Creating an At Home Yoga Practice

Finding sweet release from holiday stress with at home yoga.

 

If you’ve ever found the idea of an at home yoga practice absolutely outlandish, I may have some ideas to help this seem a tad more approachable. Yoga is not just about fancy outfits, standing on your head, or even about being able to touch your toes. While all these things are very fun, yoga is more so about stepping into your yoga space, unplugging for whatever dedicated time you have set for yourself, and being present. So with that in mind, let us begin:

 

1. Find your yoga space. Any space where you feel comfortable will work. This can be: your bedroom, office, basement, living room… you get the picture.

 

2. Select 3-5 basic poses … and JUST DO THOSE POSES. Really, just start with 3-5 poses and then build on them if time allows. Give yourself a break and make this easy. These can be poses you already know or you can use YogaJournal which provides a wonderful reference: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finder/browse_categories. I am also available to chat via email to help you build your personalized at home practice.

 

3. Breathe. Whether it is uncomfortable or it feels fantastic, try to breathe as you do each pose. The more you do this, the easier it becomes and this is just one of those things with yoga (and with many things in life) that it does require practice, practice, practice. While you may see small shifts and changes, the big changes do not occur overnight… as much as I sometimes wish they would! I promise, the end results of long-term dedication will be well worth it.

 

4. Set a timer for 5, 10, 15 minutes and commit to practicing for that amount of time. I would bet money that the timer will go off and you will be ready to keep going with your practice.

 

As you embark on your at home yoga practice I leave you with one final tip, especially as we weave our way through the stresses of the holiday season: Imagine that you could take each and every thing that is causing you stress and put it in a box. Close that box, set it aside, and don’t open it up again until after your yoga practice. While your problems may not go away, this just might allow for a subtle shift in perspective. 

Yoga at Home

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The Wellness Make-over

My dear friend and colleague, Sophie Herbert Slater, and I went on a hike in Trout Brook Preserve about a month ago where she pitched to me this brilliant idea she had been brewing for months: a Life Balance Jumpstart program that would allow clients to work with one-on-one with us as yoga teachers and wellness coaches.

We are beyond excited that we are finally ready to launch Life Balance Jumpstart and invite you to sign up with us. (For the moment this is limited to those residing in the Fairfield County area.)

What does this entail? You can visit our website for the full details but to get an idea…

Life Balance Jumpstart is an intensive 5-week program designed to help YOU feel and be your best.  Our mission as experienced wellness coaches and yoga teachers is to share invaluable tools that will not only help you establish greater life balance now and in the future, but also assist you in navigating life with more grace, confidence, curiosity, and resilience.  Our passion is helping our clients feel balanced, nurtured, and connected with their sense of purpose. From here, so much is possible.

Sign up before January 15 and save 10%! Email lifejumpstart@gmail.com with questions and to get started on your wellness make-over.

Life Balance Jumpstart

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It is always now.

Can you take 5:42 and simply watch and listen to this video “It is always now”? Don’t look at your phone, don’t check your email. Challenge yourself. See if you can set your problems and to-do’s aside for this small bit of time…

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Salutation to The Dawn – the very life of life

My mother gave me a card to read the night before Ironman Lake Placid. Inside to the card, she gave me this poem, Salutation to the Dawn, which remains on my bulletin board as a reminder to make each day as fulfilling as it can be. Needless to say it was probably the perfect thing to read pre-Ironman!

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life,
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:

The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty,
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision,
But today well lived makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day!
Such is the salutation of the dawn.

Salutation To The Dawn

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Meditation Confession…

In attempting to Walk the Talk a bit more as a health coach and yoga instructor, I signed up for the Oprah & Deepak 21-Day Meditation Challenge.

I have got to be totally honest with you: these things always seemed super corny and contrived to me. Why would I sign up for something like that when I’ve already got all the tools I need? I know damn well how to set myself up for meditation.

