Balance Series #4: Warrior III

Introduction

Why start with 3? Doesn’t 1 and 2 come first? In a linear world, yes. But don’t fret if you can’t find Warrior I or II on my blog because they aren’t there (yet)! But in the context of the balance series, Warrior III is a pose that brings the strength and heat-building elements of a Warrior pose into the practice of balance.

How?

Start in Mountain pose, then place your arms in a comfortable position. Examples of arm positions include: prayer, straight above your head or out toward your sides. Simultaneously extend one leg backwards as you hinge from your hips. Lower your torso until you are parallel to the floor. You may need to bend the standing leg to help with balance. Also, you may want to change your arm position. Just keep in mind that changing the arm position can change your center of mass, and your weight will shift slightly as you move. Keep your lower back level. It is about length, not height, so try to keep your hips from rotating out. Imagine extending and lengthening in opposite directions from your navel. As you slow your breathing, picture your body becoming longer and lighter.

Why?

Who doesn’t want a longer, lighter body? Here are some other benefits.

  • Strengthens the neck, shoulders, calves, hamstring and back muscles
  • Stretches the muscles along the spine, the flexor muscles, calves, hamstrings and groin muscles
  • Corrects posture
  • Improves respiration
  • Improves focus and concentration

Conclusion

Balance is not necessarily doing things in a set order, and it’s alright to mix things up. Believe it or not, many times you can get to 3 without passing through 1 and 2. Yoga (and life) is about being aware of your needs and adapting to them. Own it!

When have you jumbled things up and ended up better off? Let me know in the comments!

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Modifications

Balance Series #3: Balancing Your Workout

Balancing Workouts

There are quite a few people who help me find balance in my life. I have a wonderful husband and an amazing family, but you have already read about how great they are. If you haven’t, check out my previous blog posts. This post is going to focus on balance in my workout routine and some pretty amazing people in our community. As I began to make time for exercise in my daily routine, I found that I needed to mix up my workouts. According to Web MD your exercise plan should include aerobic exercise, stretching, and strength training.

What Works for Me*

Of course yoga is my exercise of choice for stretching and stress relief. However, to make sure I get balance in my routine (cardio and strength training), I rely on BodyPlex. This works for me because I need a place that has child care and because they provide a diverse group of classes that are led by very capable instructors. My favorite cardio is Body Jam with Kelly Webb. The energy of the class is great for me, and dance is a wonderful form of expression. Kelly also manages a FaceBook Page and website, RUKillerFit?, with Farredeh Baughcum (another amazing BodyPlex instructor).

I do not like weights at all. It’s just a personal preference. I hear many positive comments about Body Pump, but I prefer using my own body weight to tone my muscles. For that reason, I like TRX with Becky Layson to get my weekly strength training. Becky is a personal trainer and a friend of mine. She knows when to push me and when to back off. She is wonderful at making sure I have proper form for safety and get maximum results.

What About You…?

Almost any workout plan will work if you stick with it, and that is the hard part. It is paramount that you have a support system. Whether it is a friend that meets you at the park, a neighbor that walks the subdivision with you, a gym or a studio that offers balance such as The Wellness Studio at Promotion, here are some things to consider when you start balancing your health and your everyday life.

  • Location – keep it close to home or work (so you will go), and keep it somewhere you can enjoy. The park is great much of the year, and since moving here I have been surprised to find there are amazing parks all over the place – you’ll start noticing them when you start looking for them.
  • Your interests – Make it fun. If it doesn’t interest you, what’s the point? One of the biggest mistakes I see is people doing a routine they hate just because they see other people doing it. I tried running – it lasted about 2 months before I quit. If I forced running to be my daily workout, I would sit on the couch and eat chocolate all day instead.
  • Amenities that suit your particular situation – Do you need childcare, nutritionist, certified instructors, physical therapist, an area to stretch, a pool, sauna, shower, court for basketball or racquetball, alone time? Just make sure to balance these things against the cost – if it’s a stretch financially, you won’t be able to keep it going.
  • Cost – Let’s keep it real. This guy built/bought his own home gym for less than what some of us spend on a gym membership in a couple of months. Regardless of whether you think that’s normal or extreme, working out can be virtually free when you take advantage of nature (the park) or the spare room in your basement. Even many of the amenities I listed in the bullet point above can be found around town for free, nearly free or as part of a normal gym membership. There’s no need to throw down large sums of money on fancy workout stuff.
  • Balance of options – cardio, strength, flexibility, mental stress relief, nutrition advice

