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Humor

Plant Based Diet Conversion Aided by a Registered Dietitian PART II

October 10, 2020. The two month anniversary of my first appointment with my Registered Dietitian, who I now lovingly refer to a my “Food Parole Officer”. (She is, for the record, smart, good humored, supportive, non judgmental and full of good ideas). (I often wonder why it took me 63 years to hire one – but then I note with some amusement that our country that is 50% obese makes little use of the one science based medical provider that specializes in nutrition). Having bared all from the first two weeks of my journey here https://humorforthehorizontallychallenged.com/2020/08/30/moving-towards-a-plant-based-diet/ and here https://humorforthehorizontallychallenged.com/2020/08/30/moving-towards-a-plant-based-diet/ I thought I’d catch you up on the last six weeks.

Have you heard of the “gut microbiome”? If not, take quick peak at the 12,900,000 result of that term as a Google search and come back. Ok? Good? So you know your gut microbiome is integral to your immune system, weight, digestion, mental health, and probably every other system in your body. What you may not know is what it feels like to dramatically change your gut bacteria buddies by what you eat. I have now come to know and love them as a boisterous, loud, demanding, annoying, cantankerous bunch of terrorists. I mean friends

Within a couple of weeks I noticed my skin “youthened” (we have a word for aging – why not for getting younger?). My arms which long had dry skin had started developing the kinds of sores, marks, and coloration ive always associated with 90 ear old men. Or corpses. The dead kind Disappeared. All of it overnight. “Cool”, I thought. (Actually, it was more like “Holy Shit”!!!)

Likewise, “digestion”. Mine was already great but let’s just say I passed Jamie Lee Curtis on the activa yogurt track and left her standing still. Eat some oatmeal Jamie.

Swelling, bloating, inflammation gone. Almost overnight. Now, mind you, I’ve been crawling towards better health for a decade- quit smoking, diet sodas, took up regular exercise- but nothing compares to feeding your “good” bacteria buddies and starving the rest. If you’d like learn more in an easy approachable medical science based way, I reccomed the book Fiber Fueled https://theplantfedgut.com/book/

This really became apparent to me when I heard my dying sugar eating bacteria, say, in their best “Mr Bill voice” (for you missing this SNL reference see here https://youtu.be/ZgpEVzCUr3s) ….”Oh noooooo, we’re dying … need a doughnut, some cake, something…..oh noooooo. I felt a little sad for them really. Now I’m not “on a diet” so I’m not restricting myself from anything but these “good bacteria” are pretty sneaky in that they change your appetite, cravings, and desires. In 8 weeks, I’ve given them half a yellow cake with chocolate icing and 4 Apple fritters. I’m no monster. But they’re still crying.

Here’s the “icing on the cake”. Ok, maybe the nutritional yeast on the veggie burger. After a lifetime of being the poster child for “not a morning person”, I’m waking up earlier it’s more energy and less a desire to go back to sleep. I’m amazed

While on the one hand I’ve spent hours reading vegetarian vegan recipes, shopping for Asian and Indian spices and condiments, rearranging my pantry I’ve been surprised how much I’ve loved the veggie curries and stir fries I’ve learned to make. Like the one pan “basmati ice chickpea, cauliflower, spinach, green curry” casserole dump pictured above. I now consider myself a meat eater who identifies as a vegetarian. Think of it as I’m wearing the make up and clothes but am not getting the surgery.

There are some serious downsides. The good bacteria don’t like weekend binge drinking. Or French fries. Or tequila. We’re negotiating.

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Humor

Moving Towards a Plant Based Diet Part 2

The science is clear- eating a more plant based diet with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains will extend life span, improve the quality of life and substantially reduce the risk of most diseases. Unless one has been raised in a vegetarian home there are many challenges to making progress with this lifestyle change.

