Monday, 30 April 2012

Travelling and Iyengar Yoga

Today I leave on a two week tour of Turkey.  It’s going to be a long day with three flights.  The longest flight will be Toronto to Munich at 8 hours.  I rarely sleep on a plane which is a curse and a blessing.  The curse is if I could sleep I would be there sooner.  The blessing is I keep moving whether I am wiggling in my seat or standing up in the aisle on a regular basis to stretch.  This is a great opportunity to practice a little Iyengar Yoga.  I like to work my shoulders and hips so I don’t cramp up.  Once I am able to stand up in the aisle, I just take a few moments and stand in Tadasana (mountain pose).  For those of you who do not practice yoga, It kind of looks like standing at attention.  Basically it is giving me the opportunity to line up all of my body parts.  I still need to remind myself to place my hips in the correct position (front of pelvic floor slightly turned up).  Once that is done, my legs now will roll into place and my shoulders will go back.  If I get it just right, I get the sensation of weightlessness.  It’s nice if you can find an open spot at the back of the plane (usually a galley or WC).  My “go to” pose is Uttanasana (standing forward bend).  My hands now reach the floor so I do not need to find any supports.  Stand up straight, open the front of the hips as best as possible by slightly leaning back, hinge from the hips and gently bend forward keeping my back straight until my hands reach the floor.  I like to press into the floor and work my muscles down from the hips into the calves. My neck is relaxed.  Coming up, hands on hips and use glutes to pull body upright.  The shoulder stretches I do are Urdhva Hastasana (upward salute) and the arm posistion for Garudasana (eagle).  I have never had a flight attendant ask me what I was doing.  I do get the occasional nod of approval.  Some of my fellow passengers may think I’m nuts but I don’t worry about them.  I rarely get leg cramps or stiff muscles since I started Iyengar Yoga.  Ten minutes of simple yoga poses a day can work wonders.  I am back mid-May and will let you know about some of my adventures.  One of them, weather willing, will be a balloon ride over Cappadocia.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The “Diet” in Diet and Exercise

We all know to lose excess weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, we need to have the proper diet and exercise. The exercise part was easy for me starting with Iyengar Yoga.  I have since chosen some additional activities I wanted to do and committed to them.  The diet part was much harder.  I have battled with my weight all my life and have tried just about everything within reason.  Nothing ever had long term results.  I was one of those people that would buy any magazine that had a feature story on the latest diet where people claimed their  “weight just started falling off”.  Who were these people?  Well, one day I read an article on a low carb diet developed by a doctor in France.  It was all the rage in Europe.  I knew I was sensitive to carbs bigtime so I thought I would give this one a try. It worked so I got the book as soon as it was available on Amazon.   This was the Dukan Diet.  I found it super easy to stay on and the longer I was on it, the less I craved sugar and starch.  My excess weight has been steadily dropping off for nearly a year now.  Low carb diets are not for everyone.  Usually good for those of us prone to putting our fat on our bellies.   I truly believe there is no one meal plan that fits everybody.  I had to try several before I found the right fit.  Whatever options you look at, just make sure you get a healthy mix of foods that will give your body what it needs.

Monday, 23 April 2012

How I Started Iyengar Yoga

Did you ever feel like you were a contestant on the first week of a weight loss reality show? Yeah, that was me January of 2008.  I was 55 years old and had made the decision to retire from my travel agent job.  I had never taken a break from my career and it showed.  I was dealing with obesity and needed to find my path to healthy, reliable weight loss .  I started looking over my options on where to start.  I had studied yoga when I was in my 20s and had always wanted to go back to that.  My neighbour was a member of the Reh-Fit Centre in Winnipeg MB Canada so I asked if she could pick up a program guide for me.  There were several options on yoga but what caught my eye was the Iyengar Yoga.  I asked a friend who practiced yoga what she knew about Iyengar Yoga. She said it would be a great place for me to start as the focus is on alignment and students use props.  I went to a “try me” class and decided to follow through with it.  This was my start to becoming a student of   Iyengar Yoga.

I want to repeat, I am a student of Iyengar Yoga, not a teacher.  The focus of my blog is my journey using the Iyengar method and yoga in general to help me lose weight, improve my flexibility, gain strength, and improve my overall health.  Since I started my practice I have lost 90 pounds.  I can comfortably walk long distances and have taken up other fitness practices such as Zumba, Indo-Row, T’ai Chi, and Qigong.  My breathing has vastly improved and my heart no longer pounds when I exert myself in whatever activity I am doing.  Thanks to Iyengar Yoga my sad knees are much better and I think I have started to loosen up my very tight quads.  This  has been a process.  Sometimes my body reacts quickly and sometimes I know I’m on the 20 year plan.

Let me quickly tell you who developed Iyengar Yoga.  The method of teaching was developed by BKS Iyengar who resides in Pune India.  Mr. Iyengar was born in 1918 and was a sickly child fighting serious illnesses such as malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid and malnutrition.  At the age of 15 he was invited to live with his older sister and her husband who ran a yoga school.  This is where Mr.Iyengar learned some basics on yoga poses (asanas).  He moved to Pune in 1937 and started the hard, long road to teaching yoga. If you want to read more on BKS Iyengar, please click on biography bar on the right column.

So, the beginning of my journey with Iyengar Yoga started on a cold Sunday afternoon in January 2008. Walking into my first class I felt quite intimidated.  I started to relax fairly quickly when I realized there were no yoga “pretzels” in our class.  Everyone was sort of like me.  They too were looking for a way to improve their health.   Our first pose was sitting cross-legged on the floor.  We could sit at any height we required using foam blocks, blankets or even a chair.  It felt like an accomplishment to be able to sit on the floor at the height of two foam blocks. Iyengar Yoga teaches us our knees should not be higher than our hips.   I have since graduated to two folded blankets.  I can actually sit on the floor but the blankets are nice and comfy.  I will tell you my experiences with the use of props in poses in future posts.
Yoga is a 5000 year old practice created in India and is believed to be the path to enlightenment.  What many of us see as exercises (the poses) are what yogis use to prepare their bodies for the arduous task of deep meditation.  Studying the poses is to be done without ego.  In other words, do what your body says you can, not what your head says you used to be able to do.  I have learned from sad experience (strained hamstring) that forcing any physical activity will result in injury.  Respect your limitations.  This will change in time if you patiently and regularly work at your Iyengar Yoga practice.

In this blog, over time, I hope to give you my progress in Iyengar Yoga.  Also, I’ll let you know what other stuff I am trying and maybe reports on some of my travels.  Some of you may even take this journey with me with whatever combination of diet and exercise you choose.  We all need inspiration and support so lets make it a team effort.