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I have reached the end of my 30 day yoga challenge.  I’ve done a supported headstand every day for 30 days straight.  This was a great challenge and I feel I’ve reached a great mile stone.  To do anything 30 days in a row is quite an accomplishment.  So what did I learn?

Day 1 was rocky to say the least.  I could get in to a headstand but not very well.  In fact, I have a camera app called Blink which takes several pictures in rapid succession.  I had my wife use this app to get a picture of me with my feet straight up and had to pick the best one to display in my Day 1 blog post.  I was only able to hold this pose for a couple of seconds before falling over.  Many times I would fall backward which resulted in me rolling over my interlocked fingers which kind of hurt.  Still I pressed on.

Day two I took a picture but did not post it here.  My legs were slightly forward.  At this point in the game it was a little tough getting in to a headstand.  I struggled with it a little.  By day 4 I definitely felt like I was making some headway not only in getting in to the pose but in balance and staying in the pose.

Somewhere around day 16 I had a bad day.  I felt like it was very difficult to get in to the pose.  I got in to the pose and felt like I couldn’t hold it.  I felt tired for some reason.  Later I figured it was that I hadn’t done any warm up and my back was stiff.  A great lesson to learn and from that day forward I had no problems at all once I was properly stretched.

So now that I’ve hit day 30, I can get in to this pose very easily and hold it for a lot longer.  I tossed my wife my phone and asked her to take a picture of me.  I don’t think she realized what was going on.  I quickly got inverted and was standing on my head for about 15 seconds before I called out to her.  She responded, picked up my phone and as she was about to take a picture someone called.  She hung up on them and went back to the camera app.  I stood straight up on my head for about 30-40 seconds total before she took this picture.

Supported Headstand Day 30

Supported Headstand Day 30

What I love about this picture is how my back is almost straight but my legs are aligned over my head and my toes are pointed up about as much as I can point them at this time.  I held pretty straight like this for a good amount of time and it is the first time I’ve seen my accomplishment since day 4.  I am celebrating this victory today and feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Interestingly enough this fit really well in to my minimalist theory.  I took less than a minute a day to learn a new pose that was quite hard in the beginning.  I really had it learned in a little over 2 weeks but continue to perfect my skill and gain strength.

Strength is something that I still have to work on.  This takes a lot of arm and back strength to hold for this long.  I will most likely keep doing my headstands almost daily.  I really enjoy doing them because they give me confidence and for the strength.

Do you have pics of you doing headstands?  What should my next 30 day challenge be?

Namaste my friends.

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So I’m on day 12 of my supported headstand yoga challenge and I thought I’d write an update.  Day 1 was a bit of a challenge in itself.  I wasn’t very stable and had problems staying upright for very long.  I wasn’t able to keep my feet together without falling over and was inverted for maybe 10 seconds.

It didn’t take me long to start to gain balance.  On day 4 I felt a lot more solid and I was able to hold the position with my feet together.  Now, on day 12 I feel like I can stay inverted for a much longer period of time and keep my feet together.  This stability gives me the opportunity to focus on my breathing which isn’t easy when inverted.  I’m confident that by day 30 I will have improved a great deal more.

So I was showing my friend who is a yoga instructor and she gave me a couple of tips which I don’t think I’m ready to implement.  Quite honestly, I don’t think I have the strength in my shoulders or back at this point.  She told me that I’ll eventually want to get in to the supported headstand pose by putting my arms and head down then walking my feet toward my body.  Then, as my friend showed me, I’ll keep my legs straight and feet together as I lift.  Right now I’m lifting one leg at a time and they’re bent.  Still, I’m reaping the benefit of being inverted as well as gaining strength in my shoulders and core.  

I’m more than 1/3 of the way through my challenge and still enjoying it.