I am not willing to be a food related “…arian” of any kind. “Vegetarian”, “Pescatarian”, “Fruitarian”, “Pescatarian”, or “Pollotarian”. I was raised Catholictarian and from it I developed a Post Traumatic Stress Dogma. Veganism is not “Arian” but it is pretty dogmatic. And generally, I’m more inclined to “asms” then “isms”. I’m not an “Arian” word-ist. Love vulgarians, barbarians, libertarians, (hot) librarians, and contrarians for example. In fact, I’m a sexagenarian, although I was so disappointed to find out what that really means. Bottom line is I’m not giving up meat. Or cheese. Or eggs. Or ice cream. Or <sigh>

The second challenge involves learning how to cook plant based. Think of a food you’ve eaten that at worst, made you retch or at best you spit out. The “art” of cooking is learning how to cook that food so that instead of gagging- you think “YUM”. “Yum” like all your dopamine sensors are firing off like a 4th of July fireworks display over the Mall in Washington DC or you’re sitting in a bar with your friends for an afternoon of tequila shots and 4 local sororities swing in for the last stop of their pub crawl. Because, when it comes down to it, you are committing to many days when you think, “double bacon cheeseburger lettuce tomato on sesame bun vs black bean brown rice bowl” and your brain immediately says, “bean rice!!” See my point?

My mother was a good cook. Of the things she cooked good. Her Italian food was fantastic but she had a couple of hundred years of recipes to rely on. Vegetables, not so much. She generally boiled them into submission. My Dad hated vegetables. My brother hated vegetables. I hated vegetables. I was in my 20’s discovering how much I liked vegetables when I realized nobody wanted to tell her she was a serial vegetable killer. A downright Ted Bundy of spinach. A Jeffrey Dahmer of escarole. Vegetables are significantly bettered when “s’d”. Sauté, Stir fry, Steamed, or Stewed. See, “s’d”? I think the “S” cooking words were invented to cook vegetables so you don’t think you’re eating drywall after licking a cast iron frying pan. I think many people who know how to cook learned from their parents grandparents. So, if you don’t have that tradition, you need to find another way. Learning is hard.

My third cchallenge is I’m a lazy cook and my 1200 sq ft condo does not have an1800 sq ft pantry. I bought a recently released, well reviewed vegan cookbook and began perusing recipes. Here’s some things I’m NOT shopping for or finding room to store: medjool dates, fenugreek seeds, dark agave nectar, persillade, tamarind. ..”. His recipes have recipes INSIDE the recipes for spice blends and sauces. I work for a living. I do not have all day to cook, shop, slice, dice, blend, purée, grate and plate. I can tell you how to make a meatball in a couple years of minutes with 8 ingredients, most of which you have at home. This is a lot of work to keep okra from being gag worthy slimy.

The fourth challenge is tools. The reason cooking is a “hobby” is because there is a never ending list of accessories and tools you want to do it well. I actually just bought a zester.

I’m starting to covet a food processor, immersion blender, stand alone mixer, an herb garden, a sous chef, a valet and a sex addict with ocd who likes to make shopping lists, grocery shop and organize pantries. Ok, I can shop and organize the pantry. But I digress.

Change is hard. I’m on the board of directors for a local charity that teaches teen volunteers commercial cooking skill while they make plant based meals for cancer patients delivered by other volunteers to their homes. Last time I did something like this, I was on the local American Cancer Society Board. I’d smoke in their parking lot before meetings. Their executive director got so angry with me. We’d have short conversations about the difference between “if you do something, you’ll die” and “you’re dying anyway. This executive director however, cooks us vegan meals for board meetings, is a yoga instructor, and has the personality of Mother Theresa. Who likes beer. Who always says, “You can do it,”. Maybe I can.

