10-minute Core Routine

Irrelevant salad.

If you do it right, yoga is nothing but one big core exercise. Key phrase: if you do it right. I fail miserably at engaging bandhas, essentially muscles in the core that keep you bound or locked in. Uddiyana bandha is upward lifting lock, pulling the belly up and in toward the spine, and mula bandha is the root lock, lifting perineal muscles (YEP, in your goodies) up.

There are lots of yoga poses that strengthen the core (like, all of them), and I actually did a video addressing some of that, which you can find here¬†and below. That’s not what this is. This is a non-yoga 10-minute standard core routine that I’ve been doing every-ish day because I feel squishy. Vanity. And namaste to that.

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This routine is not totally in vain. Core strength will carry me through my practice, especially inversions I’m working on, with much more control.

Anyway, it’s nine poses, 10-ish minutes and totally modifiable for beginner or advanced. Just do each for shorter or longer than the suggested 1-2 minutes, adding on 15 seconds each week until you build up to more.

Tah dah. Let me know if you try any of it.

10-ish-Minute Core Routine

Standard Crunch – With feet on the ground, knees up, place hands behind in head. Inhale here, exhale lift shoulders off the ground and crunch. 1 minute

Double Leg Stretch – Pull knees into the chest and lift head/shoulders off the ground. On an inhale, everything lengthens away from center. Heels over off the ground, hands reach over head. Exhale pull back into a little ball. 1 minute

Crossover Crunch – Right ankle over the left knee, left hand behind the head. Exhale and crunch up reaching left should for right knee. 1 minute on this side and then switch (left ankle over right knee, right hand behind the head). 2 minutes total

Bicycle – Hands behind the head. Straighten right leg, pull left knee into the chest, lift right should to left knee. Switch left shoulder to right knee. 1 minute

Oblique Reach – Feet on the ground, knees up. Lift shoulders and head off the ground and reach left hand for left ankle and then right hand to right ankle. Feel the side body engage when you reach. 1 minute

Side Crunch – Laying on your back with feet on the ground and knees up, place hands behind the head and drop both knees to the left. Crunch straight up lifting shoulders off the ground and then lower. Do this for 1 minute and then switch sides. 2 minutes total

Standing Oblique Reach – Standing tall, belly in, reach left hand down the left left as far as it will reach. Lift back up and then drop the right hand down as far as it will reach. Repeat dropping side to side. 1 minute

Scissors – Lift head and shoulders off the ground. Straight both legs, pulling one into the chest and then the other. 1 minute

Plank – You can take this in a forearm plank (shown) or come up on your palms like you’re in a pushup position. Hold as long as you can.

Sweet Tater Talks: Core

Thumbs up.

Let’s talk about abs.

Hot damn, people love abs. Am I right or am I right?

“So let’s work on the stomach. Nobody wants a little tight ass…” – Kanye West, Workout Plan

People do crazy things to get that elusive six-pack. They eat nothing but grapefruit or cabbage or cayenne-lemon-maple water. They read books and watch videos and, in moments of weakness in the wee hours of the morning with a pint of ice cream in one hand and a phone in the other, order outrageous contraptions off of infomercials that promise instant results* (*results not typical).

For a very long time, I was one of these people. I went through phases… Sometimes I went the calorie restriction route. Other times I’d do 500 crunches a day (why this number, I do not know). I had an ab roller and countless DVDs.

The presently saner version of myself sees a problem with this obsession, with focusing on one compartmentalized unattainable ideal rather than whole-body health. I don’t know why we (“we” being human beings, myself included) do this to ourselves. Why we mentally hack ourselves up into pieces, honing in and hating on “flawed” body parts that stand out more on their own than when viewed as a whole.

The point of this is to say that when I hated my body and punished it with exercise and starved it and obsessed over attaining a certain “look,” I never succeeded. In short, I never had “abs.” (I mean, I had them because everyone has them, but they didn’t look they way I wanted them to look, which, as you can probably guess, is like a photoshopped model’s. Duh.)

Since starting my yoga practice four or five years ago, I’ve noticed this amazing evolution in both body and mind that has truly changed my life. I’m happier. I’m healthier. Hot diggity damn, I have abs. But that’s not the point.

The goal of yoga is not physical. The ultimate aim is enlightenment, and the asana practice by way of the physical body is just a means for getting us there. Of course, our modernized, Westernized view of yoga is largely as a physical practice. It may come as a surprise, but I don’t see this as entirely wrong.

As a practitioner and teacher-to-be, I think it would be short-sighted to dismiss the fact that most people come to yoga for the physical benefits. I myself came to recover from a running injury (and perhaps to try and look like Jennifer Anniston who I’d heard was a yogi, too). The asana (physical) practice is like a gateway to the rest of what yoga has to offer. Alone (without the meditation and philosophy), it’s incomplete, yes. But if we can get people in classes, asses on mats and get them hooked on this beautifully addictive physical practice, I think it will almost always inevitably leave them craving more, seeking more and, ultimately, finding their way towards meditation, breathwork, etc. That’s what happened for me, anyway.

One of my favorite things I’ve heard about yoga is this: “You can see my asana but you cannot see my yoga.” The point being that these insanely awesome poses that photograph oh so nicely are impressive, yes. But if you think that’s all yoga is, you’re msising the point entirely.

