30-Day Challenge: Bikram Yoga - Update 5

Well the past several days have been interesting.  They always say that strange things can "come up" in your yoga practice and that was definitely the case for me this week.  These things can be anything from emotional to physical feelings.  

For me, it was physical.  Whether it was related to my practice remains to be seen, but I had some pretty unusual and painful pain in my abdomen on Wednesday.  So much so that, despite attempts to push through, I ended up not doing half of the postures.  I was quite upset, but after chatting with the teacher, I felt much better.  She explained that yoga is a practice.  Your body is different every day, and that means that every day each posture is different.  Some days your balance is rock solid, other days you can't keep balanced in a posture to save your life.  She told me on Wednesday that today my practice was doing the postures that I could.  My body just wasn't allowing the rest.  She insisted that the day still counted towards my thirty classes.  Relief!

The next five postures in the series.

17.  Salabhasana  (Locust Posture)
Strengthens the upper spine and can relieve tennis elbow.  It can also help with varicose veins in the legs. This posture is slightly difficult for me as you lay on top of your arms (palms down), and my elbow has given me a bit of grief since I broke it a few years ago.  But it does feel really good to get all of the congestion out of your arms.  We spend so much of our day with bent arms - at our desks, driving, etc. - and this helps to counteract that.

18.  Poorna-Salabhasana  (Full Locust Posture)
Increases strength in the middle of the spine. This posture opens up the rib cage and increases elasticity, while firming abdominal muscles, upper arms, hips and thighs.

19.  Dhanurasana  (Bow Posture)
This posture is a bit of a doozy.  It opens the rib cage, allowing the lungs to expand fully.  It is a 360-degree flexion of the spine, revitalizing all of the spinal nerves by increasing circulation and strengthening the entire spine.  Bow aids in digestion, combats bronchitis and diabetes while improving the functioning of the large and small intestines, liver, kidneys and spleen.

20.  Supta-Vajrasana  (Fixed Firm Posture)
This posture strengthens and improves flexibility of the lower spine, hips, knees and ankle joints.  It increases circulation to the lower limbs, is therapeutic for lower back pain, sciatica, rheumatism and varicose veins.  It also helps to prevent hernia.  Yet another that is slightly challenging on my poor knee, but I am noticing small improvement in this posture with regular practice.

21.  Ardha-Kurmasana  (Half Tortoise Posture)
This posture can actually help us live longer.  It is great for tense necks and shoulders, it increases blood flow to the brain, enhances memory and improves mental clarity.  It also stretches the lower part of the lungs and can counter indigestion, etc.  They say this posture also helps balance sleep/wake cycles for those who struggle with insomnia.  

I have reached single digits in the countdown of my challenge!  It feels like such a big accomplishment!  I am off to my 22nd class this afternoon!  So after today, I have 8 classes left to complete in 7 days!  

Small House Updates

I swear we have had dozens of small updates to do to the house (slight exaggeration!), and have even had all of the materials to do them for over a month now, but we finally got around to doing them this week!  And so, a brief blog dump of said updates.

This appears to be the only 'before' photo I have of the front door hardware.  I am pretty sure it is the original hardware from when the house was built 20 years ago, so we decided it was time to modernize a bit. I almost went with black, to match the rest of the hardware inside the house, but we may paint the door black, and that just wouldn't work.  So we went with a satin nickel instead.  I didn't manage to get the new kick plate in the after photo, but we replaced that to match.


I also made a few things to decorate the walls a bit, as they were still largely empty even after a year of living in our house!   

And... drum roll please... the mirror FINALLY got hung in our entryway!

I made the little heart art out of some red felt I already had, and used a frame that was currently residing in a closet!  Gotta love free art!  (side note: I used to hate it when people would say, Oh I just whipped this up with materials I already had! Finally, I am the one that some spare materials laying around!) Plus, I think this heart is super cute.  The Keep Calm and Carry On sign was a going away gift from a friend and coworker when I left the bay area a few years ago. I love it and was so happy to find a home for it.

