Category Archives: yoga

Way Too Easy…Effortless Even

I started the weekend off great.  I hit the gym early on Saturday.  Well, early as in noonish.  I walked the 1.7 miles to the gym and worked out for an hour and a half.  I then I walked to my friend’s art studio, which is ten minutes from the gym.  Another friend of ours showed up there, and the three of us walked the 1.4 miles back to my neighborhood.  We sat outside of Caribou Coffee for hours drinking fruffy coffee drinks and talked.  It was great.  Then I walked back up the monster hill to my place.

Yesterday started off great too.  I woke up and had a light breakfast and met my brother and niece in DC to do the Saturday am museum tour.  We walked around for about 2.5 hours.  I had my water and a protein snack, 1/3 cup of pistachios, while they ate at McDonald’s.

I went home and packed up some food to take to my sister’s house for a picnic.  She called me in a panic at one point asking me to give her instructions for making a particular chicken dish that I’ve made for her in the past.  She loves it and wanted to make it for the picnic.  I told her to hold off and I would make it when I arrived.

Cooking is easy for me, effortless in fact.  It almost seems to come naturally to me.  I walked into my sister’s kitchen and just took over.  I cleaned and dried the chicken breasts and began chopping them up while I gave my sister orders.  Before I knew it, the chicken was in the oven and I was reaching into my bag to begin prepping my next project.  I sliced and marinated zucchini while chatting it up with one of my sister’s friends without even thinking about it.  I handed the plate to my sister and ordered her to take it down to whichever male family member was manning the grill with specific cooking instructions.

I continued talking to a couple of people and reached into my bag and pulled out a couple of avocados and some spicy salsa.  As I cut the avocados in half, her friend said, “Now what are you making??”

“Guacamole,” I replied as I continued to cook without stopping.  I mixed the salsa and avocado together with a touch of olive oil and ordered someone take it down to the chip table.  Then I reached in my bag again and pulled out a can of Trader Joe’s Chili, grabbed a pot and began heating it up.  “For chili dogs,” I announced before another question could be asked.

That’s where my good behavior ended.

You know what else I can do effortlessly without even thinking about it?  Eat.

I chowed down as if I hadn’t eaten in months.  I ate a handful of corn chips with my yummy guacamole.  I ate random vegetables, potato salad, coleslaw, a little bit of the chicken dish, random other foods I cannot even remember.  Then I topped it off with a bunless hotdog with chili, relish, ketchup, and mustard.  Oh and let’s not for get the handfuls of M&Ms I tried hiding in my pockets thinking no one could see me eat them if I put them there.

WTF?

Obviously, I cannot be trusted at a food party.  I seriously thought I was going to throw up.  Granted, I didn’t eat it all at once, but I did go back to the food table over and over throughout the day.

After I got home last night, I took a walk through my neighborhood trying to walk some of the binge off.  I stopped at Caribou and drank some decaf tea hoping to push some of that food through my system with a warm drink.

Obviously, going to the gym is on the agenda today, as well as feeling horribly guilty about what I did to myself yesterday.  Yeah, I know there is no reason to really feel guilty.  Everyone falls off of the wagon sometimes.  What I should concentrate on is how I recover from this episode and move on.  I don’t know why I’m continually surprised every time I fall, but I am.  I am also very disappointed in myself.

I clearly need to watch my behavior more closely.  I had a somewhat prophetic conversation with my friend Sush on Saturday.  We were talking about yoga.  I kind of don’t like the yoga classes at the gym because of all of the movement.  The last time I took yoga classes, we concentrated on sitting in the positions and gently stretching, connecting mind and body.  The classes at the gym are more like yoga-exercise than a meditative stretching practice.

Sush agrees with my dislike for those kinds of yoga classes.  She grew up in India and they took yoga classes in school first thing in the morning.  What a fantastic way to start the day.

We talked a bit about “triangle pose” and she was talking about the importance of looking at your hands.  She said that yoga poses concentrate on looking at your hands because you mind should always know what your hands are doing.

I never thought of that before.  That made me think back to the endless number of times in my life where I just ate and ate without thinking.  The number of times I bought a giant bag of chips and ate through the whole thing and barely had any memory of how I ate that much.  If my mind had really been aware of what my hands, (and mouth quite frankly), were doing, would I have mindlessly eaten the whole bag?  Would I have slowed down?

