Hey everyone! Back after a break. Been slacking on the blog for a bit. I’ve probably been pushing off answering the recent questions of the week, subconsciously. But I guess, I might as well get down to it. To me, both the questions from last week and this one, are linked.
“Think about a time when you life knocked you down. How did you come back to equilibrium, and what did you learn from the experience? Has your life ever taken an unexpected twist? Can you imagine how things would be different if this twist hadn't come along?”
Well, this month marks the 10th death anniversary of my husband, and to me, that one big event covers most things about being knocked down and getting back up, and about the unexpected twist that turned things topsy turvy for me. It was a bolt from the blue; something I could never have prepared for, especially when our infant son was only 4 months old, and I was living far away from home in Italy, a virtual stranger in the country, where I had no friends except through my late husband, or relatives except for his. I still had to find my feet really quickly to cope with the aftermath, take far-reaching decisions, have my wits about me, and be there for my child, who was a lot less prepared than I, for everything that was to come. Oddly, I think, I found comfort in something as basic as the everyday routine of caring for my son. From every little daily ritual of changing his diapers, to getting each meal ready on time, cleaning, washing etc… there was so much to do, that it kept me occupied in a positive way. After he turned 1, I had more time for myself. I found it very useful to start exercising at home. I lost weight, got in shape, felt a little better. Just before he turned 2, I returned to India, and went back to work. A lot has changed since, but after all these years, I feel a lot more in control of my life today. I’ve learnt many lessons along the way, but most of all, I’ve learnt that nothing is permanent. Every situation can turn on its head in an instant, but to despair is not the answer. You make the best of a bad situation and carry on. No matter what, you need to find a reason to wake up every morning, have something to look forward to, things to do, people to meet and talk to, love and care for. Life, is too precious a gift to waste away, so feel alive, be grateful for your gifts, and live as best as you can.
If this “unexpected twist” hadn’t occurred, I guess my life story would have been quite different. But I’ve had the opportunity to introspect, come back to my roots and take another shot at life in ways I never really anticipated. And Kenzai is probably part of that journey…
Meanwhile, over the weekend, I seem to have got the hang of the Half Moon pose, the Reverse Half Moon and to a lesser extent, the Wide Angle Forward bend Twist.
Was unsure about the breath counts during the PNF stretches at first. But I figured it’s 2 breaths (contraction), 1 exhalation, 2 deep breaths- and this pattern repeated 5 times makes 20 breaths. Am I right? The World Pincer stretch ends really wide for me after 20 breaths. Does that sound about right? During the Seated Forward Bend, are you supposed to keep going deeper? I can almost touch my forehead to my knees. In the Wide Angle PNF pose, I realised I hardly shift at all from my max stretch. Today, still struggled with the Side Pyramid. Can touch hands down for barely 2 of the 5 breaths, without the hamstrings screaming. And the Reverse Plank last week- that one’s a real killer. Just can’t form the outstretched pose, with pointy feet, in the way Thomas does in the demo.
So, for the first time today, I managed to get my elbows to touch the mat, during the Wide Angle Forward Bend- a huge milestone for me, after struggling with it for days! Can finally say, I'm making some progress with what is hard for me. The One Leg Side Bend was also not that hard today, and I seem to be getting the hang of the Half Moon pose gradually, as well. So far, so good, but the Side Pyramid pose was quite difficult today.
Food is great, when I'm able to eat at home. And I've decided, Simba is my Valentine 😁😍
We're past the half-way mark on Reach... how's everyone else doing?
For a Sunday, today was anything but a holiday! Woke up at 5.30am, left home at 7.30am, to chaperone my son to his Olympiad exams, which was an all day affair, as he had to do English, Science and Math between 9am - 3pm. And while he was putting his mind to work, I and my brother decided to get our cardio workout done. We left behind a large crowd of parents of other competing kids, of varying shapes and sizes parked under shady trees to beat the heat and left our car behind to walk a fair distance to the large wholesale veggie market to pick up our weekly supplies. Pre-Kenzai, we’d probably be sitting idle too, after all I’d carried my laptop and other gadgets, had a lot of reading to catch up on, & plenty of digital garbage to purge too. But we decided to get off our backsides and hit the road. It was hot even at 11am when we started and the mercury kept rising up until 12.30pm, by when we had to return to pick up the kid for lunch. Got quite a tan in the process, but managed to walk over 12.45 km today. Not bad, for a Sunday!
