Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Review

February was a month of slow transition.
1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Practice happened 5-6 days a week. Pranayama once a week. Elimination of the double classes and taking 1-2 days off per week has my knees feeling better. Elbows are doing better as well, though I credit that to the addition of bicep curls into my lifting.

Asana improvements were subtle, both a result of attending the studio classes. There is an external rotation action in the shoulder girdle that happens during shoulder stand and bridge. I cannot do it without props, but am learning to engage it by pulling on a block between my hands.

During a propped wheel, the Iyengar teacher adjusted me into full shoulder flexion, without allowing my lower back to collapse. I'd just assumed such a position was impossible for me, but she applied very little force. I don't understand how to take myself there yet, but I am interested to learn.

Reading was limited to the introduction from Edward Bryant's Yoga Sutras book. It's on par with the Pradipika in complexity. I expect to read most of it in March. I lucked into used copies of Eknath Easwaran's Upanishads and the Anatomy of Hatha Yoga. I'm not sure when I'll have time to read them. I also got a copy of the Sarah Powers Insight Yoga DVD.

I attended the last day of Laurie Blakeney's workshop. The pranayama was fun, and she covered a good setup for propping the chest while seated. It was in the context of Maha Bandha, but could also apply to pranayama. Otherwise, the workshop was very similar to what is covered in my regular classes, but much more expensive. There were also many more students. I am finding more value committing that time and money to teachers I can see weekly, even if they don't have the same name recognition.

The meditation workshop started at the end of the month and will continue through March. I'm not sure how much new information I will be exposed to, but it has me meditating on a daily basis, and is helping me to synthesize the facts I've memorized. I am happy with the time investment so far, though it precludes starting the pranayama course from Light on Pranayama.

March will be more of the same.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - I finished the first modified 5 3 1 cycle in February. Other then a little tweaking of my weights, the second cycle will be similar.

There are a few exercises that really help my physical imbalances. Bicep curls are healing my elbows. Front squats with a strap around my upper arm, as well as kettlebell pullovers, are improving my shoulders. These might distract from near term strength improvements a little, but I think are very good for my long term joint health.

I did not spend much time on cardio. I like the idea of having done it, but I was not at the gym very often. The step mill is tolerable, but there's no way I'm walking outside in the cold. Maybe I'll do more in March.

Supplements are on track, with DHA, D3, a multi-vitamin and protein every day. I will add creatine back for March.

Food saw major changes during February. I made rice and beans every week, packed food for both work events that normally derail me, and mostly avoided processed items, even when eating out. Weight was stable, maybe down a little, without tracking calories or measuring portions.

I will continue the pattern in March and hope this is a more permanent shift in how I eat. There was a learning curve to overcome with the rice and beans, but I am now on to the fun part. Every week the recipe is novel, and it often tastes good.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect - My objective metric fell apart. Not sure what happened. My best guess is too much energy was invested in the transition to a producer mentality.  I'll try to fix it in March. There was a lot of time spent doing things as a couple - baking cookies, an ice festival, a snow walk, yoga classes, homemade pizza, etc.

On the qualitative side, I did pretty well at opting out of the consumer role. I need to sustain the pattern. Fortunately, inertia is on my side. I would like to spend less time online - news sites and forums have been a little problematic. I did clean the house.

Colds limited time spent with family. I did see some friends. March will be better here, especially as the weather warms up.

Overall February was a fine month, if a little plodding. I am well positioned going into March.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January 2015 Review

January was scattered.

1. Pain Free Daily Yoga - Practice happened 5-6 days a week. Pranayama was once a week. Minor knee aches diminished my enthusiasm. I need to find the right effort and alignment to support daily practice. My shoulders feel great, my elbows remain tender. I did reduce overall volume, with no more than one class per day.

Asana focused on "right action" in basic poses. This leads to small steps forward, but no huge breakthroughs. One teacher did guide me in a great pranayama setup, that generated spontaneous bandha engagement. My inversions are getting stronger, but I am still fearful with headstand away from the wall. I made hip openers a priority, as they seem to help my shoulder girdle fall into place.

