Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Exercise Diary: Best Yoga Class Ever~

Recently I've been on this bad procrastinatory cycle, where I put off going to yoga class for two weeks and then go again with great trepidation for being so out of shape yoga-wise.  Today was no different.  I went back to the yoga studio for the first time in two weeks, my thighs still hurting from Sunday's run, and I was worried about how out of shape I was going to be, how hot and sweaty I was going to be after I was done, and how miserable the windowless, humid basement studio felt in my mind.

I was very pleasantly surprised.

Because of the beautiful summer weather that finally greeted the Upper Valley, and because of the summer term in this college town, today's class was only half filled.  We were able to spread out nicely.  In addition, although the studio is still heated for its class it actually feels cool and breezy at times so it's not humid and yucky.  In the two week when I was absent they managed to paint a nice pale blue and white tree on the orange wall across one side of the room so it looked less ugly, and the tree was very tastefully done.

The class was awesome as well.  We started slow, in the child's pose, did a bunch of breathing exercises to get us into the rhythm, and gradually went into downward facing dog.  I don't know what it was, but by staying in push up high plank for a bit longer than usual I was able to take better control of my pose and my downward dog was better, my arms straighter, my back more arched, and my head dropped straight down so that for the first time in my life I was able to breathe deeply and easily in this pose.  And it was a revelation.  It was so awesome that my breathing was improved overall throughout today's class.

There were some parts of the class that really reminded me of how sore my legs still are from the running two days ago, specifically the chair post, the chair twist, and the crescent lunges.  Not only were they painful, they heated up my legs so much that my sweat glands were working over time.  My legs felt like squeezed sponges after we got out of those poses and it felt like water was pouring out of every pore into my capris.  But luckily we didn't do endless crescent lunges today so while I felt accomplished that I got through the poses they didn't seem to drag on.  Instead we took it easy in between with runner's lunges, which is just the crescent lunge with the back knee dropped down, and warrior II, which holds an infinite numbers of variation on its own.  We didn't do a lot of balance related poses like the tree, the airplane, or the eagle poses, but I suspect my balance is still my weakest part that seem to regress with my infrequent class attendance.

I also felt that my running has somewhat strengthened my control of the different poses.  I now have a much easier time with all the different lunges than before, and I feel that my base is much stronger.  I really like this instructor  because she always took time to work on our core.  She is the only instructor who made us do crunches, and I'm really glad of the opportunity.  We also did a short planks when we were in between the dolphin pose, which was easy for me since I always try to do minute long planks on my own.

And most thankfully, my foot pain only acted up once during one of the crescent lunges we did and afterwards it never bothered me again.  My ankles and Archilles tendons were behaving, and my hips were more flexible than I had anticipated.  Still sucked at all forms of inversions but that's no surprise.  I felt so cleansed afterwards.  And I wasn't the only one.  My friend who went with me thought it was an excellent class as well.

When I run my body feels lighter, happier, and more effortless after about 2.5 miles.  Although my speed never goes up I always enjoy the later part of my run much more.  And for the first time, I experienced the same thing in yoga.  As we got to the end of out class the instructor was talking about the homestretch and finishing strong, but I found that I didn't need that to motivate me because I felt I could go on forever.  It was such a strange but familiar feeling, I was quite proud of myself.

I don't know what happened today that culminated into such a wonderful class, but there were a few things I think I could try again to achieve the same result.

1. Keep running.  Aerobic exercise or not, running has definitely strengthened my leg muscles.
2. Keep doing those sporadic core exercises, especially planks.  I don't know if it real but I feel my arms are getting stronger judging by the downward dog and its preceding poses.
3. Eat a light lunch on the day.  I didn't cook a lot for today so all I brought was some rice and uncooked cucumber mixed with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and sesame oil.  I had a small bag of Cheeze-its as snake about an hour before class since I was starving by then.  But the light and carb/veggie rich lunch really helped to make me feel light, maybe strong as well?
4. While I get the merit of heated yoga I also really appreciated the light breeze in the middle of the class. I sweated a lot but didn't feel too dehydrated afterwards.
5. Speaking of hydration, I drank a lot of water before going to class and maybe that also helped,  given the ample seasonal articles now coming out about running in the heat.

These things aren't hard to replicate.  Besides the light breeze in the classroom I have control over everything else I think contributed to today's awesome class.  So next time I must repeat the same things, hoping I can replicate the same result.  Doesn't always happen in lab, but I really hope it will happen for yoga. 

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