My brother got quite a workout from lugging the very heavy bag of groceries all the way…
Lunch was not perfect. Just 2 rotis, some dal (lentils) and paneer (cottage cheese) at the neighbourhood eatery. Couldn’t find large or small helpings of clean fresh veggies Kenzai-style. But had carried apples & bananas, also had a bowl of other cut fruits- muskmelon, watermelon, sapotas, pineapple etc, and some tender coconut water. Later, also had some ice-cream to cope with the weather! (In addition to the pizza from day before, that’s quite an indulgence, this week) Got home early evening, and managed to complete today’s strength training too. Feeling quite accomplished.
Now, to answer the question of the outgoing week: ‘When you look at your life, what trends are moving in the wrong direction? What trends are moving in the right direction?
What’s right is that my health situation seems to be under control. Not that I had any real issues, but with my weight and eating habits in order, I don’t feel predisposed to any disease or condition. My dad had Type 2 Diabetes and now my mum has it too, but having kicked sugar from my diet, cleaning up in general and including exercise as a daily ritual, I’m confident I might not follow the trajectory of my parents.
What’s moving in the wrong direction? Well, I used to be very career-oriented in my early years, and almost married to my job. But I quit working as a 24/7 TV journalist about 5 years ago, and chose to work from home/ freelance. I’ve been on a break for a while, and haven’t quite managed to go back. I’m hoping to change that now, as my son grows older, and more independent.
Sharing pics of my progress so far with the Tree pose and the Dancer pose. I hope one day, I can lift my leg up high like Thomas in the demo pic. Might be a long wait…
I haven't been very regular with my blogs, but I have been doing all my workouts, and diet is also on track. I find the new 'balance poses' as part of the Skillful Movement practice both challenging and fun. It’s rather humbling to find myself clumsily tumble out of poses without control! The Tree Hold on Monday for example- I couldn’t stay in position for longer than 3 secs at a time. But amazingly, the same pose today seemed really easy. My standing foot hardly wobbled and I felt I could go on standing a lot longer than the prescribed time. Likewise, with other poses that seemed intimidating at first, like the Balancing Cat and Boat Pose, I was really surprised that I could actually do them without much difficulty. The new Side Toe Tap Foot morning stretch feels hard to do. But, what I’m really struggling with still is the Half Moon Pose. I tried a few times today, but couldn’t hold on continuously for longer than 3 breaths. It seems odd, given that I have no real trouble with the Warrior III Pose, which is quite similar. Balancing on one foot with arms pointed straight ahead is far easier, than coordinating it with the arms flayed pointing to the ground and to the sky. In fact, I find that I lose balance the moment I try to look up instead of in front, which is the more challenging version of the pose.
But on the flip side, I’m able to touch my head to the ground easily now in the Pyramid pose, and rise back up using only shoulder strength. For the first time, I was able to sit in the Yoga Squat Pose from a standing position without support, go down fully and stand back up. Also, the Seated One Leg Forward Twist (evening stretch), which I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to do at first, was actually possible to do!
Holding the Front Split pose for 5 a full mins in the evenings is still literally quite a stretch. Towards the end, the hamstrings really want to stop being pulled. Progress on the 10 mins Wide Angle Forward Bend is also slow and not that great. But overall, I think I definitely have the flexibility I thought I’d lost, back. The rest now, is a bonus 😉 Meanwhile, my 🐶🐕seem to find my Yoga poses rather cozy!
How’s everyone else doing?
Hey everyone! It’s been almost 4 days since I wrote a Reach blog, and I just realised I now have two questions of the week left to answer.
