Friday, July 21, 2017

Things You Say to Yourself in a Bikram Yoga Class

Although I've never experienced such a situation in real life, I imagine my relationship with Bikram Yoga is much like one's relationship with a relative they can't stand... try as you might to get away, they're generally always there. And while we prize the mind for its lucid ability to process complex ideas and concepts, it's usually my body which gently prods me towards a yoga class while my mind kicks and screams like a two-year-old. Hence, there are a lot of thoughts that run through my mind during a typical morning's worth of yoga which I figured I'd lay bare here.

(Note: Since there is my own internal dialogue during a yoga class, the dialogue of the yoga instructor and the events and postures occurring around us, I placed actions in [brackets], instructions of the teacher in italics and my own thoughts in a regular font).

[Enter room]

Ok, it seems quiet. This is nice. Phewwwwwww.

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert yes stephen colbert sigh late show GIF

[Teacher walks in.]

Ok, good morning. Let's start class with a deep breathing exercise. Take a deep breath in and deep breath out. 

Jesus, why did I come here? Why did I come here... I'm missing out on cuddle time with my man. 

Lift your arms over your head and breathe out...

Ok, I'm here, I'm here. Let's do this.




Standing head to knee pose!

*&%$#@^%$#@&^! I hate this pose. Ugh, that guy behind me is doing it so much better. He's cute though. Ha, he fell out of the pose, what a sucker. I'm such a baller. 

 dance family kris keeping up with the kardashians kris jenner GIF

Bow pose!

Ugh, I hate this pose. Actually, it's not that bad. Wait, am I actually getting good at this...

 wow beautiful shocked shock lovely GIF

[Next few postures go by at light speed].

Whew. Savasana. 




Wow, my mind is really beginning to relax. Wait, why am I thinking of those times I was bullied long ago? Oh @&$*, old memories, old memories, old memories...

 the office hiding hide GIF

Ok, back to yoga poses. $%^#, that was the most stressful part of class.



Full locust pose!

&^%^, I hate this pose. Gotta rally, gotta rally...

Elissa, try lifting your head a bit higher. Higher...

Is this *^&%$ talking to me!? I've made it seventy-five minutes through the class and this joker wants extra effort!? Why I oughta...

 movie film goodfellas robert de niro 1990 GIF

Ok. Ok. Class is almost over. I can do this. I can do this.



Ugh. One more posture. Just get me out of this hot room. GET ME OUT OF THIS HOT ROOM.

 food cw GIF

[Final savasana]

Ugh. I am so relaxed. Going to class was the best decision of my life. 

 cute dog puppy sleeping passed out GIF

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ya Feets

When one of my younger cousins was born, my grandmother asked her brother how he liked his new sister. "She has no teeths," was his terse reply.  From that point on, it became a family tradition to call teeth "teeths" and, for some reason, feet became feets. And feets are something quite important. In, Health Before Beauty, I talked about the importance of pedicures seeing as the feet denote an area on which we spend a lot of time. But, in general, there aren't too many stretches in the cultural repertoire which can undo the damage we do to our feet. Fortunately, there are a few yoga poses which can help get us "back on our feet" in that regard. Enjoy!

 Standing Separate Head to Knee Pose: When I first began yoga, I noticed how my feets were stretched in ways they hadn't been before while realizing how much in need of a stretch they actually were. Just as my shoulders gained tension through the combination of stress and poor posture, I learned my feet had also built up a sense of tension... probably in their attempt to consistently remain in a pair of flimsy flip-flops. But as bad as flip-flops are for your feet, I couldn't imagine how my feet would feel in heels (basically, I couldn't imagine dressing like an adult). And while I've heard skepticism as to the existence of metal health issues or have seen such skepticism in the Senate health care bill, it's amazing that the first thing we seek to relax after a long day is our minds. But our feet deserve some love too. Below is a video of standing head to knee which will stretch (among other things) the top of ya feets.

To preform the pose...

1. Stand with your feet together and you arms clasped over your head.

2. Step your right foot out three feet to the side.

3. Pivot 90 degrees on your heels until your right foot is straight in front of you and your left foot is at a 45 degree angle.

4. Tuck your chin to your chest and bring your arms down to the floor.

5. Keep your forehead on your knee (you can bend your leg) and hold the pose for several seconds.

6. Gently come up and repeat on the other side. 

Starting off with a well-trained professional...

Fixed Firm Pose: Fixed firm is one of those poses I couldn't preform until well into my yoga tenure. Only recently have I been able to preform the pose with any amount of consistency. And this is because fixed firm stretches everything pretty deeply from your hips to your back. But if your want a real stretch in the tops of your feet/ankle region, fixed firm is the way to go. (Note: When preforming this pose or asana, one is told to ensure that the knees remain on the floor. While the rest of your body might hurt, teachers say your knees shouldn't be "screaming at you".)

To preform the pose...

1. Sit Japanese style (with your legs bent and your bum on your feet) and bring your legs out slightly so that your heels touch the sides of your hips. (Try not to walk your legs out too far as it will diminish the pose's intensity).

2. If you're able to get your bottom on the ground... place your hands on your feet and begin to lie down, placing your right elbow on the floor, then your left elbow and finally, the back of your head.

(Note: If you're able to reach this point, hold it for a few seconds and come back up. You're feet will be sufficiently stretched! The video and description below shows the whole posture for those who want to get an extra stretch in their back).

3. Bring your arms over your head and grab your elbows.

4. Arc your back and look down at your chest.

5. Come up and lay down as soon as possible. This will allow the blood to rush through your legs delivering benefits where needed. 

