Tag Archives: sun salutations

Up and at ’em …

Up and at ’em …

Women's Service Corps, ca 1945, Credit: Washington State Magazine


Whether its early morning calisthenics, a five-mile run to get the “juices flowing”, or cracking the books one more time for an exam, the old “up and at ’em” attitude is a great way to push oneself to whatever task is at hand.

Monday mornings also have a way of setting the tone for the week ahead whether its starting a new diet (or getting back on an old one), ticking off chores on the “to-do” list or getting back to the gym after a long hiatus. A Monday that is also the first one of the month has the added feature of jumping off into a fresh start with 30 or so days of opportunity to meet one’s goal.

Woman running 1920s, Credit: Baltimore FishbowlIt’s not exactly training for a prize-fight — but setting off down a path towards something to accomplish can certainly feel that way. That can mean losing five pounds, writing a paper (or a couple of chapters!), running five days a week, perfecting a new kind of glaze or learning five new chords on the guitar.

Whatever the goal putting in the work to do it means a lot of well deserved self-congratulations for persevering and at the end of it that fabulous “I’ve done it” fist-pump in the air.

Whatever the goal — one is also never really alone in it either.

We are all here doing the same thing and for every quiet cheer we might let out for ourselves we are also championing our friends who are along the path of their own achievements … at least that how I like to think of it!

So, if you’re out there today embarking on something for the month of December, know that a whole lot of us are riding along side you eating salads with low-fat dressing, waking up early to do doing crunches at 6:00 AM, perfecting sun salutations and memorizing the periodic table of elements.


Relaxing at will

Relaxing at will

I’ve been doing Yoga on and off for more years than I care to remember considering that I’m still a rank beginner!

Oh well, not that I’m counting, but it is kind of funny to be struggling with the same poses twenty years after learning them.   What I have found is that when I begin to practice with some regularity my rank amateur status seems to fall away pretty quickly.  In a matter of days, my body is limber again and I’m amazed at my renewed strength and the tautness of my muscles — and this from the “easy” Vinyasa Yoga (where you work on smooth breathing and the flow of movement), not to mention the “power” varieties that have you posing on the tip toes of one foot with your arms in the air or something like that.

Given that I’m no Guru, I do find that incorporating some Yoga practice into the day provides a chance to stretch safely in poses that help to slow down the breath — and therefore create a space for relaxation, the side benefit being some additional fitness.

My renewed flexibility also helps my boxing – a lot.  I find that my stamina increases and as my overall “tone” is improved, it adds a little something extra to my boxing training.

Yoga classes certainly abound for every level of fitness and stamina — YouTube, Netflix and Hulu have tons of online options.  If you are new to Yoga or haven’t done it in a while, you’ll want to look for beginning classes or find the sun salutation sequences which are a terrific way to wake-up your body in the morning. You may not be able to relax at will after your first class, but after a few days you’ll sure feel better and it is a nice option for your daily something.


Unfolding the bones

Unfolding the bones

I’m at the age where missing a day at the gym, never mind a week or two really hurts.  This weekend was a case in point.  I had a paper due (today) and aside from a couple of walks in the cold and some crunches, I was pretty much attached to my laptop.  And yeah, it feels good to have completed the work, by my body is an aching, creaky mess from spending hours at a time curled up on the couch with bad posture.  For breaks, I cooked meals, helped by daughter with homework and talked over the points of my paper with my husband, but I was pretty much engaged with writing for two days.

And the reckoning?  Aside from an extra pound on the scale, I’m faced with that “starting-over” feeling!

Solution?  Sun salutations, lots of stretching, really gentle shadow boxing and a brisk walk!  Abs can come later.  This sort of unfold-the-bones workout can be really helpful whenever you’ve been through a period of shall we say intense cerebral activity, aka, lying in bed watching TV, after a brief illness, or as in my case, when you’ve been on a deadline in a work or other context and have needed to type on a computer for long periods of time.

The point is not to despair — but to work it out.  I always find that a couple of days of modest meals also helps.  Not to the point of hunger, but just enough to feel as if I’ve given my body a real shot at dropping that extra pound before it gets to happy hanging around with all those other extra pounds.

Dark at 6:00 AM

Dark at 6:00 AM

Not that I want to complain or anything, but if you live in Brooklyn, NY and wake-up at 6:00 AM, you’re waking up in the dark.  Okay, true, most northern cities around the planet experience this as a regular feature of the winter months, but it doesn’t make it any more palatable.

