Forward Fold – Tales of a Yoga Trainwreck

For the last several years I’ve been delving further and further into living a healthy lifestyle, one that encompasses wellness through physical fitness and a healthy diet. I do a wide range of physical exercise, everything from P90X to running and hiking, with yoga really moving into the forefront as of late. Over the past six months I’ve been practicing 3 to 5 times a week and have actually set a long-term goal for myself of one day becoming a yoga instructor. As most of my yoga learning has been through DVDs and YouTube videos, the need for a good local instructor seems like the next logical step.

Recently, I took a ViCrownyasa yoga class at a local facility and, unfortunately, it was a disaster! My wife and I walked into a fairly full class, maybe 25 people, of which I was one of only two men. After a couple of moments of being seated on our mats, the instructor had us come to our feet, perform a forward bend into downward dog, plank, chaturanga, and then….cobra pose? From cobra pose she instructed us to “fold forward”, at which point I looked up to see what she meant which was apparently to lay face down, nose pressed into mat. I was a bit thrown off, this was my fourth yoga class and the first time I had ever encountered anything like this, I had never even seen this done in any of the dozens of videos I have tried. Okay, maybe she has a few variations. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but by the third and fourth consecutive time we did this I was beginning to grow a little concerned.

Several times early on in this calss we came to our feet and did several standing back bends, which she didn’t always call by name, sometimes only instructing us to “open and lift the heart”. Between all the cobras and standing back bends in such a short period of time, I was beginning to have a difficult time trusting her. About halfway through the class the really awkward moments began to happen. We had just done warrior one into a twist with our left leg forward, when she instructed us to do the same exact side, again. She caught herself and asked the class “did we just do this side”? Several people in the class spoke up and informed her of this error; she half apologized with a little lighthearted laughter and made the correction. After the second time she made a mistake like this I turned and looked at my wife who gave me a look of “WTF?”. Within the next 10 minutes, she made three of four more mistakes similar to this one, basically forgetting which side of a pose we had just done.

Okay, I can understand making a mistake like this, maybe once in a class, I suppose, even twice. But after the third and fourth time it’s obvious that this instructor is either: a.) very new to yoga instruction, b.) having a very bad day, c.) on drugs, or d.) all of the above.

Moving a little further into this quickly evolving yogic nightmare the instructor asked us to do a standing forward bend, grab our ankles, and then take four baby steps backwards, and then forward. Again, WTF?! A couple of moments later she instructed us to do a forward bend, grab the left ankle with the right hand, right angle with the left hand, and then twist to the left side looking under the left shoulder. This felt very unnatural to me, until the girl next to me spoke up notifying the class (and instructor) that “this only works if the left arm is over the right arm”, to which the teacher agreed. Again, WTF?

A little while later, she instructed us to do crow. A few minutes later, the music stopped playing, and she told us that we could “just do crow again if you’d like”, while she changed the music. Nearing an hour into this “guess which confusing pose we’re going to do next” Yoga disaster, I noticed a couple of students rolling up their mats and leaving, and my wife and I used this opportunity to leave, as well.

After the class, we started dissecting all the problems with this class, which went far beyond just a couple of mistakes about which side of the pose we had just done. With only a few exceptions the class was halfway into a pose before she would actually call it by name, many times not even putting a title with the pose. Because of this, many participants of the class had to keep looking up to see what to do, myself included. She didn’t recommend any modifications, either. Her breathing instructions – inhale, now exhale seemed too close together, didn’t flow well with the movements of the class, and sometimes conflicted with the poses. For instance, when we did tabletop to cat pose she told us to inhale while we were pushing our backs towards the ceiling.

I know that every yoga instructor is going to have their own style, but for a basic Vinyasa flow class we didn’t even do some of the most basic poses like warrior two or three or chair pose, let alone a single balance pose. Because of the way she gave instructions (or lack thereof), proper body alignment was very difficult throughout much of this class. There was no “stack the shoulders”, “square the hips”, “lengthen both sides of the torso”, “press your lower back into the mat”.

While I am fairly new to yoga and have learned primarily through instructional videos, I do have a good understanding of the basics and consider myself a beginning intermediate. This was my fourth yoga class with an actual instructor. My first yoga class was last summer, and a great one. The instructor was spot on, exceptional. Two of the other classes I took, all at different studios, were okay, not as good as my first class, but not terrible. This class was frighteningly bad! I left the class frustrated and feeling like I didn’t even get in a good workout, even though the back of my head and neck ached. I am convinced that I could have walked to the front of that class at any point and done a better job just winging it than this “instructor”.

