Tag Archives: 30-day Challenge

Day 30: Switching it up

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but Day 30 really snuck up on me.  I guess that’s what happens during this time of year!  But the yoga has been a great reminder to slow down and be in the moment, even if only for a few minutes each day.

Last night I was trying to decide what I should do for my last day of the challenge.  I knew I wanted to go to a class and not just do a Yoga Today class here at the apartment, so I checked the schedule at The Yoga Room.  The Astoria location listed a hot flow and an Iyengar class.  My first reaction was, “Darn, why isn’t there just a regular Vinyasa flow?”  But then I thought about it and realized that this is, after all, a challenge.  I should go outside of the box.  I decided to go to the Iyengar class.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Iyengar is a form of yoga developed by, you guessed it, B.K.S. Iyengar.  It is extremely precise and alignment-based and often utilizes props in order to help the body maintain proper alignment in each asana (pose).  My older sister Rebecca practices Iyengar almost exclusively; I have taken a few classes with her over the years and have discovered that, to put it mildly, it’s just not my cup of tea.  I find it to be too slow and choppy; I prefer more movement and flow (which, conversely, my sister absolutely dreads…but I’ll get her to a Vinyasa class one day :)).  However, you do end up learning a ton about your body in these classes, which is why I’ve said in the past that I couldn’t practice Iyengar exclusively, but it’s good to go occasionally for a tune-up.

"Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you'll love it!"  :)

“Seriously, Rebecca, vinyasa flow is awesome, you’ll love it!” 🙂

It had been a while, which is why, upon rethinking my game plan for today, Tzahi’s Iyengar class sounded like a good idea.  Of course, within the first five minutes, I was quickly reminded why this is not my typical practice.  The focus for today was the movement of wrapping the inner thighs to the back of the body, of which we were constantly reminded as we stood in tadasana, urdhva hastasana, and parsvottanasana.  Times like these are when I just want to yell back to the teacher, “I AM wrapping my thigh!” or “I have NO idea how I’m supposed to do that!”  But then, it was as if the universe winked at me when he directed us to the wall to practice our full arm balances (a.k.a. handstands).  Sweet!  I went up a few times and felt pretty good, although my arms are definitely tired from all of the practicing.  Not to worry, however, because next thing I knew, the universe was giving me a huge hug when we were cued into Sirsasana (headstand) and Tzahi hooked up some straps to the rope wall and showed me how to hang…upside down.

You can pretend one of these people is me. :)

You can pretend one of these people is me. 🙂

Yes friends, the one thing that Iyengar has that vinyasa classes do not is a rope wall.  There are many ways it can be utilized, but up until today I had never used it for any inversions (though I had watched in awe in previous classes when fellow students easily strapped themselves in and let it all go).  Since I had told the teacher in the beginning of class that I wouldn’t be practicing headstand, he seamlessly set up the straps for me while I was resting after handstand.  It was a little nervewracking at first, but he guided me into it and before I knew it I was hanging upside down with zero pressure on my neck…total bliss!

I reluctantly came out of the pose and finished the class–which included more mind chatter about how much longer we’d have to hold a pose, but also a lovely supported savasana in supta boddakonasana (reclined bound angle pose).  All in all, I left class feeling more open and definitely more aware of my inner thighs.  Plus I’ve gotten a dose of Iyengar that should last a few months at least…

And that completes my 30-Day Challenge!  Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop yoga (or blogging).  I’m formulating a new challenge for myself already, probably for the beginning of the year.  Until then, I’ll continue to share insights into my yoga practice, delicious treats and whatever else strikes my fancy.  Let me know if you have any great recipes to share or thoughts for my next challenge!

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Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 28 & 29: Birthday Treat from Childhood

Hi all!

The last two days have been filled with preparations and celebrations for my awesome little(r) sister Katie. Every year I try to bake something a little extra special for the occasion. In the past there have been mint chocolate chip cupcakes, cookie dough cupcakes and (a not-so-successful attempt at) marshmallow-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. This year I was leaning toward another attempt at marshmallow goodness when I came across this ring ding recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but ring dings were a pretty big deal for Katie and I when we were growing up. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to recreate the delicious treat. It was quite a process, and I admit I need some work injecting icing into cake, but the result was pretty tasty.

Mmm mmm good.

Mmm mmm good.

Today my mom and aunt were coming into town for a birthday lunch with Katie, which meant some cleaning had to be done. However, I was able I get in some yoga time between baking and dusting.

Last night I opted to do a gratitude meditation before bed, thinking of everyone and everything I am thankful for in my life, and when I was done I sat and repeated a mantra of “Grateful” for a few minutes. This I the first time I’ve done this before bed and I have to say, it was a great way to end the day and clear the mind before getting into bed.