I don’t know.  Maybe not.  All I know is that my mind was not paying attention to my hands yesterday.  Not while I was cooking, and especially not while I was eating.

I did manage to track all of the food.  I went home and made myself remember everything that I ate and logged it in “My Fitness Pal.”  Even with all of the eating I did, I still managed to stay below my allotted calories for the day. Not that I feel any better about what I did, but I guess that’s something.

Moving forward I am going to have to make sure that I stop and think before I eat.  Pay attention to what my hands are doing and be more mindful of what not just what I eat, but how I eat.  Maybe, eventually, I will be able to understand why.

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Far From Perfect

I made it to the gym again today.  I did 30 minutes cardio on the bike and then did an hour fifteen minutes of yoga.  The yoga class was intense.  I have to say, though, the instructor was fantastic.

The class was fairly advanced, that is to say, it was not for beginners.  I have taken yoga classes in the past as I mentioned yesterday.  I’m not unfamiliar with the different poses.  I would still qualify myself as a beginner, however.  It has been quite a while since I have really done any yoga, apart from the Bodyflow class yesterday, which I guess doesn’t really qualify as yoga exactly.

This instructor really seems to like the downward facing dog position quite a lot.  I can do it, but it is a fairly difficult position, particularly for someone who is still a bit heavy.  The fact that most of my weight is still in my stomach and upper body makes it even more difficult.

Every series of poses that she did either ended up in downward dog position or started there.  I had a really hard time with it.  The nice thing about this teacher is she kind of let us do things at our own pace.  When I found I could not do that position over and over, she said it was OK to either do the plank position or the child position instead.

This helped.  I alternated between downward dog and the child position.  She moved fast, but she let people find their own way to get from one position to the other.  Some of the students have apparently been doing this a long time and did not have the struggles I had.  Other students were far behind me.

Another student said that this teacher is great because she gives you permission to fail and find your own way through the practice.  That you don’t have to be perfect, but you just have to try.

This is good news for me because I am certainly far from perfect.  Nonetheless, I feel I had a good practice today.  I really tried to stretch and breathe through each pose or series of poses.  I am sore, but I feel good.  And the meditation at the end was wonderful.  I really like meditation.  It helps me feel centered.

I will definitely go back to this class, but I also think I’m going to start practicing the poses and breathing at home on my own.  Clearly, there are plenty of videos on Youtube to help me out.

I have my consult with the personal trainer on Thursday so that I can learn to use the weight equipment.  I know how to use some of them, but I really want to learn how to properly use them so that I can focus on strengthening and firming my body in addition to the cardio and fat burning that I’m doing on the bike.  I want to move away from the bike and onto the treadmill, but I have to admit, I’m a bit apprehensive of running.  I don’t like running at all, but I’m getting bored with the bike.  Maybe I will give it a try for 15 minutes or so tomorrow.  We shall see.

Namaste

I went back to the gym today after a two day hiatus.  Thursday, I had my second writer’s group and last night, well, let’s just say that I was lazy.

So, I got up this am and had my coffee, my breakfast, and a protein snack.  I took my vitamins and I felt prepared to work my butt off.  Or so I thought.

I wanted to do one of the exercise classes today.  I thought maybe there was a Zumba class, but there was not.  I arrived and they were in the middle of the Bodypump class.  I don’t think I’m quite ready for that one just yet only having just started back to the gym this week.  So, I decided to wait until that one was over and do the Bodyflow class.

I did 15 minutes cardio on the bike to warm myself up and get ready.  Then I made my way into the class.  Bodyflow is part yoga, part Tai Chi, and part, what the %^$* was I thinking!  Holy crap.

Now, I have taken yoga classes before.  It’s been a number of years, but I have some knowledge of the different poses.  I have never done Tai Chi though.  I didn’t think it looked hard, so I thought I could handle it.  To say this class was a lot harder than I thought it would be is an understatement.

The instructor moved quickly through the different poses and exercises.  I could barely keep up sometimes.  Plus, I’m not as balanced as I once was.  Granted, a lot more balanced than I was when I weighed 117 pounds more than I do now, but still.  The whole, downward facing dog pose combined with the whole, now bend your knees and take your right hand and reach back and grab your left foot, thing, let’s just say, didn’t happen.