So why am I up?  Well work for one, but more so to find the time for sit-ups and crunches, shadowing boxing, sun salutations, and in general gaining some moments before the rush of the day.  That it’s all in the dark gives this time a bit of mystery.  As if I were an acolyte of Nyx, the Greek Goddess of Night, reveling in the time before Helios makes his way across the sky in his golden chariot.

Waking up in the dark also seems to push one’s sense of purpose; as if in wrenching oneself from what otherwise feels so natural, one has made a bold statement of the importance of the time before morning.  Sure, it is morning by the clock, but the body remains in revolt, at least mine does.  And even as I make my moves around the living room, I keep looking out the window in the hopes of connecting myself with the first rays of morning light — recognizing that I will only find myself tune with the a natural order of things at that moment when I spy Homer’s “rosy fingered dawn.”

Guilting you into it

Guilting you into it

Ever have one of those mornings when even the cat has her hooks into you?  I mean it’s not even 6:00 in the morning and the day is already all about getting stuff done, and done fast.

“Raining outside?  Oh, that’s okay, use an umbrella to go out and get me my latte!,” say’s he who wants desperately to be obeyed.

Yep, one of *those* mornings where only the premium flaked cat food will do.

My answer other than to take care of the “damn” nonsense of life including lattes in the rain and the last round of studying for my daughter’s make-up science test, always goes back to freezing time for my morning something.  Today that means the daily write and sun salutations and the occasional foray into a tap dance, say in the elevator of where I work where the acoustics make my taps sound perfect.

And later, say at lunch time, I’ll tune out for a few on my iPad and have a think about something other than coming home to sort the laundry.

P.S. – Nothing like the vision of a Starbucks barista in a Santa hat to make the day seems sunny after all!

New beginnings

New beginnings.

Mondays afford the possibility of new beginnings.  A bit like a new year, Mondays begin the week and hence offer the chance to take a stab at starting over.   This mini-New Year also offers the start of new resolutions such as getting back to the gym, beginning a diet, or waking up an hour earlier to start that novel that keeps beckoning from the keyboard.

The point is that we have that opportunity to take a stab at new things all the time; whether an adventure in cuisine, creative endeavors, physical prowess, or something as simple as drinking one less cup of coffee.

And sure, Thursday can come when cake is the overriding motivation of the day, but you do have Monday or any other day you choose as your start day to look forward to.    That’s the day when you have the opportunity to move yourself along to where ever it is you want to go as a fresh beginning, whether its shadow boxing in the dark as your morning sun salutation or greeting your gym mates at the end of the day having missed their company for a while.

Up and at ’em

Up and at ‘em

The sunrise in Brooklyn is at 7:12 AM this morning.  We’ll push the clocks back in a couple of weeks, but those of us with busy morning routines will still be waking up in the dark.  From my own experience it is really hard to get up and out of a warm bed when the only light is the pink glow from the streetlights outside and even the cat is rousing slowly.

Harder still if one is hauling out of bed to hit the pavement on the way to the gym.  On those kinds of mornings, motivation can be low and one’s spirits even lower, especially if it’s cold or rainy or if the time has slipped a bit.  In my case, the morning gym has fallen by the wayside in favor of late afternoons (when I get there) – but I find that a few sun salutations help get the day started without wrecking havoc with my schedule.

My first encounter with Yoga was during a ten-day Buddhism retreat in Thailand of all places at a venerable old Temple called Wat Suan Mokkh.  Mornings there began at 4:00 A.M. with all of us beginning our first morning meditation thirty minutes later.  By 6:00 we were old hands at wrestling with our monkey minds and for those who wanted to, the option to tackle our stiff morning bodies.

Our instructor, a fellow meditation student had found a lovely spot on a slight rise and arrayed out across the grass, we put down towels and began our morning sun salutation routine as the faint ribbon of light began to peak up on the horizon.

By the time we’d finished an hour later, our sleepy bodies were quite refreshed and rejuvenated, ready for our next hour of meditation before making our way to a Spartan breakfast and the meditation schedule that picked up again later in the morning.

City dwellers do not necessarily have such an ideal environment to greet the morning with.  Usually it’s a gym, the living room or at best a park, but it doesn’t mean it’s not possible to take a few moments to give the day it’s due before bounding up and out the door to the myriad of activities that are crammed into a busy day.  Even two “rounds” of sun salutations can help clear the body and the mind and make the morning routine that much easier to cope with.  Lately my daughter and I have attempted to unfurl our bodies with at least one.  It hasn’t guaranteed us more pep in the morning, but does seem to pave the way.