Nick David Wright

Living well, laughing often, loving much.

Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

Yoga diary 2

with 2 comments

Weeks 2 and 3 – Jan 19, 2010:

My yoga practice was pretty well sidetracked during the second week of January.

Average temperatures for this region this time of year range from highs of 40s to lows of 20s. That second week we saw highs not reaching double digits and lows in the negatives, and I’m not talking about wind chill either. Suffice to say it was cold.

The problem being that the camper we’re living in was not designed to handle such cold temperatures and we were caught unprepared. And doing yoga on a floor hovering around 50 degrees (at most — with our heaters cranked to max) was not something high on my to-do list.

But thankfully the temperatures have warmed back up (above normal now, we got to 60 today!) and I have returned gratefully to the mat.

I’m still working on the downward dog position. And I think I’m still making progress. In the last post I wrote that I found a more natural position taking up the full length of the mat. But lately I find myself bringing my feet closer to my hands and only using maybe three-quarters. The only reason I can say is that this feels more right to me the longer I practice.

One thing that really surprises me about down dog is how much that pose works the hamstrings. And one thing that yoga has definitely taught me about my body is that I have extremely tight hamstrings.

When I first started working on down dog it was a struggle to get my heels anywhere close to the mat. I’m getting better, and I can almost keep my feet flat now. But I really feel the burn in those particular muscles.

Another thing that working on this has really made me realize is that I need a teacher. I’m doing my best to learn these poses from the books, and trying to judge by feel when I’m doing it right. But I really can’t see myself. My Beloved and I have tried the video thing some more, but what I need is real-time correction while I’m in the pose so that I can get a more direct sense of what I’m doing.

Luckily there is a local yoga teacher. Samantha Gillmore of Life Yoga in Nevada, Mo., offers classes all the time. And she’s also offering a beginner’s course at the local continuing education center starting the middle of February.

I’ve been putting off going to a class mainly because of budget reasons, but if I’m serious about this (and I am) I need to take a class. And that beginner’s course is probably just what I’m looking for.

So in addition to working on down dog this week. I’ve also started the second pose in Yoga Journal’s “Yoga for Beginners,” Utthita Trikonasana, or Extended Triangle Pose.

I worked myself into that pose (or something similar anyway) for the first time today. And I am amazed at the feeling it creates in the chest. I am very excited about continuing to explore the new pose.

Again though I find myself frustrated by my sticky mat that is not sticky. The Extended Triangle Pose calls for a wide stance and I found my feet slipping while trying to hold the posture. Maybe a more sticky mat should be moved higher on my shopping list … along with that class, oh and some blocks. I made-do tonight with a square pillow we have, but it wasn’t quite the same thing as a solid block.

Advertisements

Written by Nick David Wright

January 20, 2010 at 6:06 am

Purusharthas

with one comment

The past decade of my life has been dedicated, more or less, to the pursuit of the answer to one question: What do I want out of life, and how do I get it?

I believe I have a fairly good idea of what it is that I want. But I have been struggling with the second part of my question, how do I get it?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about balance between the various aspects of life. I have begun to suspect the answer to that troublesome part B lay in that direction.

I have swung between the extremes. Working so much I have no time for anything else, working so little I have no money for what I desire. And I’ve been thinking very hard about how to find my middle road.

Recently I received the February issue of Yoga Journal in the mail. In which is printed an article titled “Aim High,” by Hillary Dowdle. The focus of the article is the yoga principles known as purusharthas.

The purusharthas divide all the aspects of life into four categories, which according to the article, “offer a yogic perspective on how to engage skillfully with the world.”

The four categories, or “aims of life,” are: dharma (duty), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (the pursuit of liberation).

At first I was a little unsure what I thought of the four aims, but I have come to think that they are a wise division of life. I had only been making two distinctions in life, I was treating dharma and artha as one and the same with kama and moksha.

I have yet to grasp all of what the extra divisions mean, but the breaking up of dharma and artha will have an impact in how I approach life.

The article in Yoga Journal was a well-timed breath of fresh air.

Written by Nick David Wright

January 11, 2010 at 5:00 am

Posted in Yoga

Tagged with , , ,

Downward Facing Dog

leave a comment »

As part of my resolution to really start exploring the individual yoga poses, I also decided that I would start keeping a diary of my thoughts and experiences regarding my workouts. So here’s my first entry.

Week 1

I started work yesterday really exploring the pose downward facing dog. It is the first listed in the Yoga for Beginners Mastering the Basics, and it seems like you can hardly find a yoga sequence that does not mention this pose in some fashion or another. I figured it was as good a place as any to start.

