Yoga Personal Practice Project

Q&A a Day: Can people change? Yes, but it’s a matter of replacing habits.

I was assigned a 21-day challenge to practice two yoga poses and to set two short-term and long-term goals and keep track of my progress. I appreciated this time to write, while other’s assignments were one-liners.

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non-yoga classmates

1. What benefits are you experiencing from yoga?
I have more hip flexibility, am able to twist my spine more, and am improving on my ability to do, and hold, a headstand. I have peace of mind and body and feel more connected to those around me.

2. What parts of yoga would you like to continue and why?
I like holding asana and working with pranayama to feel the pose at a deeper level. This makes me feel more in touch with myself and the moment. I enjoy the singing in class because of the good acoustics, but don’t feel that this is something I would practice alone.

3. What two poses would you like to do every day? Why? What benefits do you expect?                      Salamba Sirsasana — to gain strength in my core and upper back and flexibility in my                shoulders so that one day I can hold the pose on my paddle board.
Bakasana — to work on upper arm strength and improve my form in holding the pose.

4. Write 2 short term goals (3 weeks to 1 year).
Goal 1: Asana — I will practice holding salamba sirsasana every night at 5:00 pm for one-minute durations for 10 minutes for 21 days.

Specific: Holding salamba sirsasana with knees bent towards stomach or straight up
Measurable: 10 minutes a day
Action-oriented: Practice every day at 5:00 pm
Realistic: I might add the practice to my morning gym routine, but all I need is my body    and a flat surface to work with and I’m motivated to accomplish this goal, improve my strength and my drishti.
Timed: 10 minutes/day + 21 days = 210 minutes by Nov. 1

Goal 2: Read — I will read ten pages, or for 30 minutes, from ‘The Creative Destruction of Medicine’ every night at 9:30 pm for 21 days.

Specific: Read from ‘The Creative Destruction of Medicine’
Measurable: 10 pages a night
Action-oriented: Read every night at 9:30 pm
Realistic: I have a ton of books to choose from and some nights that might be a textbook for a homework assignment. The amount of pages will vary in difficulty scale depending on notes, vocabulary, websites (further research I do while reading).
Timed: 10 pages + 21 days = 210 pages or 30 min/day + 21 days = 630 minutes by Nov. 1

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marching to my goals

5. Write 2 long term goals (1 to 5 years)
Goal 1: Asana — I will hold adho muhka vrksasana for one minute on a flat surface in one year by working on the pose at least 20 minutes every week.

Specific: Holding adho muhka vrksasana
Measurable: 20 minutes a week
Action-oriented: Practice every day for 3 minutes
Realistic: I will already be practicing variations of salamba sirsasana and bakasana and work this into my arm and back strengthening routine to include pull-ups. The more I practice the faster and easier this pose will be, but I don’t want to stress myself either by forcing a quick deadline.
Timed: 20 min/wk + 52 weeks = 1,040 minutes or 3 min/day + 365 days = 1,095 minutes

Goal 2: Certify — I want to graduate the Fitness Specialist Program in May 2018 and pass my ACE/NASM certification in June, so that I may go on to teach others. I will do this by attending classes for 20 hours a week, volunteering for 10 hours a week, and studying for 20 hours a week.

Specific: Attain completion certification from SDCC and ACE certification
Measurable: Attend all classes and devote 2.85 hours a day to homework and study
Action-oriented: Take notes in every class, read from textbook/slides/internet every night pertaining to class/subject, take notes/reflect on volunteering hours
Realistic: Complete all homework and exams with A’s, show up early and leave late, apply for internships at YMCA, 24 HR Fitness, Chuze. Some days I will be more devoted to studies and other days I will be busy helping family and friends and finding time to paddle board, but I can still use that time to review things I’ve learned — anatomy, asana
Timed: 20 hrs/wk + 36 weeks = 720 hours or 171 min/day + 252 days = 43,092 minutes of class/study, 10 hrs/wk + 36 weeks = 360 hours of volunteering

