VC Day 18: We Have Lift-Off!!!

Today was my first day back in class since seminar with Joseph on Sunday. The first class back after a seminar like that is always interesting because I’m working on applying the things that really stuck with me.

First – triangle. I did get my chin to my shoulder every time in every set. Of course I probably looked a little funny in class doing it. I had to set myself up and get my chin to my shoulder and then move into the posture. I think it was a lack of confidence but also I’m new to thinking about how I set up my arms and shoulder going into triangle. I really needed to take a second and be thoughtful about it before I launched into the posture. I’ll get the hang of it in another class or two.

But the real big news come from floor bow. I have made it my mission to really work on getting a better floor bow for my second competition. Back in November, I could barely get my legs to go up off the floor and my hips were all out of alignment. I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but when I visited Bikram Yoga San Diego back in November, I got the wonderful Jim Kallett to give me some drills to help with my floor bow. What makes Jim even more wonderful is that he has never met me, and yet he still helped me.

I had communicated with Jim over email about his rates before I arrived. However, I never got to meet him when I was in town. I don’t even know if he was in town when I was. He’s a busy man.

Afterwards I followed up with him about my experiences at his studio (such a fantastic studio!!!) and asked for his help with floor bow. I gave him a general description of my problem and what I wanted to work on. He was kind enough to send me some drills. They were serious drills too. I had to build up stamina over a period of several weeks just to be able to do them all, and I did them at least five days a week. I was sore most of the time for a long time.

I’m not going to share the drills so don’t ask. That’s because Jim didn’t intend for them to be shared with anyone who reads this blog. They were intended for me to address my concerns. I don’t want anyone doing something that they shouldn’t be doing or making a mistake and getting hurt because of something I said.

But back to today…When we got to floor bow I remembered something Joseph had said about paying attention to my grip. I’m not going to remember his words well (sorry – I got the concept down which is what I was going for). The point was that sometimes our grip in bow is too tight and this can actually limit how high up we get our legs.

In first set I fumbled around with my grip and looked like a diaster trying to apply what he had said. I wasn’t even sure my grip was a problem, but I wanted to focus my attention on it.

Then, in second set, I nailed it – so to speak. I got the grip just right and bam! My legs came right off the floor. We have lift off! For the first time ever my thighs were off the floor. I was speechless. It also felt effortless. Usually I can get worn out in bow, but today, in second set, I felt like I could hold it forever.

Day 18

Today we had vegan risotto for dinner. Mark made it, and I don’t have the recipe. Vegan risotto is not hard to make. Don’t put in any butter or cheese. There, it’s done. Risotto is not hard. For some reason, there is the perception that it is hard to make, but I’ve never had that problem. Risotto takes a lot of time, and it always will.

Mark made a very lemony risotto, and the entire house smelled like lemons. At the very end he stired in arugula. I thought that would be strange (wilted, warm arugula? No Thanks!), but it turned out to be delicious.

Vegan risotto with walnuts

Vegan risotto with walnuts

I did notice that the butter and cheese were missing. I usually make the risotto, and I usually put in a lot of butter and cheese (because it’s yummy!). When it’s left out, you notice, but not in a bad way. Risotto is a heavy dish no matter how you slice it, but it was a lot less rich – and still plenty flavorful – without the butter and cheese.

That aside, today I decided to be pro-active about a lunch I will be at on Friday. It’s an all day event, and lunch is provided. I go to these things a couple of times a semester, and they are very good about accomodating vegetarians and vegans. But, here’s the thing, I don’t always like what I end up getting but I feel like I have to eat it anyways because: (a) someone went out of their way to make sure I got it and (b) I don’t want to starve.

This time I emailed the organizer, explained I was doing a vegan challenge, and said I thought it would be easier if I just brought my own lunch so don’t worry about me! I also know I am going to 4:30 Bikram on Friday. If my lunch is screwy then that could play out poorly in the hot room. I didn’t get a response back, but I didn’t expect one. I’m sure it’s a non-issue, but I will pay attention to what’s being served on Friday and see what I would have thought about eating it!

VC Day 17: Vegan Bingo

I’m feeling a bit drowsy today,  but it could be because Joseph kicked my behind yesterday. It could also be that it’s raining outside, and I haven’t been moving around a lot.

I woke up today so very sore from my work with Joseph on Sunday. I actually got sorer as the day went on. How is that even possible? I didn’t know that could happen! My arms hurt so much. I don’t know if I mentioned this yesterday, but we spent almost four hours in seminar with Joseph. He told us it took two hours and 45 minutes to get through the standing series. No wonder I hurt. To top it off, I don’t go to class on Mondays right now so I couldn’t get in the hot room and work it out.