This morning I did my own personal practice, which included a flow of sun salutations and hip and hamstring stretches. Basically whatever I felt my body needed. I finished up with a little handstand practice and then I was ready to start my day.

Now it’s time to continue the birthday celebration! It’s hard to believe tomorrow is day 30. Time flies!

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Filed under Food, Goals, Meditation, Practice, Recipes, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 26 & 27: Turning Upside Down Part Deux

Hello Friends!

I had every intention of posting last night, but I ended up being preoccupied with decorating this new addition to the apartment:

I downsized this year, but he's a cute little guy.

I downsized this year, but he’s a cute little guy.

Nevertheless, I am really excited to tell you about the Inversion workshop yesterday at The Yoga Room.  It was taught by one of their teachers, Marko, and I think he did a fantastic job.  He began with a dharma talk that was all about the importance of process over final product; that, as much as we want to be able to do a handstand right now, the journey is the most important part.  Lessons like this are what yoga is all about.  What we learn on the mat is completely applicable to our lives off of the mat.  Breaking down a handstand into steps and practicing each step slowly and purposefully teaches us the value of hard work and persistence.  And when you finally reach your goal, it makes it all that much sweeter since you worked so hard to achieve it.

That is how Marko designed the workshop.  We worked on several variations of headstands and handstands over the two-hour class, and he broke down each pose into different steps, giving us the option to stop where we felt comfortable, or move on if we wanted to challenge ourselves.  My headstand practice is still on hiatus, which gave me the opportunity to really work on headstand prep, which is basically a downward dog with forearms and head on the ground.  If you’ve never done this prep before, it is challenging!  It really works your shoulders and core.  I also practiced bringing one leg in to my chest, which really got my ab muscles fired up.

By the time we got to handstand practice, my core was nice and warm, which, as I’ve mentioned previously, is really important for inversions.  We did several preps for handstand including L-shape against the wall and extending one leg up, which really helped me to get a feel for handstand away from the wall.  There was also more core work that included hopping over a block with our hands on the floor, arms straight.  This probably sounds easy, but it’s definitely work.  When he finally cued us to go up into handstand against the wall, it felt like my legs floated up, as opposed to my usual method of flinging my legs as hard as I can until I reach the wall.  I even managed to come off the wall for a few seconds.  If The Yoga Room offers this workshop again, I highly recommend it!

Today I found a Yoga Today class that was dedicated to handstands and forearm stands.  It was great to get in more practice, although I have to say my arms were tired from yesterday!  So I did what I could and either took a childs pose or just watched the yogis on the screen when I needed a break.  Marko made sure to let us know that consistent practice is the way to achieve our goal and I would have to agree; this 30-day challenge has definitely helped me to become more comfortable with turning upside down!

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Filed under Dharma, Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Uncategorized, Yoga, Yoga Snax

Days 22-24: Almost there!

Hey yogis!

As you could tell in my last post, my time in Harrisburg was full of cooking and Christmas decorations–but I did manage to get my yoga in there thanks to Just Plain Yoga over in Camp Hill. I also taught a quick class of Sun Salutations to the man friend who had a sore lower back. **Quick Tip: Sore lower back is often a sign of tight hamstrings, so gentle forward folds, seated folds, or supine (on your back) hamstring stretches with a strap can do wonders!**

After running around the last few days, I woke up this morning with a cold…not so fun, but it’s also my body’s way of telling me to slow down. I’m glad it is happening now so I can have the chance to take better care of myself this holiday season (my mother can probably tell you the number of Christmases I woke up sick as a kid). So today’s practice will be something gentle and restorative–my bolster will definitely be involved.

An extra motivation for kicking this cold is the workshop I am going to on Saturday! Since handstand has been one of my goal poses, I signed up for another inversion workshop, this time at The Yoga Room (thanks to my wonderful roommate who alerted me it was filling up fast, I snagged one of the last spots!). Rumor is he has some crazy core work in store for us–I can’t wait! Until then, time to load up on Vitamin C.

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Filed under Goals, inversions, Non-Judgement, Practice, Yoga

Day 15: Half-Way Point and Snax Remix

Hey yogis!

I’ve made it to the half-way point of my 30-Day Challenge!  Already I feel a million times better than I did on Day 1 (that is a technical measurement).  Now that my practice is pretty much back to where it used to be, I feel as though I can finally get back to goals that I had set for myself a while back.  One of those goals was to attain a full Hanumanasana, or split pose.