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the moon

October 3: I attended Applied Kinesiology and Fitness Assessment class today from 9:35 am to 3:00 pm. I went by 24 HR Fitness in Westfield Horton Plaza to enquire about an internship. I got home, removed my shoes, and went to my yoga mat. I practiced my ujjayi breath for five minutes in downward dog to unwind from the hectic traffic on the ride home. Then I went into salamba sirsasana and was able to hold it for 30 seconds for my longest duration. I worked on homework for the next two hours and then went on a relaxing walk with my husband before sitting down to read for 30 minutes. I’m enjoying this project for the boundaries it gives my evening schedule. Sometimes I can lose track of time, but now I have more motivation to track the length of my activities and think I will feel more accomplished at the end of this exercise and hope to maintain the productivity.

October 4: I start classes at 8:00 am and don’t finish till 8:00 pm on Wednesdays, but get a break from 4:15 pm to 6:00 pm. I got out of my last class early and chose to do homework till 5:00 pm when I got kicked out of the study room. I went into the gym and laid down my mat. I thought I would go straight into salamba sirsasana, but started to lose focus, so I meditated for five minutes. I find this is long enough to relax me, but not make me sleepy. I was able to hold the pose with bent knees for one minute before I tried straightening my legs and attempting to fold them into lotus before falling. Drishti is very important and I need to focus on putting my weight on my arms. It feels exhilarating to set a goal and to be making such quick progress towards achieving it. I did some cat-cow after to stretch my back before moving into bakasana, which I can hold for 20 seconds. Then I did the warrior series to work on my balance and leg strength. I stayed in the last asana and focused on pranayama. I really enjoyed this session for some me time for 25 minutes.

October 5: I have a sore throat this morning so I’ll pass up the gym for two hours of homework but I still go to volunteer and all the kids notice a change in my voice or lack thereof. This doesn’t stop us from recess and having some kids run the PACER test. I showed the kids some of the asana I’ve learned in class and told them to keep exercising and stretching so they can do it too. I was late getting started this evening laying down my mat at 5:30. I’m ready for a peaceful time without thinking or speaking and will focus more on meditation tonight with some light stretching and marichyasana III and revolved side angle pose. I am ready for bed after this, but have more homework to do and exams to study for.

October 6: I sleep in because I’m not feeling well and my husband makes me breakfast. I do some exercises with 3rd graders and then do fitness assessments on kindergarteners. I work on homework till my neighbor gets home and will spend the evening over there having dinner and talking about things unrelated to homework or yoga.

October 8: I spent yesterday doing homework and sleeping through being sick. Today was better and though I still did tons of homework to prep for midterms and future projects I found time to unwind and hold a salamba sirsasana without worrying about putting pressure on my sinuses. I worked on three of the purifications as I’m not sure how I feel about the nadishodhana and felt more centered and relaxed after. I finished my asanas with a bakasana. I used some of the declarations during my meditation and am appreciating the positivity it brings, making me feel happier and more accomplished already. I’m looking forward to being completely recovered and getting back into my active routine, though I’m grateful that there is a part of yoga for every mood, setting, feeling, strength, etc., and therefore no excuse not to practice every day.

October 9: I’m feeling better and have some time in the morning for 10 minutes of yoga. I try rushing into salamba sirsasana without warming up and it is easier to hold bakasana so early before my muscles have caught up with my brain. I get to school early and the doors get unlocked late so I have some time to read more about whole genome sequencing and the benefits of sequencing diseases to specialize the treatments and reserve the numbers of survivors and deaths, which I think is great. I finish my breakfast and clarify in class today what we’ve been learning in Care and Prevention about feet and lower legs. I’m feeling great and a fellow student and I will help our cardio/core sub through a spin class and keep people moving. We get some yoga in at the end of class that focuses on core and flexibility and I’m happy to hold salamba sirsasana again. I will miss my yoga class, but this gives me time to have a snack and get in more volunteer hours at the school with the kids who can tell I’m feeling better too. I’ll get home, help my husband make a warming soup and then do some of the asanas I learned in class today to ease myself into homework and the evening. I enjoy working on balance, strength, and flexibility together. I can focus on the asana and the positive capabilities of my body.

