Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bikram Yoga

So, until last night I was a Bikram Yoga virgin. I am currently on a cleanse so I am interested in different forms of detoxifying my bod.  Little did I know how detoxifying this class would really be!  

First, I check in.  Give a hug to my friend who coaxed me to the studio, and she introduces me to our instructor. I then move to a small room with a wall of cubbies where I all stash my stuff and strip down to the most minimal clothing I am comfortable wearing in public-which for this event is a tank top and running shorts.  I head into a dim room, lay my yoga mat and towel out on the floor, and I join the group of 20+ stretching in silence (the group includes the stereotypical, small, hairy guy in a speedo). This room is heated to 102 degrees. 102 degrees. 102 degrees.

It's not bad at first as we start by doing breathing exercises to "warm our throats," but by 20 minutes into increasingly challenging standing postures, when the heat begins to feel like as stuffy 200 degrees instead of a measly 102, I have sweat burning my eyes and pouring down my arms.  Not the kind of sweat I get from running in Oregon, but the kind of sweat you would experience in Houston, Texas in August if you were running a marathon as fast as you can. 

At this juncture, I start thinking of the controversy surrounding Mr. Bikram himself at the moment (be sure to look him up and learn about his current sex scandal), and I begin hating him.  Hating his stupid idea of doing yoga in a ridiculously hot room.  Hating the now-sweaty, hairy guy in speedos. Hating the perma grin on the woman with the yoga-perfect body and a little less sweat than I behind me in the mirror.  Then the instructor allows us to have a sip of water.  My hate lessens and I attempt to refocus.

We do "tree pose."  In this standing posture my foot is supposed to perch on my opposite inner thigh with my arms extended over my head.  Under normal circumstances, this pose is cake for me, but currently my legs and feet are so slippery with sweat that I fall over.  I continue to excel at "fallen tree pose" until we move on to floor postures that bend my runner's knees in ways that they absolutely do not like.  So, I improvise.  

Apparently, Bikram teachers do not like improvisation from students.  At all.  After this discovery, I just sit quietly feeling the sweat stream down my back into my shorts, trying not to pass out until the knee killer poses were finished.

I survive the 90 minute workout and actually succeed at most postures. My clothing is as wet as though I had jumped in a lake (which would be amazing at this point).  My towel is like I just pulled it out of the rinse cycle.  My face is red and my skin glowing.  

After I drink about a gallon of water, I sit in my comfortable 40 degree car and evaluate my being. I feel amazing.  Truly cleansed and stretched and internally calm. I then stop by the market to pick up limes and mineral water, and the check out girl tells me I smell like vanilla. (Is she hitting on me?) I laugh and told her I doubt it because I just came from an intense yoga class.  But, I think about it for a second.  I sweated so much of my stinky self out that maybe I really DO smell like vanilla!  Maybe under all of that cheese and bourbon I have a vanilla bean core!  I never would have found my true vanilla-scented self if I hadn’t finally given in to my friend who’s been pestering me for over three years to try Bikram.  This time, apparently, she asked me at the right moment.  I slept better last night than I have in months.  Almost 9 hours.

Today I am sore.  Sore hips, sore quads, sore lower back, sore shoulders.  But I feel good: calm still, which is good because cleansing can certainly bring out my inner fire; quite detoxified, both internally and externally; and apprehensively hopeful as I look ahead to my next Bikram class.  And there is still a hint of vanilla floating around...

 Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I love butter.  It is by far my favorite condiment.  I have childhood memories of butter which include watching my two-year-old sister consume most of a stick of butter that was softening on the counter to be added to cookie batter.  I remember being shocked, and then I laughed, and then I promptly told on her.

Another very fond memory that to this day sparks food cravings for me, is when Mom used to give us a snack of saltine crackers spread with butter.  I could have eaten dozens of those if I had been allowed! I have successfully found a gluten free saltine alternative, and yes I do indulge in a "saltines with butter" binge occasionally.  If the crackers are in the house, dammit they are getting buttered.

