Category Archives: Yoga

Finding exercise that fits

Woman exercising with ballMy partner is a massage therapist; he often hears clients lament about how they need to exercise but encounter so many barriers (internal and external). Tom likes to ask them if they know what the best kind of exercise is. This usually puzzles them — until Tom suggests that “the best kind of exercise is the kind you enjoy doing.”

I’m always appalled when someone mentions that they’ve finally started doing some sort of exercise and are really enjoying it and the immediate reaction they get from a friend is how some other exercise (usually the friend’s favorite exercise) would really be much better for them.

No, actually, it probably wouldn’t.

Even if that “other” exercise is easier on the knees, or better for flexibility, or a more efficient aerobic workout, or less expensive in terms of club or class fees. Because if the person doesn’t enjoy that class, or that club, or that video, doesn’t like it, and stops — then they aren’t exercising at all.

Exercise, when done in a class setting, is as much about relating to the teacher and the people around you as it is to the exercise you’re doing. In a room where you trust the teacher and enjoy your classmates, you’re going to use common sense and modify to prevent injury or re-injury. You’re going to be willing to try new challenges. You’ll have time to listen to your body because you aren’t wasting energy wondering if someone thinks you’re too fat, too old, too clumsy or — you get the idea.

The two fitness instructors I most enjoy working with are in Naples, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada. Since I’m in Seattle, Washington, this presents a challenge. At the moment, I’m addressing it using Skype for two classes a week.

Inspiration from yoga students

Meanwhile, I’m inspired by the stories of a number of people who have found, or created, yoga experiences that work for them. It takes persistence.

Note: While researching this post I came across several online articles and blog posts about why older and non-skinny women can and should do yoga but even the one that purported to be written by a 51-year-old yoga instructor was illustrated by a stock photo of size 2, heavily made-up, professional model. Really!

Yoga, flexibility, strength, and endurance

yoga matsLast August my Skype yoga classes went on hiatus for six months while our teacher, Susan Powter, embarked on a traveling and cooking project.

I’ve spent the past half year doing various Vinyasa routines on my own. For whatever reason, I simply could not do 1-hour sessions, and ended up doing 45-minute workouts. I’ve been sick for the past two months with things including a fairly severe sinus infection, followed by a painful bladder infection. So things just haven’t been good.

Susan’s back to teaching (yay!) and today I got to take a 75-minute class and assess what I maintained and what I lost doing a self-directed practice.

Flexibility — To my surprise, I can do most of my poses just as well as I could when doing three 1-hour classes a week last summer.

Strength — To the degree that strength supports balance, I’m still doing fairly well.

Endurance — Here’s where I completely lost it. Moving rapidly from pose to pose is a key element in Vinyasa yoga, and as soon as I had to spend a lot of time in plank, down dog, and other inverted poses in which arms provide support, I was in huge trouble.

Lest anyone think my workout today was torture, I want to assure you that Susan, who works with many students who haven’t exercised in years, urges you to modify whenever a pose is overwhelming. I was able to move at a quick pace through the sequences — it was holding difficult poses for any length of time that got me.

Susan has asked me to keep notes to see how long it will take me to regain my strength.

Meanwhile: Hot bath, then dinner. I will certainly sleep tonight.

Exciting clothes: in stores, online, and at the consignment shops

Wonderful clothes have been turning up for me in the past few months, and I want to alert everyone to some great brands and styles.

Bogner jackets and Fire and Ice sportswear. Bogner? Two months ago, I’d never heard of Bogner. Then I found a beautiful wool blazer in a heathery periwinkle color at Classic Consignment in Ballard for $20. It had a metal charm attached to the front pocket — a bright silver “B” — that made it look more like sportswear than a dressy jacket. Some online sleuthing revealed that it was a casual jacket from a company best known for skiwear — Bogner, a European firm. The tailoring and fabric are exquisite. The price, had I bought it new? $400. The story is just beginning. A few weeks later, at a flea market, I spotted a cherry red micro-fleece half-zip top that looked like a great style for me. The label? Fire and Ice. Which, it turns out, is a part of…yes, Bogner. (Price online? $200. I’d paid $5.) Not only are the beautiful pieces of clothing, but size 12 (or Large) fits me perfectly. Definitely items for petite women. Check out the vaguely steampunkish Lindsay blazer, currently selling for way above my budget.