Here are a few sneak peaks of posts coming your way soon.

If you read regularly, you can probably guess what this is, and where it will be going... so in love with it!

And here is a first look at the "finished" painted hutch I mentioned a few weeks ago.  The doors and hardware still need reattaching and it needs a coat of wax, but I couldn't resist a little sneak peak.  I am seriously obsessed with the cabinet, and am so proud of how it turned out!  I debated between a pure white (like the trim and doors) and an old white (which I ended up choosing!), but in the end I felt like the creamier white would be a good addition to the bright white in the space.  I am hoping to blend old and new in the space and I think (hope!) the mix of colors reflects that.  I also have some picture frames which are the same creamy color that will balance it all out on the wall beneath the stairs.  I used the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (not chalkboard paint!), and I LOVE that stuff!  It is super easy to paint with and gives such a cool vintage finish!  I am trying some "homemade" (by someone else!) chalk paint this weekend and I hope it provides the same beautiful finish, because it is much less expensive!  (I will include the before photo when I do the final final reveal next week!

That's what we have been up to!  I am slowly realizing that I love keeping busy with creative things.  So even though I may complain endlessly about how long it took us to paint the main living space, once a week goes by, I am ready to get back to creating and beautifying.  I am already trying to figure out what my next project should be.  I need to finish a thrift store dresser we found months ago, as we have guests visiting soon, so my bet is that will be my next big tackle.  Then perhaps the kitchen cabinets...?  Ha, if I can convince hubby to let me!

Happy almost Friday everyone!  A 30-day challenge update coming tomorrow.  There have been some interesting developments this week, so stay tuned!

30-Day Challenge: Bikram Yoga - Update 4

Phew!  This morning I completed my 16th class, and let me tell you I am super sore!  Friday I seemed to hit a bit of a wall, and ever since I have been really stiff, sore and lacking the motivation I found in the first two weeks.  

I am, however, battling on.  Not to worry. :)

I have also been experiencing a bit of knee pain the past few days.  I may have been going a bit too far into a few of the postures without realizing it.  So today, I held back a little bit from any postures that involve the knees in an effort to prevent compromising my knees.  

It felt really good reaching the 50% mark yesterday.  It feels like a great milestone to reach at just the right time.  Knowing I have less days ahead of me than behind me, has inspired me once again to push forward with the challenge.

And now, as promised... four more postures.

13.  Savasana  (Dead Body Posture)
Dead Body Pose facilitates powerful blood flow, then lets circulation return to normal, creating internal cleansing and greatly magnifying the benefits of the postures that precede it.  We begin to learn relaxation in this posture.

14.  Pavanamuktasana  (Wind-removing posture)
Wind-Removing Pose compresses and massages the ascending colon and descending colon.
It also messages the transverse colon and compresses the entire digestive system.  It strengthens the arms, prevents flatulence, improves hip flexibility, and firms the abdomen and thighs.

15.  Pada-Hasthasana  (Sit-up Posture)
stretches the spine and increases flexibility, as does Half Moon.  Both poses firm and trim the lower body, where many problem areas, especially for women, reside.  It also works the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the legs and improves circulation there as well.

16.  Bhujangasana  (Cobra Posture)
Cobra Pose strengthens the lumber spine, relieving pain and combating slipped or herniated discs, scoliosis and arthritis in that region.  Other important benefits include improved digestion, relief from menstrual disorders, improved appetite, and raising low blood pressure.  Cobra Pose also improves the functioning of the liver and spleen.

Thanks for all the love on Facebook, it is keeping me going!  Here we go with another week!

I Hear You, Universe

Do you ever feel like sometimes the Universe is sending you a message?  I love it when things come into your life at just the right time.  Through life's ups and downs, I am finding myself seeking out all things positive to keep me facing the sunshine rather than the darkness.  This has led to me devouring any and all information that I think will help me in my quest to do just that, but also to better understand myself (more on that in a separate post next week!).  