(I’m currently under probation with a registered dietitian. To see how THATS going see http://humorforthehorizontallychallenged.com/2020/08/11/e-mail-updates-to-the-dietrician/

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Humor

E Mail Updates to the Dietitian Part 1

Upon hearing of my 50 year struggle with my weight,

a provider friend referred me to a dietitian she had retained with glowing recommendations. I thought why not. As I was proofreading my first e mail update, I thought, “Oh, these are going to be good. I should save these. ALL of these. Rather than wait till I’m a month or so in, I thought I’d post now, letting you know to come back and check in periodically on my progress.

“Hi, Loved our first meeting yesterday. Looking forward to receiving Meal Plan on Wednesday. Instant oat meal this Morning. Dinner -Salad and I made some homemade lentil soup from scratch with sautéed mirepoix, garlic, thyme, rosemary, cumin, ginger, vegetable broth, chicken bone broth, white wine and simmered it for 4 hours. It needs some salt or Parmesan cheese.
Was good for first effort. Shopping list ready for Friday. Ive already had a fantasy about a grilled ribeye and a baked potato. Jesus

I did good with not eating after 9, of you count 9 as after the end of Daylight savings times in a few months. And, if we not mention the vanilla drumstick ice cream cone at 10:15.

Day 2

Thanks for your reply. Nice to know these ribeye steak food porn fantasy/hallucinations are in fact, bad habit cravings and that eating more like a bunny, in heat, will ease them.

By the way- good call on the oatmeal. It’s a real appetite killer!! Obviously, one can see it expand upon being doused in water or milk but I’m getting the sense it continues to expand in the body like spray insulation. That’s alive. And in mating season.

Day 4 August 14, 2020

Made it to grocery store yesterday. Bought Dr Bobs Redmill extra thick rolled oats. I noticed Dr Bobs oats compared to Quaker Oats are like corn kernels compared to grains of sand. I followed your plan and put 3/4 a cup of oats in a bowl with a cup and a half of milk. This looked like ALOT to eat to me but I put in the fridge for 20 minutes as instructed. Upon removal I added the fresh blueberries and banana as instructed. Now I’m sure this is two much to eat. So, oats do not absorb cold milk as the do hot fluid. First discovery – partially hydrated oats taste like … (are you thinking cardboard)…drywall. Cardboard actually has some flavor. Think bowl of chalk in milk. The fruit just acted like a really beautiful woman on an unbearable Tinder date. Definitely back to hot oatmeal tomorrow.

Day 5 August 15, 2020

It’s a pandemic Saturday and my calendar is filled with…..nothing. “Hey”, I say to myself, “why not clear out the freezer a bit of some of the things I’ll be eating less of to make room for veggies and fruits and stuff”. I found a beef shank cut for Osso Bucco (which I’d never prepared) and thought – yum. So I spent all afternoon cooking this Osso Bucco. I also fixed brown rice and roasted vegetables which I am supposed to be eating.

This was going pretty well until on a pantry trip I found two boxes of betty Crocker fudge brownie mix. I always make a double box.

Day 9. First follow up call with Dietitian August 19, 2020

(For the benefit of public health, this particular dietitian could not be sweeter ….um.. maybe wrong adjective for a dietitian…. could not be more accepting and non shaming so any references to my negative feelings are strictly internally generated. And possibly magnified for humor sake)

Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words. I can tell I’m going to be in timeout once a week for the next 11 weeks. Next week, I intend to start with, “Bless me dietician for I have sinned; it has been one week since my last confession.” (Note to self- never see a sex therapist). She asked how the oatmeal was going – I admitted it was life changing (never in a million years could you have persuaded me this would be a description of oatmeal). She was fine with my not eating it cold or with milk. She asked how I did fix it. I said, “Hot, with cinnamon, a teaspoon of brown sugar, a table spoon of maple syrup and the fruit you suggested”. I saw this look flash over her face as she started to say something, stopping cause her filter blocked her (I know this look because it happens to me dozens of times a day, looking left and which point I said, don’t be shy. I can take it. “Try the oatmeal without the sweetener she said, giving some options to help with the flavor”. After that, I worked up to the double box of brownies.

It occurred to me this relationship is going to be very disappointing for her. Women are used to that with guys, aren’t they?

Day 16  August 26, 2020

E mail updates have been supplanted by Zoom follow ups on Wednesday.  I like to start with “forgive me dietitian, for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession”.  She asked how I was doing, I asked if she wanted the good new or the bad news first.  She thought a long time. She decide to go with the good news.  I went with being consistent with my oatmeal, eating plant based almost every day, cooking and trying her black beans/rice bowl, etc. 

Here’s where it started to turn.  My four friends and I go out to dinner once a month.  We usually go to a really nice place, although we did go to waffle house once ’cause one guy moved here from “off” and had never been.  Anyway,  what I wanted to order was the steak…. 

BUT, what I ordered instead was the wreckfish –

She was completely less jaded about this than I and commented that both plates had lovely vegetables. Ah, yes, my vegetables. Here’s where I shine. “I had 5 more versions of vegetables – I had Tequila than night”. “Tequila is not a vegetable serving, ” she said. “What?!?! It’s made from Agave! Thats a plant. That’s plant based!” “No,” she said softly. Almost with a hint of sadness. So what about Rye Whiskey? Not a whole grain?” “Nope”. “Bourbon – Corn?” “Nope”. “Potato Vodka?” “Nope”. “Wine Grapes Fruit”?? “Nope” Boy and they worry about elections being tainted. These science dietitian rules are kinda shady, if you ask me.

“What’s the bad news?”, she asked.  I told her of the morning I had a meltdown.  In a triggered, irrational, anxiety attack, trauma from food and a lifetime of dieting kind of way.  I said I thought I needed a food therapist.  “Is there such a thing as a food therapist?”  She said, “You can talk to me”.  Oh, boy.  Is there “dietitian client confidentiality?”   Also, this Tequila thing is going to be a problem. 

September 3,2020. We’re settling into a comfortable rhythm of mentor and mentee, coach and trainee, probation office and food criminal. I usually horrify her at least twice in a 30 minute follow up call. We’re we’re discussing how to tackle my late night eating issues when my once a day sugar addiction raises its ugly head. I was describing what I ate after my dinner salad Some Roasted vegetables and purple rice (good) and then some Fancy Nancy chicken salad from the “chicken Salad Chick”. (Not good). As the look of horror spread across her angelic face, I explained my manicurist mentioned it to me and I had to try it. “Think if me as a crack head who’s best friends are all drug dealers). <sigh>. Making progress.

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Humor

Zumba – My 5 Year Anniversary

Or “Millenials and the 8 Faces of a First Zumba Class.

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since my first Zumba class and the start of this blog, where I related my first near death Zumba experience and opined my self concept of my first attempt was playing charades to the title “Drunk On an Electric Fence”. I guess because that class involved such a roller coaster deep dive into the most basic emotions of my lizard brain, I confess I watch newcomers to class with a psychological fascination. After five years, my completely non scientific observations of these first timers has revealed nothing unexpected EXCEPT for millennials. In watching these fairly standard reactions I confess to vacillating between feelings of comedic delight and glee.

I call these 8 faces: “overconfidence” , “making fun”, “fear”, “sweat”, “I’m going to die”, and “OMG I survived” and ” respect”. In order to set the scene, I must tell you the various ages of the participants so let me begin by saying that I think “age” in addition to body shape are the last acceptable forms of stereotype and discrimination in our country. Older first timers vary between three stages: fear, I’m going to die, and OMG I survived. There are some who run through each stage in even 20min cycles and rapid cycles, and some who go through each three in a four minute song, 15 times in one class. Having stared Zumba Death in the face, and lived, I feel compassion and support for my older Zumba sisters. But, millennials are different.

Being young, supple, muscular, and invincible, the arrive before class overconfident.

“Dancing for an hour??? Ppfffft, No sweat”. Pun intended. Then they look around the room, and you can see the look of judgment inch across their faces, like the look of disdain that races across a teenager when a parent says, “would you and your friends like to spend the day shopping with your father and me?”, as they realize everyone in class

Is OLD and then just as quickly, with furtive glances exchanged in milliseconds and maybe a whispered comment, they make fun of us old folks and how easily they’ll do in this class.

Minus the finger pointing of course. This is usually right before the first song and I restrain the smirk wanting to crawl across my own face. As we move through the first two songs, one of which is usually at least mid tempo, the second more of a warmup, their confidence continues but they’re recognizing that this is the most difficult game of Simon Says they’ve ever played and that they, like most people, they do not possess all the requisite talents to excel in Zumba – conditioning, stamina, rhythm, beat, fast paced mimicry and a glimmer of recognition that this is not so easy appears on their face. My favorite is about 15 – 20 minutes in when fear washes over them like a huge wave at the beach and they realize their heart is racing and air is harder to come by.

They sashay over to the side of the room to take a water break, and you can see their field of vision narrowing from the entire room, to their friend(s) they came with, now only concerned with the judgment of their peers. Having raised daughters, I may be taking more pleasure in this angst then I should.

The fifth face, which can set in anywhere from 25 – 40 minutes in (I readily concede these 20 something’s are pretty fit little buggers), which is “I’m going to die”,has a precursor face – “sweat”. Shortly after this

Comes this. When the first few measures of the last cool down song start, and they realize they have made it to the end of class,

They realize-“I survived”. There is no amusement park ride better than this sequence of faces, which has now become quite predictable. Comprehension for the young, vindication for the old. And the best part, if they come back for another week or two, is their attitude towards my Zumba sisters is

RESPECT. Here’s

To every BADASS woman I know. And I know a lot of them.

Categories
Dance Fitness Humor Weight Loss

Pre-Intoxication Guidelines for Zumba Fitness

Dear Zumba Fitness International, (and fellow Zumbaranians)

Having regularly attended a 9 am, Saturday morning, Zumba Fitness class, I have, unintentionally, acted as a lab rat for the hypothesis. “Just how many hours before a Zumba class do you need to stop drinking without experiencing a long list of side effects that would rival the average prescription drug disclaimer on a TV Commercial. You know, like (insert deep baritone announcers voice here) “common side effects include: (announcer speaking a 250 words a minute now) nausea, projectile vomiting, loss of bowel and/ bladder control, hives, rash, anxiety, numbness in hands, feet and nose, sinusitis, rhinitis, OMGitis, hair and fingernail pain, sensitivity to light and noise, dehydration, flatulence, lack of coordination, walking into walls, mirrors or windows, intense perspiration of alcohol, loss of memory,  desire to lose some memories, and pleading with a divine creator for assistance with promises of not repeating the behavior”.

It occurred to me this morning, after a lengthy birthday celebration which started early and ended late at a Waffle House, that maybe you had already covered this and I should check your website.  Seeing you have not, and assuming this was an oversight, I am happy to share my research with you (my non scientific, non controlled, not stistically valid sample of ‘one’, research)    BTW, I think law enforcement should drop the BA level testing and consider the “Waffle House” (or IHOP or Denny’s) Test. As in, you are pulled over late at night on the weekend and the officer asks “have you been drinking?”   You: (I’ve had a couple”.  Him:  are you on your way to or coming from a diner for breakfast at 1 am. You: (sheepishly) yes, am on the way there now to meet some friends. Him: “you are under arrest for driving under the influence, get out of the car”. (Disclaimer:  at all times mentioned herein, Uber or Lyft was used, do not drink and drive).  Anyhow, here’s my Zumba fitness class pre intoxication guidelines.

1. It should not need to be said that you should not have a cocktail DURING CLASS.  Most instructors frown on that because….-their insurance doesn’t cover them or you and, they want to be drinking to and are not allowed and you’re just going to make your class mates envious. (If anyone DOES know of an insurance policy that covers drinking while exercising , please let me know- I’m going to that class, at least once). And then everyone is going to have mimosas and what would THAT look like?

2. Drinking ends 24 or more hours before class. Again, you would think this doesn’t need comment, but if you’re experiencing “symptoms” 24 hours after your last drink and you’re blaming alcohol, you’re in denial about just how out of shape you are and you need more exercise. And less excuses. Or therapy.

3. 24- 12 hours before class. This what I have come to term the “reasonable zone”. The probability of avoiding symptoms within this time frame involves a number of variables like whether it’s closer to 24 hours or 12, whether you’re measuring your consumption by number of drinks,  or liters, or some either percentages or multiple of liters thereof and whether the circumstances of your consumption has video which either you or your companions think is “the Hangover” , the movie, worthy.  E.g, if there is a live tiger in your house, or you are missing a tooth, Do Not Attend Zumba class, regardless of the time period between your last drink and class.  Call your attorney.

4. 12-7.5 hours before class.  I confess this is the time period with which I have most consistently experimented. I will also say that in this time frame, class attendance requires a very dark pair of shades, and at least a Grande sized, extra shot espresso.  Don’t worry, with practice, you can Zumba with a Starbucks in one hand without spilling it.  My experience is that depending on consumption and whether you’re closer to 12 hours or 7.5, this time frame will involve some of the side effects mentioned above.  Most frequent:  the conversation between you and your Divine  creator. Second most frequent?  Let’s just say I measure those classes by whether they are a “no trip, or 1,2 or three bathroom trips during class”  (and severity of side effects) experience.

5. 7.5 to minutes before class.  Again, I confess that today is the first, and last time I try the 7.5 hour zone.  You do NOT want to be leaving a Waffle House at 1:30 am in a Uber and be in Zumba class, 7.5 hours later.  Do not try this at home.

However, science is a community affair where the many build on the research of pioneers. I pass the baton to my millennial Zumba friend who by virtue of age and or fitness, like our astronauts, are prepared to boldly go,where no one has gone before”. (If however, you drink consistently from 7.5 to minutes before class, please attach video.  Thank you).

Categories
Fitness Humor Inspiration Uncategorized Weight Loss

Katie “Barre” The Door

“I’m not here to torture you”, said the instructor at the minute class started. Knowing people usually say the opposite of what they’re thinking, I thought “oh shit, here we go”.  

I’ve wanted to try Barre for a long time, but I needed to find a female friend to take me, because I can tell you from experience, when a guy shows up to take a class with a room full of women, they look at you like… Well:

1.   A group of pediatric nurses watching a newborn boy get circumcised 

2.  Like they want to search you for roofies

3.  Like “creepy” just walked out of the dictionary and came to class.  

Trust me, you would never go to another country without a passport, do not go to a women’s exercise class without a female to escort you.   

For the uninitiated, barre, according to the barre evolution website may be defined as “Barre (bar) n.: Exercise modality that uses a ballet barre for balance, your own bodyweight for resistance, and a series of small, low impact movements to rapidly yield a tight, toned and transformed physique.”   These “small, low impact, isometric movements create what is called “barre burn”. While “burn” is a good term, it’s a little misleading and here’s why.  Anyone who’s ever built a fire, or seen a fire built will identify.  In building a good fire, you need tinder (something to start the fire that burns easily, like paper) and then kindling (small sticks of wood or little branches that will,catch first easily from the tinder, and then pieces of wood which gradually increase in size.   Think of this muscle “burn” as the smoke that rises after the match is first put to paper, followed by the glint of flame as the paper flares I fire and starts to heat the kindling, followed by the hotter flame as the kindling is consumed, followed by the raging fire as the larger pieces of wood are consumed in flames.  Or if you e ever seen a building burn, you know that first there is a little smoke and then in a moment, the entire building is consumed in flames.  This is your muscles in Barre 

This might be just one of the thoughts that enter your mind as you stand, feet wide apart squat, your toes turned out to opposite walls, standing on your toes, doing infinitesimally small bends.  Or, you might think of that one time when you thought, “why can’t I climb a barbed wire fence, I’ll be careful” , or as a guy, “how hard can a split really be?”  Ever woke up in the middle of the night, with a charlie horse so bad, you literally levitate straight up out of the bed, to land on the floor, on your feet, massaging your cramped muscle?  This is barre. 