Not me…my hair is curly…

Since I have been noticing greater flexibility in my hammies, I decided to choose a practice that would stretch and lengthen my hip flexors, which are extremely important factor in whether or not you can do Hanumanasana.  I chose Lunging into Freedom from Yoga Today.  It is a shorter practice, and feels even shorter because she includes a guided savasana in there (often they will lead you into savasana and then advise you to stay for 5-10 minutes) but man, was it effective.  Some of the lunges (including lizard pose) were extremely intense and had me focusing on my breath to get through them.  Yet, unlike some hip-focused classes, this one was quite balanced, with plenty of vinyasas to get in a bit of upper body strengthening and bridge poses to clear the hips after the deep lunging.  Next up, I’ll choose a class that includes Hanumanasana to see if I’ve made any progress!

Yoga Snax Remix:  Remember this scrumptious treat that I wrote about last year?  Well I was really in the mood for some avocado toast today, so I made quick work of toasting some good 7-grain bread and mashing a perfectly ripe avocado…only to realize I didn’t have any lemons or limes!  It crossed my mind to just salt the avo and put it on the bread, but that seemed boring.  I scanned my kitchen cabinets, saw the balsamic vinegar and was reminded of the awesome bruschetta I shared with my best friend last week at Eataly.  So with that inspiration, I drizzled a little balsamic over the avocado-blanketed toast (rather than mixing it in with the avocado like I would the lemon–a little balsamic goes a long way, trust me) and I have to say–it was pretty delicious.  Creamy avocado mixed with a little salt was nicely complimented by the sweet balsamic.  Give it a try some time!

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Filed under Avocado Toast, Food, Goals, Recipes, Yoga

30-Day Challenge: Days 1 and 2

Good morning friends!

Yesterday I told you all about my 30-day challenge.  What I failed to tell you is that I officially started it on Monday!  So let me take a few minutes to fill you in on the classes I took.

Since I was in Harrisburg visiting my man-friend, I practiced at a studio called Just Plain Yoga in Camp Hill, PA that I discovered last month.  There are a bunch of yoga studios in the Harrisburg area, but I originally chose this one for the variety of classes they offer and the convenience of the schedule.  I chose to go back this week because I loved the teacher I had and everyone was so stinkin’ nice.

On Monday morning, I took their Hatha 1-2 class, which was described as an all-level “moderate to mildly dynamic” class, which was pretty accurate.  It was slow-paced in that we held each pose for a while, but by no means was it cake.  In fact, for me, having to hold poses for a long time can be extremely difficult.  That’s when the chitta vritti (sanskrit for “mind chatter” and more fondly referred to as monkey mind) really gets going.  “How much longer am I going to be here?” or “What will she make us do next?” start to get in the way of the breath and being in the moment.  During this class I tried to make a conscious effort to really focus on my breath during these long holds.  Don’t get me wrong, more than once I silently cursed our sweet teacher for keeping us in bound side angle pose for so long, but that is why yoga is a practice–because we are constantly working on it.  Overall, it was a good class–and even more noteworthy is that it was my man-friend’s first yoga class ever!  He’s taking the challenge too 🙂

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This guy seems to have triumphed over his monkey mind 🙂

On Tuesday, I went back to JPY to take their Vinyasa flow, which was the first class I took there last month.  When that first class began, I mistook the teacher’s soft-spoken directions to mean that the class was going to be easy and relaxing.  Boy was I wrong!  Anne is Ashtanga-trained, so there were tons of chaturangas and power poses throughout the class to make me sweat.  Therefore, after Monday’s slower-paced class, I was excited to switch it up a little bit.

Anne didn’t disappoint.  In addition to several rounds of Sun Salutations A and B to get the body warm and the heart pumping, she included plenty of slow 5-counts lowering into push-up, plus some core work (knee-to-elbow planks anyone?).  And as in the first class, she offered up yogi’s choice of inversion at the end of class.  My neck has been feeling pretty sore lately, so I’m abstaining from my headstand practice for the time-being (which has been quite the test for my ego, but I’ll talk about that another time); therefore I decided to work on my handstand, which I still practice against the wall.  She gave me a great tip for finding my balance in the pose: Move back a bit from the wall, kick up into handstand and find the wall with your feet.  Bend one knee so that just the big toe is touching the wall as you lift the other foot up straight.  As you continue to lift and straighten the one leg, the toe touching the wall will gradually start to come off the wall…theoretically at least.  This wasn’t a magic fix for getting my handstand away from the wall, but it did allow me to play around with the balance.  Maybe by the end of this 30 days I will break my dependency for the wall!

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If I have to be on a headstand hiatus, at least I can enjoy the cutest attempt ever!

I have yet to practice today; I had to say goodbye to the man-friend and Harrisburg at the ungodly hour of 5am (the golden hour of meditation for many yogis, but not this girl) to make it back to NYC for work.  My goal is to do a practice with Yoga Today later this evening.  Worst case I will roll out the mat for a few sun salutations before I inevitably collapse into bed tonight!

Several of you have said you will join me in the challenge.  Keep me posted on your journeys!

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