Market for Vegan Soul Food.  He had bought a hybrid car, started working out, was reading about Buddhism and was experimenting with becoming a more conscious human being in general. 

But, at his heart, he was a burger guy.  He loved a cheeseburger and fries.  After Jesse passed away, as a way of connecting with him –  this former vegan embraced a much more carnivorous way of life.  Finding a burger place became my way of connecting with him.   Every cheeseburger felt like I was sharing it with him.  But, he is gone.

And as his soul has had time to ascend, I feel his presence drifting further from me.  I know he will always be with me in my heart, but in order for his soul to progress – I also have to let him go.  And as time passes and I evolve and change, I feel myself going back to my true self.

My cravings have been for grains, fruits and veggies.  And thank goodness.  I was putting my health at risk with bad dietary habits that were an emotional reflex.

And so then I finished Day Two with a ten minute meditation.  I used the Gratitude Meditation.  Although my inner diaglog was quite loud, I was able to really hear and connect with Travis’ words. 

It’s funny – I had the Meditation DVD on in the background for segment timing yesterday while doing housework.  I didn’t LISTEN to it though.  However, I had this undeniable urge to clean out my closet last night.

After doing the meditation this morning I understand why.  Travis mentions clutter and cleaning it out.  He also talks about being grateful for your clothing and how there are so many out there who have so little. 

I will be making a trip to GoodWill this weekend.

This is super powerful stuff people.

Be prepared for change.

*Pic is of my smoothie today:
Makes 2 servings (Use organic if possible)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup water
2 dates
1 bag Trader Joes Organic baby spinach
1 small apple
1 banana
3 tbsp Nutiva Hemp Protein (The original one with tons of fiber)
2 tbsp organic golden flax seed
Place in Vitamix and Blend

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 1 January 25, 2012

I am going to be using this blog spot as ani informal, daily journal of my experience with The Ultimate Yogi program, as I do not feel a short review on OnMilwaukee.com will cover this experience.  I'll tweet daily links and post on The Ultimate Yogi Facebook page as much as possible.

If you are doing this program with me - please follow this blog spot and comment.

I received The Ultimate Yogi* DVD package today and immediately dove in to the 108 day yoga program touted as the P90x for yogis.

Even though I am a seasoned yogi, my personal practice has almost disappeared since the passing of my brother on September 20, 2010.  I am looking to the structure and discipline of the program to return me to my mat.

And I think I've come to the right place.  Created by Santa Monica, CA Yoga Teacher Travis Eliot, this comprehensive, intense program requires a daily commitment for up to 90 minutes.

The beautifully packaged set comes with a dozen DVD's, a calendar and a short movie/introduction to get you started.  The companion website and Facebook page provides additionally info and support, including a nutritional plan.

I watched the beautifully shot short film and intro with a dear friend of mine before I got my set and I must admit, we did chorkle a bit a the seriousness of it all.  Warning to non-yogis - do not be turned off by this film or the more advanced elements of yoga discussed in a very cinematic way.  This program is very ambitiously taking the whole picture of yoga - not just the physical practice of asana (poses) and making it accessible to the masses as a home program.  This is a very West Coast style yoga program - which I am very drawn to.  Travis reminds me of my first yoga teacher, Bryan Kest ... who came to me via his classic Power Yoga   VHS series.  (This is a total complement - I love me some Bryan Kest.)

So ... Day One.  The schedule calls for doing three sections - Cross Train, Hard Core and 10 minutes of Meditation.

The CrossTrain class is a flow class of about 45 minutes or so.  Beautifully sequenced and progressed, it's heavy on warriors and standing poses, but includes shoulder openers, hip openers, a short pranayama (breath) sequence and a nice finishing.  Slower paced than my usual Ashtanga practice, but refreshing because of the depth and detail I found from Travis' instruction.  The students in the video are of varying ages, but all have admirable physiques and practices that will inspire.  If you are a beginner, be patient - this will be a very challenging practice for you.  Be sure to watch the DVD at least once before attempting to DO it.  More advanced practitioners will enjoy finding the newness in familiar poses.  I WILL be sore from this and so will YOU!

The HardCORE class is about 15 minutes of yogic ab work.  Travis suggests different rep ranges depending on where you are in the program.  Not being able to moderate, I of course, did them all and HOLY WOW ... fABtastic exercises!  You will burn, burn, burn.  I must admit though, it was difficult for me to do this AFTER the Cross Train class.  I just wasn't motivate to work again after a savasana.  I will be doing this before the extended practice next time to fire up my core.

Finally, I was a bit confused on how to do the meditation.  Although I have a personal meditation practice, I wanted to use the video.  The video has pranayama/meditation combined.  I just started that section and set a timer for ten minutes which had me doing the pranayama for ten minutes.  I got through breath of fire and three cycles of the alternate nostril breathing.  I am going to try to watch this video in full before I do my next meditation to see what's up with this section.
Ok - after watching the video ... the meditation series starts after the pranayama, but there is no menu item to choose this, so you will have to fast forward past the breathing exercises to the meditation - which Travis explains is four parts: the gratitude meditation (about ten minutes,) the dedication meditation (about 3 minutes,) the affirmation meditation (3 minutes) and finally japa meditation for a total of twenty minutes.)  So, I guess you just do as much of it as prescribed each session.  Looks like you will have to extend it ten minutes as you get to the third part of the program.

All in all ... I feel great ... I'll let you know tomorrow where and how bad the soreness is.

I'll also try to include some of what I'm eating in this.  I already feel inspired to get my food more in check.  I feel like I've been on an eating holiday since Thanksgiving which has not stopped due to travel throughout December up until today.  So, time to get back on the wagon.  The Ultimate Yogi program seems to advocate a vegan lifestyle.  I'm definitely willing to add more meatless meals back into this former vegan's life.

I'm not trying to lose weight - but, if that's a side effect - cool.  I weighed myself this morning and I am 125 lbs and a very high 24% body fat for me - even though I still fit into all my clothing.
All that holiday fun caught up to me!

So far today ... I've had a vitamixed smoothie with unsweetened almond milk, spinach, banana, berries, flax and hemp protein.  Not usual for me - but, I'm just not that hungry today.  Lots of unpacking and paperwork to catch up on ...

I will also post if I do other forms of exercise as well.  This happens because I am constantly trying new programs for review on OnMilwaukee.com and have a big Boxer who needs to get outside!

Anyhoo ... this has become longer than I intended ... most posts will be more brief - I promise!

*I was provided a complimentary copy of The Ultimate Yogi at my request for review on OnMilwaukee.com.