At one point midway through the class I remember turning to my wife and softly saying “do you want to go?” She shook her head no, let’s stay. Looking back, I realized that if we had left only a short way into this class it would’ve disrupted the energy in the room, it could have thrown the teacher even further off balance and made it even more difficult for those who stayed. But by staying, we did some temporary damage to our bodies, as my wife also had neck and back pain after this class. Aside from the overall lack of flow and commonsense poses, this was no doubt due to the constant looking up required to figure out what the hell was going on. I wonder how many other people at this class had some unnecessary pain and discomfort because of this bad instruction.

How does this happen? Out of my four yoga class experiences I’ve witnessed a wide range in the quality of instruction – one top-notch instructor, two middle of the road instructors (one who was actually reading many of his instructions verbatim from a notebook), and one instructor who had no business leading a class. Although I left this class with a bad taste in my mouth, I did learn some things and was eventually inspired and empowered. I learned that a yoga class can actually be dangerous and can cause injury to its participants. I learned the importance of finding a great instructor, and that; perhaps one should do some research before jumping into a class, cold. The absence of some obvious essentials reinforced the need for instructors to provide great attention to detail in a yoga class. And through this difficult experience I now feel even more inspired to continue my search for a great instructor.


P90X Workout Update and How The Hell Did I Get a Hernia?

Eric and I finished our second full round of P90X last week and took our fit test on Saturday. We both had great results and I was super happy with my 2 1/2  pack that’s starting to show! We took Sunday off and I was all set to enjoy watching my beloved Pat’s squash the Jets….well you probably know how that turned out. So, I drowned my sorrows Sunday evening with a couple of my favorite Bud Light Limes and went to bed early.

Monday morning we embarked on day one of our 1st round of P90X+. The first workout was Upper Body Plus – wow! This workout hits every upper body part and each exercise is timed rather than counted for reps. The very first thing is “Double Double Dip’ll Do Ya”; you take two chairs facing each other with space for your body in between, then in plank with one hand on each chair, you do 2 push up, then swing your feet through and do 2 dips, then swing back for 2 push ups. You continue this craziness for 90 seconds. If you think that sounds easy – please – grab 2 chairs and give it a shot….then come back and continue reading. The rest of that 40 minute workout is equally as challenging, but we did it and felt pretty good about our first day. The next day brought Intervals – an insane 40 minutes of cardio where each move is done at 3 stages for one minute; 1st 20 seconds at low intensity, then medium for 20 seconds, then ALL OUT for the last 20 and then immediately on to the next move. It is a fun workout and it really gets your heart rate up. We felt so good, later that day we decided to add in a second workout. This time we did the brand new One on One Recovery & Stretch. Due to time constraints we only did about 35 minutes, but I highly recommend this as a supplement to any workout routine.

That night Eric had a show with his trio at a local bar (the 12 South Tap Room) and I was very excited to go listen to the music and see some friends. The show went great and the crowd really enjoyed the band. We got home around 1 AM and sat up for a little while talking before heading to bed.

Around 2:30 AM I woke up with a minor nagging pain in my groin/lower ab. I tried ignoring it for about a 1/2 hour, but I could tell it was getting worse. It wasn’t a constant pain, but a sharp pain that would last about a second or two, then stop, then come back several minutes later. I got up around 3 and almost immediately the pain starting getting unbearable. I asked Eric to get up and keep me company (which, of course, he did – he is the best). I tried just walking around, I tried Tylenol; but within about an hour we both realized that this was still getting worse and I was having trouble walking. Off to the emergency room we went.