Downward facing dog was hard enough.  I was actually quite pleased that I could get myself into that position.  Let’s face it, it’s not easy for a middle-aged out of shape grown woman who is still 56 pounds overweight to get into many positions.  But reach back and grab my feet?  No.  I could barely maintain my balance as it was.  I just stayed there in my pose, precariously maintaining my balance and watched the instructor.

She looked around the room, her eyes stopping on me, and I just shook my head.  Not gonna happen hon.  She smiled and continued with her crazy routine.

There was one other moment when we did some sun-warrior pose, which consisted of standing on one leg, extending the other leg behind while reaching forward with arms.  And then!  Bending forward so that our bodies were perpendicular to the leg we were standing on.  I tried this one.  Really I did.  Fortunately, I did not fall on my face, but I am clearly not ready for this pose yet. I stumbled forward a bit and turned to look at other people in the class.  There was a woman behind me standing with her hands on her hips with an absolutely incredulous look on her face.  We both just laughed and shook our heads.

It was a pretty tough class all around, but I’m glad I did it.  I now know my limits as far as my strength and coordination.  I talked to the instructor of the Bodypump class and she thinks I should give it a try despite the fact that I feel woefully less than ready.   Maybe I will.  But I think I will do the regular yoga class tomorrow.  I may wait a week before I try anything as tough as the Bodypump class.

Needless to say, the end of the class, the relaxation and meditation, was my favorite part.  After such a tough workout, I definitely needed to release that tension.

The class was tough, but I am not deterred.  I will try it again.  I will start with the regular yoga class to build up my ability to do some of those poses.  Plus I will keep the cardio workouts up.  Just because it is difficult does not mean I do not want to do it.  I am determined to get myself back into shape.  I will never be as limber as I was when I was a teenager or in my early 20s, but I really want to get into much better shape than I am right now.  I never want to go back to where I was before.

Wish me luck.

Namaste.

At Last!

gold

I have only been on the weight loss kick since October, and now, 117 pounds and 8 months later (well OK, one year and eight months if you count the pre-surgery work I did), I finally joined a gym.

I joined Gold’s Gym in Arlington last night and then did a 30 minute workout on the bike.  I have an appointment for “orientation” tomorrow, which I have to reschedule because I forgot I have my second writer’s group tomorrow.  But then after that, I’m pretty much on my own.

There are many gyms in this area and I went with Gold’s Gym for a number of reasons.  One of them is that my whole family belongs to that gym.  My step-niece works at one of them in her area and we all get a “family” discount.  Well, they did at least.  The gym she works at is a franchise, so they all get the discount at the franchises that owner owns.  The ones in my area are owned by corporate, so I don’t really get the discount.  That said, however, I can get guest passes to go to the gym in that area so that my sister and I can work out together when I go hang out at her place, which I do pretty often.  Plus I have the benefit of being able to go to any corporate owned Gold’s Gym.

Granted, it’s a little more expensive than some of the other gyms in this area, but I do get the benefit of being able to take Yoga and Zumba classes.  Not too sure what a Zumba is exactly, but I guess I’ll find out.  Plus! I do not have a contract.  I can cancel at any time.  Much better deal than Bally’s (which is now LA Fitness, apparently).

Now my posts will probably include a great deal of whining and complaining about sore muscles.  Hopefully, this will make that last 56 pounds easier to lose and help me strengthen and tone my poor abused body.  I did so much damage to it by being morbidly obese for so long, I sometimes wonder if it will ever recover.

Wish me luck!

 

Surgeon – Six Month Post-Surgical Update

Today I saw my surgeon for my six month update.  I had blood taken last week so that they could test my vitamin/protein levels in my system to make sure that I am receiving the proper nutrients. 

Everything looked good.  I still weigh 196.  My total weight loss to date is 102 pounds.  He cleared me to kick up the exercise.  I am going to join a gym, do yoga, and I have been meditating.  The surgeon then wants to see me in three months.  In between, I will have my annual physical with my primary care doctor.

So far, health-wise, I’m doing pretty good.  I know I feel great, so much better than I did before.  Just the fact that I can walk as much as I like and not struggle to breathe or stand is a miracle to me.

Perspective

Fifteen or so years ago when I weighed what I weigh now, I had a completely different outlook on my health and what I actually looked like.

I had at one point weighed about 245-ish and had lost enough weight to get me down in the 190s range.  I worked with my doctor and a nutritionist.  Shortly after my father passed away in 1996, I stopped going to the nutritionist, gave up on my weight loss progress, stopped exercising, and stopped doing yoga.  Obviously, I became depressed in my mourning and I allowed that to derail my health goals.  I bounced around the 200-220 range for a couple of years and in the early 2000s, my weight jumped up to 300-315 range and never came back down.

