Tag Archives: Susan Powter

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.

Working out with Susan Powter via Skype

Every time Susan Powter leaves Seattle I go through a new search for a challenging yoga-based workout that I can attend three times a week. I’ve tried several local yoga classes and, for various reasons, they didn’t work out for me. Some studios were too far away to make the commute practical; some were too slow (great for flexibility and strength, no help for fat burning); some were too sanctimonious (no, I don’t suffer from fear, anxiety, insecurity and spiritual emptiness the way one 20-something instructor seemed to think everyone in the room did); and hot yoga made it possible for me to do things that were probably not wise for someone my age.

I ended up taking a fabulous Techno ElectroBelly dance class (“shimmying, isolating, undulating, and generally gettin’ sweaty to electronic, dub, techno, industrial, and rock music”) from Laura Rose at VDP Studio in Fremont, but unfortunately she teaches it only once a week.

Then I found out that Susan is teaching classes via Skype! She provides them for small groups. You gather three or four women and work out a schedule with Susan. At the appointed time, you all show up at the studio of your choice (someone’s livingroom or deck), roll out your mats, open your laptop, and place the video call to Susan at her Taos studio.

It’s just like working out with Susan in a class, except that with small classes she’s able to give a lot more individual attention.

Last week Carrie and I went completely crazy and did five days of classes in a row. It…felt…fabulous!

Interested? Send me email or contact Susan directly.

>Let’s get demonic: Going to the mat over yoga

>It would be tempting to dismiss the “Yoga ‘Demonic’?” story on the front of the Metro section in today’s Seattle Times as idiotic, but in truth, there is something demonic going on.

To recap: The influential pastor at the head of Seattle’s church for hip young born-agains, Mars Hill, said flat-out that yoga is demonic. He was giving local support to an essay by the president of a Baptist seminar that warned that yoga is contradictory to Christianity.

Jaws dropped.

Not mine. I’d been prepared for his argument, though I thought at the time the preparation was overkill.

Turns out that Susan (my yoga teacher, Susan Powter) was right.

She believes firmly that men do everything possible, at a political, cultural, societal, and family level, to prevent women from being healthy and fit. They load them down with kids, work, responsibilities, guilt — and then outright discourage them from eating right and taking care of their bodies.

“Oh, Susan,” I used to think, as she lectured on this topic while we lay on the floor doing yoga stretches and crunches, or did wind sprints and lifted weights, “isn’t this just a bit paranoid?”

Turns out, not if you’re a gal in the Mars Hill congregation. Can you imagine trying to get healthy and fit by taking two hours a week to get to a yoga class (“HOW DARE YOU!”)— and now your pastor is blasting you from the pulpit for engaging in demonic activity?

I’m particularly incensed because yoga is a great activity for women who have been utterly out of shape and want to get back into it. You can start with gentle stretching and core strengthening and later build yourself to aerobic fitness with Ashtanga or Vinyasa workouts. It’s low impact, it’s cheap — all it takes is a mat and you can do it in your living room.

And now it’s demonic, too! Does this mean I can skip my usual witch costume for Halloween and just go in my yoga outfit?

All I can say to the pastor of Mars Hill Church is “thank you!”

If I ever need motivation to stay strong and fit, and get to my yoga workout on a regular basis, I’ll just think about you and your ilk. Praise the Lord!

>Smile when you eat that

>And take a picture.

The blog This Is Why You’re Fat is a collection of photos (cheesy, oily, sugary — you get the idea) of the kind of food that explains the research results I blogged about last week.

Fat (on people) is a touchy subject. Somehow the fat is much funnier in its original, non-ingested state. I love this picture of french fry shaped donuts with raspberry jelly and Bavarian cream dipping sauces. If the dip had been cinnamon sugar I’d have been forced to take the temptation more seriously!

The This Is Why You’re Fat people just got a book deal and are inviting photo submissions. I think it would be hard to top the deep-fried guacamole.

I have an evil fantasy of asking Susan Powter to review the book!

(Thanks to Eric Pratum for Tweeting about this site.)

>Your workout begins

>OK, Susan has finally started putting yoga workouts online.

For the past 15 months I’ve had the immense privilege of working out with one of the world’s greatest fitness instructors, Susan Powter.

Susan faces (for the umpteenth time in her colorful career) the challenge of figuring out how to replicate the astonishing classroom experiences she gives us so that they are accessible to everyone.

She’s been playing around with some ideas via video, via MySpace, and via blogging, in the past several months. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t.

Now she’s got Susan Powter Online going. This site does not provide the polished, organized exercise information we’re used to from all those videos and DVDs we’ve all purchased (and not used) in the past few decades. This site is about how Susan, who turned 50 two weeks ago, lives a fit, healthy life in her modest, artsy home in Seattle (which she shares with her young son). Here’s some yoga in her little Seattle studio; it’s cold—that’s why Susan starts out in fluffy slippers!

Our workout with her Sunday was in the hallway of the school where we rent space. Temperature? 55 degrees. And we were sweating when we finished.

Here you go: