Monday, October 29, 2012

Yoga Lesson - Q4 2012

I took a private yoga lesson on 10/26/12. These were my take aways:

1. Knowing the fundamentals of yoga is not the same as applying them. I need to drop my thoughts, move with my breath and let the yoga work. I am past the point where progress comes from analysis or force of will. Discussing barriers with my instructor was very helpful, because she has the experience to point me back at the basics. As she says - "let the pose do you".

2. I came in with a complicated, comprehensive model of breathing, pulled from my yoga anatomy book. While my interest in theory was humored, real progress came from troubleshooting two poses:

2.1 Quarter moon - My breathing pattern was - lift my arms and take a deep breath, then bend over while trying to take another deep breath. It turns out I have to breathe out before I can breathe in again...

This is a recurring problem in my poses. As I start moving, I'll take a deep breath in, but only let a shallow breath out. It makes getting more air very difficult. Then I get dizzy because I am holding my breath. The instructor tells us to breathe out, but I seem to have a listening problem.

2.2 Dancers - My breathing pattern was - take a deep breath in, lean forward, pause, take another deep breath in, lean forward some more, hold my breath till we get released...

Again, I have been holding my breath. At least with this pose I kind of knew I was doing it for stability. My instructor had me watch how she breathes through the pose. It was much different. She exhales upon grabbing her foot, moves into the pose with a single deep inhale, and then uses an exhale to settle her body at the full expression of the pose. The settling was visually obvious, and I could even hear her joints cracking as her body released. It was a strong demonstration, and left an impression of what moving with my breath can eventually become.

Playing around with these ideas in a subsequent class, I found I struggle most with breathing in poses where inhaling is easy, but exhaling is hard. Typically these have a point where the torso is stretched out, like in hero's or even a seated forward fold. Forcing the air out by contracting my diaphragm seems like it may help, but I need to play with it more. Focusing on exhales definitely made my core sore.

I was given the homework to breathe mindfully for 5 minutes every day. So far, I have an F.

3. We went through the two problems I've encountered during my vinyasa:

3.1 Pain in my right thumb - We played around with down dog a little, but could not find a better position than gripping the mat with all my fingers. It seems likely I am over loading my hands, but I have not found range of motion to make my hands "light" yet. Even after 6 months, I am still letting my shoulders move towards my ears instead of taking them down my back. Gah.

3.2 Skin tears on my big toe - I was hoping we could find a movement problem that leads to these, but it seems occasional tears just come from moving barefoot in a warm, humid environment. My solution of using new skin when the tear is bad is ok.

We also covered some basic questions relating to the asanas.

4. Half moon - It seems the trouble I've had stacking my hips comes from transitioning into the pose incorrectly. I need to actually launch forward into the pose from warrior 2, like the instructor says. Instead, I've been standing up, going halfway into warrior 3, and then trying to rotate my body open. I am not strong enough to enter a full half moon that way. My instructor did it, so it's not impossible, but I'll do better if I focus on transitioning from warrior 2.

5. Triangle - I need to use the block. It's not a crutch. I need to use the block. It's not a crutch. I've been told this before.

6. Face side wall, fold forward - Folding forward allows the legs to open wider than they can while standing. I should let this happen and use it to move into a fuller expression of the pose. I'll have to move my feet back in to stand up, but that's ok.

7. Wheel - My alignment is fine. The only reason I cannot do the full pose in class is because I am tired. This is one of the rare movements where I can just try harder. The class following my lesson, I got up into the pose. I think it will come more easily if I focus on the opening of my hips and torso, instead of on the press up.

8. Half pigeon - My foot tingling during the pose is not all that unusual. As long as my foot is flexed, I should not worry about it. Temporarily rolling over on my hip to reposition my front leg is ok.

9. "Touch your elbow" arm balance - This is hard, I'm not ready for it yet and I don't need to worry about it. I figured maybe I could use upper body strength to force it, but guess not.

10. Tree - While this pose may end with my eyes focused up, I should not start there. The process of stabilizing my body with my gaze straight ahead, then looking up as I lean back, is important. Treating a pose as a process instead of an end goal is probably one of those important, basic concepts I will take a long time to synthesize.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 2012 Review

October goals went well. The initial momentum created by changing what I do has subsided, but progress continues.

1. Move better - I did all planned yoga and lifting. I did most of the planned walking, but injury forced me to miss a week.

Eating like someone who does yoga led to an immediate improvement in my class, especially during twists. I attribute this to having less volume in my system. I also started eating small, high protein meals every 3 hours. I think it will help offset the impact of eating less on lifting. It does mean eating more expensive food, but the food also takes less time to prepare.