After working on the pose consistently, you realize it's impossible to take a good video of it and you shoot one right before
you publish your post without editing it (hence the sunglasses).

Awkward Pose: I'm inherently awkward which perhaps gives me a leg up in awkward pose (once joked my yoga instructor). While the top two poses work to stretch the top of your feet, the second part of awkward pose works to stretch the bottom of them. Standing tall on the toes, one bends the knees and lowers their bottom until it appears they're sitting in an invisible chair. While it's common for the legs to wobble, they'll also develop a fair amount of muscle from the pose.

To preform the pose...

1. Stand with your feet @ hip's width apart and bring your arms out straight in front of you.

2. Stand on your toes.

3. With your toes raised, sit down as if you were sitting in a chair. 

4. Hold the pose for several seconds (unless you get a leg cramp).

5. Straighten your legs and bring your heels down.

After awhile, you will be impressed by your ability to get your heels quite high off the ground.

Getting awkward.

So there you have it, a few way to stretch ya feets. And as you take care to relax the muscles and ligaments in the region, you'll find yourself taking care to make sure they're not tense throughout the day... eventually leading to a lessened need for stretching and more time for happy hour. ;)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Natty Beauty

When I was young, I always liked Maybelline's slogan, "maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Mabelline." I'm not sure what particularly struck me about the line but I suppose I found it humorous because, as a youngster with no access to the cosmetic world, I believed (and still do) that all beauty was natural. As I've aged, my understanding of beauty has remained consistent on the surface (no pun intended) although, with experience, has become informed by deeper knowledge. At its core, I believe that beauty is the result of our individual choices, growing and shrinking with the amount of freedom we allow in our lives. However, when I was younger, my perception of beauty was much less corny (if just as natural) relying mostly on one's physical features (read: buck teeth and big ears). But while beauty may be the result of nature or nurture, it can often be hindered or helped by the foods we eat and habits we take on. Either way, it'll never be reached by some off-brand of cosmetics.

Maybellene, why can't you be true?

When I reached my 20's and actually began to consider "beauty" (a consideration I quickly dropped) I found myself drawn to the more foundational elements of the topic, learning more about routines of exfoliation and washing as opposed to color and contour. As such, I found myself reading the very beginning pages of Bobbi Brown's Beauty and/or becoming intrigued by Scarlet O'hara's method of pinching her cheeks to bring color to her face. And of course, new trends which rely on natural methods of healthy eating and/or general happiness have broken into the beauty world culminating in books such as Bobbi Brown Beauty from the Inside Out: Makeup, Wellness, Confidence, a tome which begins with a chapter on "beauty food". Indeed, while I've found there are a few natural methods for allowing our hair to literally shine (read: Hair and There), there are a few natural routes to better skin (and a better life). Enjoy!

Less Stress: If beauty can be seen as the manifestation of our inner well-being, it's no surprise that stress can do a number on our skin. Prompting the release of cortisol, "stress can... throw off the other hormones in [the] body and cause breakouts on your face," according to the highest authority on beauty, Cosmopolitan Magazine. But what can we do to stress less? Of course, there are the large-scale choices which can help or hinder our happiness as adults but our smaller decisions of what we eat and how we play and even how we breathe can have a significant effect on the stress we encounter in our daily lives. Ergo, a few lessons in stress reduction...

Eating Fatty: Just as we make choices as adults which seismically shift us towards or away from happiness, the foods we eat each day can truly calibrate the needle of our body towards health or harm. While our bodies need key nutrients, they're often lacking in foods of convenience and/or alcohol (both which I consume often). While "foods of convenience" like chips, beef jerky or whatever can be high in saturated and/or trans-fats, they don't always carry the good fat our bodies need.

There are so-called "bad fats" like the ones above and then there are good fats. In a way, fats (of all types) can be rather comforting. There are the cheesy comfort foods we crave in the winter, there is the laughing Buddah who seems so content with his large belly and there are the fat babies whose cuteness seems to be in direct correlation with the number of folds on their arms. But good fats, those of the polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and omega-3 varieties, can actually bring emotional comfort in that the vitamins they carry can help develop our neurotransmitters and, "help calm and maintain a healthy nervous system," according to Dr. Andrew Weil. So whether you're making guacamole from avocados, eating a handful of walnuts or simply frying eggs for breakfast (or making the "double-happiness" avocado egg cups below) you're giving your brain a (mood) boost.

Breathing Exercises: It's no secret that exercise is beneficial for the brain but breathing exercises can be good too! I've wanted to write about breathing exercises for awhile but never spotted a adequate opportunity to do so. The first time I learned of breathing exercises (aside from my father's relentless harping on meditation) came on a trip to China... a land that, without much religious reference, gives you a certain spiritual vibe. There were seniors doing tai-chi in the park, an array of DIY head massages and, during the course of a particularly nauseating bus ride... a lesson in breathing exercises. Below are a few videos which will showcase breathing exercises for anxiety and sleep respectively because...

Pranyama deep breathing.

Breathing for sleep.

Sleep: I stopped taking naps when I was two, claiming they were boring and a waste of time. But as I age, while I still hate the idea of going to bed, I can at least recognize its many benefits. Within study upon study, the benefits of sleep are countless. With sleep deprivation linked to heart disease and obesity and better moods linked to adequate sleep, it's little secret that sleep is linked to health. And health (and happiness), in my opinion, are the true road to beauty.

So, while beauty comes in many forms, it's usually the culmination of a few practices which are key for all humans. Besides adding things externally, it's often what we add (and don't add) internally which results in how we feel about ourselves. And when it comes to beauty, whose opinion really matters but our own?