Last night on the way home from my second yoga class of the day, I set my itunes library to shuffle and set off towards home.  The first song that came on, was a song by Kris Allen from a few years ago, titled Live Like We're Dying.  I have always loved it, but it was just the reminder I needed to hear last night.   Such true and powerful lyrics.  Even if you know the song, have another listen.  Maybe it will ring true for you, too.

The second song that came on, was one that I found via my favorite morning radio show.  One of the hosts of the show, Amy, has been open about her Mom's struggles with cancer diagnoses over the past few years. Her mom, Judy, has chosen to "choose joy" through her battle with cancer, even in the darkest of times.  She focuses instead, on brightening the days of other patients at the hospital and just keeps her focus on the positive with her situation.  Amy decided that her mom needed to start a twitter account, and searched for ages trying to find a suitable name.  @ChooseJoyJudy, etc. were all already taken, so she finally settled on: @JudyBePimpinJoy.  Ha!  Seems silly, but it really embodies Judy's outlook, and she seems to be enjoying the new (to her) world of Twitter.  So the morning show decided to do a "choose joy" (or "pimpin' joy") week in her honor.  It was all about getting listeners to do kind things for strangers, and it was AMAZING how many wonderful things were done during that week.  

A dedicated listener of the show, wrote and recorded a "Pimpin' Joy" song for the week (it's available on iTunes, and all proceeds go to the St. Jude's Children's hospital!  Go download it!).  Such a fun and uplifting song.  And another great reminder of what is truly important.  Here is the music video they made from the song.

The third (and final!) song that came on before I started to repeat these three songs over and over the entire commute home, was Loving You Tonight by Andrew Allen.  Such an uplifting song, and one that I connect with so much.  I am always excited to get home to see Chris and share my day with him.  After this week's post about my gratitude for having him in my life, it only served as an even bigger reminder to me.  Have a listen...

I guess what I am trying to say is, I too am choosing joy.  Yeah, I hear you, Universe.  Loud and clear.

30-Day Challenge: Bikram Yoga - Update 3

Here we are with another update on my challenge so far.  I finished my 12th class this morning, and would you believe me if I told you that I am going back for another class this afternoon?  Crazy, right?  Well, in theory this is a 30-day challenge, but my sister, brother-in-law and niece are coming for a visit the final three days of my challenge.  Therefore, I am challenging myself to complete the 30 classes in 27 days rather than 30.  

Today I noticed a few things that I am still struggling with in several of the poses.  It might sound weird, but the more you figure out the postures, the harder they become.  Because you start to focus on all of the different aspects of the posture that you weren't previously.  For instance, locking out your standing knee, when your focus is on the leg that is raised and doing something crazy.  So with the progress of being aware of what every part of your body is up to in the posture, I have realized three main things that I still struggle with.  Which is good, yoga is all about practice.  Not getting it right from your very first try.  What are these three trouble areas?  My hips, my flexibility and my back bends.  My hips are super tight, and this causes me some difficulty in more than a few postures.  I am interested in finding out if there are exercises that I can do outside of class to help with this.  Stay tuned.  The other two will come with time, and I am fully aware of that.  So I am accepting the fact that I have no control over it for now, and hope to improve in these areas as I continue my practice.  

And now, four more postures along with a few of their benefits.

9.  Trikanasana  (Triangle Posture)
Improves every single bone, muscle, joint, tendon, and internal organ and it revitalizes nerves, veins and tissues.  It also flexes and strengthens the last 5 vertebrae which can alleviate crooked spines as well as rheumatism and lower back pain.  The teachers always say this posture is the perfect marriage between the heart and lungs, forcing them to work together.  It really gets your heart rate up.

10.  Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana  (Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee)
Trims the abdomen, waistline, hips, buttocks, thighs, and massages and compresses the thyroid gland which helps regulate the metabolism and the immune system.

11.  Tadasana   (Tree Pose)
Improves posture, balance and increases flexibility of the ankles, knees and hip joints.  By strengthening the internal obliques in this posture, it helps prevent hernia.