SO. All of that said… I don’t starve myself or order stupid machines off infomercials or do lots and lots of crunches anymore. I practice yoga. I practice yoga and it has calmed my mind. I practice yoga and it has reshaped my body. I practice yoga and it has strengthened my heart. I practice yoga and it has changed my life.

I practice yoga and, yeah, I have abs now. Is it the best thing that’s happened to me? Hardly. But if it’s enough to convince you to get on a mat and see what this practice is that I keep ranting about, I think you’ll see firsthand what the best parts of practicing yoga are. And they have nothing to do with body parts. Not even abs.

Standup Paddle Boarding

Tempeh, cheese, pickles, avocado

There are few things I enjoy more than being on or near a body of water. Not so much in it, no thanks. But close by, yes. I’d love to live on or near water and believe that a city is not a city unless it’s on a coast or has a river running through it. (My biggest complaint about Charlotte so far is its landlockedness. Lame.) I grew up on the lake, in a pool and, when all else failed, dancing in a sprinkler. These days I prefer to admire water from afar without actually getting in it.

This works.

Yesterday I learned that there’s a water activity made just for water-hating people like me: standup paddleboarding. You get to be in the water without (assuming you have the ability to balance, of course) being in the water. It’s a beautiful thing.

I went out with some teammates from work and am officially hooked. Let it be known that this is what I want for Christmas. Sure, there are more practical things I need–like a new trashcan since I just broke mine–but be serious… you can’t paddle a trashcan four miles across a lake. Exactly.

I was very excited about my first time, as evidenced by my jazz hands…

Jaaaaaazz hands

But when we got there and my “Hey, where’s the bathroom?” was greeted with a sweeping gesture at the surrounding bushes, I started to feel like maaaaaybe this was a bit too much nature for Katie on a Thursday morning.

I peed in the woods!

I sucked it up and peed in the woods, walking through spider webs and cursing the world all the while. I emerged victorious and ready to PADDLE, SON.

The boards are surprisingly more stable than I expected and I found it easy to stay upright. I did get a little cocky and attempt some one-footed balancing, which was the closest I came to busting it. The key to paddleboarding, I’ve learned, is to engage your core to paddle forward rather than rely on your arms. It was a million times better than crunches.

You have no idea how long this took.

I loved this morning. It was just the escape I needed from my frantic daily routine and reminded me that, in addition to making food, making everyone in my life happy and making time for myself, I also need to make time to be outside. It’s important to me and I forget that sometimes.

After paddling four miles I came home to inhale my go-to sandwich: tempeh, cheese, avocado and pickles. It was a good, good, busy day.

Potato Pizza

Potato, rosemary, goat cheese pizza at Revolution

I can’t even move today. I wish I could say it was because I ate so much potato rosemary goat cheese pizza last night that physical activity is completely out of the question today. Alas, I can’t move because I took my first Crossfit class yesterday.

I smile because I don't know what tomorrow will feel like.

Are you familiar with the Crossfit fever that’s sweeping the nation? I hear about it all the time (people that are obsessed with Crossfit are obsessed with Crossfit) but I know it involves THIS:

Yeah.

So suffice it to say I was never terribly interested. But since my new job is the best job in the world and includes lots of involvement in Charlotte’s fitness community, I have opportunities to try new things that kind of terrified me before. Like Crossfit.

There are several Crossfit gyms in Charlotte but I went to S3 Endurance for my butt whoopin’. The owner Brandon is a former hockey player and an awesome trainer. He assured me I wouldn’t die.

If you’ve considered Crossfit before but think it will just be a bunch of meatheads throwing tires around, think again. The group was really diverse in size, age and sex and everyone was friendly and welcoming. The workout was challenging but the encouragement from other participants made it a lot of fun. I admit it, I’m hooked.

Granted, I can’t move my arms, sit on the toilet or get down the stairs… but I’m still hooked.

We celebrated my beat down with pizza last night at Revolution. I was drunk with exhaustion and gave Stew full ordering duty. He went with this baby:

Tater pizza!

I inhaled two pieces, a giant Greek salad and two glasses of sangria before I started passing out in the booth. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open long enough to drive home, throw some M&Ms in my face and face plant into my bed… which is where you’ll find me most of the day… because I can’t move.

Rain Shmain.

At least my umbrella is cute.

This morning I woke up with my new no-more-whining, seize-the-day attitude and was greeted by my arch nemesis: rain.

I hate rain so much. It ruins my entire day. But not this day. Oh, no. I would embrace my 24 brand new hours to live, precipitation or not. I had planned to go for a nice long walk (when I’m in Nicaragua–in two weeks (!!)–we’ll be walking from one town to the next and are expected to be able to do so without complaining). Since there was no chance I’d be walking in the rain, I headed to school early to hit up the treadmills. The wind almost knocked me over, but at least the view from inside my cute little umbrella was lovely. [I bought it when I was in Spain in 2007 from Agatha Ruiz de la Prada--so whimsical, so not me, so why I like it. I think Gracie would be into this designer.]

I hopped on a spaceship treadmill and watched Saved by the Bell the College Years. Obviously.

Oh Zach, what are you scheming now?

I didn’t have sound because I didn’t have headphones, but I’ve seen it all before. This was the episode where Zach, in all his mischievousness, plans a rave off campus. Haaahaha.

After some light weight lifting and a 30-minute walk, I was ready to start my day. By then, the clouds had parted.

PS – Anybody seen these new Eco Mills? I saw it on my way out and hopped on for a second. It’s a self-powered treadmill. Interesting.

Eco Mill