But don’t let this freak you out and steer you away from taking a seminar with Joseph! The way he does it is he has us do the first set. Then we sit down for a tip. He talks about the postures, things he noticed during the first set, and you get to ask questions. Then you do second set and then roll into the first set of the next posture. You drink water whenever you want it and leave the room if you need to. He also requests that the room be slightly cooler than normal. So while I did sweat, it was not the same as a normal class. I brought about 60 ounces of water with me and drank maybe 40 over the course of the class. I still had some when I got home. His seminars are a perfect balance of seriousness and laid-backness. You just have to experience it.

Day 17!

For Day 17 I started off with my normal cucumber/lemon/ginger/kale juice, but for lunch I had something different. The studio owner let me borrow her Engine 2 diet/cookbook. She gave it to me because she knew I was in the market for a good vegan mac and cheese, and it has a recipe. I haven’t made it yet. However, today I made a sandwich based off of a recipe in it.

I got some whole wheat sourdough bread. Now, the book recommends using whole grain bread which is different from whole wheat. However, this was the best I could do. Whole Foods was pretty much sold out of everything when I got there for bread. Ok – so that’s a good little diet lesson. Make the best of the situation. I’m not going on a mad hunt for bread after a four hour seminar with Joseph.

So, I got the bread and toasted it. I put some red pepper hummus on it (it was already in my fridge), sliced cucumbers, tomotaoes, and lettuce. For the tomatoes, I used a can of Rotel. Let me tell you why: Unless that tomato came from my own garden I am too lazy to care about buying one from the store and slicing it. Plus, it is yummy stuff.

My yummy new sandwich

My yummy new sandwich

It was so delicious and a nice break from having a vegan grilled cheeze.

For dinner, I had take-out. I taught an evening class and stopped off on my way in to get some food. Instead of my normal salad, I stopped by Saladelia. I quickly became overwhelmed.

See, Saladelia is a place where you walk up to the counter and either order off a menu (like Panera) or you can select pre-made items from a glass case. I knew I wanted to get the vegetarian platter which is three items from the case, but of course I needed to make it vegan. This took some work, but with some excellent assistance I got it figured out. Luckily, they have a menu that groups things in terms of vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. However, not everything on the list is necessarily in the case on a given day. So I had to find something on the list that sounded good and see if I could make a match in the case. It was like a weird game of vegan bingo.

Eventually I landed on hummus, pita bread (which we confirmed was vegan), tabouli, and a black bean salad.

Take out!

Take out!

But, I should also tell you that I hauled in all my left overs from the dessert party to give to my students, and I also ate some non-vegan truffles. The cake (the smaller version of it) also made another appearance:

Rainbow Cake Part 2

Rainbow Cake Part 2

This time I remembered to take a picture of the inside. Pretty, huh?

 

VC Day 16: Joseph Tackles My Triangle Issues & There is Cake

Wow! I’ve been busy since Thursday. I had a dessert party to give, AND I got to take a seminar with my yoga boyfriend, Joseph Encinia. The last few days of the vegan challenge have been easy. I really do feel like I crossed over a major hump back when I cried over a pot of beans and rice. I’m feeling fantastic. I have a lot of energy, and I’ve been sleeping better the last few nights. I had a great class on Friday and an awesome time with Joseph today.

But, let me be honest, I have not adhered 100% to my vegan challenge. Well, if you read my post on accidental bacon (where I was crying over the beans and rice) then you know this. But eating bacon and blue cheese 10 days into the challenge was never planned. However, my party WAS planned. Every year I have a dessert party the Saturday before Valentine’s Day. This was either the 6th or 7th year. We cannot remember when it started. I think that just gives it some extra charm.

So, none of the desserts at my party were vegan. Once I committed to the vegan challenge I was faced with a few choices:

(a) revise my desserts to make some of them vegan OR find totally new ones that were vegan: Nope. Didn’t happen. I literally spend an entire year planning this party. I decided I was not willing to scrap the desserts and start over at almost the last minute. While I did have about two months to resituate, two months it kinda the last minute when you started planning ten months earlier.

(b) don’t eat the desserts: Nope. Didn’t happen. I didn’t go all out crazy or anything, but I did have a piece of rainbow sprinkle cake. The making of this cake was a bit labor intensive. I chose to make it about two weeks in advance and freeze it. I really wanted to taste it because: (a) it looked awesome when it was finished and (b) I wanted to see how my defrosting cake skills were (they are excellent).

Rainbow Sprinkle Caje surrounded by Cookie Dough Truffles

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake surrounded by Cookie Dough Truffles

My only regret is that I did not think to take a picture after the cake was cut open. That cake had six layers, and each layer was a different color of the rainbow. It was very pretty. The entire cake was gone at the end of the night.