The staff at the ER were just great, they got me in right away and I was in an exam room talking to a doctor within 15 minutes. At this point the pain was really bad and the doctor did an exam of the painful area. Immediately he said “I know exactly what is wrong”! Which was a huge relief to me, all I wanted to was to figure out what was going on and to get it fixed. He said you have an inguinal hernia. A hernia! How could that be? I’m in great shape, I’ve been working out religiously and none of my workouts cause any pain? Apparently this type of hernia is caused by a defect and I’ve had it for years. The problem is, it’s now worse and is going to require surgery 😥

I won’t go off on too big a rant about the state of our health care system; but…..if you don’t have insurance – don’t get sick. I’ve spent the last 3 days on the phone with hospitals, nurses, financial aid offices. People won’t even call me back when I ask for an appointment when they hear the words “no insurance”. I don’t take being told “no” very well, I get, what Eric calls “phone tone” and start insisting that someone do their job (I might have used some stronger terms that that, but that’s not important right now). Finally I got through to the right person and got them to listen to me. I now have an appointment with a surgeon in 5 days.

Unfortunately, I am still in pain off and on and, although it’s not as bad as the other night, I won’t be able to do any P90X workouts for a while. It also looks like once I have surgery I won’t be doing any exercise for several weeks. I’m really upset about this. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am and I don’t want to lose any of this progress.

I’m going to continue to eat healthy, do whatever activity I can and hope that I can be back P90X+ soon. I’ll try to post some new recipes, if I can get myself to do some cooking. I’m the opposite of an emotional eater. When I’m stressed I have no appetite at all, I find it almost impossible to force down any food.  If it wasn’t for Shakeology, I wouldn’t have had any nutrition at all in the last couple of days!

Thanks for listening (whoever is out there listening 🙂 and I’ll keep you all posted! bon appétit!

True “healthcare” doesn’t need to be expensive or come from a doctor

Eric wrote a great article today and I thought you all would enjoy reading it 🙂

According to a recent report from the Kaiser foundation, the number of Americans lacking health care has now swelled beyond 50 million, or roughly the population of Spain. Approximately one out of every six people living in America today, one of the wealthiest nations on earth, cannot realistically afford medical treatment if and when needed. This statistic was part of a recent Huffington Post article that explored some inefficiencies and redundancies of our current health care insurance “system”. After reading through many of the comments from readers at the end of the article I became frustrated at how few of us understand the big picture of what is going on in our country in regards to “health care”.

The US healthcare system does not work, and cannot work for most Americans. It is a grossly overpriced, inefficient, and ineffective system that, in conjunction with the big insurance companies, big food, big Pharma (and propelled by big media) thrives on people being sick. And as long as we all buy into the false wisdom put forth by these mega-corporations, we will remain an unhealthy nation. We have been burdened with an epidemic of obesity (by 2015, 75% of adults will be be overweight, 41% will be obese), and largely preventable chronic diseases, which have now passed smoking as the number one cause of avoidable death in our country. One recent report by the Milken Institute “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease” estimating this  annual cost to our economy to be more than $1 trillion, likely reaching $6 trillion annually by 2020 (a sick population, while costly to you and me, is highly profitable to these corporations). We eat toxic food, live sedentary lifestyles, and treat illnesses with drugs that often make us sicker. This dynamic is at the heart of our “healthcare” system, and, sadly, this is simply not understood by most Americans.

My wife and I are self-employed and cannot afford health insurance, we go without as it is not even an option for us. To avoid the costly expense of doctors, hospitals, and prescription drugs, we work hard to live a healthy lifestyle. This requires learning about nutrition, preparing healthy foods, exercising regularly and staying physically active – this is our approach to healthcare and we call it “Do It The Hard Way”. We are “caring for our health” by investing in it constantly. While this approach does not make us immune to all potential health problems, it does reduce the likelihood of many of them, and prevention is the best approach in my book.

There are certainly many people with life-threatening illnesses that could not survive for long without their health care. It is these people, along with those injured in car accidents, by gunshots, etc. that the healthcare system should exist to serve. But for the rest of us, there are choices we can make every day that will improve our own health, and the health of our children. Don’t let type II diabetes render you or a loved one dependent on insulin and doctors for the rest of your life, for most, this disease can be eliminated by eating the right foods and weight loss. Don’t treat high blood pressure with drugs, treat it with good food and a jog at the park. These kinds of solutions are much less costly, and you can do them yourself. I recently read an insightful article “Being healthy is a revolutionary act” by Pilar Gerasimo that helps define more broadly what we are all up against.

So while the rest of us are waiting for the “sick care” system to improve, why not take health into your own hands and become our own personal “healthcare” providers, providing good health to ourselves and our families through healthy lifestyles. As most of us no longer have a choice in the matter, we’d be foolish not to.

“Decide, Commit, Succeed!”

