Friday, August 27, 2010

Yoga Times Are Awesome Times

Folks, can you believe it was MONTHS since I did yoga? Well, of course you could, because you probably didn't know I did yoga. I have many layers, like many-layered dip, and I could understand if the potato chip of your knowledge did not dig far enough into the dip bowl of me to reach that particular strata of rad. Fair enough. This is what this blog's all about: getting every flavor of us that we offer, for your consumption.

The best yoga studio in Philly -- and really, one of the best I've encountered everywhere -- is Dhyana Yoga. They're spiritual without being crystal-waving, they're together without being overpopulated, and they're casual without being too flaky. Plus, the instructors are good, which is key: you need a patient instructor who is nonetheless going to challenge you and make necessary adjustments. The atmosphere is simple and encouraging. It's a really good place. Might be the only game in town, in fact.

I think the last time I went to a yoga class there was before the wedding. With wedding/honeymoon expenses, job uncertainty and general chaos, it seemed an extravagance I could do without. Friends: I was wrong. My body was crying out for yoga, demanding it! "Give us yoga!" Just like that! So I had to answer that call. Lauren got a link to a special, bought two of them for us (yes, she's now trying yoga -- more on that from her later, I hope!), and off I went to a Vinyasa Plus class. (This particular flavor of yoga emphasizes the flow between poses -- other types of yoga focus on other aspects.)

An hour and a half later, I was drenched in sweat, every muscle trembling, renewed and released. I forgot how much of a purgative yoga is for me. I carry all my stress and my emotions in my muscles, and yoga does an outstanding job of purging those and allowing me to relax once more. I probably should have started with something a little simpler, but I was proud that even after months off, my body remembered the poses and flowed into place. I was much less stiff than I expected to be. (No headstands, although there were attempts at handstands, which I just don't have the strength for yet.)

What's really remarkable is how my strength training, both through weights at the gym and through the Lithe routines that Lauren taught me, made yoga SO much easier. Normally, downward dog is my worst pose, because I have lacked shoulder strength. Not anymore: I could maintain my pose much longer than before. And let's also talk about engaging my core, people! I bitched at first, but core strength is AWESOME, especially if you don't even know you're doing it! And added flexibility is always welcome to this stiff.

Yoga occupies a strange space in my fitness routine. It's definitely exercise, but it's an effect quite different from cardio or strength training. The spiritual aspects of yoga (what we know of as yoga is one prong of a multi-disciplinary practice that would take us years to get the hang of) inform a lot about myself beyond the studio. Yoga is a necessary component of my life, offering a space for me to release everything that tends to cripple and inhibit me and remind me that life is about flow and breath.

Yeah, I'm part hippie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thank you for being a friend...

I dare you to read that headline and not burst into song.  Oh, Golden Girls.  You were ahead of your time and still outclass 95% of network programming.

But that is not the theme of this post.  Mais non!  Cohen Hall has been surrounded by fabulous friends of late, and we have many adventures to share.

Earlier this month, we traveled to California for a long weekend that was so much fun, it should have been illegal.  We booked a fabulous bungalow on Venice Beach, piled into Fran's two-door car with 4 friends, 3 guitars, and far too much luggage (I'm looking at you, Johnny), and proceeded to do Many Things Which Were Awesome.

Here is the bungalow.  I want to move in permanently.


Here is the garden at the Getty.  I want to move in permanently.


Here is the view from Malibu Beach.  I want to move in permanently.

And so it goes.  We also ate some amazing food, celebrated Frannie's birthday, wrote the longest stream-of-consciousness song in the history of the world, and met up with Scott's LA crew from back in the day.  It was a jam packed trip with not nearly enough time to do and see.  sigh.  West Coast, why so far away?

Fortunately, there was no time to get too emo about it.  The equally friendtastic Mason and Carie graced us with their presence the following weekend, and we proceeded to do Many Other Things Which Were Awesome.  There was delightful food and wine at Garces Trading Co.  There were laugh-out-loud al fresco drinks with the ever-fabulous Charles & Celia.  There was a Zoolander movie night.  (That Hansel, he's so hot right now.)  But perhaps most importantly of all, there was the PA Renaissance Faire.

Let me back up a moment.  You need to understand that this isn't just any Ren Faire.  It's hands down the best one on the East Coast.  I know this because NYC actors willingly make the trip to middle-of-nowhere PA just to attend.  And that's saying a lot.  Also, this is the Ren Faire of my childhood, where I would return multiple times each summer to flirt with 35-year-old ponytailed men who spoke in Ye Olde Dialects.  In other words, it was the most fun $15 could buy in Lancaster Country circa 1992.  Or probably ever.

Twenty years later, so much has changed.  The rustic, almost-legit Faire of the 90's is gone, replaced by a gigantic, over-the-top theme park where 90% of the actors don't attempt dialects, and everything costs too much.  There are live elephant rides, for crissakes!  But somehow, it was still a lot of fun.

Behold Mason the Wizard and Harold the Owl!

Buttercup and the Dread Pirate Roberts!

The gathering of bumper stickers you don't often see in Lancaster County!


Bless you, PA Ren Faire.  Long may ye reign.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cohen Hall Sports Club

Cohen Hall has gone fitness crazed.

This morning, I arrived home after my 5K run to find Scott on the yoga mat, doing the Lithe sequence I taught him.  (His form was excellent, by the way.)  Both cats were watching intently, and Coco was especially interested in assisting with tricep dips.  Come to think of it, now that she's grown a bit, she'd make an excellent five pound free weight.

But back to running.  I broke a 12 minute mile today, ya'll.  This means two things: 1) I am making progress and 2) I am still embarrassingly slow.  I have decided to enter a local 5K race on September 11th, and I WILL complete it in under 30 minutes.  Or, you know, die trying.

With that in mind, I devised a training plan for my 5K loop.  It goes like this: run a mile, walk two blocks, run a mile, walk two blocks, run a half mile, walk two blocks, sprint the final quarter mile.  This morning was my first time trying it, and I actually made it through in just over 36 minutes.

Lessons learned:

1) Sprinting is still the best thing ever.  I wish I could sprint for longer than a quarter mile, but considering this short distance nearly made me puke today, I don't think that will be happening any time soon.  On the plus side?  I am wicked fast when I want to be.

2) Again, I was reminded of what a mental sport this is.  I told myself I would run a mile without stopping, and I did.  When it was time to walk, I didn't really need to stop, but I did anyway because I had told myself I would.  Hmm.  Maybe I need someone other than me telling me when to walk and when to run.

3) God bless Springsteen.  He shows up in my playlist somewhere in the final mile and just kills it. 

A marathoner at work told me that I need to add one longer (say, 5 miles or so) run into my weekly schedule so that when it comes time to do the 5K race, it feels short to me.  That doesn't sound like bad advice.  I'd have to walk more, for sure, but I think I could handle it.

Is anyone else training for a race?  Do tell!