Ballet-asana…

Pink-canvas-split-sole

What’s my summer fitness project this year? (FYI, last year I tasked myself to get conditioned on the bicycle so as not to die every time I went on a “fun and breezy” bike ride with G. I have yet to take my bike out for longer than a 5 km ride this year, BAHAHAHA.)

Ballet! Hey, why not? I have 4 years of experience over 30 years ago, and I’m relatively flexible, thanks to yoga, right?

Um, no. Wrong-o.

Well, let’s just say that the first week was humbling, to say the least. I very quickly had to learn how to undo everything my body felt natural doing in order to hold a proper ballet standing posture and stand in one spot (first position). My “flexible (lower) back” was causing me to arch too much, preventing me from standing up straighter and taller.

Damn all those years of hip-hop booty popping and stiletto high heel wearing!

In order help us learn how to pull our lower backs in and draw our tailbones down, our teacher gave us a visualization: pretend you are holding a loonie (or toonie, depending on how much money you need to save up to register for the full ballet program in the fall) in between our butt cheeks and squeeze, squeeze, SQUEEZE!!!

In addition to the toonie squeezing, there are just a few other things to remember while standing in first position (and yes, this is only the first position!): feet at a 45 degree angle, inner thighs pulling outward, knees pulled in, quads tight, ribs down, collarbone wide, shoulders back, chin lifted (pretend you are looking up at your audience on the first balcony), corners of our mouths turned up and eyebrows lifted. (She calls these our “Bogosian” eyebrows, for the Jets fans out there.) We have to remember all of that on top of the actual exercises she’s teaching us at the barre – exercises with French names. Mais oui, mon chérie!

After a few classes, I found it a bit difficult to remember all of this plus the exercises we’d been taught from class to class, and really started to feel down on myself about my stubborn arching back and tailbone. I thought, maybe my body just isn’t built for ballet? Then started to ponder other dance forms I could pursue in future summer sessions…

But then I took a step back and remembered that I didn’t wait all these years to sign up for this intro class just to give up after the second week! I remembered how proud I was of everything I’d accomplished over the years in my yoga practice (physically, mentally, and emotionally), and that I didn’t learn any of it overnight. I pulled my boot straps up split sole shoes on and was determined to work harder on my posture, review the French terms, and do some of the exercises our teacher encouraged us to practice at home.

Once my next class started, I was more able to find my posture quicker (and get as straight as I could!), squeezed the F out of that toonie, and got through the class with more mental ease. I was finally starting to really enjoy it, feeling the difference in my body after just a couple of weeks, and started to get excited about how much more I’ll learn before the end of this session.

Bring on even more graceful, good times!

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Illuminighting Celebrations

The hubz and I ventured south a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our 1-year wedding anniversary in the sprawling town of Fargo, ND. We booked 2 nights at the Hotel Donaldson, aka the HoDo, a boutique hotel downtown with pieces from local artists in every room. HALLO.

HALLO #2: JL Beers. 32 different kinds of beer on tap? Hubz said he was never leaving. And I got the best t-shirt out of it, to boot!

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HALLO #3 (& the reason why this qualifies for a post on my fun fitness blog): a 5 km night time run! Illuminight 5K Fargo was taking place the first night we were there, so of course we had to participact. …even after having just consumed some yummy beer, burgers and loaded fries at JL. What happened now? What, who got her best time ever for a 5 km?! THIS GIRL. I’d say it was all the calories I had just consumed, but it really was the motivation of running with chasing the hubz along the race route! It wasn’t a “serious” (i.e., timed) race, but extrovert Karen revelled in the energy of the whole thing. I felt like I flew through the whole thing! (Which is much better feeling than when I started, thinking I was going to barf my dinner up. Classy, I know.) What a delight it was to see our fellow runners glowing in the dark, wearing glow bracelets and necklaces, and bouncing to the fun music they had playing along the route. There was even a music tent to run through in the park, with flashing lights and a sound system playing bumping tunes. While running through it on our way back, I swear I heard the women who registered us yelling out “Go, Canada!.”

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Good. Times.

Rad!

One fun way I like to stay active and enjoy the summer is to run! And by “run”, I mean move my body in a manner that makes you think I am running, but am actually moving at a speed slower than when I walk (pro athlete, I am not). But it’s a quick and fun way to get my move on!