I didn’t mention time, but time is a major reason people give for not staying fit. Example: “I’m just so busy with the kids’ stuff that I am exhausted and don’t have time to go to the gym!” I hear you loud and clear! But before we get too satisfied with our rationalizations, check out the article in my blog Balance Series #1 about time management. Making time for yourself today can give you a longer, healthier life to spend with your family, and that makes it all worth it!

What am I missing? Tell me in the comments.

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Peanut butter runner

Fitness training: Elements of a well-rounded routine

*Full disclosure: I am an instructor at Bodyplex and The Wellness Studio at ProMotion so that’s what I know. I get no direct benefit from recommending anyone or anything mentioned in this (or any other) article. Anything mentioned here is because I have found it useful in my life and think you might as well. The key takeaway: find what you enjoy, mix it up a little bit and use that to balance your routine and your life.

Balance Series #2: Tree Pose

Introduction

What do you visualize when you think of a tree? Tall, strong, beautiful, rooted, gently swaying in the wind. Tree pose is the perfect pose to begin with because it is appropriate for any level yoga student. So this week’s post is centered on helping us find balance in our bodies through tree pose and extending it to our everyday lives. With regular practice you can improve focus, coordination and the ability to remain balanced, calm and centered even in the midst of whatever storm life may be sending your way.

How?

From Mountain Pose (see, those foundational poses are important), bring your hands intentionally to heart center or prayer position. Start shifting your weight to balance on one leg. Bring your opposite foot to your standing ankle, calf or thigh. An important point here, only go as high as you feel comfortable.

Caution: do not stop on your knee. This will put too much pressure on the knee. Also, only bring your foot to the thigh if you can get it there without any help from the arms.  Do not force the foot to the thigh and break that nice long neutral spinal alignment. Height of the foot up the opposite leg will come with time and practice… or it won’t… but it is better to have proper spinal alignment than to try to look cool.

In keeping with that nice long neutral spine, your hips should stay level. This is particularly challenging to me. I have to constantly remind myself to keep my hip from jutting out.

From here your hand position can vary depending on what tree you are that day. You could bring your arms overhead like a tall pine. You could have cactus hands. You could bring your arms down by your side with palms facing forward (opening across your shoulders and chest). I call the last one the “weeping willow.” Or simply leave the hands at heart center. In the picture, I have my hands in prayer position. It looks like I’m leaning a little bit in the picture, but I’m standing on a pretty steep incline in my backyard – I would recommend you work on a flat surface.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you try to hold the pose, slow your breath down, find a focal point and visualize yourself as a tree. You are tall, strong, beautiful, rooted, gently swaying in wind.

Why?

Have you ever been walking on uneven ground and turned an ankle or just plain fell on your face? I’m guessing the answer is a reluctant, “yes… yes, I have.” If I’m right about that, then striking a tree pose will help you build and activate those muscles.

Some other benefits of Tree Pose:

  • Stretches the thighs, groins, torso, and shoulders
  • Builds strength in the ankles and calves, which promotes balance
  • Tones the abdominal muscles
  • According to some websites, it can also help to remedy flat feet by working those foot muscles while you are trying to balance

Tree pose is great for athletes. Not only does it promote balance (much needed in any sport), it teaches you to visualize your goal. You see it. You do it. You own it.

Conclusion

Start slowly from the ground up. Stability can change daily. Consider all of the factors that contribute to balance such as hydration, alcohol consumption, sinus issues, inner ear issues and current medications, to name a few. Balance is also different from the right side of the body to the left side of the body, so you may be better at this pose on one leg than the other. That’s alright. Just keep practicing. Yoga is about self awareness. It is important to honor that. Accept where you are right now, not where you were ten years ago or where you think you should be.