So yes, I had some cake (and maybe popped a few truffles yesterday, today, and really every day since I made them on Thursday). I’m ok with that. My meals were still vegan, but they were nothing new. We simply lived on leftovers. The black bean soup I made a few days ago reheats beautifully if you’re interested.

Sunday with Joseph

Today I got my behind out of bed and spent many wonderful hours with my yoga boyfriend, Joseph Encinia. I love him. I’ve decided that what I love is that he’s very serious about his practice, but he communicates with us in a very loving way. He also has a terrific sense of humor. The first time I had a seminar with him I was a bit nervous about asking questions. I did ask them, but I was nervous.

Let me tell you, there is no reason to be nervous with Joseph. He gives very good feedback and answers your questions directly and clearly. Today, he helped me with many things, but the number one thing that sticks in my head is the feedback I got on triangle.

Now, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know I hate triangle. Hate it, hate it, hate it. But damn it if I didn’t have a question for Joseph about it. My question was this: I cannot figure out how to get my chin to touch my shoulder in triangle. What do I need to do to make that happen?

Joseph had me (while sitting down!) stretch my arms out like I was setting up for triangle. He noticed that the problem was in my shoulders. I can’t remember how he explained it, but I understand what to do with my shoulders to correct the problem so I’m happy about that. He had me set up my arms correctly (I’m still sitting down), and then turn and touch my chin to my shoulder. I did it! He said, “See, you can do it.” Then he told me to move my arms like I would in triangle.

Now, at this point I am sitting cross-legged on my mat. My arms are stretched out, and my chin is touching my right shoulder. The proper way to move next would be to raise my right arm up in the air. Did I do that? No. Maybe I was confused because I was sitting down. I don’t know. All I know is I tilted my right arm down and my left arm up and my chin was on my right shoulder so now I’m looking at the floor when I should be looking at the ceiling. Try it. It’s all wrong. And even better – I couldn’t understand why everyone was telling me to go back the other way. I knew something didn’t feel right. I just couldn’t figure it out.

I eventually figure it out and moved my arms so everything was pointing in the right direction. Then we stood up to do our second set, and I proceded to do the same thing again but now while standing. The owner of my studio was behind me. I heard her go, “Leigh! Other way!” Whoops!

So now we know that I have a dsylexic triangle. But I also understand how to get my chin and shoulder to touch. All I have to do is turn my arms in the right direction, and I’m basically good. Really, if that’s my only issue then things are looking up in triangle!

 

VC Day 13: I’m a Salsa Fresh Girl

Ok – When I started my vegan challenge I made the decision to avoid Salsa Fresh after advanced class on Thursdays.  However, today I realized I love it soooo much. While Neomonde (the restaurant on the other side of the studio) is fabulous, after advanced I really just want my Salsa Fresh. I’m a Salsa Fresh Girl on Thursday afternoons. I’m just gonna own it and make it work.

Bascially, everything at Salsa Fresh has meat or cheese in it or both, but I thought, hey, I come in there all the time. I know a couple of the guys pretty well now. I bet I can get them to make me a quesadilla with no cheese (yes, I know the strangeness of this).

So today I went in with my special request and saw someone I did not know working the front. Dang it! Well, I decided to ask anyways. Have you ever gone to a Mexican restaurant and order a quesadilla and asked them to leave off the cheese? It causes confusion which it totally understandable. I ordered the vegetarian quesadilla with no cheese. It did not have mushrooms on it (hooray!). The menu said it was peppers, onions, and black beans.

In reality I got peppers, onions, and no beans. I will ask about the beans next week as I would enjoy them. They did leave the cheese off. I had a fine time dining there. This can work. And of course the best part was that I didn’t feel all full and bloated like I normally would after eating a cheese quesadilla. I can’t say I’ll never have the cheese quesadilla again, but I do think after the challenge I will have it less.

Moving on – I have a BIG yoga weekend coming up. Guess who’s coming to town? My yoga boyfriend, that’s who! He’s at a local studio Saturday and Sunday. I cannot spend Saturday with him as I am hosting my annual Valentine’s dessert (non-vegan) party that day. I will get to take class with him on Sunday. I cannot wait.

Given all the baking that this party entails, I’ve decided to check out of blogging until Sunday night. I’ll catch y’all up on things and share about my day with Joseph.  The party, as noted, is non-vegan. I have this party every year the weekend before Valentine’s Day. As soon as this party ends I start planning for the next one. So this year’s party was in the works well before I was even thinking about vegan anything. I left it as is. However, I am not sure how much of the sweet stuff I will actually eat. By the time Saturday night rolls around I may be tired of this stuff and not feel like eating it. Well, not much anyways.