Vintage Pendleton jackets. At Goodwill I snagged a gorgeous Pendleton blazer, a lightweight pale-champagne Harris tweed, petite, for $14. I’ve gotten so many compliments on it that I’m now searching Etsy, eBay, and all the thrift shops for more of them. A lot of vintage Pendleton is in bold colors or plaids that aren’t quite me (shocking pink and forest green check, anyone?). But I’m going to be patient to get this fit and quality.

Moving Comfort's Maia bra

Moving Comfort’s Maia bra

Moving Comfort Maia sports bra. For years I’ve been wearing Moving Comfort’s  wire-free Fiona sports bra for yoga (after being stabbed savagely by an expensive underwire sports bra while doing twists). The problem with the (seemingly  indestructible) Fiona is that they don’t make it in my size, so I’ve been wearing it one cup size too small. It squishes me, and I look…squished. I’d tried a few other Moving Comfort bras but hadn’t liked them. One, which seemed to be made out of latex, was difficult to get on, and nearly impossible to get off. But I decided to try the Maia bra, which does come in my size. It is very tailored, and works as a camisole with V-neck shirts and sweaters. It is so comfortable, even with underwires, I feel like I’m not even wearing a bra. And it looks so good I’m now wearing it with dressy clothing as well as for yoga. Question: Why don’t they remove the little white sports logo from the strap and sell this as a regular bra? They’d make a fortune.

Eddie Bauer StayShape jeans. These are jeans with a little bit of stretch that look great the first time you wear them and keep looking great. They don’t stretch out or bag. Like a number of Eddie Bauer women’s pants, they come in three styles: Straight, Slightly Curvy, and Curvy. I ordered all three because I was curious. I’m in between the Slightly Curvy and Curvy, so kept both of those. I’ve had one pair of these for six months, and they still look fabulous. (Cold water wash, inside out.)

Eddie Bauer Pima tee

Eddie Bauer’s new Pima tee

Eddie Bauer Pima Cotton 3/4-sleeve T-shirts. Another big win, particularly if you buy them on sale. These are fairly long shirts, but Eddie Bauer has moved away from the skinny fit, and these are just lovely. I ordered petites and the V and scoop necks were the perfect depth and width (unlike the necklines on the “petite” shirts at the Gap, which are apparently designed to reveal as much of your bra as possible).

JCP (aka J.C. Penney) a.n.a. sportswear. Having read all about J.C. Penney’s controversial new business model, I decided to check it out. It’s now a store full of fashion boutiques with very, very, very inexpensive prices (and somewhat confused-looking customers, wondering what happened to the old system of long racks full of sales merchandise). I bought two jackets from the a.n.a. (“A New Approach”) petite boutique, which mimics a Ralph Lauren style. They were about $3o each; one is a nicely shaped workshirt in a featherweight, faded denim and the other is an attractively styled army-green fatigue jacket, also in a summer-weight fabric. My one complaint: an XL petite is almost too tight for me across the back and bust — and I’m a size 10 petite at Eddie Bauer. This is definitely a place I’ll check again for inexpensive summer clothing.

And now, for a little bad news:

Eddie Bauer’s long-awaited Travex pants for spring are a disappointment. Last year’s Travex pants sold out almost immediately, were not restocked, and still command full price on eBay. They may now become collectors items, because the 2013 version of them is simply not as good. The new 2013 capris have those yoga-style flare-out hems (calf-length bell bottoms? Really?) that look bad on everybody. (Last year’s had drawstring hems you could adjust.) And they have this unattractive zig-zag top stitching everywhere that looks like a second grader sewed them. I’ll resume hunting for another pair of last year’s on eBay. (Note: The waistband on the Travex capris is a bit low — if you’re a petite, you could go for the regular size to get a slightly higher waistband.

Yoga. Not for the sanctimonious.

A huge thank you to Yoga Matt (really!) at The Yoga Blog for turning me on to College Humor’s take on sanctimonious yoga — or, more accurately, sanctimonious yoga teachers.

Seriously, if you find yourself in a class that resembles the one in the College Humor video, don’t panic. There are down-to-earth, sensible, fun yoga teachers out there. You just have to do a little looking around. If you need some inspiration, see the story of what happened to Arthur Boorman after he finally found a yoga program (created by former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page) accessible to an overweight and disabled middle-aged man.