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only temporary

October 10: I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but was so glad I did to go back to the gym after a week’s absence. Things were slow and that was expected. I got out of my second class early. I used this time to walk my dogs and my neighbor’s dog before going to my dental cleaning appointment where I was finding it difficult to breath. I won’t roll my mat out until 7:30 and I will spend twenty minutes in meditation, reassuring myself that I will get my breath back and regain strength. I don’t feel like my day was hectic, but I am tired of feeling less than 100 percent. The meditation is calming but now I feel like sleeping instead of studying for two exams tomorrow and reading for 30 minutes or ten pages. I will take some deep breaths and some medication and give each task another twenty minutes of my time. I will be going to bed early tonight.

October 11: I had two exams today and feel that I did well. I got in a good sweat session in spin and did a new flow in yoga, going from chair to warrior one. I will practice this on my mat again at 5 pm and am able to hold a straight-leg salamba sirsasana for 13 seconds. I’m thrilled, but that takes it out of me and I will finish with five minutes of meditation focusing on my breath. Then I will start a new book, Whole New Ball Game, about diversity and racism, written by a man that is aware of his white privilege. My evening class goes well and dinner is finishing in the oven when I get home which makes for almost a perfect day except for my little injured pup that will be given some meds and rest with hope for a better day in the morning.

October 12: I’m still sick, but my dog is looking better, I got some good yet interrupted sleep, and am still feeling motivated from yesterday. My calves are sore, so I will work on downward dog and the twist pose to strengthen and stretch my legs while helping myself get focused for the day at 6:30 am. I spend 3.5 hours of the afternoon learning new hula hoop tricks and having skill/run races. I snack, do some homework, have dinner, and will finish my yoga for the day at 9 pm with the chair to warrior pose flow again. I work on holding my two asanas and though there is no time improvement I am shaking with motivation to finish as I’m finally in the recovery phase of my cold.

October 13: I did a lot of moderate cardio throughout the morning and afternoon. I went to the store with my husband when I got home and then worked on my asanas and pranayama, mostly squat and lunge-like poses (chair and warrior), before going to a dinner party. I didn’t time my asana length this time so that I could focus my drishti on something other than a timer, which makes me feel more focused and in the moment. It feels good to make time for something new in my schedule, but the best part was my improved deep breathing when I would break my toe later in the evening. I used my full lung capacity to control the pain until and during being prescribed hydrocodone. Missing out on my yoga and Zumba class tomorrow were one of the first things on my mind.

October 14: I got 2.5 hours of sleep last night working through the excruciating pain. I went on a ten minute walk at 4 am, then worked in some meditation with my foot elevated hoping it would help me sleep. I put ice back on it and called the nurse-line which gave me something to do for thirty minutes. I was concerned with the amount of narcotics I was taking, but it’s within limits, so I took another and was able to nap again.

October 16: I’ve spent lots of time the last two days working on my deep breathing and positive imagery meditation. I’ve got to keep my foot elevated, but I was out at doctor appointments and offices today getting a parking pass so I will be closer to class without having to worry about getting to school too early to get something on the other side of the bridge. I don’t mind the upper body workout, but all the blood goes rushing to my foot and it swells and causes pressure with the boot on, causing unnecessary pain. I will be propping it up on my desk during class and look forward to some relaxing moves on Wednesday in class.

