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.

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.

 

 

(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.

Around Paisley Park in a Day

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April 21, 2016 was a painful day for the millions who loved The Purple One. I was in tears at work; I’ve been a Prince fan for as long as I can remember. There was never a time I didn’t listen to his music.

As a kid, his 80s hits were the soundtrack to the dance parties I had with my cousins. As a teen, I rediscovered Purple Rain.

As an adult, I dove deeper into his archives and wondered how one man could be so talented. I caught my first Prince concert then, fueling my admiration. I love the emotional highs and sultry lows of his vocal range. His command of the stage and his dance moves were everythingHe fearlessly pushed boundaries while always keeping his focus on the music.

My focus, months after his death, was on a different type of pain.

My doctor was confident that pain from my toe surgery would subside within a week and walking wouldn’t be a problem. Taking his advice, we planned our final trip of the summer to Minnesota, 10 days after surgery.

I like my doctor but he’s a fibber.

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The constant throbbing pain and swelling I was experiencing was more than I’d anticipated. As our five-day trip to see friends and family approached, so did my reservations. I figured flying would be tricky and my limitations may put a damper on the trip for everyone.

Navigating TSA is annoying on a normal day. Throw in a leg brace and a cane and it’s nightmarish.

 

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Aside from the air travel, we had a great time. I was able to rent a wheelchair at the Minnesota History Museum, Mall of America and Valley Fair amusement park so getting around wasn’t much of a problem. My restrictions forced more down time, out of character for us, but turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

No trip is complete without a few hiccups. The most notable was getting banned from a roller coaster at Valley Fair just as we were getting on. We didn’t know my brace would be a problem until after we waited in the 30-minute line. Apparently I didn’t miss out.

This leads me to my favorite adventure: the paisley one.

There will never be another Prince. I’m still sad but was thrilled to see his studio where so much incredible music was created. Tributes from all over the world lined the surrounding fence. Everything from fan art and purple roller skates to underwear and bags of Doritos were left to honor the artist, months after his death.

Here is a taste of the memorials found at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, MN:prince 2_edited-2

 

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Our trip was a much needed escape from Fresno’s summer heat and polluted air. I couldn’t get over the blue in the Minnesota sky or the puff of its clouds. The time we spent with our family and friends was worth the inconvenience of my bum foot.

 

 

7 Exercises – No Standing Required

Reclined on the couch reading cheesy romance novels and watching old movies can only last so long. I needed to move!

I try not to go too long in between workouts since atrophy kicks in pretty quickly for me due to the rigidity of my left fused ankle. I’m trying to keep my life relatively normal during my recoup time, including keeping up a (modified) workout schedule.

My movement limitations have forced me to get creative. Over the years, modifying workouts has become second nature to me so I thought I’d share some of the exercises I tweak to accommodate my foot.

Here are seven ways I build strength — no standing necessary:

  1. The Pretzel – Bend one leg in front while reaching the other to the back. Pulse up for 30, then keeping knee elevated reach to opposite corner for 30. Switch sides.

*I added a 2 pound ankle weight to my left side for extra torture effort. (Found a pair for  $3.99 at Marshalls!)

 

IMG_1703_edited-12. Scissor Kicks – Keeping your core engaged and upper body still, simultaneously extend one leg kicking front and the other reaching back, switching legs front and back  fluidly.IMG_1672_edited-1

3. Extension & Tuck using ball – Feel free to comment if you know the actual names for some of these exercises. This one focuses on core stability because that big ball will want to throw you off! I either squeeze the ball with the bottom hand (shown) or for added balance, place hand on the ground. Tighten your core and keep leg hip height as you reach top leg straight out and then bend to tuck in.

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4. Push Up on the Ball – This is my favorite and a go-to even when my leg isn’t fragile. I love it because it keeps my toes and ankle out of the workout and it’s still pretty difficult! I keep my abs pulled in while lowering chest to the floor, elbows facing back, in a Pilates style push up.

 

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5. Child’s Pose – Another favorite on the ball, especially since my ankle doesn’t allow me to do a full yoga child’s pose on the ground (can’t flatten the top of my foot). Keeping arms straight, hands firmly planted at shoulder distance apart, round your back and pull knees to nose. The ball allows a nice stretch through the back. Pull in abs to fire up the core.

*Bonus points – From child’s pose, extend legs, using the ball to roll your body straight out into plank position, with hands on the ground and legs elevated. Pull legs back into chest. Repeat.

 

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6. Leg Circles with Ankle Weight – From the same starting position as #3, extend top leg hip high and draw small, controlled circles. Do 20 reps to the front, 20 to the back. I really started to feel that 2 pound ankle weight on this one, as shown in my facial expression.

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7. One Legged Plank – No equipment necessary. Hold plank, hands under shoulders, booty level and stomach pulled in. I rested my left leg on top of the right for full body strengthening but no pressure on the toes. Hold for 30 seconds, three sets.

 

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I included a few other ab workouts that day for good measure. That was it. It’s not ground breaking stuff, but when you’re laid up and feeling sluggish (or a tad blue) sometimes all it takes is a few old standards to bring you back to life.

Oh, and don’t forget your favorite Pandora station.