My home yoga practice

Another part of my balance journey is recognizing that I need to create balance and health in my mind, body & spirit. Toward this end, I am very proud to say that I have started a home yoga practice over the past several weeks and I feel quite devoted to it. I have always enjoyed yoga, and some time a month or so ago I decided to practice every day. I have taken classes off and on for many years and I have a small collection of DVDs that I would put on now and again. I read, and I work with “live” teachers when I have questions. Also, I have a lot of training in dance and dance instruction, which has resulted in good self-awareness & body knowledge. I know when something feels safe and when something doesn’t, so I’ve always felt okay to work with my DVDs on my own.

When we re-did the flooring in the house this month, I took the opportunity to re-vamp my sewing room, which I have always called the “yellow” room since we painted it several years ago, into a multi-purpose room. I packed the sewing machine & portable table to a place where it’s accessible to set up when I need to use it but otherwise out of the way. I mean, I don’t sew everyday. Or even every week. Or every month! I sew in spurts. When I’m not sewing, the machine can live elsewhere. I then sorted my stash of fat quarters into clear plastic containers according to colour family and put them on a bookshelf along with all my treasured books and DVDs. It’s so nice to see all my things so clearly!

 I cleared out the entire room so the floor is bare of all but the necessary furniture, and it looks very nice with the wood laminate floors. I hung pretty sheer curtains in the window and hung my favourite prints on the walls. The walls are bright sunshine yellow. I kept my rocking chair, so that I could sit in there and have a place to be alone. I also set my laptop up on the sideboard that I use for storage so that I have something to play my yoga & Pilates DVDs on. It is a very tiny room, but there is just enough space to roll out my yoga mat in front of the computer screen and that’s all I need.

Every morning I grumble my way out of bed and make my way down the hall to my yellow room, roll out the mat, fire up the computer and choose from my small collection of DVDs. While the DVD is loading, I feed my two very hungry cats (who start protesting their hunger the moment my feet hit the floor). Misty is on the chest, watching, in this photo.

Then I begin. I am always stiff in the morning –who isn’t! But as the days have gone on, I find that the stiffness leaves my body sooner than it used to do. I am now putting my palms on the floor after only the third standing forward bend. A small victory, but important and one I am grateful for.

Some mornings I do only 20 minutes. Other mornings I do 40 – 60 minutes. I’ve begun noticing how much better I feel during the day. I start my day with more energy and purpose. My muscles are a little sore, but not terribly – just enough so I know I’ve worked them. I rotate my DVDs so the practice is slightly different every day. Sometimes I add a Pilates or other different workout to my practice. This morning I did a 20 minute Pilates workout followed by a 20 minute yoga session and then I rode my bike to work. What a great way to start the week!

Zumba & me, not meant to be

Along with my weight-loss and balance journey, I have also been re-discovering my love of fitness classes. Like most people interested in a variety of fitness avenues, I like to try different things and will often sign up for a session of something new and interesting when it fits my schedule. Zumba has finally made its way to Whitehorse and is making a big splash up here. I was excited to see that a lunch-time session was going to be offered here at the College over the winter because it sounded like a lot of fun – it certainly has a lot of upbeat word-of-mouth advertising! I signed up and paid for the first 6-week session, marked the day in my calendar and waited with eager anticipation. On the first day, I brought my gym kit to work with me, and trooped off to the gym with 3 co-workers to try it out. I was stoked & ready to go!  Yah! The class started! It was great! And then…it started to go flat. I started to feel unhappy. Now, I love  aerobics classes. I love dance. I love trying new things. I should have loved Zumba.

One thing that bothered me was the absence of pointers or breakdowns. The leader did the movements at the front of the class and was very high energy & exuberant – yipping in joy and smiling big. She was certainly fun to watch! But she led the class with no instructions or corrections. Now, from what I have heard, this is standard practice in all Zumba classes.  I was told that if I couldn’t follow along, to just “do your own thing.”  Okay. Here’s my problem: while the “follow the bouncing butt” method has its place in dance classes where students who have already learned proper technique follow the teacher in a led improvisation,  I question the method in a fitness class where delicate lower backs and knees can easily be compromised by unfamiliar movements and where the teacher does not know what, if any, prior experience or body knowledge her students are bringing with them.  So, the Zumba participants followed & interpreted, each in her own way, what she thought the leader was doing, resulting in a dozen or so compromised lower backs. In fact, just the other day, a co-worker mentioned that she loved the energy of the Zumba class but had stopped going because it was bothering her back. I showed her how to use the lower abs to lift & drop the pelvis instead of throwing the hips backward with jerk from the lumbar spine. She tried out the movement with me in the staff room and I corrected her form. She thought she might give Zumba another try as that was the reason she had quit. I was happy because she did enjoy it so much.  In my opinion, this is something the Zumba leader should have been doing. Just take a couple of minutes at the start of the class to go over the proper way to do a pelvic drop so you don’t hurt yourself.  It doesn’t appear that the Zumba method includes this.

Another thing to be aware of is that if you have bad knees, you should wear dance shoes (such as athletic dance shoes) instead of regular (sticky grip) athletic shoes to avoid torque in your knees during the sliding & twisting movements.  Now, I have squirrelly knees and I protect them like mad from twisting movements. So, because I was not wearing a shoe that would allow me to slide, my knees quickly began to hurt. I switched to a small jump through all of the twists and turns side to side, but it didn’t really improve things much. It took the rest of the week for my knees to recover after each class. I went to three of the six classes and it never improved, so I decided not to return. 

Zumba was also a bit too frantic for me. I left each class feeling … jangly (if that’s a word!) But that’s okay. I’m really glad I tried it out. It just wasn’t a good fit for me – wasn’t my cup of tea.

If you try a Zumba class and don’t love it, though, be warned! Zumba aficionados are very passionate about their classes. Be prepared to get flamed if you say it out loud, because in my experience it is not acceptable to not enjoy Zumba. 

Anyway, Zumba classes are still being offered over the lunch hour here at the college and I think it is a fabulous thing to have exercise classes right on campus. I’m happy because the people who attend really enjoy it and that’s a good thing.

I have also done Bellyfit, which is similar to Zumba in some ways. Zumba uses movement from Latin America & West Africa. Bellyfit uses movements from Silk Road cultures (India, Middle East, North Africa).  A Bellyfit class consists of high energy aerobic dance movements for the first half of the class, followed by yoga-inspired stretch & meditation for the second half. I liked it. It had a nice balance of energies which is a better match for my personality.  In fact, I may take the Bellyfit training program so I can offer Bellyfit classes in Whitehorse someday. We’ll see. (wink wink!)