12.  Padangustasana  (Toe Stand)
Strengthens the knees and is therapeutic for rheumatism of the knees, ankles and feet.  It helps open up the knee and hip joints.  This posture is also great for developing mental strength.  I am currently unable to do this, as I need to strengthen the muscles around my knee for protection before I put that much pressure on it. Yet another thing I am working towards.  For now, I do another set of Tree.

I am keeping strong, and eager to get to my next milestone: 50% complete!  I hope to have some new house posts this weekend or early next week, so stay tuned!

♡ A New 'Sometimes' Series: Gratitude Journal ♡

Starting a gratitude journal has been on my list of new, healthy habits to start for a long time.  I love the idea of noting down things that I am grateful for, however big or small.  But I also don't want to force it by setting a specific day and time that these posts happen.  Hence the "sometimes" addition to the title.

Today, I am grateful for my husband.  It might sound like an easy answer, but I honestly cannot explain what a good, kind and honest person he is.  He knows how to make me laugh, when I am sad... how to bring out my silly side, even when I resist, and he knows how to really listen and validate my feelings better than anyone I have ever met. They say that relationships are tested in the hard times, not the good times, and I can say for 100% certainty that he is the perfect person for me.

So today, a very big thank you to him, for everything he has done and continues to do for me.  I look forward to life's ups and downs knowing I will have him beside me every step of the way.

I won't go into crazy detail, because well, a lot of it is private, and a lot of it I am sure you don't care to read about... :)  But I could literally fill this post with his amazing qualities.  I'm a lucky lady...

Snowshoeing Fun

On Sunday, Chris and I carved out some time from our afternoon to go for a beautiful drive up in the mountains.  Oh, and we decided to throw our snowshoes in for good measure.  The destination we had in mind, ended up having weather much like that of a warm Spring day, which also meant no snow.  So we carried on a bit further, and finally came across enough snow to break out the snowshoes.  

It was my first time, so it took a bit of adjusting to the "duck walk" that I felt like I was doing.  But once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed it!  It was another big reminder that my lungs haven't had much of a workout the past 6 months, due to my knee, but inspiring to get out and brush out my cobweb-filled lungs.  Filling them with fresh, mountain air couldn't feel better!

Overall, it was a very nice and active weekend.  I was, of course up and right back at it yesterday morning for another early morning yoga session, and have now hit the 30% completion mark with today's class.  A very good feeling! Another update coming later this week on that front.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and are having a great week so far!

30-Day Challenge: Bikram Yoga - Update 2

Well, this morning I completed class number nine of my 30-day challenge!  It is feeling really good going to class every day.  I find my balance getting so much better (even in the difficult standing bow posture!), and my flexibility gradually improving.  

At the weekend, getting to class requires a bit of extra motivation as the class is 30 minutes away.  But I managed to make it both days to the morning class.  And we even managed to fit some snowshoeing in Sunday afternoon, as well!

Another big thing I have noticed is improved posture.  This is a big one for me, as I naturally slouch quite badly.  I find the biggest difference in my lower back; it seems to automatically arch back already, at just 9 classes in.  One really big focus of Bikram yoga is back bends, focusing on every part of your back.  Mine is not very easily manipulated at the moment, so my back bends are quite shallow, but I hope to improve this soon.  I also hope to get more flexibility in my hips; they are very tight and inflexible, so I hope to see progress in these two areas over the remainder of this challenge.

And finally, here are the next four postures in the series, along with a few of their benefits.  The first three are a part of the balancing series... aka they really get your heart rate up!

