Yin Yoga

Winged Victory of SamothraceI believe in the “holy trinity” of fitness: 1) Strength Training, 2) Cardio, 3) Stretching. They are all of equal importance but I got a nasty lesson on #3 a couple of years ago when I developed a fierce pain in the top of my feet. After a couple of doctor visit$, one told me that my Achilles tendon needed to be stretched out and I would be as good as new. He was a foot and ankle surgeon who works on the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds (and me). So I followed his advice and IT WORKED! I was seriously considering giving up fitness as my feet hurt so much BUT after stretching I was back on the floor and ready for action.

Since then, I have heard and seen horror stories from 20 yr olds who didn’t stretch before marathons and lived to be told that they would have to rest for 6-8 weeks since they strained their muscles. Lots of my friends have plantar problems only to have them cured by a good stretching bout; add my experience and I was convinced that there was indeed a Fitness Troika, and stretching was utterly necessary.

I have taken yoga for a couple of years at my gym. It’s good but it’s mostly flow. I get a good stretch from flow but I was looking for a GREAT stretch. I talked to a fellow enthusiast yesterday who recommended that I look into Yin style of yoga. It’s all deep and long stretching, slow paced and absolute torture for a Type A personality.

Now, I was solemnly warned that Yin is not considered the cool style of yoga (around here that would be hot yoga, power yoga, power flow, or anything REALLY esoteric where you could put your nose in the air and exclaim to your friends,”I study with ______, he is the ONLY master of _________ yoga in the city.” Of course,  your friends would mark you as the pretentious jerk you are, but you got your brownie point—heh!).  In Yin you don’t move enough to be cool, you don’t hold obviously mad hard poses, or scream, or recite rare 3rd century poetry in short grunts. Yin is holding a pose for a very long time and you just concentrate in stretching and loosening your muscles in that area. If you are looking for a stretch to the connecting tissue and the muscles, this is your style. It. Is. Hard.

I found one place where they teach it weekly, and was lucky enough to get a class the next day. The building was an old Masonic lodge and as I made my way up the stairs, I thought it reminded me more of a Bessarabian whorehouse than a yoga studio. Beaded curtains, exotic pictures lining the stairs, pictures of snake gods and brass idols, plump paisley cushions, exotic lamps, and an ornate waiting room were what greeted me. I was charmed!

I was ushered into the big practice hall with thick plush carpet and a ceiling dotted with artificial stars and hung with amazing 1890’s curving light fixtures. We unrolled our mats and began.

Sit on the floor and put your right leg across, left leg behind and both bent at the knee. Good, now start to tip over with your goal to have your forehead on the mat. You are going to stay there for what seemed like 12 days but was probably only about 10 minutes. At first it’s not so bad. Then…then…oh me oh my. Feel the pain and the stretch. THAT was a stretch, my friend. I started out being able to lean on my elbows, just barely. By the end my forehead was on the ground, my right leg muscles had gone through: denial, rebellion, shock, bargaining, resignation, rebellion, and finally had released (though they still were murmuring ugly things from time to time).

Right, now for the other side. Same: agony, ecstasy, almost a cramp, surrender. The occasional twinge but amazing stretch like it hadn’t been for years.

From there it was holding hard positions, pulling arms across to really feel it, doing the frog and staying there for minutes (so hard). Being mindful of all parts of your arm (extend it outward just the shoulder to the elbow…everything else is limp), then extend the forearm, then only the wrist, then the fingers. The last two moves are surprisingly hard to do.

Control, you are learning control. You are learning to take the time, you are learning to think and feel rather than react and be someone else’s puppet. It might hurt a bit, but you feel the master of your ship.

Another great thing about Yin, since there is no possible grandstanding, you leave your ego at the door. He didn’t say so but I got the impression that if anyone tried anything phony or solipsistic they would be looked at.

Competitive people hate Yin. It’s so tough and so modest at the same time. That is what attracts me to it so strongly. You can’t cheat with it, and you can’t use it, paradoxically it’s all about you, you come away with astonishingly profound insights into yourself and your life.

The teacher said that if  you were doing it right, your eyes would close by themselves. That is the truth.