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happy fence and heart trees

October 17: It was my first day back in school and I was able to park close to my building, though I might try using the two-hour parking since it is closer (when available). My kinesiology class was cut short so I could drive me and some classmates up to UCSD to their EPARC Lab and see how they do a VO2 Max test, use the BIODEX machine, get data from a DEXA scan, and test balance in every sense (eyes, feet, inner ear). I got a workout maneuvering the stairs and standing during some of the lectures. I incorporated my crutches into today’s mat time to keep my balance and really stretch my leg in each axis direction. I’ve also worked on my pistol squats to take a seat on the floor. My foot might be weaker now, but it’s increasing the strength in my arms, back, and other leg. I sat down using this maneuver and elevated my leg, which I need to do for hours every day, after being on it for extended periods of time. I can feel the blood rush back in when I rise again. I will do a bit more on the mat to work my balance and challenge myself not to let my foot touch the mat, or to do so gently and then move into another pose.

October 18: I don’t think I did well on my practicum in Care and Prevention, but today was my first day back in spin and yoga and I’m happy with how things went. I did some single-leg spinning and stretching warm-up before getting a mat and doing single-leg plank and push-up variations. I did crunches, curls, and twists. I did some more stretching and some arm work and moved my leg around to see what was comfortable. I elevated in on the wall to finish my workout and got back on the bike for some single-leg climbing. I really enjoyed doing more planks in yoga today and am learning the flexibility of my leg with my foot in constant dorsiflexion. I did as many of the poses as I could and worked with variations. After class I was able to get more mat time and attempted a back bend with my leg in the air, but wasn’t as steady as I’d like. I will attempt a headstand in another day or two and possible bakasana. I’m still keeping up with my reading goal, switching between reading about genome and racism.

October 19: All the little kids are super curious about my foot and ask tons of questions. I answer them all and show them the x-ray which gets lots of different reactions. I’m still able to show the kids how to do high-knees and high-heels with my crutches and attempt some squats as well. They agree to take it easy on me until I heal and can play with them again. I’m released early for parent-teacher conferences that I have no place in. I will use this time to go home and contemplate my first yoga class with my boot on. At the time I thought eagle would be easier than chair, but in practice I learned the opposite. I did chair for a while (and note to self: will listen to yogi and attempt her guidance) and then did more side planks (easy on my tired arms and working my core). I will do some cobra for my tired back and finish with stretching all these different crutch-using muscles and try lymphatic massage on my foot.

October 20: I was able to get in and out of the shower on my own. I published a post about my first week with a broken toe and did some homework and house cleaning before going to the school and helping lay out yoga mats for the indoor portion of the kids program, especially while it rained. The kids practiced dribbling and drills and I showed them how to do one-legged push-ups. I worked through a study guide for an upcoming exam while my husband made a new recipe of pumpkin pie with homemade filling. Then he assisted me during my time on the mat as I went up into salamba sirsasana to make sure my foot didn’t hit the wall or the floor. The weight of the boot gives me something to focus on and actually helps my practice. I’m so happy to find out that this is one less thing I can’t do during this adjustment period. I’ve noticed a bit of muscle loss in my calf and will start recovery as soon as the doctor clears me too. I’ve been getting a lot of reading done — books, articles, news — without the ability to be so active and just get up and go.

October 21: I went to the gym this morning and my husband worked out with me (worried I would hurt myself), but it felt good to have back part of my routine. We worked slowly, and he didn’t participate in the stretching, abs, and yoga portion I did on the mats, but agreed the mat is too fluffy for a proper salamba sirsasana and that we could do that at home. He supervised me again and I’m ok with that. I won’t adjust my bent-leg asana now, but while my foot is in healing I want to focus on opening my hips, so that when I can walk again I will be more flexible and capable. Instead of reading from my book tonight I will watch a health documentary for a class assignment and end up reading for further research about the childhood obesity epidemic, which is a strong topic for me since I work with kids and see how it effects them.

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veggie cookies

October 22: Today is my day of bed rest (foot elevation for hours) and then a trip to the store for some bananas and whatever the husband needed (to get me out of the house and into an electric shopping cart). I write a paper for class, read some while cuddling with my dog, and then color the bones, muscles, etc., of the feet and legs in my anatomy book. I will do some in-bed stretching and some upper arm movements (YouTube is an awesome place), and then enjoy a nice shower to scrub the day away. I will spend the middle of the night icing my foot and talking with friends.