First off, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these past few days. It’s that nasty feeling you get when you’re about to come down with something. My son now has a full blown cough and cold and as we share a bedroom and bathroom, that makes me fairly vulnerable to catch his bugs. My sinuses were all flared up this morning, and I felt like I was carrying a heavy load on my head. Completed the workout anyway, and ticked my boxes. Tried on this interesting blue headgear from Decathlon (pic attached) that keeps the ears protected from the morning chill. Catching the winter sun feels so good 😊
Now to answer the question of the outgoing week, ‘What part of your life feels locked-up and closed-off? What's one thing you can do to create more space and openness around the issue?’
Well, Math has been one of my weak areas. The example cited in the lesson almost applies to me completely. I didn’t have a strong foundation with numbers, and so I grew up thinking it was somehow my fault. I found a really good Math teacher as I was ending my 10th grade, which helped me improve my scores dramatically, but the damage had been done. I’d honed other skills more by then, and went on to pursue the Humanities and shone in them. But, as a child I always wanted to become a Vet - a dream I might have realised if I was more confident about Math.
What am I doing about it now? Well, for one, I’ve tried to give my son a better Math base and am proud that he’s already quite good at it. He wins Abacus and other Math competitions, which are very heartening for me. I have also subscribed to the paid version of an app called Lumosity, which helps develop various mental abilities such as speed, memory, accuracy, attention, flexibility, problem solving and Math. For my age group, I’m glad to have crossed the 91st percentile overall, although Math and problem solving are still my weak areas.
The lesson on day 18 spoke about how the skillful movements in Reach can lead to an emotional outburst for several trainees as a byproduct of working with the nervous system. I have to admit that this hasn’t happened to me yet.
Attaching a few pics of the poses I seem to have got better at- the Clasped hand forward bend and Cobbler pose. Progress towards the Front and Side Split are still work in progress.
On the point about creating one’s ‘sacred space’, I may have identified a location where I’m most at ease, but haven’t yet picked a preferred totem or signature phrase yet.
Has anyone else made progress in these areas?
Here's to a strong Week 4, Team Grasshopper 💪👍
Took some time and practice to get in the groove of the Sun Salutations between yesterday and today, but I seem to be getting the hang of it.
Trying Surya Namaskara with 4 of my 5 doggies for company on the open terrace was a hell of an ambitious task yesterday. The youngest two- Simba and Mani decided to hijack my mat and I had plenty of upward/ downward and every other kind of pose to contend with 🤦♀️😮
But thankfully, managed about 5 cycles after they all left for their meal. Today was a lot better with the Salutations. Got the sequence of the poses in order with the breathing almost under control and did 8 cycles. As I'm used to a different variation of 21 poses in Surya Kriya, which follows a pattern of 3, 5 and 7 breaths per pose in sequence, I had to learn the shorter Kenzai set afresh.
Today, the Cossack evening stretch really got me. What a killer pose 😩
Found it really hard to do it in one smooth motion, and almost impossible to keep my resting foot flat. I was high up on my toes most of the time. This will take a lot of practice...
On the diet front, lunch has been all over the place the past two days. Had to go out and ended up eating whatever was available on the move! It always ends up as a carb overload, with very little veggies or proteins to go with it. That's just how most restaurants serve customers 😧
The rest of the week should be better 🤞
How's everyone else doing...
So far so good. Today's regular workout felt good for a change. Think I did my best leg circles so far- in terms of maintaining height and forming circles with the heels. Has to be the effect of all that stretching and holding for 2 weeks. I remember how much of a joke the same exercise used to be in the initial KB 1 days. I could barely raise my legs then or move them around consistently.
Likewise, I was able to move to the grey - highest resistance band for the standing ovations today, almost touched my bottom to the floor during the tricep dips (first set) and even the dreaded V-Sits felt a lot better. Overall, I'm really liking the way the stretching exercises in this Prog are affecting my general performace.
Sharing some pics of my progress on some poses so far.
How's everyone else on the team? We're half-way home already. Let's do this...
