Thursday, June 9, 2011

PLANKS Challenge: Alternate Workouts

We are more than halfway through the PLANKS Challenge!  Those of you who have joined me, how is it going?!  Have you stuck with your plan?  Made adjustments?  Let us know in the comments so we can support each other! It's Thursday, so we have less than two and a half weeks left to the challenge, but you can do a lot in two and a half weeks.

My Update.  As I shared last week, my activity levels have been lower than I'd like and I've been fighting a funk. I also didn't track my activity like I should have this past week so I'm not sure what I did!  I did a 3 mile run on National Running Day, and I did some strengthwork probably twice. But I do know that I re-tested on Sunday and was up to 3 minutes 32 seconds in high plank!  Just 88 more seconds to hit my goal.

This week's blog topic is Alternate Workouts which is kind of perfect, because this week I added a new workout to my week! My standard workout in general involves running, because I'm a runner. The PLANKS Challenge for me is all about focusing on those core muscles that so often get very little attention from when I'm focused on logging miles. This week, I started yoga as a workout that both will work my core as well as other muscle groups, but also bring some balance to my week both physically and mentally. It is a much gentler workout than running, and it helps me tune into my body more intentionally. 

On Monday, I got a two week new student pass for a Iyengar Yoga Center near me.  This pass means I get unlimited classes for 15 days.  In order to take full advantage of the $30 I spent, I'm trying to fit in as many classes as possible.  I also find this is a good way to immerse myself in a new practice and build new habits. I attended my first class on Monday and my second class this morning (at 6am!!!).  I plan on going back for a second class today at 5:30pm to try out another instructor. I am enjoying both the intentional time away and the practice.

Iyengar Yoga is very different from any yoga I've done before. Granted, I haven't done a lot of yoga besides some limited home practice, some gym yoga classes, and some prenatal classes. 

From wikipedia:
Iyengar Yoga is characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. Iyengar pioneered the use of "props" such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps, and even sand bags, which function as aids allowing beginners to experience asanas more easily and fully than might otherwise be possible without several years of practice. Props also allow tired or ill students to enjoy the benefits of many asanas via fully "supported" methods requiring less muscular effort.

Standing poses are emphasized in Iyengar Yoga. They are said to build strong legs, increase general vitality, and improve circulation, coordination and balance, ensuring a strong foundation for study of more advanced poses.
Unlike more experiential approaches where students are encouraged to independently "find their way" to the asanas by imitating the teacher, an Iyengar Yoga class is highly verbal and precise, with misalignments and errors actively corrected.
This describes my experience well.  Of the two classes almost all of the poses were standing besides a stray Downward Dog, Downward Facing Hero Pose which is similar to Child's Pose, and of course Savasana (though we even used variations of that with props). We used blocks, ropes attached to the wall, straps, cushions, blankets, and chairs in our practice. The class begins and ends with a few minutes in meditation, but the class is less quiet than others I've taken. The lights are on; there are no music or candles. There is demonstration, adjustment, and exchanging of props.

The result is that I don't feel overwhelmed and frustrated when I cannot do things. In fact, for the most part I feel successful and capable and yet still challenged. It is kind of a strange experience being so different from what I've known before. We don't do series or vinyasas of poses. It is very slow and focused. The instructor was telling me today that Mr. Iyengar who is the founder of the type of yoga has been known to have an hour and a half class just on tadasana or mountain pose.  I can't quite imagine that and am glad my classes cover a little more, but there is this intense focus on aligning body in the proper position and not just going through the motions. I enjoy the focus of it.

What alternate workouts are you doing to focus on your core or simply change it up whether you are participating in the PLANKS Challenge or not?

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