Super Simple Movement Activity For Non-Movers

Despite my honorable intentions to avoid it, being at Green’s parents’ house (there has to be an easier way to say that) has resulted in a whole lot of sitting on my ass and not a lot of moving around.

I don’t know what it is about this house, but being here makes me feel lazy, and my body is pretty angry at me. I’m lacking energy, and I’m SORE as hell. I live in a body that’s used to doing intense sessions of hardcore sweaty yoga and hooping for hours. And here I am letting it atrophy. It’s not happy with me at all.

Our bodies gotta move. They don’t like sitting still. Still bodies start to stiffen and lock up.

Does that mean you have to get out of your house and go to the gym for half an hour to wake up your body? No, not at all. You can do some easy, simple stretches and body awareness exercises right here, wherever you are. If you aren’t a big mover and you want an insanely simple place to start, or even if you are into movement and exercise but you’re having one of those days where it’s tough to get going, here’s a quick activity to try.

Oh, before you start, I should state that I’m not a professional stretching instructor person, I have no licenses or doctorates that qualify me to instruct you, so try this at your own risk and go at your own pace. This activity is pretty dang low key, though. It’s gleaned from almost ten years of practicing yoga and personal experience/discoveries.

I’ve broken it down into three steps. Do as many or as few as you like, but at least try the first step. You may surprise yourself with what you discover about your own body!

You should try it right now. Go ahead. You don’t have to leave your computer or anything.

You do have to stand up, though. Come on. On your feet!

STEP ONE:

-Stand with your feet together. If you can’t get them to touch, bring them as close together as is comfortable without losing your balance.

-Focus on sending your body weight into your heels. If it feels like you’re going to topple backwards, lift your chin and pull your shoulders back (either try rolling them back, or imagine you’re pulling your shoulder blades together in the center of your back).

-While you stand here, think about your spine. That’s that set of bones that starts right below your hips and travels all the way up to the base of your skull. Think about pulling it upwards so that it is as straight as possible. Lifting your chest up helps this, as does attempting to touch the top of your head to the ceiling.

-Relax, then try this again. The point of this step is to gain awareness of your body’s natural alignment.

-At this point, I should mention that your breathing should be natural. Don’t hold your breath for any of this. If you catch yourself holding your breath, back off and go back to the last step you could comfortably breathe in.

STEP TWO:

-While standing in focused alignment (from Step One), bring your arms out to your sides, palms facing up. Bring your arms all the way up over your head, and cross your fingers together.

-Very gently, use your grip on your own hands to pull your arms up straight. The goal is straight elbows. You should feel this in your shoulders. If you’re having trouble getting your elbows straight, focus on gently pressing on your ears with your arms.

-Slowly and deliberately start to pull your arms slightly backward. Keep them straight. Remember to lift your chest and focus on the alignment of your spine. Try to keep your weight in your heels if possible. If you feel like you are straining your neck, you can drop your head back if it’s comfortable.

-Slowly push your hips a bit forward. Keep your chest lifted. Breathe normally. What you should be feeling here is a little bit of a back bend. If your back hurts a little, that’s okay, but back off if you feel any sharp, shooting pain.

-Alternate lifting your chest up and pushing your hips out, then relaxing into your normal stance. If “lifting your chest” isn’t working for you, here’s what you’re aiming for: Take a deep breath and hold it, then pull your shoulders back slightly. You should feel your sternum raise up. When you let your breath out, try to keep your chest where it is.

(You can drop your arms whenever you need a rest and bring them back up when you’re ready as you do Step Two.)

STEP THREE:

-Keeping your arms up above your head, bend your knees. Suck in your belly. Bring your upper body down slowly, doing your best to keep your back straight and your chest lifted. Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to touch the floor.

-As soon as your hands are on the floor, let them support your body weight. Let your neck go. Allow the weight of your head to hang down, gently and naturally stretching out your neck. If you’re having trouble letting it go, you can try slowly turning your head from side to side as if shaking your head “no”.

-Keeping your belly sucked in to protect your lower back, bend and straighten one leg at a time. Do this at your own pace. The goal is to attempt to straighten each leg while letting the other relax in a bent position. Remember to keep your feet as close together as possible. If you’re having trouble with balance, you can move your hands further out in front of you.