Fabienne Christenson is the President and Perfumer at Possets Perfume. She loves physical fitness and spends a lot of her free time at it. This blog was brought to you by Possets Perfume where you will find three fitness perfumes: Vim, Vigor, and Victory which are light and fresh and perfect for wearing in the close and sweaty environment you might find yourself in in the average gym. Of course, Possets lineup is also loaded with drop-dead sexy and devastatingly beautiful perfumes, all at glee inducing prices. Come and visit at www.possets.com!

The Possets Site Is Updated and Open

I just got through putting the latest update on the Possets Perfume website and now it is back up and ready for you to inspect. I think you are going to like what you find. The lovely romantic perfumes for Valentine’s Day have been  held over until Spring comes. Come and celebrate the love!

Possets Back In Stock

The Possets Perfume blend, Cupid and Psyche, is back in stock now on the site. I ran out of the ingredients much sooner than I thought I would but I had more shipped in muy pronto and now have full stock!

The Secret of Tai Chi and How It Helped Me Conquer The Computer

My husband decided to take Tai Chi, It was a sudden decision. He is more of a “personal trainer” type of guy. He does not like group situations or being told what to do en masse. So this was something of a surprise but I watched and was delighted that he was choosing to do something fitness related. 

I came home for lunch last week and found my husband practicing Tai Chi. He talked about why it was so attractive to him. “It really bugs me that people think Tai Chi is an ‘old guy’ exercise. So, there are a bunch of old guys in our class and that’s great. The real secret of Tai Chi is that it is a martial art,” said my spouse. “Oh, c’mon,” I scoffed. “Really, look!” said he as he lead me through a series of moves…and then it hit me: THIS IS FIGHTING IN SLOW MOTION! 

What Tai Chi does is takes you through a series of moves you would use during combat and makes you perform them very slowly while thinking about them seriously. The idea is that if you perform these movements well enough at slow speed, then they will become like second nature to you in real time! Actually, that is brilliant. We do that when learning to dance, you practice the basic step slowly then faster and faster until your feet just know what to do in the series without thinking. But you have to think hard at first in order to make it automatic.

What does this have to do with the computer? It’s from a tangent. I was trying out Tai Chi with my husband and then went off to work. I usually leap right on problems which crop up on the computer. I solve troubles and have been working on computers since they were rocks in a box. I don’t even have to think. I’m an electron warrior and it’s all reflex, right? Well, not so fast. I had a slight problem in the office as the monitor (screen) of my new computer went black. I was furious! I could not make it respond at all and it was brand new. RATS!!! Of course it was well after 5 p.m. and there was no customer (no) service to be had. I plugged along as best I could and vowed to make someone’s life a living hell for selling me a defective screen. Grrrrr. i was tired and it was late and I went home.

The next morning the screen was just as dead as it had been. However, instead of jumping on the phone and growling, I decided to try another monitor I had lying around to be sure of what piece of equipment was faulty. After much experimentation, I learned that my power strip (the place where you plug in multiple computer accessories) had a button that one of the plugs had clicked off! A simple rearranging of the power plugs solved the problem and my new monitor lit up perfectly.

So, what is the connection with Tai Chi? Slowing down. I had to slow down because I had no choice. Taking a moment allowed me to think about my next move. GET IT FIXED NOW gave way to ‘what is the problem exactly’ and the problem got solved. I applied this technique to another problem I was having with my new computer (the fact that my old software was not working with the new set up and I would have to invest THOUSANDS  of dollars in new software and {worse} hours and hours learning new ways of doing the same {bloody} things I have been doing for years. Not much of a bargain for me. I was looking at the most overwhelming and expen$ive program I would have to replace, finger poised over the trigger and heart in my boots when I though,”Call Allen…he’s a nerd and might have an answer as an alternative to this financial Armageddon your are contemplating.” I stopped and had a 2 minute chat with Allen, and sure enough….if I downloaded the free Windows XP mode, I could run my software like nothing had happened. 

So it was the uncharacteristic slowing down of my actions, and deeper reaching of my thoughts which let me come up with good solutions rather than generating “a lot of heat and no light”. Tai Chi was teaching me to slow down and make sure that there wasn’t anything I was missing, and that was a perfect reminder for me. I have lived in a world of action for a very long time, and it has stood me well BUT things change and inevitably become more complicated. Slowing down helps me to cope, and slowing down into the slow motion of mindful martial arts helps me a great deal. 

So, now in addition to my Zumba class and weight lifting, Tai Chi has become part of my regimen. I am going to do it for body and mind, I have already seen results. So, be careful of those little old men for they may well be formidable!