Yoga on the Cheap

Summer is in full swing and it’s been tough keeping up my regularly scheduled fitness. Between work, travel and occupying a constantly bored teen, my yoga practice has been slippin’. It’s difficult to make my favorite class on Saturdays and I can’t rationalize shelling out cash for drop-ins at local studios. I’m forced to get creative.

Enter: my quest for free yoga on YouTube.

I have been mining YouTube for fitness gems for years. DVDs get repetitive and I prefer to mix up workouts. YouTube is perfect for this. Here are some of my favorites for an inexpensive yoga fix:

Yoga with Adriene: She’s a good mix of crunchy but not too granola. Whether aim to feel energized, relieve stress, or focus on specific parts of the body, beginning and advanced yogis have many options with Adriene.

 

Tara Stiles: Tara Stiles is pretty amazing to watch. She’s tall, thin and ultra flexible — but don’t be intimidated. She has a lot of short videos for varying levels. She’s my go-to if I only have time for a 10 minute routine in the morning or before bed. She moves quickly so having some yoga knowledge under your belt helps.

Shiva Rea: These videos aren’t the highest quality but they get the job done. I like the Shiva Rea approach; it’s challenging, a little intense and well paced. She makes me feel all spiritual and s**t.

Yoga House: If you want to learn or perfect specific poses, check out Yoga House. They have a variety of short videos showing you how to get in and out out of various asanas. The video quality is good, just ignore the random passersby in the background.

 

Last but not least, my favorite cheap yoga find is at Lululemon. They offer complimentary community classes on most Sunday mornings before they open for business. It may seem odd to practice in a retail space but it’s surprisingly serene. Classes are led by different local teachers each week. It’s a great way to check out new instructors without paying for a class. I follow Lululemon on Facebook to keep track of weekly in-store events.

Also, free classes take the sting out of buying $100 yoga pants.

Namaste.

 

 

How Joy Got Her Groove Back

 

We’re half way through the year and I have to admit, it’s been a doozie.

I came down with pneumonia in February and was hospitalized for seven days. Yes, SEVEN days for what I thought was just a bad case of the flu. When the ER doctor came in and told me I had pneumonia, I looked at him in disbelief and said, “Just a little bit of pneumonia, right?”

Nope.

It was a large mass in my lung. I was admitted, put on a ton of antibiotics and waited days for the fever to break. It turned into, what I assume in my limited knowledge, the full pneumonia experience. I lost 12 pounds in 6 days. It took weeks to gain any semblance of energy.

But this post isn’t to dwell on that low period of sickness. It’s to talk about how I got back up. I was scared to work out. I didn’t want to push my body too quickly, relapse, and end up back in the dreaded hospital.

Fast forward to June. I’m feeling back to normal and giving props to Zumba.

I am a self-proclaimed gym-class snob but I found a couple of talented Zumba teachers at my local gym. They put together a fun, fast-paced, total-body-workout that I’ve been practicing about 4 times a week. (sidenote: I was so excited to take my teenage daughter with me but after a few classes, she’s still not a fan.)

Zumba is practiced worldwide and got it’s start in Colombia in the 90s. A typical class is a series of choreographed dance routines set to a variety of music, usually with Latin movements and rhythms. The classes I enjoy are an energetic mix of hip hop, salsa, booty shaking, and a high intensity cardio workout set to a variety of music. It’s basically a dance class, which is why I love it.

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I feel like it’s gotten me back into shape faster than my usual workout routine. I have gained back most of the weight that I lost (bummer) but most of the loss was muscle anyway (double bummer) so c’est la vie.

I do have to be careful and find ways to modify around the fast movements and jumping during a typical class. I used to think I couldn’t take the class at all because it’d be too hard on my injury. I’ve found ways to change up jumps and twists here and there and I’m pretty proud (and surprised) that I can keep up. I’m able to get down and sweaty like any other person in the class!

I’m not sure how long this new fitness inspiration will last but for now, I’m just thankful I got my groove back.

Wait(ing) For It

 

In celebration of the new year, we planned our first family trip to New York City. We were so excited to visit famous landmarks and museums, but especially looking forward to seeing as many Broadway shows as possible.

Quick backstory: our household became obsessed with Hamilton: An American Musical last year when our 13-year-old started playing the soundtrack non-stop and energized our desire to see live theater. We knew it was nearly impossible to score tickets to Hamilton in New York since it’s sold out months in advance. As our trip approached, we convinced ourselves not to hold out hope of seeing it. That is until we got to the city.

Hamilton 3.jpgWe arrived in NYC on Saturday morning. By Sunday, we were standing outside of the Richard Rogers theater taking pictures and soaking in the Hamilton vibe. We talked to the door man and got some insight on getting tickets via the cancellation line. By Tuesday we were standing in that line, hoping for our shot at the most hyped musical on the planet.