Ever gotten a foot cramp so bad when driving, you literally had to pull over to get out of the car to stand on the cramped foot to get the cramp out?   This is barre

But in fairness it’s a cross between the excruciating burn of isolating a muscle to exhaustion with the shaking and quivering which comes from actually having exhausted the muscle.  

They have accoutrements of torture including straps (yay bondage), hand weights, little green balls (I never did find out what the balls were for) , mats and some wooden thing on the wall about four feet wide and going up about 8 feet with little round rungs. My escort said it was for you to hang by, but she forgot its name.  The rack I said, it’s “the rack”. 

If there was a warm up I missed it. The class progresses from push ups and planks, to arm and shoulder exercises (if you want an idea what this feels like hold your arms straight up with your palms outstretched.  Now watch Gone with the the Wind.  Drop your arms). Then gluteus and thighs. Then abdominal.   Thankfully the difficulty of coping with the searing pain in so many parts of your body is slightly distracting.  

There was a clearly announced “cool down” period which involved a series of more exercises in which the instructor was not clamoring for more pain.   The lack of clamoring did not reduce the pain.  

If, like me, you’re happily wandering through the sadomasochism of various modalities of exercise, barre is clearly a torture session you don’t want to miss. I can’t wait to go back. 

Categories
Fitness Humor Inspiration Weight Loss Yoga

“Squeeze Your Anus” Ashtanga Workshop Weekend

You’re about to learn more about your “pelvic floor” than you thought was possible or maybe even what a “pelvic floor” is and how squeezing your anus can change your life. Or at least, your pelvic floor. Irresistible title, I know.  

Not long ago, In October of 2015, I wrote “Ashtanga Yoga – A primer” passing on my introductory knowledge of Ashtanga derived from two classes which consisted of the advice of “skip class and have a friend hit you in the stomach with a shovel.”  Ashtanga a primer  Imbued with this new found knowledge my logical thought was, “I should go to a class every week after the holly days.”  (Not very smart, I know)

A slightly more elucidating description of Ashtanga is “This form of yoga is intensely physical and athletic. Ashtanga yogis practice a prescribed set of asanas, channel energy through the body using bandhas (locks), and concentrate on singular points using drishti (gaze) in asanas.”  (An asana is a pose or movement running from the easiest of, “bend over and touch your toes” (or the floor or put your palms on the floor and bend your elbows out) to a more complicated form of twister where you fashion yourself into a pretzel and look at parts of your body you’ve never seen before.    Like this. 

 You don’t even want to know how to get into this. In one class, a girl said someone should clone a life alert bracelet into a yoga alert bracelet – “help, I fell  into this pose and I can’t get out    Just for the record, I can not do this now, nor ever imagine it happening. 

After happily surviving NOT passing out the first two classes in January I follow my plan of regular weekly attendance when I see that internationally know Ashtanga Yoga teacher, is coming to the studio to do 10 1/ hours of instruction on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in April, and I look at the individual classes with a la Carte pricing, and one fixed fee for the whole shebang, including waterboarding and I think, “YEAH, that’s me”!!! (Again, not smart.  If you’re a regular reader you know good judgement is not my hallmark.  Although, Senator Bob Packwood did say, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment ) 

Today is Sunday and I have survived,  however, I am using my last functional appendage, one hand, to type this message.  By Friday morning, two days ago, I am anticipating the start of the first class Friday night with a mixture of fear and excitement.  Or terror.  Or dread.  However, Friday was pretty much a 2 1/2 hour lecture practice on paranyama (breathing) and bandhas, (locks)  (Hold on, we’re almost to the squeeze your anus part) 