Today I did a few minutes of yoga a little later than I usually do.  I had a couple errands to run with my youngest who was wearing her new leotard/yoga outfit.  Upon arriving home I was kind of grumpy.  It’s 88 degrees today and I have no A/C in my car.  Still, after eating and few minutes of yoga my mood improved drastically.  I was sitting on the floor stretching my hips and told my wife I wrote on my blog that I was going to do a headstand every day for 30 days.  She suggested I take pictures of me doing a headstand every day so I can see how much I’m progressing.  What a brilliant idea from an amazing wife.  She’s already been taking pictures for me so I can see my posture in each position.  As someone doing yoga at home without a trainer present this is important to me.  So here is my day one supported headstand.

supported headstand yoga challenege day 1

 

Surprisingly I feel like my back is nice and straight.  In my warm up headstand I rolled my hips slightly forward and was able to get my legs a little more upright but I soon fell over.  Pictures are always hard to time and I did, for a moment, get my feet together.  This picture is a great representation of the overall headstand that lasted about 20 seconds.

If any of your more experienced yogis out there see anything I may be missing please comment and let me know.  If you’d like to join me in the challenge then comment and let me know as well, I’d love to hear from you.  There is strength in numbers.

I love a challenge.  Why wouldn’t I?  Since I was a young kid I’ve been challenged to keep up with my big brother, to learn how to use computers (as primitive as they were in the 80’s), to make the basketball team, to graduate high school then college, to get a job… I thrive on a challenge.

I went back in time on my personal facebook page.  Not far, I just wanted to see what day I started doing yoga.  I think it was March 1st and since it was the beginning of a new month, why not make that the date?  So I’ve been doing yoga for a month and a half.  Nearly ever day… nearly.

So I think I will challenge myself to something.  For the next 30 days I want to do a supported headstand pose.  It wont take long, just a minute or two but will help me in core strength and balance.  I also want to challenge myself to do yoga 6 days per week even if it is just a couple of poses.  I want to build and build upon this and focus on opening up my chest, gaining arm and core strength and improving hip flexibility.  At the end of 30 days I should be a lot further along than I am now and will issue myself a new challenge going forward.  Wanna start with me?  It starts tomorrow, April 15th.

So late last year I decided to start taking medication for my ADD.  I was seeing that my attention problems were causing some difficulties in my life and decided enough was enough.  Since ADD is treated with stimulants (non stimulants are available but they’re more costly) I decided to stop drinking coffee and tea with caffeine in it.

For a couple of weeks it was a bit of a struggle but I got used to it.  Besides, the medication helped me stay awake for a while.  Eventually I got used to the meds and they weren’t keeping me as awake.  Ever since I started doing yoga I’ve found a couple moves really get the blood flowing and the heart beating and increase my energy.  I start out my routine in a bridge pose before turning over and doing a cobra pose.  This combination invigorates me to the point where I feel like I’m going to pass out at times.  But after doing my morning yoga I feel as if I have energy to make it through the day.

As I stated previously, I’m about four weeks in to my yoga journey and I’ve been working a few minutes a day trying to improve my poses.  I want to learn my poses correctly and try not to worry about the health benefits of them, although that will happen naturally.  One pose I’ve been working on is called Crow Pose or Bakasana as it is called in Sanskrit.  It isn’t perfect and it takes a lot of effort but it is happening.

Crow Pose (Bakasana)

Crow Pose (Bakasana)

This pose take a lot of strength in your wrists and forearms as well as your core to accomplish.  It feels like a full body workout when I’m doing it and I can only hold it for about 5 seconds.  When I’m not working on this pose I’ve been doing some strength training trying to develop strength in my wrists.  It seems to be working as I’m able to get out of this pose without falling down now.

I wanted to learn a very advanced pose even though I’m a beginner.  I’m a bit impatient like that.  I looked through a lot of the poses and decided this one would be hard but not out of the question.  It didn’t require me standing on my head, just balance and strength.  I guess I didn’t realize how hard it would be but I found a video entitled “Hard Poses Made Easy” and decided to go for it.

This video was enough and as you can see I’ve accomplished a crow pose.  My butt is a little high and I can only hold it for so long but with time I plan on getting better and better.  Yoga really has been a great journey so far.