Here’s the skinny on scoring day-of tickets through the cancellation line: be one of the first 10 people in line on any given show day and you have a 98% (give or take) chance of getting a ticket. On Tuesday afternoon, we strolled by the theater, realized we would be 14-16th in line and decided, “why not?” It was raining and we didn’t have plans for the rest of the day. We made new friends and listened to the urban legends of Hamilton tickets. “They let in 21 people yesterday!” and “They’ll release a bunch of standing-room-only tickets for $10!”  We waited from 2 pm until the 7:05 pm curtain.

We didn’t make the cut.

Bummed but not surprised, we sprinted to Chicago and got tickets for that instead. It was great! We saw Kinky Boots on Wednesday and it was fantastic. It was even better than Chicago but we still had Hamilton on the brain. If these other shows were so great how amazing could Hamilton be?! We were dying to find out.

Thursday was our last night in the city and my husband decided this was it. He planned on getting to the cancellation line early. He would stake out a spot in the front of the line and wait as long as necessary to get his girls tickets to this show. Freezing temperatures be damned, he would wait for it and make Hamilton happen!

By 9:45 a.m. we were the 4-6th in line. My husband stayed in line all day while my daughter and I came and went, bringing food and warm drinks; ducking into nearby hotels for a few minutes of warmth in the restroom; shopping for souvenirs at the official Hamilton store down the block. We made friends with our line cohorts and we kept each other entertained throughout the long day of waiting. A professional line sitter, who had seen the show so many times he’d lost count, and was first in line at 5 a.m. was the self-appointed one. He gave us the skinny on all the shows and various cast members. Also keeping us company on the cold cement steps of the Richard Rogers Theater was our Hawaiian friend who flew to New York by himself just to see Hamilton. And let’s not forget the 18-year-old newlywed couple from Virginia who spent their honeymoon waiting in line on a freezing New York day for a shot at tickets.

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Hanging outside the theater with our new friends on the coldest day of our trip

Happily, it all paid off. Around 5:30 p.m. they released a few tickets and we scored front row seats to the 7 p.m. show! I was so elated I sprained my ‘good foot’ during my celebratory jumping and squealing. Our fellow line friends also got in. It was a lucky day for everyone!hamilton-2

Our review of the show: amazing. It lived up to our high expectations and I say, without a hint of sarcasm, it was absolutely worth sitting outside in the cold for eight hours. My husband agrees.

We were so familiar with the original cast soundtrack that it took a minute to absorb that it was happening right in front of us. Being in the front row put us in the line of fire for all of the sweat and energy oozing from the cast. We saw the spit spray as they belted our beloved tunes to the balcony seats. What we lost in perspective, we gained in the details of the costumes, choreography and facial expressions that may have been lost a few rows back.

Looking back now, it really blew our minds. I’m pretty sure Angelica smiled at me while I was bawling during the curtain call. Jaelynn swears King George scowled right at her. It was her favorite moment of the show.

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Our view of the Hamilton stage from the front row

It was a perfect way to end our most excellent New York adventure.

A Brief Pause

I didn’t intend a two month break from the blog but life had other plans.

It started with the beginning of another school year, meaning marching band season begins, and there goes my free time. I feel each passing year moving faster and faster so I try to stay present in her life–especially transitioning into the teen years. Marching band is her thing. It’s her reason for getting out of bed every morning, excited to be at school at 7:30. I can’t miss out on that!

Real talk: being a part of her band experience takes me back to my middle and high school color guard heyday. It’s something for us to bond over and a commonality that keeps me feeling connected to her. Plus, I’m not gonna lie, I still like watching marching bands and color guards.

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In between band mom-ing and volunteering as a color guard coach, my mom was diagnosed with melanoma. It took two anxiety-ridden weeks to see how serious it was, if the PET scan was going to show signs that the cancer had spread to any lymph nodes. I took extra days off from work to spend time with her and travel with her to out-of-town appointments. This is not her first bout with cancer.

Luckily, the cancer did not spread. Now, after having a large section of her face operated on, she’s cancer free. Again.

The last two months have been a juggling act between overachieving mom and supportive daughter, leaving little time for much else. It’s funny how easily we can slip into a groove of looking out for everyone else but ourselves. Things are calming down now. I’m hoping to get back to hanging out with my husband, exercising, blogging, wearing a lot more sunscreen–maybe even putting on some lipstick.

Baby steps.

Get By With a Little Help From My Block

This weekend I made a triumphant return to yoga.

Sadly, my life has been yoga-free since the end of July. My surgeon said it’d take about two months to get back to my full vinyasa flow and suggested I settle for a “gentle” practice with no pressure on the toes. I decided to hold off altogether as that kind of yoga doesn’t appeal to me. I get bored in a slow moving yoga class.