How to keep your yoga mat clean

I love yoga. But I hate rolling up the mat and curling whatever was on the floor all the barefoot yoginis have been tromping around on — right onto the side of the mat that I work out on. I mean, how many of you clean your mat with cleaning solution before your next workout?


A few years ago I tried out some “hot” yoga that required a mat-size yoga towel with grippy plastic dots on one side. The towel sat unused on a shelf until a few weeks ago, when I realized it is the perfect way to keep the workout side of my yoga mat pristine.

Here’s how it works:yoga mat

When you finish the workout, you lay the towel, gripper side up, over the top of the mat. Then roll the mat up. The towel will protect the top side of the mat from the dust, cat fur, or any gunk that the bottom side of the mat picked up from the floor.

Shoes that look good and make you feel better

The Juil Mesa sandal

The Juil Mesa sandal

The ideal shoe is one that looks great and feels fantastic. Juil’s Mesa sandals (which I’ve been wearing for the past few days) certainly do that. In addition, they’re equipped with copper conductors in the soles designed to enable you to walk your way to better health through better connection to Mother Earth.

The mechanism behind the health claim comes from the practice of grounding or “earthing.” When people walk — or sleep — directly on the ground, electrons from the earth are believed to pass into their bodies. Proponents of earthing cite recent research that correlates the use of earthing beds and earthing devices to improved health. (Here’s a helpful review of that research.)

The copper conductors in Juil shoes are intended to give you the benefits of walking barefoot without giving up the protection and support of shoes.

The Juil Brio, with copper grounding

The Juil Brio, with copper conductors

The folks at Juil sent me a pair of Mesa sandals to review, and I can tell you that these are sweet shoes. They run true to size, and are made from high-quality materials (Mesa’s have leather uppers and footbeds, and the company also offers vegan models, such as the Gaia). I like the lightweight cork outsole on the Mesas. My only qualm about fit is that the Mesa footbed is a little narrow in the arch — probably best for someone with high arches.

Juil shoes for men and women are available on the site and from resellers as diverse as Naturalizer, Planet Shoes, and Amazon. Prices are from $125 to $145 for sandals and from $155 to $165 for clogs.

3 good reasons to skip today’s workout

1. I’m sick with a fever.

2. I’ve been kidnapped and am bound with rope in the trunk of a car (and I don’t think it’s headed for a yoga studio).

3. I’ve suffered muscle exhaustion from yesterday’s workout and literally can’t move (this happened once, but only once).

Seriously, there are hundreds of reasons to skip today’s workout, and tomorrow’s, and pretty soon it’s the end of the week and I feel like a doughy blob.

Yet funny how I didn’t skip meals, or showers, or feeding the cats twice a day, or doing the dishes, or picking up the mail, or answering email.

I thought about this today when I attended a yoga class via Skype at 8 in the morning, and we ran into all sort of technical difficulties with the call, and the cats were yowling to get out, and because I was using the hallway instead of my usual yoga area I ended up with cat hair and little bits of grit and cat food all over my feet…and the mat.

It was a great workout anyway.

Fitness: Envisioning 2047

Here’s where I’d like to be in 35 years.

Yoga: Effective — if the cause of the pain in your back is physical

A study conducted at Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative for the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has found yoga to be effective in relieving low back pain. But the study is attributing the effectiveness to the stretching component of yoga, rather than to any stress-relieving components.

You can read more in this Wall Street Journal report.

I’ll confess that, based on my own yoga experience, the study results have me puzzled. I’d have thought that the reason yoga relieved low back pain was because it strengthened muscles in the back, legs, and abdomen, thus providing more support for the body during activities such as bending over, or lifting heavy objects, and reducing the likelihood of injury (throwing your back out or straining muscles).

Just pay attention

Today is the NOW Foundation’s 14th Annual “Love Your Body Day,” and a lot of bloggers are disputing whether the point is to love your body, or to respect your body, or simply to integrate your feelings about your physical self with the feelings about yourself as a whole.

For me, the point is to pay attention to your body — something it doesn’t seem as though a lot of people do. (Paying attention to it by trying to camouflage it to look like something it’s not is more like ignoring it than paying attention to it, if you think about it.)

I celebrated by doing yoga with Susan’s Taos class via Skype. I think that qualifies as tough love.