-As you straighten each leg, shift your attention to your hip joint. Feel the stretch there. If you can identify where your hip joint is, slowly let yourself sink into it a little bit. From there, you can shift your focus to getting a slight stretch in your lower back. (Again, suck in your belly so that this is done safely.)

-When you’ve stretched out each leg to your satisfaction, or if you’re just ready to stop hanging upside down, suck in your belly, bend your knees, and slowly roll back up to standing, stacking each vertebrae on top of the last as you go. Stand for a few moments in your focused alignment from Step One. Take at least three slow, deliberate breaths.

-Smile. 🙂 Your body says thanks!

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Cycles of Self-Respect and Self-Neglect

I haven’t been posting too much recently because I haven’t been in the best of moods, but I’ve felt that if I’m trying to post stuff that makes other people feel good, I should probably feel good myself.


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Unfortunately, the truth is, I’ve been in something of a slump. I haven’t been going to yoga, I’ve been eating lots of ice cream, and I’ve been spending hour after hour locked in front of my computer watching Project Runway on Hulu. (By the way, I’m officially out of Project Runway episodes to watch, does anyone happen to have seasons 1-6 on DVD that I could borrow and watch obsessively?)

I’m getting dizzy spells when I stand up and I’ve broken out in my yearly summer rash. I’m a non-stop itch machine. Green and I are trying to move out of our apartment and all I want to do is lie on the floor and play Animal Crossing. (That’s not true, all I want to do is lie on the floor and watch Project Runway. But I’m out.)

In addition, I’ve noticed my waking temperatures (which I’ve been tracking every morning since going off the pill) are extremely low, in the 95 – 97 degree range. This could be a sign of thyroid issues, which might explain my dizzy spells, my rash, and why I’m lethargy-prone. I really don’t want to get it checked out, though, because I’m terrified of a positive diagnosis, and I do not want to be on thyroid medication.

The tipping point came yesterday, when I broke down in a fit of tears for no discernible reason.

And all this time, I’m thinking, “I should really blog about something,” but I’ve been avoiding blogging about my miserable mood because Jessica Mullen recommends only blogging about what you want more of, and I certainly don’t want more of my miserable mood. The “post-what-you-want” method works in theory, except for the fact that avoiding posting because I’m not in a great mood is just making me feel worse, and less authentic.

The truth is, I am a cyclical being. Ever since I started to be more health conscious, I’ve gone through cycles of being super on top of things and feeling great, to lying in slumps of absolute misery. It happens. I think it’s almost worse to get my hopes up thinking THIS TIME it will be permanent, because then when I fall off the wagon, I spend extra time beating myself up about the fact that I’m not being healthy like I know I should (and can) be. Which sets me back even further.

So my new motto, which I’ll repeat once more, is: IT HAPPENS. There are times when I let my health slack and I pull inward, staying home more than I go out. It happens, and I know I’m not the only one it happens to, either. So perhaps reading about my current temporary setbacks might make someone else feel less guilty about their own, because I think it is natural to be cyclical. It can’t be summer all the time, there has to be winter to balance things out.

Learning this stuff is a lifetime journey. Living healthfully, especially in a society that promotes dis-ease and quick fixes, is tough.

The good news, however, is that the more years I spend learning about health, the shorter my slumps get, and the longer my good stretches last. If nothing else, I can look forward to the fact that it can only get better from here. Not only that, but because of how much I’ve learned in the past, I know exactly how to fix it.


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My constant search for curing the problem and not the symptoms will never end. When I get to the point where I feel so bad that I know it’s time to get back on track, I ultimately find articles or books that point me in the right direction. This time, I’m giving cutting out sugar another shot. Five years ago, I did it for a month, but I ate lots of fruit and honey and felt miserable the entire time. It turns out that honey and fruits are just as bad for your system as refined sugar.

The stars seem to be aligning on this one: I know it’s sugar that’s slugging me down, and I’ve been reading Sarah Wilson‘s “I Quit Sugar” series on her blog for tips and support. Incidentally, Sarah Wilson also blogs about naturally healing and living with auto-immune disease (which includes thyroid issues).

The icing on the cake: A friend of mine on Facebook announced that she’s about to start her own 60 Days Without Sugar Challenge, and would anyone care to join her? Well, I love me a good challenge (and this one comes with a prize for the winner! A $25 gift certificate to Amazon.com, heck yes!), so I’ve signed up. The challenge starts July 6th, but I’ve already started, because I’m sick of feeling terrible. If anyone else wants to try this with me, check out Sarah Wilson’s blog and we’ll rock this out.

During slumps, it’s important to remember that they are only temporary, and that you have the power to get yourself back on track. At the same time, it’s just as important not to beat yourself up. We are human beings after all, and if the worst thing we’re doing to ourselves is having a few pints of ice cream and sleeping late for a month or two in between long stretches of honoring our bodies, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

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Am I A “Baby Daddy”? – FAM FYI

THIS ONE’S FOR ALL MY MISTERS. Can…can I say that? Is that a thing? Are you a man? This post is for you. That’s what I mean.

This post was originally going to be about my first complete FAM (Fertility Awareness Method) cycle and all the charting and awesome that went along with it, but I’m CHANGING MY MIND. For now.

I’m changing my mind because something happened to a friend of mine that is not uncommon, and I realized that his situation is one of many in which a general knowledge of FAM can be incredibly useful. What happened, in a nutshell: He went on a couple of dates with a woman, the woman now claims to be “late”. Needless to say, he is worried. This is an unfair advantage women have over men, to be able to dangle that fear of “maybe…” over his head. My goal with this post is to throw down some knowledge so that men can feel a little more security and control when faced with a situation like this.

Of course, before I get into this, I should clarify that I am not a doctor, a scientist (mad or otherwise), a veterinarian, an oceanographer, or whatever. I highly recommend reading up on FAM and lady cycles yourself, talking to a qualified professional, and all that jazz. Are we cool? Okay, on with the show.

HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION: Let’s say you and a lady get all freaky. (For the duration of this post, I’m assuming you’re a man.) Then later, said lady looks in your eyes and confesses that her period is late. Which generally indicates that she could be with child (that means pregnant).

Here’s the key to everything I’m about to say next: If the amount of time elapsed between “sexy times” and the “I might be preggers” confession is less than two weeks, the odds are pretty darn good that she is not, in fact, havin’ yo baby.

You may be asking yourself, “Okay, cool, but why, not-doctor-Jess?”

It all has to do with a little thing called the “Luteal phase”.

HERE’S A PICTURE OF A MENSTRUAL CYCLE! It’s not icky or anything.

Note the arrows at the top indicating the “Follicular phase” and the “Luteal phase”. I’m not going to get into all the hormones and what they do, if you are interested you can do some further reading. A basic breakdown of what’s going on here: Lady’s just had her period at the start of the follicular phase (which we’ll refer to from here on as FP). An egg pops out of one of her ovaries in a special new sack. It does its thing, and about halfway through the cycle, the egg pops out of its sack. This is ovulation.

A woman can only get pregnant when she is ovulating. Ovulation only lasts one or two days. The tricky part is that sperm can last in the woman’s body for up to five days, but ONLY IF FERTILE CERVICAL FLUID IS PRESENT. Fertile cervical fluid is generally only present during days before ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, the egg disintegrates after twenty-four hours, and the fertile cervical fluid dries up.

We now enter the luteal phase (LP)! During the LP, there is typically no fertile cervical fluid present. This means any sperm that get in will die within hours. It also means there is no egg present, and that means, no way to make a baby.

Listen up, because this part’s important: The FP can span any length of time, one week, twenty days, fifty days, a friggen’ year, whatever. The LP, the time when it’s virtually impossible for a woman to conceive, is always the same length of time. And it always occurs before a woman’s period. It may vary in length between women, but it’s typically about two weeks.

Another point of note is that even if she did get knocked up, if the LP is less than ten days, it’s not enough time for the egg to implant, and it naturally aborts itself. Normally, twelve days are required for all the right conditions to occur to produce a baby. So it’s pretty much impossible to tell if you are pregnant or not until your LP has extended past that 12 day mark.

So, if it’s been less than two weeks since you guys did the nasty, and she’s claiming a late period? She may be trying to scare tactic you into something. Use this information to be aware and informed. You probably now know more about what’s going on in her body than she does.

*One final and very serious note: Everyone’s circumstances are different, and this is not intended to diagnose anything, or determine pregnancy. If there’s genuine concern, and you’re in genuine trouble, seek the advice of a health professional.

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Inspired By Awesome – Rachel Brice

Yesterday when I opened my mailbox, there was a package waiting for me! I’d been waiting somewhat impatiently for this package, so it was more of a relief than a surprise that it FINALLY CAME.

What was in the package, you may ask? I shall tell you!

It was Rachel Brice‘s new DVD, “Serpentine“!

I was introduced to Rachel Brice several years ago by a friend who had her first DVD. Before I saw this DVD, particularly the performance on said DVD, I had little interest in learning belly dance. I had watched belly dancers in the past, but I’d never understood why it was called “belly” dance because to me, it just looked like a bunch of swiveling in shiny costumes and I never noticed them actually dancing with their bellies.

And then I saw Rachel.

I was completely blown away by how precise, sharp and clean her movements were. It was like watching belly dancing fused with pop locking. And I FINALLY got to see some incredible, enviable belly work. It was honestly the fact that she actually USES her belly in the dance that turned my opinion of belly dance around. And the control she has over her body is staggering. There are moments when she’s moving different parts of her body in a way that seem almost nonsensical (watch around 3:00 into the above video to see what I mean). Seeing Rachel Brice also introduced me to the fact that there are several styles of belly dance, and that what I’d traditionally seen in the past was a “cabaret” style. What Rachel did was more rooted in the “tribal” style, and her particular brand of belly dance, “tribal fusion”.

Call me an instant tribal fusion fan.

When I took up hooping, belly dance started to look a little more appealing to learn. Besides being fun, belly dance teaches you to be aware of your arms and how you are holding them, and when you’ve got a hoop spinning around your waist, your arms are either up and dancing or stuck in the dreaded “t-rex” position. So I voted for belly dance arms. I practiced with that first DVD of Rachel’s for a while, and took classes from a local teacher.

When this new DVD came in the mail, I put it on immediately (after making sure my roommates would be okay with just sitting and watching an instructional belly dance video; I had hoops to tape so I wasn’t actively following along). Just watching the intro got me jazzed to see what new drills Rachel had to offer. I pointed at the screen and I said, “I want to move like her.”

My roommate looked at the screen, then at me, and said, “I want to move like me!” And the reaction I had to that was rather bizarre, because normally I am all about self-empowerment. But her statement didn’t seem to jive with what I was feeling, so I shook my head and said, “I want to move like HER.”

I realized in that moment that when I said I want to move like Rachel, it was a form of self-empowerment. This statement wasn’t coming from a place of envy, it wasn’t coming from a feeling of lack in myself or wishing that I could magically transform into Rachel Brice. Instead, when I said “I want to move like her,” what I meant was that I know I have it within me to one day have that same control, that same precision. I didn’t exactly know how to word it properly, because I didn’t exactly mean I want to move JUST like her, what I meant was, “I want to be so aware of my body that I can make it move however I desire, like Rachel.”

It doesn’t really matter to me if I ever look just like Rachel, or have a belly as flat as Rachel, or a wardrobe as impressively jaw-dropping, or a fan-base as rabid and loyal. When I look at Rachel Brice, I see complete and total awareness of the body. There is not a move that woman makes that isn’t intentional, and that’s what I admire most about her. That’s what I want to internalize and make my own. I’m not going to do the yoga or the drills on this DVD with the intention of someday being able to dance “just like Rachel”, I’m going to do them with the intention of becoming even more in tune with my own body. (Which, it occurs to me, is why I do a lot of things.) In the end, with diligent practice, I will still be moving like me. I’m always moving like me. I can’t not move like me, because I’m the only me that I am. But I know there’s some serpentine in me, and I can’t wait to bring it to the surface.

Lessons Learned From Rachel Brice:

-Total control comes from consistent practice

-Fluid movements make a beautiful dance

-Don’t be afraid to wear LOTS of shinies 😉

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