So have a great few days and some great Bikram classes between now and then. I’m hitting up class Friday and then Sunday with Joseph. I think two doctoral students from the program I work in at UNC are joining me Friday. They said so. I said I’d pay their intro week. We’ll see. 🙂

My Birkam classes are still kind of crappy. It’s not yoga hole crappy. It’s a whole different kind of crappy that I suspect is due to my diet change. I feel physically better in class the last few days than I did for the first seven of so, but my postures are not always their best. I dunno. I did have an excellent lifting lotus in advanced today. I am still crashing back to the ground, but I am not yet ready to be concerned about my exit. I can get up on my fingertips, get some good height, and hold for a five count before I fall down on my butt. That’s nice. 🙂

Joseph’s Tip #10: Coaching

Here we are at Joseph’s 10th, and final, tip for competitors. I am sure he has many more than just these 10 of course! Thanks, Joseph, for sharing them.

Make sure you have somebody coaching you.

Ok – this seems like a no-brainer, but let’s break it down a bit.

I agree with the tip, but how does any and everybody go about getting a coach? What makes someone a coach? I don’t think that all studio owners and teachers would see themselves as coaches even if they participate in competitions and/or are able to teach the advanced class.  I’m wondering how many people out there find themselves in a position where they have no access to a coach. What should these people do?

Obviously you can compete even if you don’t have a coach, but you can’t compete if you don’t have access to the advanced postures. You could of course, but how well would it go? Not that well. You’re not going to go beyond a regional and do well. So you have to live somewhere where you can learn postures beyond the basic 26 in the beginning series if you want to do well at competition. Then, you need someone who can help you figure out what to do for training in between classes so you can get stronger and more flexible.

I think at the moment some places in the country are stronger than others in terms of preparing people for competition. I would assume that over time this might change a bit, but there will always be places that have greater resources than others.

Do you have a coach? How does your coach help you? If you do not, how do you prepare for competition?

Joseph’s Tip #9: Mix it Up!

Tip #9 is great advice in general:

Do one other optional physical activity a week so as not to burn out while training for the championships.

This tip pretty much speaks for itself, but let’s break it down a bit.

First, one other physical activity – whatever you want – is going to help mentally. We all need a mental break from training. My preference is to take a long walk. When the temperature is above 70, I am very good at this. In fact, I often pepper short walks in throughout my day. In the summer, I will often take class in the morning and do a walk in the evening. It helps me relax and unwind. I know that’s what the yoga is supposed to do, and it does, but walking does it in a different way. I just have to walk. I don’t worry about tripping or falling down or how long I walked. I just walk. No pressure.

Second, another physical activity will get you different muscles or using the same muscles but in a new way. That’s going to make your practice stronger.

Physical activity aside, the general point about burning out is very important. I started training last June for a regional championship that was held the first weekend in November. By October (maybe September) I was getting burned out. I was mentally exhausted. My body was starting to break down, and I only took class and trained five days a week from September until the competition (work stuff, you know how that goes).

When the competition was over I immediately got sick. And I mean immediately – I started going downhill at dinner that night. I felt relatively good about three days later, but I did no training for the month of November and only went to class. It was worth it. I needed a break. All of me needed a break. The whole thing was super intense.

So, while I do agree with Joseph’s 9th tip, I also think we have to be mindful of how far we are pushing ourselves. I’m paying attention to when my body asks for mini-breaks and plan to work those in at some point. It hasn’t come up yet. I’m still doing fine although on Thursday I honored my body’s request for a two-hour nap after class and training. It was AWESOME. I felt so much better.

Anyways, this tip has me thinking about ways to alleviate burn out. What do you do? What have been your experiences with burn out while training or just practicing in general?

Joseph’s Tip #8: It’s the Little Things

We’re at tip #8 today:

Watch videos of your favorite champions for the past years & study their transitions

What I like about this tip is, for me, it is a reminder of how important it is to pay attention to the little things. In this case, transitions. I think of transitions in two ways. First, how a person moves between postures. Second, how a person moves within a posture.

The between postures transition is obvious. How do you get from standing head to knee to standing bow? Or, how do you get from standing bow to floor bow? You want it to look clean, smooth, and easy but with as few movements as possible. Not always as simple as it sounds. I think it requires a lot of focus and concentration. I think it’s easy not to think about how we transition between postures, and yet it’s the routine as a whole (and not just the postures themselves) that is important.

The second way I look at it is how I move within a posture. For example, in standing head to knee, after I get hold of my foot, what happens next? How do I move from point A to B and then to C? I don’t just slam my head on my knee, there are all these little steps in between, and I see those as transitions too.

Watching videos of champions, I would look at how they move within and across postures to get little tips on how to improve. Like anything else, you could probably make a list of all the ways you could improve your routine, but try not to get overwhelmed. For me, it’s about finding 1-2 ways I could improve my transitions. If I try to take on more than that at once, I can’t keep it straight in my head, and I will lose focus when I try to put it into practice.

How do you work on improving your transitions?

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