While signing up for Reach, I knew it involved a good deal of stretching one's limits, but I'm starting to actually experience that only now.
Next to holding the Wide Angle Forward Bend for 10 minutes yesterday, having to extend each leg in preparation for the front split today for 4 mins each really brought on the sweat 😰
Held the Chaturanga for 6 breaths but I'm starting to realise that those breaths are decidedly shorter than otherwise!
At this stage, I really cannot visualise being able to do the split by the end of the Program, to be honest. But anything close to it would also be a big deal 😃
Hey Team Shalabhasana,
How's it going? Day 10 done, already! Glad to report that I'm back on the wagon with both the diet and workouts. Ate a 'rainbow' as it were, and did fine with most asanas including the 'salamander' pose. It's quite similar to ashva-sanchalanasana (equestrian pose), which I have practiced as part of Surya Kriya before, so holding it, and even placing my elbows flat for more than a minute wasn't too hard.
But the killer is still the Wide Angle Forward Bend. Did my best and held it for the whole 10 mins, but despite using a small cushion to prop myself up, I couldn't get my elbows on the floor. There's still a gap of at least an inch to cover. Will need to keep practicing.
The new evening stretches are really something! The 8 minute forward bend yesterday and the 4 minute front splits today were quite hard to do. Couldn't get my elbows down in the forward bend but managed to straighten my front legs for atleast 2 minutes in the first stage of the front splits today. These stretches are starting to make the morning exercises feel easy 😊
On the diet front, I've been playing catch-up because I wasn't prepared in advance. My weekends tend to be more busy than weekdays, so didn't manage to stock up in time and so lunch only happened at 5pm yesterday, by the time I got it all together. Today was slightly better, though I ended up eating out, as I met up with a friend and had to choose the least greasy meat preparations and freshest salads from a buffet.
Read about the struggles others are facing too, finding time to fit in the evening stretches! Good luck team 👍 Let's do this...
My core beliefs...
Well, this is a heady one to get into. For the most part, I think, as we are shaped by our circumstances and experiences, our beliefs and guiding philosophies are work in progress at best. Sometimes major life events alter our perceptions significantly, sending us off in directions we may not have ever imagined possible before.
Regardless of life-events and their influence, there are some constant go-to ideals that I hold dear. I believe in being honest, sincere and hard-working. These are truisms without substitutes. To always do my best, no matter what I attempt, to give it my best shot, keep my conscience clear, so I have the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t hold back. The next is to listen to my heart and follow its lead. Often, the head intervenes and tries to negotiate a ‘better deal’, but I’ve learnt to trust my gut. Most often, its best to follow your gut-feeling about anything- person or pursuit, rather than rationalising to intellectualising. Then, there’s that fact that as humans we’re fallible. We do make mistakes and will continue to, no matter how old, smart or experienced we get. It’s best to accept one’s fault, treat it as a learning experience, cut your losses, move on and not repeat the error- again this goes for choices involving people and pursuits, equally.
One of the most life-changing events I have experienced is the sudden death of my husband almost 10 years ago. Although I continue to grapple with the consequences of that loss, it was the single most impactful event that changed my perspectives on almost everything in the most fundamental ways.
It showed me that I can never be too prepared. Life and death happen, and all you can do is learn to go with the flow. What is earth-shattering for one person is not even a blip in the larger scheme of things. As individuals, we are barely pin-heads dotting the landscape. One replaces another, and life just goes on whether or not you inhabit your space. Experiencing the frailty of life itself teaches you to not take life too seriously on the one hand and to relish that opportunity to the fullest, when you get a shot at it, on the other. When you realise that you only live once, and that you only get one body in which to live, quite naturally, the common-sense of it dawns on you, that health is indeed the greatest wealth. Take care of yourself, mind and body, and you’ll hopefully get to live a longish, happy, fulfilling life. Take it for granted, and you’re gone before your time.