First breathing. Ashtanga uses a from of breathing called Ujayi (pronounced “ooo jay) in which “…Ujjayi (translated as “victorious”) breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali suggests that the breath should be both dirga (long) and suksma (smooth). The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out.”  Ujjayi Breath.  More simply, open your mouth an exhale as if you were fogging a mirror.  Now,  close your mouth and exhale, keeping the same restriction in your throat. MOST simply, I call this Darth Vader breath.  Breathing through your nose with Mouth closed, do your best impression of Darth Vader breathing,  this is Ujjayi breath.  (Now, try to breath this way for an hour- Bahahahahahaha)

Ah, finally bandhas.  Mula Bandha.   “Squeeze your anus”, he says.  “Huh?”  This is probably not an exact transcription of what  what he said but here goes at the very bottom of the bowl of your pelvis, you have a network of muscles attaching front to back and side to side like a warm apple pie’s top lattice Crust, nicely browned and perfectly weaved.  (Ok, he didn’t say the pie part, but I was hungry ). The muscle part was true though (kinda)  

 and by contacting these muscles, you help to lift your internal organs from crushing each other and eventually, bring peace to the Middle East. Or maybe kill your craving for Cocoa Puffs.  To do this, squeeze your anus.  Then while doing that, contract the muscles you need to stop. Urinating mid stream.  Now, you may be laughing, and you may be trying to squeeze your anus right now but if you’re trying to do both, when I tell you to hold this for the next hour, you’ll stop laughing.  However, when he said this eventually reverses something of the natural incontinent type symptoms which advancing age brings, I though, “hell yeah, I’m in!!!). However, he did point out that your supposed to keep these muscles permanently locked (meaning squeeze your anus 24 hours a day) unless, you’re using the bathroom, giving birth, menstruating, or drinking tequila with a stripped named Mercedes in Guadalajara.  I’m pretty sure  I squeezed my anus once for 24 hours in college and it made me want to vote republican.  

Clearly, I’ve summarized the 2 hours and thirty minutes but suffice it to say that by the end, I was thinking the last time I put so much focus on Darth Vader breathing and squeezing my anus was when my freshman dorm mate Pat and I double dated the two sorority girls to USC homecoming in 1975.  Lesson learned, “remember where you park your car anytime your”re parking with 40,000 other cars- it’s a loong wait till the parking lot is empty  and you can see it.  Which equally applies to squeezing your anus for an hour)

My greatest fear the last seven years of yoga was being in a completely packed yoga room, mats only inches apart, 7-8 yogis in a row and I lose my balance falling over into the hot chick next to me creating a human yogis dominoes effect.  I escaped that fear for 7 years. Until today.  While the entire row didn’t fall over, I took her out like a linebacker sacking the quarterback in the playoffs.  

 
On the positive side, she we very gracious about it, the class got some much needed comic relief (who doesn’t like being laughed at by 50 people?) and I lived.  Reminder lesson, even when our greatest fear comes true, it’s not as bad as we have catastrophized.  

My best moment?  Yesterday morning, we’re over an hour in where we’re trying to do several of the harder poses in the middle of the sequence and I’m not even close to doing it right and looking around the room, literally dripping sweat all over my mat, and thinking, just as a matter of observation, that I have clearly the absolute WORST form of anyone in the class, and he comes over, taps my foot and says “good job).  I only made it 6 1/2 hours of the 10.5 for the weekend, but hooray for me.  

As I was leaving today,  the studio owner goddess guru sweetheart asked if I was coming back for the last two hours, called “Do WHAT with my leg”, in which hip openers are offered to allow you to put your feet behind your head while sitting up.  “No,” I said, “I have Chik Fil A hips, they’re closed on Sunday’s.”  

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