History of Yoga Infographic

History of Yoga Infographic

Ok, so it hasn’t been quite three months since I last posted but it’s getting close.  I’ve missed writing and I’ve missed a lot of my old WordPress friends.  I’ve been doing well though.  Regular readers from when I was a regular writer will recall that I had a strained rotator cuff once upon a time.  I’ve completely healed, I have no pain whatsoever.  I did not, however, go back to push ups, sit ups or squats.  I got in to running for a little while and then somehow pulled a back muscle.  Not enough stretching, I suppose?  This was a pivotal moment for me.

When my back was hurting I started to think about my direction in fitness.  I still 100% believe in my minimalist workout.  But I started to think.  Maybe I push myself too hard or just have the genetics but I seem to be a little accident prone.  A woman I work with is always talking about yoga and how much she loves it.  She told me she broke her neck years ago and had 3 slipped discs.  She told me yoga took all the pain away.  Not knowing much about yoga I asked her if she could give me some good poses for my back which was bothering me.  She gave me three poses which I researched right away.  They were bridge pose, cobra pose and camel pose.  These poses are awesome for elongating the spine, opening the chest and stretching everything out.

So I kept going.  YouTube has endless yoga videos.  I simply search for yoga, beginner and the area I want to work on that day whether it’s upper or lower back, abs, legs, arms…  Then I build a playlist and pull up the YouTube app on my blue ray player and workout in my living room.  My 5 year old has enjoyed doing yoga with me so much that we built her a playlist of just kids yoga.  She loves the kids  yoga because it’s like acting out a story with yoga moves.  She’ll giggle and do her poses for the entire 15 minutes and then sit down, put her hands together and say “namaste”.

In the few weeks I’ve been doing yoga I can already see my posture getting better, my body is getting more flexible and the poses are getting easier.  I’m really loving the yoga.  I plan to write more about yoga in the future, maybe I’ll post some pics of me doing yoga poses and maybe some instruction on how to do poses, although I’m not an instructor and am learning to do these poses myself.

I’d love to hear from anyone who is doing yoga.  Leave me a message in the comments.

There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the media lately.  Mostly because of people with extreme circumstances.  I really don’t want to get in to the politics of it all but I believe there should be more that is done for people with mental health problems.  Helping to break down the taboos is, as far as I can tell, the best way for me to help the situation.  Among my friends and family I speak very openly about my mental health status and sometimes I’m criticized for it.  For the most part, however, the reception has been warm.

What’s Going On In My Head?

So what is my mental health status?  I have been diagnosed with ADD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in 5th grade and Anxiety only a few years ago in 2005.  I was treated for ADD as school age kid but quit taking Ritalin when I graduated from high school in 1994.  For most of my adult life I have had no problems.  I studied film in college and most of the teaching was very hands on.  As a visual learner this was the best way for me to learn.  What wasn’t hands on, I worked very hard at.  I got through college with very good grades and began a career.  It wasn’t long before I married my wife and was a husband and step-dad.

It is quite common for guys (and probably girls) like me to have a lot of success without treatment until we settle in to life and then have problems.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of success finding good treatment (until recently) so I gave up for a while.

The Problems I Had

So why do I need treatment?  An ADD brain craves stimulation.  There are certain instances where I thrive but this need for stimulation can cause problems.  I can be very impulsive and unpleasant to be around when I get stressed and feel the need to “vent”.  The anxiety side of me created a different set of problems.  I would become very defensive in public situations, especially when confronting conflict.  Many times I just stayed home when I didn’t think I could handle the task.  I often feared what would happen if, for example, my bank card didn’t work, I needed more documentation or showed up at the wrong time.  Honestly, I felt as if I was withdrawing from life.  I hardly ever get out of the house unless I’m with my wife and kids or I’m going to work.  My mental health was definitely affecting my life.

And Then I Got Treatment

I finally found an excellent doctor who is helping me.  She considers all of my reservations about taking certain medications and has prescribed just what I needed to improve my quality of life.  Some would say I’m dependent on drugs to be able to handle life.  I’d say with a wife, three kids and a great career that I’ve handled life very well.