 5. Dandayamana-Janushirasana  (Standing Head to Knee Posture)
 Improves flexibility of sciatic nerves and strengthens hamstrings and leg muscles.
 Works muscles of the back, biceps, triceps.
 Helps squeeze and flush out internal abdominal organs (gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, uterus, ovaries)

6.  Dandayamana-Dhanurasana  (Standing Bow Posture)
Moves all the blood from one side of your body to the other and back again.
Develops balance, increases size and elasticity of the rib cage, firms abdominal wall and upper thighs.
Improves strength and flexibility of lower spine
Builds patience, determination and concentration

7.  Tuladandasana  (Balancing Stick Posture)
Forward tilt of your torso sends high-speed blood pouring into the heart, especially the neglected region, cleaning out the veins and all of the arteries, strengthening the heart muscle.
The same rejuvenating flood rushes to the brain as well.
Strengthens your powers of concentration

8.  Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana  (Standing Separate Leg Stretching)
This posture is like kryptonite for sciatica!
Strengthens and stretches those poor crushed and shriveled sciatic nerves, as well as the tendons in the legs
Massages internal abdominal organs and small and large intestines, and gives added flexibility in the pelvis, ankles, hip joints, and especially the last 5 vertebrae of the spine.
So far, so good!  Only 21 more days to go!

National Reading Month

In honor of National Reading Month, I am embarking on a journey to read more.  And not just any old book, either.  Listen, I am a self-proclaimed book worm.  I love reading, though it tends to happen in peaks and valleys.  I am either addicted to a book, hardly able to put it down to sleep, or I just can't get in the mood to crack it open.  So since I am really interested in finding my next great read, I figured I would tie it in with a post on here since it is National Reading Month.  

Amazon released its list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, and it has inspired me to think outside the box with the books that I choose to read.  Not to mention that it's kind of sad that I haven't read some of the books on the list, book worm or not.

For my first read, here are the five books that I have narrowed it down to.

Have you read any of these books?  Suggestions?  What are you reading for National Reading Month? These five books are all very different, but I look forward to reading them all as I make my way through this list.  Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to read each and every book on Amazon's list, some genres are just really difficult for me to get drawn into.  But I look forward to finding great reads that I may have otherwise missed.

Happy Pi Day!

30-Day Challenge: Bikram Yoga - Update 1

Well, I am happy to report that I am 4 days into my challenge and going strong.  It may not sound like a great accomplishment, but I am happy to see myself sticking with it, and hey I'm more than 10% in now!  Ha!  As strange as it might sound, after four days in a row, I am already experiencing improved balance in the postures. I think the more regularly you attend class, the quicker you see results like this.  I am still in desperate need of improved flexibility, but I am excited to see how that progresses through this challenge.

I thought I would share some of the poses from Bikram with every update that I post, along with some of the benefits each pose offers.  I knew a lot of these benefits from the instructors in class, but found it really fascinating just how good each and every pose is for your body.  It makes me appreciate my time in class a lot more knowing the benefits my body is experiencing.

Bikram yoga consists of the same 26 poses, in the same order, each and every class.  Some might find this to get a bit boring, but I love the predictability of it.  I also think it is easier to progress further into the postures when you do the same ones each class.  There is 60 minutes of standing poses, followed by 30 minutes of floor poses.  The room temperature is about 105 degrees Fahrenheit and approximately 40% humidity.  Yeah, you sweat.  A lot.

Here are the first 4 poses.

1.  Pranayama (Standing Deep Breathing Pose)
          Benefits:  Pranayama prevents respiratory problems (such as bronchitis, emphysema and shortness of breath.)

2.  Ardha-Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
          Benefits:  Strengthens every muscle in your core, increases flexibility of the spine, firms and trims the waistline, hips, abdomen, buttocks and thighs.

3.  Utkatasana (Awkward Pose)
        Benefits:  Tones and shapes legs, heals chronically cold feet, relieves rheumatism and arthritis in the legs, helps cure slipped discs and other problems in the lower spine.

4.  Garurasana (Eagle Pose)
        Benefits: The Eagle pose is the only one that opens up the 14 largest joints in the skeletal system, improves flexibility in the hips, knees and ankles, and supplies fresh blood to the reproductive system and kidneys.

The next 30-day challenge update will be up this weekend.  Do you think I can stick it out for the full thirty days?