Well, I realized that I needed a little help. A little kick in the butt if you will. The 21-Day Challenge has been just the kick I needed. While I have missed 2 days thus far (I make them up by doing 2 a days) I can honestly say that this is a commitment I needed to make. Strange as it may sound, it has been more difficult to build a regular meditation practice than it was to train for Ironman. Maybe it’s because meditation encourages you to be silent, still, and totally unplug from your computer, phone, music, TV for a mere 20 minutes. And sometimes, the bad stuff comes up.

But it is always, ALWAYS worth it. As I said, I’m only about 10 days into this daily meditation thing but I have to say that when I wrap up I feel more focused and ready to take on my day.

If you are interested in building a daily meditation or yoga practice, post your comments below or contact me directly. I am more than happy to help you find an online program and share more information with you on a very exciting project my friend Sophie and I are launching in time for the new year!

Meditation is the only time when bossy-pants Milo will ever calm down enough to sit in my lap which is an added perk.

Meditation is the only time when bossy-pants Milo will ever calm down enough to sit in my lap which is an added perk.

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URF (also known as – “Ugly Run Face”)

My URF post is in part inspired by one of NYC Running Mama’s recent Facebook posts, a reminder that not all race photos are smiles and happiness. I share with you my URF photo from last weekend’s Newport Half Marathon.

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Normally I would hide this out of shame that I am not smiling, beaming, laughing, and looking my absolute best. But something has shifted and I realize a photo like this perfectly summarizes the theme of Sunday’s race: being comfortable with being uncomfortable. We are talking every moment past mile 5 fearing I was going to hit the wall,  wanting to vomit, crazy ridiculous uncomfortable.

But do you want to know something? The discomfort was totally completely worth it. I had a silent goal for this race that only a few people knew about: a sub-2 hour half marathon. I kind of feared that if I started blabbering to everyone about this goal that I wouldn’t reach it but do you want to know something else? I did it! My net time was 1:58:45. This came after over a year of hovering in the 2:02-2:05 zone and also after Ironman. (In case I haven’t shared this with you yet, Ironman has kind of made me feel like I can do anything which is both a blessing and a curse.)

I held on through the discomfort, kept my goal in mind (ok I totally obsessed over my pace and time the entire race), held Clara in my heart to keep me going for those last few miles, and shrieked when I saw the clock at the finish line still reading below 2:00:00. Bottom line: I embrace my Ugly Run Face! In fact I think it’s rather gorgeous.

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My Friend The Migraine

I am a little ashamed to write about this. Just as I am ashamed to admit every time I have a migraine. Here goes a post that’s not going to be very pretty, as I am writing it in the middle of what is turning into a 2 day migraine (let’s hope it stays that way.) It feels like a knife is wielding it’s way into my head on and off, on and off, throughout the day and sometimes it’s just on-on-on-on-on for a long time. Relentless pain with no relief. My brain is on fire. And then I get the nausea, vision auras, and if I’m really lucky, vomiting. I apologize if that grosses you out but it’s the truth.

The only relief I find is covering my entire head in ice packs (or my trusty migra-cap – thanks Mom!) or when I’m lucky enough to have someone squeeze my hand really hard to create enough pressure and pain so as to distract me from the pain in my head. I have had the occasional meditation class or session give me relief, either partial or absolute, and I know this is something I should turn to more often.

Instead what I will more often do is allow myself to enter the cycle of doom: a migraine starts coming on, I debate whether or not to take the uber-powerful prescription I have or do I ride it out, hoping it won’t last too long or be too painful? I then begin to identify WHY this particular migraine is setting in: stress from work, something I ate, bad karma. Seriously, all of that goes through my head and I play the blame game with myself, inevitably feeling immense guilt and stress not only for bringing this pain upon myself but also for how it might affect my actual life. Missing out on work, dinner with friends, being completely zonked when I teach a client even though it is quite evident to them that something is wrong. Words don’t come as easily and I don’t balance as well as I normally do in the balancing poses.