I will forever regret allowing my health goals to fall my the wayside, but looking back I can see my weight loss progress at that time was ultimately doomed to failure.  Allow me to explain.

It all boils down to perspective.  During that time period, after I had lost about 50 pounds, you could show me pictures of myself before and after the weight loss and I could see no discernible difference.  In my opinion, I looked the same.  All I saw was a fat girl.  Furthermore, the people I had in my life at the time also only saw a fat girl.  Whether they saw a difference between the 245 Colleen and the 195 Colleen was immaterial, to them, I was still fat.  Furthermore, if they did see a difference in my weight, they never mentioned it to me, or never mentioned it in a way that let me know they were happy with the progress that I had made.

I’m not blaming anyone for my inability to stay on track, mind you.  I merely want to point out that I had a serious mind-body disconnect and seriously unhealthy, unproductive relationships with people in my life.

Maybe I have lived alone too long.  Maybe I have developed a healthy dose of skepticism in other people’s opinions.  Maybe years, time, and experience have changed my outlook on life.  Who knows.  But I do know that I have changed.  While I value other people’s opinions, I find that I have stopped letting how I think they see me dictate how I see myself.  I also try to look at my life and behavior more honestly than I have in the past.  I’m not perfect at this, but I do try.

When I look at myself in before/after pictures now, I really see a difference in my weight loss.  Recently, I found a picture that a friend of mine posted on Facebook from her wedding.  The wedding took place in 2003, I think.  I know that I moved back to DC in 2004, so it definitely took place before then.  I was huge in this picture.  I think I was at my maximum weight, which was 315.  I was a mess.  I compared that picture to a pictures that a friend of mine took this weekend, and wow…the difference is staggering! (I am the one in pink.)

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This is a picture a friend of mine took this weekend.

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What a difference, huh?

Maybe I needed to fall that far to really appreciate where I am now.  Who knows, but I sure am glad that I made the decision to change my life.

Do I still look at photos of myself and see that I am still overweight?  Yes, of course I do.  Sometimes, I look at current pictures of myself and all I see is how much work I have to do.  But unlike before, I also see how far I have come.  I feel better.  I know I look better.  And mostly, I don’t care what other people think or what they think they see when they look at me.  I know what I have accomplished.  I know that I will one day get close enough to my goal to make a real difference.  Most importantly, I know that I will never go back!

Health, Meditation, and Yoga

I think it was around January 2011 I really started having severe health problems.  I went to the urgent care center in my area because I was having pain.  I thought maybe I had a kidney infection.  I was thinking about waiting until Monday so that I could go to my primary care doctor, but my sister talked me into going to urgent care.

Well, when I arrived at the urgent care center they took my blood pressure during the “triage” phase of the visit.  My bp was something like 210/125.  If you are not familiar with what an average blood pressure rating is, a normal good bp should be about 110/70-ish.  My bp was in the heart attack/stroke range.  Scary stuff.  The worst part is, I knew I had high blood pressure and was on medication.  So medicated,  my bp was scary, potentially deadly high.

As it turns out, my sister was friends with the urgent care doctor who saw me and he told her to take me to the ER, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  He sent paperwork with me and forwarded his analysis on to the hospital.  I think I have written before on this blog about how badly they treated me at this hospital.  Bottom line, I did end up going back to my doctor and a heart doctor.  I was put on three different medications and we were finally able to get my bp somewhat under control.

About 9-10 months later, I decided to have the gastric by-pass surgery.  I saw a couple of different surgeons around November/December time frame.  January/February 2012, I was back in the hospital having pains in my right side.  Crippling, unable to get out of bed pains.  So, back to the hospital.  I had tests done to my pancreas, my digestive system, my liver, my spleen, my heart again, and my lungs.  One doctor thought I might have a clot in my lungs.  It was awful. 

They never really were able to find out what was going on exactly, but here is sort of what they found.  My liver was slightly enlarged.  As was my heart.  And I had so much weight on my stomach that the base of my lungs were crushed.  They did every blood test imaginable to make sure that everything was OK.  My liver functions were good, except my cholesterol, especially the bad cholesterol, was really bad.  My triglycerides were out of control.  Basically, I talked to my doctor and they were really concerned that I was beginning to show signs of heart disease, which runs in my family.  I saw the heart doctor again and had a stress test and another scan of my heart.  I will probably have to do annual visits with the heart doctor to make sure that my heart stays in pretty good condition.