October 23: I wasn’t allowed on the spin bike today and was motivated by the film going through Zion and other parks. I did lots of abs and some arms and practiced my salamba sirsasana getting to 40 seconds with the boot. I was going to extend my legs, but I will try that on Wednesday after getting more practice with my husband there, and after my appointment tomorrow to see if I need a pin to hold my toe together. I learned a new breathing technique in class today which I like and don’t find the nostril breathing so annoying when both nostrils work, so I found that enjoyable too. I was glad for the hip stretching which I never seem to be able to do enough of, but sad I had to leave early. It takes me longer now to do simple things and I always appreciate when someone holds a door for me. I help my husband make dinner and then study the anatomy of the knee. I need to study for my exam Wednesday and then color some more.

October 24: Orthopedist says I don’t need surgery and I’m only ten minutes late to class. I used part of my appointment time between bilateral comparison of my feet and an x-ray of my foot to read and meditate. I began to nap while waiting on the response from the doctor and was released with a follow-up appt. next month. I spent a good part of the afternoon standing and pinching classmates to practice the skinfold body fat percentage measurement. Husband got dinner while I talked with my dad for 58 minutes about yoga, school, his music and its forums, the books I’m reading, how my appointment went, and some of his opinions. Then I did some homework, checked my grades, and am satisfied with the progress I am making on and off the mat. I need to study for a test tomorrow and got some hands-on experience in the lab today, so I will go over the notes. I wanted to do one more headstand before bed, but I feel exhausted.

October 25: I have a rough start leaving the house this morning, but there’s no bad mood as I have ways to calm myself, friends to cheer me up, and classmates that will show up later than me. I’m able to hold a salamba sirsasana for 50 seconds and debate going for a whole minute, so I work my legs up but they don’t feel completely extended before I bring them back down. I’ve been meaning to write about my lack of bakasana since we talked about our goals in class and writing a summary. I look forward to reviewing the progress I have made and realizing how easy it is to get off track even with the goals laid out specifically. I’ve completely replaced all left leg weight-bearing asanas with more seated positions, stretching, meditation, and leg lifts. I finish the day of school with a beautiful dusk across the Coronado-Bay Bridge on the drive home.

October 26: I’m pumped for my second day at the Hawking’s school in Chula Vista assessing fitness levels of fourth graders today. This school has an amazing morning program and the kids are happy and gladly do a little warm-up before heading into their classrooms to learn. Between three of us we are done with the students by 9:30 and not needed in South Park till 11 am, so we agree on breakfast and I get a yummy acai bowl, my first one in months. I enjoy it slowly and take in the morning before focusing on the afternoon. I’m having a hard time dealing with my loss of mobility and the difficulty of these kids and take it out on one for not paying attention. Sometimes they can be so disrespectful, so I write my boss an email to discuss the issues and clear up everything from all sides. I want every moment to be a positive one for everyone involved. I will help my husband get the groceries he forgot and then lie down, while he makes dinner, for some comfy and relaxed stretching. It feels good to move my foot outside the boot, something I’m able to do more often now as it begins to heal. I will do some lymphatic massage and deep breathing. I know yoga is not all about looking strong in one impressive pose (handstand), but being strong and flexible throughout flows to bring peace and inner strength through practice; which along with healthy food helps to complete my day.

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parking lot playground

October 27: It’s Friday and I find a simple pleasure in that. I assess the sixth graders today and it is easier to explain things to them without having to worry about showing it to them on crutches. Some of the team sports girls are more competitive and have good muscle tone. Free play recess goes smoother as I don’t have to keep up with the kids, but I get lunch duty (making sure they don’t throw food, wear their ketchup or chocolate milk, and help open their utensils, milk, and apples). Then we take the fifth graders inside to learn about their quadriceps and gluteals while I fill out the grade book so we can keep track of the children’s progress. I will find a book about Beginner Zen and listen to a sample from an audiobook program while I meditate after a three hour nap. Today is about rest which I need in my time of healing. I go to bed early so I will be ready for what tomorrow brings.