This particular migraine, while taxing, has been different. I am trying my darndest to stay positive. I did not cancel a thing and showed up for work at the office for as long as I could stand the fluorescent lights. These migraines give me a taste of what it might be like to have depression because I feel despondent, powerless, and unable to do some of the things I love most. Focusing on building my business with a migraine? Forget about it. Heck it’s hard to even read a chapter in a book.

For the people who know me, you also know that I get migraines, mostly because there is a good probability that I have had to cancel our plans at some point in time. Migraines make me dizzy, nauseas, throw up, unable to think coherently, depressed, down in the dumps, tearful, and worst of all – fearful. I am fearful that they will be a part of my life forever and that they might stop me from accomplishing goals that I set for myself. I realize this was a big reason why completing an Ironman was so huge for me.

So now what? Well now I do what I can to prevent more migraines (long story for another post, for sure) but I also have to accept and make friends with the migraines. When a migraine comes on, I literally see it as my biggest enemy, I give it a personality, it freaking HATES my guts and wants to ruin my life. There has to be another way around it. A way of laughing at the migraines. Like the time that I got out of jury duty because of the fact that I got migraines that lasted up to 72 hours. I swear to God that this was not intentional and I was only answering the questionnaire with 100% honesty when they asked about medical conditions. Now that is actually kind of funny.

I would have to say that another positive that I see from them is forced time for introspection and reflection. While it might be painful, it forces me to rest, eat well, meditate while at the same time I want to disengage from email, Facebook, my iPhone… I feel numb to all of that and alive to my thoughts and emotions, wild as they may be. I’m thinking I should pay more attention to these migraines and what they bring up.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

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Simply Strength

I’m not a huge fan of working out at the gym. I would rather jump on my bike or go for a run in the park. Even in extreme weather conditions. Any chance I get, I would rather be outside.

That said, I know my body benefits greatly when I incorporate regular strength training into the routine. #snore. I know, it bores me to think of walking into my gym, awkwardly finagling free weights and bands and equipment and then leaving after 45 minutes feeling like I got absolutely nothing accomplished.

Thankfully, I have some folks in my life who are less awkward when thrown into a gym or weight-lifting environment. Take the trainers at Sherpa for example who provided this strength routine for me. It was a totally different feeling walking into my gym with a PLAN. I completed it this morning in 35 minutes, with just enough time for some stretching and foam rolling. I know my running, cycling, and nagging hip injuries will thank me for this. Now to make sure I keep up with it on a regular basis…

Here is my strength routine from this morning. If you don’t know what something is, ask me or you can reach out to Sherpa. I have provided videos which are also regularly updated on Sherpa’s Facebook page.

  • Always start with a warm-up … like this! 
  • Split Lunge (8-10 each leg)
  • Row (heavy weight – 10 to 15 reps)
  • Lateral stepping with elastic band (20 reps each leg)
  • Scaption (10-15 reps)
  • Bridging (elevate feet on box or bench – 15 reps with 2 sec hold)
  • Push-ups (I aimed for 15)
  • 3 core exercises of your choice (I chose side plank with leg lifts, forearms on a medicine ball moving the arms in and out, and navasana or boat pose)
Repeat all exercises 2-3 times.

A poem about time … and how we spend it

“When they say Don’t I know you? say no.
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.
If they say we should get together.
say why? It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees.
The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.”
― Naomi Shihab Nye

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Ironman Lake Placid Race Re-cap

And so it begins…

3AM on Sunday July 28 my alarm goes off. Ok, to be totally honest, I didn’t sleep at all the night before my Ironman. I tossed and turned, switched beds, meditated, went through a roller-coaster of emotions until that alarm went off and I could jump out of bed and get this momentous day started. I guess on the upside, not falling asleep meant not fighting with waking up at an ungodly hour. I took a shower, put on my Sherpa kit which I would wear for the swim, braided my hair, and started prepping my 1000+ calorie breakfast. I walked outside my room to find 3 gorgeous signs that my hero Clara and her family had made and affixed to my door, offering their final words of confidence.