In reading I:

Finished the Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Read Teaching Yoga by Mark Stephens
Skimmed a book on meditation
Skimmed Light on Pranayama
Skimmed David Swenson's Ashtanga Yoga book
Flagged a handful of classic yoga texts I'd eventually like to read

The books are repeating one another now, especially after consuming the Pradipika. That's why I skimmed the latter resources. I'll casually read my yoga sutras book, and possibly return to Anatomy Trains, but am unlikely to buy more yoga books this year. I know the concepts, more reading won't lead to a deeper understanding. Practice, preferably with a teacher that has already walked the path, is what I need.

In that spirit, after avoiding the studio for about 3 weeks, I re-committed myself to the advanced classes. I have 1-2 available each week, and they are now a priority. I'm also more casually attending 1-3 vinyasa classes, since they help keep my work capacity high.

I signed up for the meditation workshop. It starts in February. I also committed to the last morning of the Laurie Blakeney workshop, mostly for the hour of pranayama. It's so rare to find pranayama instruction, especially from a regular practitioner.

I am considering initiation of the pranayama course from Light on Pranayama. I may also try to learn the nauli kriya. It really depends on how much energy the meditation course requires. I do tend to get distracted. Asana practice will be more of the same, with a focus on attending the advanced classes.

2. 1 2 3 at 145 - Lifting is going well. I started a modified 5 3 1 cycle and am benefiting from the structure. I am as strong as I've ever been, and likely getting stronger. I did some video work with my overhead press and front squat, finding insights that may improve my shoulder function. The camera is a fantastic tool. I started playing on the step mill. My cardio is terrible right now.

Supplements are on track, with DHA, D3, a multi-vitamin and protein every day.

Food is another story. I tried "eating healthy" the first two weeks of the month, without tracking calories. My weight climbed back up to 160. Since that's my ceiling, I resumed tracking calories and have managed to bounce around in the high 150's. I am still searching for motivation to consistently eat according to plan. I'll have a couple light days, then get into the Scotch, or make some cookies, or have work obligations where I eat out multiple meals in a row.

I have reduced the percentage of refined food in my pantry and am headed towards cleaner eating overall. Black bean tacos were a common meal, I even made lentils and rice towards the end of the month. Work related patterns are probably the most damaging to my nutrition. I can eliminate many of them by packing meals. Getting more sleep leading into those days would help as well. I tend to make the least constructive food choices when I am tired.

February will be more of the same lifting. I'd like to make cleaner food choices, but am not sure if I'll find the motivation.

3. Advance my Profession - I will devote 100% of professional development in 2015 to my current employer. This will no longer be a public goal.

4. Connect - I hit 50% of my objective metric. Towards the end of the month, I stumbled into what may be a winning pattern. I'll see what February brings.

On the qualitative side, it is time for specific changes. More and more, I recognize the need to opt out of a consumer role. If my eyes or my data are the product, I don't want to participate. If a company is trying to shape my behavior through marketing, I don't want to participate. If clever product positioning is driving obviously huge margins, I don't want to participate.  Rarely do these scenarios help me. They waste my time, screw with my sleep, screw with my food, compromise my privacy, and lead me into destructive, oddly compelling patterns. I can't beat multi-million (billion?) dollar budgets, so my only real option is to opt out.

Starting in February, if the product is my eyeballs, in trade for content, I'm totally out. I might miss some good "free" stuff, but it's not worth the real cost. I don't need the mental chatter. The same goes for food. If I don't understand what is in it, I'm out. As compelling as I might find products like an "oreo stack", their contribution to my life is a net negative. Additionally, if a seller is charging a 1000%+ markup on basic life skills, I'm out. I can brew my own tea, boil my own pasta...

Rather than leave an empty void, these consumer patterns will be replaced with producer patterns. It's not an original idea, but I drifted from it over time. Getting together with people to cook instead of going to restaurants.  Taking a walk instead of watching Youtube. Visiting the library for books, instead of browsing magazines at Barnes and Noble. The more I align my patterns with my goals, the easier my life will be. Maybe I'll even get around to cleaning the house.

Despite the weather, I managed to spend a good amount of time with family, friends and co-workers in January. I expect February to be even better.

January demonstrated a need for transition. February will be simple and focused. The changes will feel like deprivation at first, but I expect easier days by the end of the month.