Early this year my bff told me about a new race that was coming to Winnipeg in July: Color Me Rad! Inspired by the Hindu festival of Holi, where participants celebrate the beginning of spring by throwing coloured powder at each other, Color Me Rad is a 5 km race where runners get dyed cornstarch flung at them every kilometre, ending in a big colourful cloud!

It was definitely the best race I’d run to date. Check out all the fun (and yes, our shirts were white when we started):

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 Passing through the 3 km colour station.
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Fierce.

CMR5Feeling pumped post-race!

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My requisite half moon pose, bound for good measure.

See you next year!

Gotta be me.

While I’m incorporating more of different types of activities in to my healthy living repertoire, my foundation will continue to be yoga (for liiiiiife, yo!). Over the past few months, I’ve been able to enjoy running and biking outside more, which are perfect for enjoying our short summers. Being able to ride with the hubz to Cramptons and also to work are more fun, which was quite a hump for me to overcome. Returning to boot camp helped me get back to where I want to be, fitness-ly. Running more led to doing my first race with my bff, and it was so fun!

However, yoga, to me, is just like home. Unrolling my mat, turning inward, and connecting my movement to my breath just feels so natural to me. When I have lapses in my regular practice, things just don’t feel right. It’s changed me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve grown so much since I’ve found my yoga, and I look forward to experiencing continual growth, inside & out.

I am amazed & inspired by what my friends & family do, whether it’s biking to work every day, running races, playing soccer, lifting at the gym, or smashing it up on the squash court. However, I am so glad that I’ve found my own bliss in yoga.

Who’d a Thunk…?

…that I’d need to bring my drishti to spin class?

Ok, here it is: I suck on the bike. Sure, I know how to ride a bike and all, but the notion of riding for more than 15 minutes or further than a few kilometres causes a big mental wall to go up. I’m not sure why, but if I do attempt a long-ish ride, my mind tells me no. If I’m able to drag myself on to my bike, while I’m riding, my head is telling me how much it hates biking and my legs scream at me to stop. However, there’s another part of me that really loves it. I enjoy being outside, feeling the warmth of the sun shining, the light breeze and riding with G. The physical exertion and having a destination in mind, especially if it’s to Cramptons or to one of our fave breakfast spots, make me revel in the ride. It’s these positive things that make me realize I don’t really hate it. What I want to do is work on the part of me that thinks I hate it, so I can overcome those negative thoughts and enjoy riding my bike a heck of a lot more than I have in the past.

To help bring myself down that path, I’ve challenged myself to start taking spin classes. Sure, I could have just started riding my bike more (duh), but at the gym, I won’t have to contend with hills, traffic, or pressures to keep up if I ride with someone else. I also hope to translate the challenges we face in class in to more strength and ease when I ride outside. Plus it’s led by one of my fave instructors, who makes me feel oh-so-powerful in her boot camp classes. The first time I went, I decided to go easy to avoid killing myself and end up resenting the class (and not want to go back.) The second time I pushed myself, and it ended up being the biggest mental struggle I’ve ever had to face. Even bigger than when I started to run, including the first 5K race I ran 6 years ago with very little training. There were actual tears mixed in with the sweat on my face. Ok, so I tend to be a crybaby, and my eyes leak freely in both happy and sad times, but these were definitely because I found it that difficult. Hoping that was the worst of it, I woke up early again this morning for my third go at it.

It was challenging, and no easier than last week. However, it was my drishti that got me through it with less difficulty (i.e., inner struggles).

Now wtf is drishti? Simply put, it’s the technique of using a specific gazing direction for the eyes to focus attention. In meditation, you gaze with the third eye and look inward. While practicing physical asanas, you use your drishti to find your focus and live in the moment. In balancing poses, you find your drishti to stablize and ground yourself.

In spin class, I used my drishti to focus on each moment, to work through the 30 second sprints and hill climbs, and avoid thinking about recovery (break) time. I used my drishti to calm my (screaming!) mind and cultivate my innner strength. I used my drishti to focus on the part of me that could do it. And I did it! With no tears! (But probably just as much sweat. Yucks.) So yes, I’ll go back. With towel, drishti, and open heart in tow.