Team CTF arrived at transition to get body-marked, set up water bottles and nutrition on our bikes, and drop off our special needs bags. I found Brett and walked with him to the swim start where he helped me get into my wetsuit and then we said our final goodbye for the day which was far more emotional than I had anticipated. Suddenly tears welled up in my eyes, and I’m pretty sure I caught a glance of tears in Brett’s eyes too – but we can pretend this didn’t happen :) I then managed to find my sister Grace, a great surprise, and said a final goodbye to her as well. It’s a funny thing these long course races. You say goodbye and you are on your own for the rest of the day, there’s no one there to hold your hand after a certain point.

Coach Bob led the team in a final pep talk. I think we were all in awe that the day had finally arrived and we were standing there about to do this. Bob sent us off to find our places in the swim start. I found myself alone. Well, technically I wasn’t alone because I was one swimmer squished among thousands. But I kept scanning the crowd of wetsuit clad triathletes to find a familiar face. As if by some miracle out of the crowd I saw Reamonn, Laura, and Andrew all heading toward me. I don’t think they know how THRILLED I was to be able to stand with them as we awaited our turn to head into the water.

Final CTF and SSTC Team Pic

Final CTF and SSTC Team Pic

SWIM

I have always compared the swim portion of a triathlon to walking the plank. Once you enter that water, there’s no turning back. Your day has started. But for some odd reason, despite all the bulls (i.e. people who swim into and over you), I felt so calm and at ease during my 2.4 mile swim. Anytime sometime pulled on my ankle or hit me in the rib, I laughed to myself and imagined it was Coach Bob doing this during one of our open water swim practices. Yes I swallowed some water, got pushed off “the line” a few times, and peed in my wetsuit but the swim felt like a breathing meditation – it calmed me down in preparation for what was to come…

Sherpa Kit!

Sherpa Kit!

BIKE

I exited the swim, excitedly ran up to Bob to help strip my wetsuit and then off I ran to the bike transition. I grabbed my transition bag and headed to the changing tent where I was immediately greeted by a volunteer ready to help me get my swim clothes off, bike clothes on, and prepare for the bike. I wish I knew her name because she was so patient and helpful even getting my arm warmers on for me. I started putting items BACK in my transition bag and she insisted I just leave it, that she would take care of it. This was just a sampling of what was to come with the amazing volunteers all along the course that day.

The bike was challenging but felt better than when I rode the course back at training camp in June. When I was out on the course (and not in town) I felt like I was on a long training ride and, the best part was that all my fears about mechanical issues just melted away. I told myself “you are going to do this, even if you get a flat, you are going to be ok, you are going to do this.” As the ride started to hurt at about mile 90, I tried a little experiment of focusing on gratitude. Instead of thinking about how many hills remained to climb or how my right quad felt like it was going to snap, I focused on how grateful I was to finally be experiencing this day that had been years in the making. As I climbed back into town after the final lap, I saw my family cheering me on and I knew I was ready to run.

Thumbs up for cycling

Thumbs up for cycling

RUN

Again with the helpful and ever patient volunteers helping me change in transition 2. I took my sweet time getting changed, figuring out exactly what I needed to bring, and then headed out to start my (first ever) marathon. As I exited transition, immediately people started cheering “Yeah Maggie! Go Maggie!” and I thought to myself “Wow, I guess a lot of these people must know who I am but I am having Ironman brain so I must not recognize them…” And then I realized my bib clearly says my name and it’s kind of a thing with Ironman that you cheer people on — it provides the utmost in support and motivation as you approach the end of a long day.