My favorite yoga teacher, Jennifer, holds an intermediate level flow class every other Saturday at the gym. This class has been a part of my life for about 10 years. Sometimes I have trouble finding the motivation to break up my Saturday morning with a drive across town for yoga but Jennifer is such a great instructor that I never regret taking time out of my day. It’s been difficult to stay away from class so I was anxious for the weekend. I knew this was my chance to get back on the mat.

 

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Image from ReYoga

I was a compliant patient and followed doctor’s orders–no pressure on the toes. Meaning, no downward dog, no plank.

 

I really hate to participate in a class if I have to sit out for half of the poses. I wasn’t sure how to modify and still get through the entire class but I quickly realized the solution once I got there.

The yoga block was going to be my new friend.

I’ve never used a block under my foot before. I typically find it helpful to use as an extension of my arms if I don’t want to overstretch during tricky poses, like triangle and warrior 3.

During the one hour class, I was pleasantly surprised by how many poses I could still do by placing the block under my ankle. I put it in the “crook” of my ankle to elevate my foot so that my toes wouldn’t push against the ground. I used a foam block as opposed to one made out of cork. I find it a little more forgiving to the top of my foot.

Here are some of my yoga modifications:

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Child’s Pose — this is a good go-to when you want a lighter practice. Since I couldn’t physically do the downward dog, I spent a lot of time here. You can see I have the block between my shin and the top of my foot. My ankle doesn’t move so I just wedged it there to keep my toes off the ground.

 

image1Plank — I opted to do plank on my knees with the block supporting my ankle in the same fashion. I was still engaging my core and getting a good triceps workout so I didn’t feel gipped out of a calorie burn.

 

 

 

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I used the block in the same way during a series where we stood on our knees. It looked similar in table top for cat/cow or sunbird, toes barely grazing the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the hour, I felt rusty within my yoga practice but energized by the focus it took to stay creative. I walked in discouraged by my limitation and walked out feeling proud that I found a way to get a good workout anyway. Namaslay.

 

 

Coldplay On a School Night

On Sunday afternoon, the day before my daughter’s first day of school, my husband and I grabbed some coffee and drove down to Pasadena, Ca, to see Coldplay at the Rose Bowl. We would drive back the same night, get up today for our first day of school traditions and head off to work on a few hours of sleep.

Why would we do this? Although we enjoy Coldplay, seeing them live was not on our bucket list. More importantly, we are certainly not in our 20s anymore. Driving to LA and back for a show on a school night, only to get up early the next morning, is not something we seek out. Anymore.

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These concert tickets were not intended for us but we came into them in a profound way. They were purchased by Donna Hammond, a dear and longtime friend of my husband’s, as a celebration for her completion of chemotherapy and radiation. After battling breast cancer all of last year, she was in remission and her treatment was over. However, as one terrible event had come to an end, she and her family were struck with another blow.

coldplay 1Donna’s husband, Big Jim, died suddenly of a heart attack a couple weeks ago. My husband, and anyone who knows the Hammond family, was deeply shocked and saddened by the passing of this bigger than life patriarch. He was a sweet man who left a big imprint those he knew and loved, my husband included.

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Our lovely friend in Houston uses this saying frequently when acknowledging her own battle with cancer. We figure it’s appropriate for this occasion too.

Donna and her daughter had to forego their Coldplay celebration but asked Corin and me to take their place at the show. We were honored by her generous request. The concert itself was a joyous, spirited, colorful celebration of music and life. It felt like the perfect representation of why Donna was going in the first place, fireworks and confetti included.

 

Our hearts were with the Hammonds last night and everything they’ve been through. The gratitude we felt is still with us today.

Who needs sleep anyway?

 

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(Un) Motivated Monday

When resurrecting my blog last month, I made a promise to myself to post every Monday. Today put my promise to the test. I’m just not feeling it.

Haven’t been feelin’ much lately since last week was a doozie.

I started back to work and got back into band mom mode. Jaelynn had a week of band camp (insert movie quote here) and private lessons. I got my stitches out and discussed with my easy, breezy surgeon reasons why I’m still feeling so much discomfort. Apparently my toes will start looking normal again…next year. For the time being, they look like raisin-sausages. (My daughter’s loving and accurate description.)

I also caught a cold. Needless to say, my exercising was put on the back burner, which bums me out, making it harder to stay on track. Does this cycle sound familiar to anyone?

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If so, my question to the tens of you who read my blog is: how do you stay motivated? On those days when you don’t feel like putting on those running shoes or driving to your yoga class or writing another blog post, what pushes you to do it? How do you stay inspired?

I’ve had struggles staying motivated in recent years and found articles and blogs that had a few helpful tips.

I’d love to hear tips on what you do to overcome a slump.

See you next Monday.