Around March, I finally found a gastric by-pass surgeon that I liked and decided to go proceed with getting ready for the surgery.  I then had nearly every medical test known to man.  Or at least it felt that way.

Somewhere during all of this a friend of mine talked to me about transcendental meditation.  He told me that he meditated all of the time and has for years.  I was a little bit surprised.  He gave me some pointers, told me what he did, and how it helped him.  He was really sure that it would help me with some of my problems.

Well, as I am wont to do, I put off taking his advice for months.  I finally did start meditating off and on for a few months sometime in 2011.  I meditated off and on throughout 2012 as well, but not nearly enough as I should have.  Since the surgery, I have not really meditated at all, until just a few weeks ago.  I should back up a little before I continue though.

About 15-20 years ago, I really got into Yoga.  I was never very flexible, but I enjoyed the exercises and the meditating that came with it.  After my father died in ’96, the meditating became too hard for me.  I was really a mess, and the yoga/meditation just seemed to bring everything to the fore.  I quit and never went back.   I always regretted that decision.

A couple of months ago, after I started feeling better, I occasionally started doing some of my old yoga stretches.  Not regularly, but sometimes.  This eventually led to me trying to meditate again.

I have done some guided meditations using a website a friend gave to me.  When I get home, I will add a link here.  My mother also sent me some tapes that I have been listening to.  I also started trying to meditate on my own without guidance.  The guided meditations are easier because you can focus the person speaking and just relax. 

Meditating and trying to clear my head on my own is very difficult, but I find it to be much more satisfying.  It is very interesting.  When I do not have someone else’s voice to focus on, I focus on a thousand other things.  My nose is itchy, my foot twitches, I have to flex my hands or arms, if I could just sit straight.  Also, everything that has been bugging me all day seems to run through my head.  I think about writing.  I think about blogging.  I forgot to send someone an email.  I can hear the refrigerator clicking on and off.  Someone is knocking on another apartment door down the hall.  It is very distracting. 

Here is what I do.  I turn down the lights.  Turn off the tv.  Turn off the cell phone.  Turn off my google pad.  Turn off both laptops.  I sit in the center of my bed.  I do not lay down.  I close my eyes and breathe.  I dismiss all of my distracting thoughts one by one by saying now is not the time and I vow to get back to it later.  I concentrate on letting them go.  I focus on the positive things I want to bring into my life.  I focus on calm, peace, good health, love, etc, whatever it is that is going to get me to relax and just let go of everything I have been holding onto all day.  I focus on being open to all of the good that I want in my life and the lives of those I care about and focus on letting go of the negative.

If I can shove all my distractions aside, clear my mind and relax even if it is just for a moment, it feels like a miracle.  I feel a thousand times better.  Usually, once I am done meditating, I do actually turn in for the night.  I have been sleeping like a baby.

I would not say that meditating has opened a third eye into the universe for me, but I do feel different afterwards.  Of course, I have not been doing it for very long.  There’s something to it though.  I come away from the experience feeling something.  Right now, it’s kind of an intangible feeling that is difficult for me to put into words, but if feels like I’m connecting to a part of myself that I did not know that I had.  I also experienced a couple of interesting things that have me thinking.  Maybe I’ll be able to talk about it more precisely in the future after I have had time to contemplate my emotions and thoughts, but I am curious to know more.

Today, I signed up for Yoga classes.  When I did Yoga years ago, I went to Unity Woods over in Tenleytown, which is in DC.  Turns out they have a branch in Arlington.  All in all, I did enjoy doing Yoga there and I cannot imagine doing it anywhere else.  I am glad to be getting back into Yoga.  My body definitely needs the stretching and the strength building after what it has been though.  Plus, it would be great to continue with meditating.

I do not know what health benefits all of this will have, if any, but it certainly could not hurt.  Even if all this does is help me relax to take the strain off of my heart and liver or to keep me from developing full-blown heart disease, I will consider the foray into yoga and meditation a wild success.

Oh and for the record.  My blood pressure is in somewhat normal range.  Occasionally it tends to trend a teeny-tiny bit high, like 135/80 max.  I have not taken any medication for three months.