Other improvements in yoga are relatively minor. Given that I am 6 months in, it's not surprising. There were very few classes where I gassed out, though I still struggle with breathing correctly. I look forward to seeing the impact of my yoga lesson on next month's progress.

Lifting on 5/3/1 went ok. I finished another cycle, but had to drop back for my deadlift and press weights. These were approaching a limit, and with the change in my food, stalled hard. Progress continues on front squats and bench press. I updated my cycle worksheet, to include the target reps for heavy sets, based on what will raise my overall trend line for the lift. Having that target seems much more effective that trying to "get as many reps as possible", as outlined in the base program. Given that lifting is secondary to yoga right now, I am happy with this progress.

I have been dealing with two injuries. Something is wrong with my hand, between my thumb and pointer finger. I've had to drop renegade rows and limit kettlebell clean and presses, since those impact it the most. I can still do axle deadlifts and grippers though. Side plank on my right side is out during yoga, and I have to really focusing on gripping the mat with my hands during the yoga vinyasa. I feel like the hand is improving slowly, but will take months to return to 100%. I am pretty sure relaxing my hands during the yoga vinyasa is at fault, and I have been avoiding yoga multiple days in a row to help let it heal. I've also been doing some extra work with dexterity balls and finger extensions. If I don't have marked improvement by the end of next month, I'll see a doctor or take some time off yoga.

The other injury is a skin tear in my big toe. It is minor, so I tried ignoring it for a few weeks. The problem is it would re-open every time I went for a walk or did yoga. I thought lotion might help, but with the skin already ripped, that just made it re-open more easily. I tried using new skin on it for a week and skipping walks. That let it heal, but as soon as I returned to walking, it re-opened. Currently, I'm just gluing it shut with new skin before yoga.

Longer term, eating like someone who does yoga is making me lighter. I think over the next several months, that will reduce the stress on my thumb and toe.

2. Beat the internet - This goal did not go as well during October, but was still much improved relative to my baseline.

I found after using the internet for half a day at the end of September, I really wanted to check "one more thing" during the month. I did manage to stay off news sites and message boards, nobody cares about my email anymore, but I had more other relapses than I'd prefer.

I think the problem was a reduction in available substitute behaviors. I could not walk as much, I was not eating pizza with ice cream every night, and work was back to normal. I ended up drinking more and watching netflix, which are not good substitutes.

I am working on building my walking back up and increasing work pressure a little bit to compensate here. Magazines did help, but it turns out Wired is pretty marginal. Video games were a good distraction, cooking helped out a few times (chili / pumpkin muffins / brownies), and I got through a couple books from the library. I got my Amazon wish list setup for interlibrary loan, but need to follow through on getting more books. I am going to subscribe to an ad free music service. Given the low quality of Wired, I feel a little discouraged about magazine subscriptions. I might try some back issues of Harvard Business Review or MIT Sloan from the library.

Part of me wonders if getting involved in a charity wouldn't solve the internet problem, but I hesitate to introduce an ongoing time commitment based on a single month.

Time boxing work went great. There were no crazy weeks, and other than my planned monthly release, I did not have to work outside of normal hours. It was a little frustrating to see how little work gets done without the crazy weeks. It looks like November is on track to ramp up in the early part of the month, though I expect things to drop off with Thanksgiving.

3. Make my money work - I primarily bought time through pre-made foods. Other than chopping up produce, cooking only makes sense as a source of entertainment. The hourly wage is poor.

The contractor did come by twice, and he fixed many things in the house. He gets about $50/hr, but compared to how long I would need for the same work, I am buying my time back at under $20/hr. Also, he is actually doing the work, which I have proven I will not do. Given that these jobs are required for the house to maintain its value, I consider it a huge win.

I started into the Investment Science book, but progress is slow. The contractor won't be back until December, and another mental burden finished up in October, so I expect much more progress on the investment side of things over November.

I looked into a mortgage refinance, but could only find a rate that was .5% lower than my current loan. Given the amount I owe and term length remaining, I need at least a 1% drop to justify the time cost.

4. Socialize - I did my yoga. I went to a yoga party. I had a yoga lesson. I went to a friend's house to play games. I went to the arboretum with my wife, twice. I also went to the arboretum with my wife and a friend, including a visit to the friend's house to make pizza. This was actually a pretty good month for non-consumption based socialization. I also shared meals with coworkers, friends, and family fairly often.

November might be a little slower. We've got a party scheduled, but it looks like attendance may be light. I suppose we will see family for Thanksgiving. I will make a point to fill my calendar, but I expect other people to be busy with the holidays.

Overall, these goals are going well. I have a lot of space for improvement and remain motivated to work on them.