Tag Archives: yoga

Life Lessons

Pilates – The 10 Classes That Changed My Life

I’m 10 sessions into pilates, and I’m officially addicted. In fact, I’m taking my pilates out on the road during my travels to New York City next week. I’m attending 2 classes at the 5th Street Pilates studio. I really can’t wait. In my first 10 sessions, I can say I notice a visible difference. In fact, in the last 2 weeks I can say that I have lost 1 inch on both my upper and lower waist. I’m committing myself to practicing pilates at least three times a week going forward. I can now see as well as feel myself getting stronger. I think Joseph Pilates, the founder of pilates would be pleased.

“In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you’ll be on your way to having a whole new body.” – Joseph Pilates

For me, my commitment towards mindfulness has taken me somewhere I never expected. It has not been about my work. It’s about my personal health, life and the goal of having another baby.

I’ve never been the graceful type. I’ve never attended a ballet or a dance class. Until yoga and pilates I never really considered that I might have the personal option to have a graceful bone in my body. For my entire life, I’ve accepted the fact that my body wasn’t graceful. I was just not born this way.

 

This week while I watched my daughter during her ballet class, I watched her and saw the same things. I don’t want want her to follow my lead and believe that about herself or her own body especially when I see the joy for her that ballet brings.

And while I work towards understanding my own body acceptance issues, I try to think of myself as a graceful dancer during my pilates class. See myself as a beautiful and pretty ballet dancer who is performing her pilates dance and honing her graceful craft. Both pilates and yoga have made me more body aware, but they are separate practices that often overlap in often weird ways.

In yoga, I never liked “bridge pose” or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana in Sanskrit. I just don’t think I ever really thought about posture or my vertebrae when practicing the pose in yoga in the same context I do with pilates. With the bridge pose in yoga, I was focusing more on the ability to hold the pose for long periods of time while stretching and breathing into my back.

bridge-pose-yoga

 

In pilates, the bridge pose is much different. Your back plays a more supporting role in the pose. It’s about proper alignment and the stacking of vertebrae but for me it’s about using the different parts of your core to activate and lift your body. As I mentioned before, I am focusing on machine pilates with the Reformer. The key to doing the bridge pose on the reformer is to keep your core solid so that the carriage (The green flat mat seen below. It actually glides forward and back.) doesn’t move. Coming down from the pose you reverse the action vertebrae by vertebrae. Although I’ve been doing bridge pose with yoga for 10 years, pilates really changed how I experience the pose and think about how my abdominals are tied to my core. They need each other to be healthy.

 

bridge-pose-reformer-pilates

I’m not saying that my bridge pose is graceful but both yoga and pilates find utility and the beauty in small movements with a focus on the body. The control is an area I really enjoy. It’s challenging in a different way that 45 minutes on the treadmill is not. I’m not just checking the accomplishment off my life. I’m building strength and with that extremely small movement I’m learning about myself and my own inner power and strength.

Photo Credit Yoga Journal & Nywanda

Life Lessons

This Pinched Nerve in My Back Can Suck It

pinched-nerve-back-yoga

About two years ago, I finally had enough and sat down with a friend of mine who is a chiropractor, and we realized after a series of x-rays that I had two pinched nerves. I had a pinched nerve in my lower back and neck. My chiro put me on an 8 week program, and at about 4 weeks I started to feel a whole lot better. My travel work schedule started to pick up again and I quit going. I really wish I had saw it through because now I am really suffering.

Being Mindful Uncovers a Pinched Nerve in My Back

Of my three priorities for 2015, one of them is daily mindful meditation which for me is done most often with yoga. I like to do about an hour of yoga and finish things off with 15 minutes of meditation. My mind is empty. I’m focused on myself. There are no thoughts about work. Just me, my mat, the present moment and my breath. On January 1, I set out my yoga mat, strap and blocks easing myself back into yoga. I was looking forward to my meditation. It’s one of the few times I feel free and completely clear without ideas lingering. It was clear, however that something was wrong because when I tried to lay down on my back on my mat, in corpse pose I experienced numb pain. Normally, I can stretch the pain and make it go away. I tried to do my gentle lower back series like I’ve done in the past even going so far as to focus on opening up my hips. It didn’t get any better and made sitting in lotus uncomfortable. I ended the night with a glass of wine and a heating pad. Lucky me.

Day 2 of 2015, wasn’t any better. I tried a series of poses specifically for my spine (pictured above from FitSugar.com) and even did a couple inversions. It was no help. I was in misery. The pain in my lower back was a symptom of the pinch nerve that wouldn’t go away. Monday I visited the chiropractor to start off 2015.  While this wasn’t the mindful meditation I had in mind, I am listening to my body. My body sent me a message once my mind was quiet I couldn’t ignore. And my body is telling me that it is hurting. It’s also saying, “Fix me, please!”

After getting new x-rays this week, my pinched nerve in my lower back hasn’t gotten any better or worse. Unfortunately, the pinched nerve in my neck is causing my spine near my neck to shift forward which is probably contributing to more of my lower back pain. I’ll be visiting the chiropractor 3 times a week for a total of 8 weeks using a combination of chiropractic and acupuncture. After that, we will reassess. It’s visit 3 and my lower back is extremely sore. I can’t wait to get better and just feel more like me.

Symptoms of a Pinched Nerve

I hate this pinched nerve. The symptoms of back pain and numbness make me feel like an old lady. It’s making me slow down which is definitely not me. To help open up my spine in a way that’s less strenuous than inversions, I’ve pulled out my oversized exercise ball which I’m now using as an office chair. Since my lower back is so uncomfortable, I’m using it for spine stretches until I feel good about doing yoga shoulder and hand stands. Inversions are something I’ve never been good at. Maybe this pinched nerve will give me the practice and patience I’m needing.

Pinched nerves are no fun and in doing more research I’ve realized that the pinched hasn’t helped my ongoing battle with my weight. In better understanding neck problems, I’m certain I’ve had a pinched nerve in my neck or some variation of problems since I was 15 or 16. Back then I attributed it to the time I spent on the computer in journalism class. It improved slightly but only with some ergonomic changes to the way I sit at a desk. I’m also certain this problems contributed to last year’s miscarriage. I’ll never know for certain but I have a feeling. Now that I’m back settled again into my life and home, I’m seeing things more clearly. I need to get this better so I can be more active, healthy and happy.

Outside of yoga, meditation and light exercise, I’m continuing my juicing and trying to focus more on healthy eating. I’m cutting out fast foods, processed foods and sugars for the next 30-60 days and limiting my intake of the Starbucks caramel macchiato. It’s my regular guilty pressure 2-3 times a week. While this pinched nerve sucks, I’m not going down. This pinched nerve can suck it. While it may suck, I’m extremely lucky I have the time, ability and capacity to take care of me.

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