Realising that death is merely the absence of breath is indeed a sobering experience. It makes you notice and appreciate every little mundane thing- the changing colours of leaves every season to the joy of each rain-drop. So whatever I do, I try to find the time to be alive, laugh often, cry if I must, find something to love, smell the flowers, chase the butterflies, stay curious and interested. To be able to have fun, is such a gift.
I try not to take anything for granted anymore- not even the air I breathe, or the strength in my limbs. I realise that everything is transient and I have a role in helping things stay as they are or get better. And one of the most important, yet forgotten things is to remember to be grateful. I have a lot to thank for- my wonderful family that I can count on to stand by me, no matter what, a lovely child full of dreams and aspirations who reminds me I’m getting too grown-up and cynical, I also have access to so much that other less-fortunate people do not. I don’t live in a war-torn country, I have opportunities and amenities, good food and clean water, I have friends and communities to reach out to, the list is endless… To take a moment to consciously express gratitude for everything we have- I think that’s a great thing to do, a great, positive place to start from anew, no matter what situation you’re faced with.
Well, there are good days and bad and then there are those that combine both. Can't quite decide which category today fits into, but its been less than ideal, for sure.
Had a decent start. Did my morning stretches, then took a really long walk around the lake close to my place, but by the time I got back home, my head started to ache. So I decided to postpone the workout and left it for later. My second chance didn't really come as I was hoping, so I just figured I'd get it done, headache or not 😒
Just finished. Was sure the Yoga Squat and Locust- Shalabhasana would be the hardest today, and I was right. Surprisingly, I managed the deep squat and held it long enough, but I also realised that my shoulder blades weren't moving to the center of my back. Probably means my elbows weren't ideally placed. The Locust is hard! Legs are going up, but not rising enough from the thigh area. This is going to take time and practice...
How's everyone else doing? Take care, team...
So, I tried to be ambitious today and in the Side Angle pose, attempted the 'advanced variation', placing my hand on the ground and managed it. Emboldened, tried the 'advanced variation' of the Pyramid pose too, touching my head to the ground in a very wide V-stance, but lacked upper body strength to get back up without going down on one knee, and that was my reality check. But was very relieved to be able to hold the Chaturanga pose for up to 6 breaths. Had to try the Rabbit pose more than once, because initially I think, I tended not to put any pressure on my neck muscles as a natural reflex to protect it. The Shavasana remains my favourite pose! But I've been following the 61-point relaxation method starting from the top of the head, going down to the toes and coming back to the head, instead of the toe-head scan described on Kenzai.
Also, I'm doing 10 minutes of skipping instead of 5 as I'm used to doing at least 15 minutes. I hope it's alright to up my cardio slightly.
At the end of Day 3, there are two sets of Kenzai stretching exercises that I have now committed to memory- the basic stretches from Day 9 of KB1 and those from Day 1 of Reach. As I struggle with form, I've decided to do my best each time, each day, and remain patient.
Noticed today that during the Warrior II exercise, I was having trouble holding my left foot in the slightly turned forward position. Apart from that, I found everything else doable. Was surprised that my heels didn't lift up in the downward dog position. Happy to feel "grounded" 😊
Sharing pictures of a grasshopper in the process of molting. I've never actually found and held one like this, before today! The exoskeleton it shed is a lot smaller than it's emerging new body. Feels like a nice metaphor for the Kenzai experience- shedding old baggage, to be reborn anew. The hopper looks raw and vulnerable here, but after a little getting used to, it's going to find the power in its bones and wings to take off and be what its meant to be...
Hey everyone! Just finished day 2 of Reach and it's already rather humbling to recognize my limits. Went through all the stretches in 15 minutes, despite stopping to read and understand each one of them, which probably means I could do this in about 10 ro 12 mins. The toughest stretches for me were the seated side trunks. The most I could manage was a wide 'V' posture. The toe-touches were a lot better, but the side touches were harder/lower than the front touches. Also, my left leg has a shorter range of movement being the less-dominant side. Will be interesting to watch if and how much things change by the end of the Program.
Hope everyone else is good. Have a great day 😊