As the 1980's rolled in, butter in our house was replaced by margarine.  Mom was on a health kick and replaced everything with "low fat" alternatives.  If only the correct nutritional information and long term effects of certain ingredients had been available then, we would have likely remained a butter home.  Eventually the butter did return to the Christopher house, and I moved out into the world to be left to create my own dietary choices.

Over the years, I have become more nutritionally aware. I eat 7-10 servings of vegetables daily.  I consciously avoid refined foods (except for those GF saltines and occasional rice pasta).  I eat fresh, whole foods, cook healthful meals, and I am a gluten-free-lacto-ovo-pescetarian.  Currently, however I am not consuming dairy, and most of my fats come from nuts, seeds, coconut oil and occasional olive oil. And then there is butter. The only dairy product I eat.  Butter from grass-fed, pastured cows is loaded with nutritional benefits, plus it just tastes amazing. 

I keep a half stick of butter on the counter at all times.  If there is a cracker, you know it gets a swipe.  If there is a pumpkin seed, it gets dunked into a soft corner.  I plop it unabashedly onto steamed broccoli.  If there is popcorn, well, I don't put butter on my popcorn, but I have been known to dip a piece of popped goodness into a stick of butter.  Obviously, any food has potential to be a vehicle for butter consumption. 

I enlarged the following picture so you can actually read it.  All interesting info. 
Ancel Keys was a cutting edge scientist who studied dietary fats and their health related effects.  
He put the famous"Mediterranean Diet" together.
He hypothesized that butter was not good for us.  At all.

As you can see, the consumption of butter is a good thing!  Thank God, because, I just don't think I can shake this addiction.  Also, as a woman training for a half marathon, eating specific fats helps keep the joints lubed and the heart pumping, but eating dairy is not optimal for athletic health or performance.  Hence the restriction on cheese.  I have also discovered that cheese makes my stomach unhappy, which makes me a sad runner.  But my love affair with sweet, salty butter does not give me the same grief, so partake, I will.

I will whip this to a close, but I hope I have encouraged you to eat butter guilt free-as I do. 
Spread it.  Dip in it.  Melt it.  Enjoy it.  Lick it off your finger tips!

I suppose I should leave you with a recipe or something... 

                 THIS                                                                                                    THIS


=  delicious snack-happiness

Sunday, February 3, 2013


 I have a doberman.  Well, I actually have two dobermans, but for now I want to talk about Zeus.  He is a big 3+ year old guy-about 85 pounds-and has a pretty major anxiety disorder.  His past is mostly unknown, as I "rescued" him from an organization that absorbs animals from kill shelters and attempts to find them homes.  It seems he was kenneled for extended time periods-like up to 18 hours a day because his owner worked long hours.  He also displays signs of having been struck by either a hand or an object.  Sigh.  So I came along, and he looked deeply into my eyes and made me fall in love. 

I have always had a thing for bad boys.  Zeus is my latest.  He has been with us for almost a year, and he has taken over our daily routines, the house, and of course our hearts.  Especially mine.  He barks violently at our neighbors through the chain link fence.  Yes, they have officially complained to us about his behavior.  I secretly wish I could bark like that at them.  He attacks off-lead dogs who come to him.  I would do the same, and I have little sympathy for the owners of those dogs who have a vet bill to pay for their lawlessness.  Let me state that Zeus is strictly an on-lead dog.  He has a vest that says "Give Me Space."  Unfortunately, dogs can't read, but somehow I feel better when he is wearing it.

Well, Zeus has become my running partner.  I am currently training for my first half marathon!  It's not for several months, but we ran 7.26 miles the other day which is the farthest distance I've ever run.  Something about having Zeus with me eases the distance.  I talk to him, have to stop for him to occasionally do dog business, and of course have to be on the alert for squirrels, deer and of course other dogs that often make us change our route. 

This is something that Zeus has taught me: to be flexible.  In the past, I have set my goal, and gotten there by the most direct course, in the most efficient manner.  Zeus with his anxiety has given me an opportunity I have never given myself: a change course option.  This is something that has translated to other areas of my life, not just running with the dog.  I have become less rigid and a little more relaxed if I have to alter my plans.  It's a good thing.  It's also kind of funny that it is something I had to learn from my dog.