I am barely half a mile in and I hear Meghan Newcomer, who raced Hawaii 70.3 for Children’s Tumor Foundation and is kind of a triathlon mentor for me as she’s got her pro card but also has a full time job. Oh and she’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Meghan yells out to me “Maggie! You look great! You look so strong!” And I was like “yeah man, I’m really doing this!” Well, I round the corner to the steep downhill (which would later be a steep uphill) and who do I see but CTF family (Sarah and Alissa) and my hero Clara and HER whole family including her two sisters Isabella and Nora. Clara’s mom was beyond excited to see me, in fact I believe she was jumping up and down and screaming my name at the top of her lungs. That provided a good laugh and I got to high-five Clara, giving me the boost I needed as I headed further out into the quiet that is most of the run course.

High-fives all around

High-fives all around

You see, about 10 miles of each loop of the run course is an out and back referred to as River Road. Technically you’re not alone on River Road – you have volunteers and other runners and you make friends and talk to each other – but boy does it get QUIET. The first loop I remember being almost too easy, I had to remind myself to SLOW DOWN. As I made my way back into town and rounded the last corner before IGA hill (the super crazy ridiculously steep and long climb) I felt a rush of energy and powered up that hill. Dude, I don’t think I’ve ever run up a hill with such tenacity in my life. And of course, there was miss Clara and her family cheering me on again! I ran through town and literally felt like a rock star. It’s as if everyone I have made a connection with from when I signed up for my  first triathlon in 2010 until now was out there either running or spectating and everyone was rooting for me. As I was making my way out of town again for my 2nd loop I ran into my teammate Laura who was about to FINISH her 2nd loop, about to become a 3rd time Ironman.

It was pretty emotional knowing everything she has gone through in her life, living with NF, and also in this training season with a bad hip injury. I was so happy to see her just before she crossed the finish, looking strong as can be, and she left me with some serious words of encouragement that helped push me through MY 2nd loop.

Powering up IGA Hill

Powering up IGA Hill

As expected, that 2nd loop was harder than the first. I had the occasional bout of nausea and started feeling an unfamiliar pain in my lower back, but I maintained a steady pace and focused on gratitude. Just before I started to head back into town with the cheering, music, and noise I took some time to reflect on what was happening. I only had a few miles to go and it finally dawned on me that I was going to be an Ironman. All the hard work had worked. All the support from family and friends along the way had worked and had helped me reach this point. I was about to accomplish one of my biggest dreams and I also was doing it with the knowledge that I was making a difference in a family’s life. I thought about the letter Clara’s mother had given me the day before, the letter that really hit home as to how much of an impact I had made on their lives. I had no idea and felt grateful for this gift, this new connection, that they had given to me.

THE FINISH

The finish chute and finish line of Ironman was more than I could have ever imagined. I got choked up even before entering the Olympic Oval. See, what happens is, the run spits you back into town and you can hear Mike Reilly calling people Ironman as they cross the finish, but you still have 2.2 miles left to run out and back. You finally start to approach the Olympic Oval and when you enter it people are lined up against both sides. You make that final turn and then BAM – bright white light, blaring music, people are screaming your name! I spotted my mom and dad, my sister Grace, I spotted Clara, I spotted Brett. They were all bunched together waving and screaming for me. I ran by them then quickly realized there was no need to rush now. I turned around and gave them all (ok almost all of them) hugs and kisses. I knew the day wouldn’t have been the same without all of them there. I then made my way to the bright light, to the finish line. Before crossing I heard my name … I heard … YOU ARE AN IRONMAN. I crossed the finish, gave Dave a high five, and there was my coach Bob who placed my medal around my neck. What a perfect end to a perfect day. We hug, I cry even more. He asks if I am ok and I just say, over and over, yes and that I can’t believe it. I can’t believe I did it.

And that my friends, is the story of my first Ironman. And if you’ve made it this far and read my whole race re-cap, well then you deserve a medal too. Or at the very least an ice cream cone or a quinoa cookie. Don’t you worry, there is still more to come from this journey, the lessons learned and the people that have come into my life. And the biggest secret of all: what’s next?

My Mom kind of caught the finish on video: http://youtu.be/kZtjRNfzjco

Bright Lights Big Finish

Bright Lights Big Finish

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