P90X Round One – Done!

We finished our first FULL round of P90X last Friday, September 10th! (As this was a joint effort, this will be a two-part blog, the first part by Kelly, and the second part by Eric.)

Kelly writes:

We had previously attempted this three times and each time something (life, basically) got in the way and we didn’t make it all the way through. This time when we started, we made a pact with each other and said “No matter what, everyday, we are going to put on our workout clothes, put in the DVD, press play, and stand in front of that TV”. There were many days that it was really hard. There were many days that I thought I was going to do nothing but march in place and watch, but I didn’t. Once the music started and Tony started talking, I started feeling like maybe I could at least modify the workout and do most of  it. Then the workout would start and there was Eric, right beside me, working hard; well I couldn’t let him progress faster than me….if he could do it…I could do it. That’s how we made it. We encouraged each other, we pushed each other, we did it together.

When I did the fitness test the first time, I could do 1/4 of a pull up. Actually that’s being generous, basically I could hang on the pull up bar. Last week – I did 10! During a chest and back workout a couple of weeks ago I did 127 full pushups, through the course of the entire workout. I’ve accomplished things I never thought I could. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Eric writes:

Like Kelly said, it took four attempts to complete this mother of all workouts, as our first three tries fell short. But we don’t consider those first three attempts a wasted effort. Even though we only made it just past day 60 on those earlier attempts, we still got a feel for the workouts, became familiar with the different moves, and became more instilled with the basic desire to succeed in this endeavor. Those first three attempts were all part of the process and ultimately building blocks in our new mindset of extreme fitness.

That being said, the feeling of actually completing the 90 day program is extremely rewarding. It was really hard, I mean really, really hard. But now that it’s over, we can’t wait to do it again. The improvements we have made regarding cardio, strength, and flexibility are massive.

One of the most exciting parts of this whole experience was taking the recommended P90X fitness test yesterday to measure our gains. This fitness test is performed at the beginning and end of the 90 day workout series and is essentially an extreme workout itself, consisting of 8 exercises; pull-ups, vertical leap, pushups, toe touch, wall squat, bicep curls, in and outs (crunches), and 2 minutes of jumping jacks after witch you measure your heart rate 5 times at 1 minute intervals. (If your feeling adventurous, download this free test and give it a try.)

We began by doing a warm up consisting of a 20 minute walk, followed by some running in place, jumping jacks and a combination of static and ballistic stretching. Then we put on AC/DC’s Back in Black (on vinyl) to provide some extra motivation.

Kelly went first, doing 12 pull ups! A year ago she couldn’t even do one. I followed with 18 pull ups (a year ago I could only do 4). Another standout was Kelly going from 23 pushups at the beginning of this round to 35, I went from 30 pushups to 50. As a senior in high school my record was 60, and it is my goal to surpass that number by next July when I attend the 25th reunion of my graduating class.

Kelly and Eric both write:

Why did we find it necessary to do such an extreme workout program? Because our lives depend on it! When we were teenagers, or even in our 20s our bodies seemed invincible. As we entered our 30s, we began to notice some occasional aches and pains. Now, into what some would call “middle-age”, stuff just plain hurts sometimes. Backaches, neck aches, tendinitis flare ups – I’m not saying we hurt every minute of every day, but the writing is on the wall. As we are not big fans of doctors or pharmaceuticals, it seems that only extreme measures will work to combat the effects of aging. So we minimize the aches and pains that everyday life delivers by making ourselves stronger. And this P90X program will definitely make you stronger. Of course exercise is only one half of the equation, the other half of the big picture for us is healthy eating.

P90X is just one of many great workouts in the Beachbody program. You can go even more extreme than P90X and try Insanity…we haven’t tried that yet, but  hope to, after we finish another P90X round. There are also so many other programs that we think just about anyone could find one that fits; things like “Brazil Butt Lift”, “10-Minute Trainer”, “Hip Hop Abs”, “Body Gospel” and many more. Beachbody is also a great community. We have met so many great people and made friends from all over the world that are doing these same workouts and have the same goals of a fit, healthy life.

We plan to start another round of P90X on Tuesday, October 12, and would love for some of our friends to join us in this endeavor. Anybody up for the challenge? If you are, send us a note and we can take this virtual challenge together.

“Decide, Commit, Succeed!” – Tony Horton