Here is an article with a fun fact about balance.

As you practice Tree Pose you will gain balance in all areas of your life, not just on your mat, which will directly translate into fewer embarrassing (and potentially dangerous) moments when you take a dive because you lost your balance. You will learn how to slow your breathing, focus and remain calm and centered. Now that is transformation!

Other Articles

This is an exercise from DirtyYoga for men to help with balance. I love that this is out there.

Best yoga poses to improve balance

I would love for you to leave a message or send a picture of your tree. I made it easier for you to leave comments by removing the email requirement, so comment away!

Balance Series #1

New Balance Series Starting

The next few blog posts will be a series on balance. Life is a series of choices, and we all must learn how to balance. Do I eat out tonight or cook dinner at home? Do I go to the gym or watch reruns on the couch with a big bowl of candy? Do I knock out another TRX class or do yoga? Do I pay off the mortgage, invest the money or buy a new car?

The series will consist of balancing poses in yoga complemented by a consideration of balance in your workout routines, balance within your body and balance of the everyday stresses of life. If you have anything specific that you would like discussed, email me or comment below and I will try to include it.

Balancing Life

Let’s jump right in there! I will be the first to admit that I need help at times with balance in my everyday life. If you’ve been in my home, sadly, you know the room in the featured picture was not staged. Some days I am functioning on an hour by hour basis – scratch that, minute by minute. Between my faith, my three small children, my family and friends, the house and my new yoga opportunities, I have very little, if any, energy left for Erin. There have been occasions in the past where I lost who I was. I was stuck in survival mode. Anyone who is a caregiver has been in survival mode. You can read my story in the previous post Why Yoga.

Let’s Get Specific

What we are really talking about is prioritization, time management and, generally speaking, just trying to make it all happen. There is never enough time or energy to get everything done in one day. Here are a few things that have helped me.

Full disclosure: I get no direct benefit from any people or products that I mention in these posts. They have been useful to me, and I think they may be useful to you. If nothing else, they’ll give you some ideas for your journey.

Time management

What…is…that? It is important to track where you spend your time and how much time you spend on each task. This will help you prioritize.  If you allow others to usurp your time, they will. Here is the key, YOU! That is right. It is a choice. If it is important to you, you will make the time. The reason it is a cliche is because it’s true. One goal should be to make time for you. You will be stronger and happier for it. I think this article provides some perspective on how busy we really are. These ladies run companies and still intentionally make time for the important things.

To help me with managing my time, I have an Erin Condren LifePlanner. You can buy a calendar at the dollar store or make one on your computer. EVERY event for ANYONE in my household goes into that one book. As caregivers we not only manage ourselves but others as well. It is important to stay organized and keep everyone in the household on the same wavelength. Plus, with a calendar, when your significant other wants to argue with you about when something was scheduled, you can pull out the official record, point to the entry and smile on the inside as you realize you just decisively won an argument (just remember – no judging, even when it’s that tempting).

Support

My husband and I plan “business/family meetings” on a regular basis to ensure we share the same goals. These can be short (on the order of a few sentences) or longer (up to an hour). We also try to help each other meet personal goals. One of my goals is to update my website and keep it fresh. Without nagging, my husband is consistent in asking if I made my latest self-imposed deadline with the website. That support system is necessary. It holds me accountable and also provides encouragement when I fall short.

It is also important to have an individual or group with which you can celebrate the victories in life, no matter how big or small. Here are a few of my support groups: Snellville Church of Christ  and my fellow Christians, friends and family (including my employers and colleagues). I am blessed to work with peaceful, happy people. The instructors at the Wellness Studio are truly a positive influence on my life. Part of yoga is letting go of judgement and competition. In that spirit, the ladies there are my cheerleaders rather than my competitors, and that makes a world of difference in the workplace.

Bottom Line

Build your life around the important things. And make no mistake, you are important! Start small, but aim big. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I know you can get there. Life can be an amazing journey. Make yours a good one.

Use the comment section to tell me how you put balance in your everyday life… and please tell me I’m not the only one with a room that children destroy!