October 28: I wanted to sleep in more than usual today, but I have a homework assignment to work out for an hour and measure my sweat rate, so I’m at the gym at 8am when they open after having a snack. My husband is by my side helping me with weights, since there is no arm-bike, for 1.5 hours and then we split up to finish with abs. I’m exhausted, but accomplished a L 0.3 rate and can return home to nap for three hours after breakfast. I wake up hungry, so I eat, and then go to the neighbor’s house and eat again. I want to go back to sleep, but I have a kinesiology test to study for and a paper to write. I’m not looking forward to either of them and have been procrastinating.

October 29: I slept in this morning and probably would have slept through the gym time if it wasn’t for my husband. I assured myself I could just relax in the sauna, but my motivation is always there upon arrival. He went off to get cardio while I focused on abs for 30 minutes. I tried holding salamba sirsasana, but the mat was too thick and unstable. I’m still trying variations on poses that allow me to work my legs without putting pressure on my left foot. I reward myself with a sweat session and some yummy Brussels sprouts after a two-hour nap. This healing process is exhausting.

October 30: This will be my last entry as the assignment is due next class. The day is overcast and would usually put me in a gloomy mood, but I’m grateful I don’t have to wear sunglasses. I’ve broken two pairs while on crutches. I do a lot more abs work, even though they are sore from this weekend, and take breaks to stretch and elevate my foot. I do some plank variations and think I will finish with Russian twist (not yoga related), but can’t help but want to hold salamba sirsasana. I’m up for 30 seconds, pass my 50 seconds previous record, and I am able to hold it for 75 seconds before I get the urge to lift my legs. I’m super thrilled when I lower them 34 seconds later. I’m not at a minute yet, but this is great progress considering my setback and I’m extremely proud and happy that I’ve taken the time to accomplish this goal; something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never made a priority.

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sunset in Imperial Beach

Summary:

Goal 1: I didn’t practice every night at 5pm, but more often when I got the chance in the morning and evening. I didn’t just work on salamba sirsasana for ten minutes, but would incorporate some breathing, stretching, mantras, and other poses into my practice time. I enjoyed listening to my body and working to adjust for injury, mood, and need accordingly. I did accomplish my goal with bent knees and even surprised myself with straightening my legs (I think the boot helps give me focus). This practice seems so direct, but is so flexible, which makes it easier to accomplish. I miss keeping a journal of my days as it gives me something to look back on, to feel proud of, and know that though the days might feel like they blur together, I did something to set that one apart. I noticed that I didn’t always focus on bakasana. I tried it today in class, but still feel like the boot gets in the way of proper balance.

Goal 2: I’m positive I accomplished this goal, but not exactly how I planned it. I would read in the mornings, in between classes, and start sometimes at 830pm and read for an hour. I read from the book mentioned, found another book inspirational, listened to a book about zen, and found other reading material to distract me. I also spent some of this goal time focusing on flash cards and educational video clips and online games to help me learn more about anatomy and other topics I’m learning about in other classes. This was a really easy goal for me as I’ve been committing to read so many books a year for the last few years. I like to look back at the numbers of books read, miles rode on my bicycle, posts published on my blog, etc., as it lets me keep track of how the year went by when I wasn’t busy doing all the other stuff that life demands.

Goal 3 and 4: I’m on my way to attaining my long-term goals with progress in a headstand and all A’s in my classes. Goals are important, as without them it is easy to lose your way. My goals moving forward will include increasing mobility in my foot once the boot is removed at the end of November if the doctor clears it and then strengthening my leg and getting back to running.

The teacher wrote: I just love your positive outlook on life, and that you persisted with your goals despite the additional challenges. You have the perseverance to accomplish anything you set your mind to. I’ve enjoyed having you in class. Best luck to you. — M

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