What’s This Guy On?

I also want to share with you what I’m taking.  Not because I simply want to talk about what I take but because it demonstrates that you can get an effective treatment without having troubles like side effects or becoming addicted to drugs.

The first medication I am on is Xanax.  I’m sure there are mixed feelings about Xanax but I take a very low dosage.  When I have problems with my anxiety or am going to be in a situation where my anxiety typically hinders me, I take a half of a .25 milligram pill.  It doesn’t cause me to zone out or anything like that, it simply takes away my fears and helps me to feel normal.

The second medication I take is called Adderall.   Adderall is a stimulant used for treating ADD.  I was talking to a friend a couple of days ago who said she decided she doesn’t believe in ADD.  She was surprised that I am on medication for my ADD and asked if it makes me feel like a zombie.  With so much misinformation out there about ADD and the medications used for treating it people have just decided that they will ignore the problem in order to just remain normal.  Let me tell you, I am completely the same with Adderall as I am without it except for the fact that I can focus on tasks better and don’t feel so impulsive and stressed out.  I’m still a very creative person, and I’m still good at multitasking.  I’m also enjoying life more.

Full disclosure, Adderall is the third medication I tried.  The first didn’t work enough, the second made me feel like I was in fast forward.  I communicated with my doctor and she worked with me until we got it right.

How This Helps Others

Sharing my story with friends has helped others as well.  I’ve had people come to me and ask me questions about my condition.  A condition, by the way, that doesn’t define who I am, just something I deal with.  Sharing my story may open me up to occasional (slight) criticism but it has opened up a dialog with people to share their struggles with me and we have been able to learn from each other.  In this context it has enhanced my perspective on life.  It has also done the same for those I’ve encountered.

Mental health is a taboo subject.  It shouldn’t be.  You should share your mental health struggles with those around you and seek treatment.  You will also find that your courage will encourage those around you to seek treatment.  You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re improved your quality of life and the life of others.

I’ve been doing some research in to running technique.  I’ve decided I want to work smarter in 2013 instead of working harder.  In fact, I’m making it my New Year’s Resolution.  I plan on finding the best ways to make the most of my workout time.  Today I went out for a run and decided to try out a new running technique I saw in some YouTube videos.  In fact, let me pass this video along to you.

In this video you see one runner, two weeks apart.  On the left she is striking down on her heel and on the right you see her striking with her foot coming down flat.  You will also notice that when she lands her foot flat she brings the opposing foot up much higher than she did in the video on the left.  With a slight forward lean and good posture she uses gravity to push her forward.  The technique on the right is more efficient because she limits the time her foot is on the ground.  Also, from what I understand, when you strike with your heel you slow yourself down slightly before you pull yourself forward.  The more efficient way is to land with your foot flat, without stretching it out in front of you so that you push yourself forward instead of pulling.  This also cuts down on risk of injury.

So how did this work out for me?  I improved my distance by about 25% over Tuesday’s run.  In fact, my legs felt as if they could go a lot further but my lungs are not yet acclimated to running this far.  I have no doubt I can improve my performance a lot quicker than I have in the past.  My biggest barrier is waiting for my lungs to build up their capacity.

When I was running before I would use an app to give me cues as to when I should run and when I should walk.  I’ve decided to map all my runs ahead of time and shoot for distance instead.  My favorite website for mapping my runs is RunningMap.com.  I like it mostly because it isn’t overloaded with menus and the need to sign in first.  I keep an eye on the approximate time it takes me to run certain distances and then put the information in to Wolfram|Alpha to calculate my speed.  I seem to be running my first leg at about 6.5 mph.  This is quite an improvement for me.  Less effort (leg wise) is translating in to faster speeds aka traveling further in the same amount of time.  It’s all about efficiency.

I will say, however, this technique doesn’t make running so easy that I don’t have to worry about drinking enough water or eating properly.  Proper hydration and nutrition will always be essential.

Admittedly, I’ve never been a strong runner but thankfully, with proper technique, I can become strong.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions and how are you working to accomplish them?

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