The AM Yoga video from ExerciseTV utilizes down dog quite a bit, so I figured I could do a little work on this one and move on to the other poses rather quickly. I was wrong.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, the ExerciseTV videos are great but they do move pretty quickly. So when I sat down to learn down dog “for real” I found that I didn’t have quite the grip on it I thought.

Firstly, I found that the back of my calves are extremely tight. I discovered this when I realized that in the past I had been performing down dog on my toes, when according to the magazine the correct position for the feet is flat on the mat. The second indication that I was doing something wrong was that it hurt quite a bit between my shoulder blades.

I was having a very hard time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, so I asked my Beloved to help me, she’d watch and compare with the photos in the magazine. That didn’t work as well as I’d hoped so she pulled out our little digital camera and took some video of me in the pose so I could see what I looked like for myself. She thought the process was quite funny.

The first thing I noticed on the video was that for some reason I was only using about half my mat. The photo in the magazine depicts a guy with the tips of his fingers near one edge of the mat and the heels of his feet at the other. And here I was scrunched up in the middle of mine. My first thought was “no way I can stretch out that far, he must be taller or have a shorter mat.”

Wrong again. I tried again this time making sure I was using the whole mat. And wouldn’t you know it? I could do it. And it felt much better this way. Imagine that. And here’s where I discovered another problem, my $9 Wal-Mart mat is not nearly as sticky as I thought. Trying to hold downward dog became pretty difficult because my hands kept slipping forward. I suppose I will have to invest in a better mat sooner than I had thought.

Getting myself spread out was a big improvement, but I was still experiencing some pretty intense pain between my shoulders. So I took a short break, read through the article again then worked a little more in the puppy dog variation described by the author. In the puppy dog I paid very close attention to the alignment of my hands, arms and shoulders; I just knew that the problem lay in that area somewhere.

Then when I got back down to try the full downward facing dog, I noticed something about my hands. The text of the article says to make sure that the crease lines in your wrists form a straight line. I had figured that if my fingers were pointing straight ahead, those lines would be straight too. I was — again — wrong. To make the creases of my wrists form a straight line, I had to angle my fingers outwards just a tiny bit. And so far that seems to have done the trick.

All told I practiced down dog for about 40 minutes. By the time I had finished I felt I had made really good progress with this pose. And after finishing I was very surprised to find that my entire body felt very good. I think I had been working under the assumption that to get the “yoga-glow” feeling you had to do a complete set with several different poses. I was not expecting to find that working on just one pose left me feeling so good.

I am very encouraged by last night’s effort and cannot wait to continue working on these exercises.

Written by Nick David Wright

January 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Yoga

leave a comment »

For some time I have been looking for a simple form of exercise that I could practice on my own that did not require a large investment in equipment.

I’ve been learning Tai Chi on-again-off-again for the last two or three years. Tai Chi though is rather complex, the basic form has 24 different moves that you must learn to complete the sequence. And the entire set requires quite a bit of space to move.

Around about this past October I finally got around to looking at yoga (I’ll explain a little more about why it took me so long later). I got on the iTunes Store looking for instructional videos and quickly found ExerciseTV’s “Anytime Yoga” series of which they were giving the “PM Yoga” video away for free.

Since Halloween I have done the 10-minute PM set nearly every night before going to bed. The effect on my rest at night were noticeable immediately. However what surprised me most was that the near constant back and neck pain along with numbness and tingling in my hands and fingers that I had been experiencing since late summer and which was beginning to interfere at work was gone by Thanksgiving, a mere four weeks later.

Yoga is exactly what I’ve been looking for. There isn’t a lot to learn in order to start. There isn’t a lot of equipment to purchase, I bought a $9 mat from Wal-Mart because I found myself slipping on the carpet when trying to hold some of the poses. And it doesn’t require a lot of space. There is just enough space in the living room of our camper for me to do the exercises, though I am already dreaming of the time we finish our house and can have more room to stretch out in.

The past three months I have been very happy keeping to the videos, but now I feel the need to really learn the poses on my own. The videos are good but they go rather quickly, and I’m looking to slow down and really plumb the depths of these exercises.

So for the coming new year I will be making a concerted effort to learn the individual poses by themselves and in depth. I will utilize the “Yoga for Beginners” special issue put out by Yoga Journal along with the many resources online as well as hopefully finding a local teacher to spend some time with.

Written by Nick David Wright

January 2, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Yoga

Tagged with , ,