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NOTHING BEATS HIKING FOR AUTUMN FITNESS

Mt.Laramore, Vermont, 9-16-2017.lfreeman

Nothing beats hiking for autumn fitness – at least not here in New England. If you do not live in an area of seasonal changes, please plan to visit. Even with the strange weather conditions we have all been experiencing this year, autumn is still heralded by shorter days and falling leaves. True, temperatures have been disturbingly higher than usual, but it appears we are now back on track and the 30s-50s are on their way.

Each of us has a seasonal preference. I love the summer months and can’t get enough of the outdoors. Others hide from the sun and break out when the snows fall. Thankfully there’s something for everyone in a four-season state (Though here in Vermont we credit an extra season for stick season or mud season – don’t ask!).

Typical September field and mountain scene in Northern Vermont. 9-23-2017 Greensboro.lfreeman

But why might hiking get such high marks in the fall? Serious athletes are often transitioning from one training or racing season to another and there’s a short lull in their work. Recreationally active individuals are eager to rebound from summer sports and land on something significant enough to tax their muscles yet relaxing enough to calm their hectic brains.

HIKING – For purposes of this post, hiking refers to trails that go up and down, over brooks and around boulders. Rocks, roots, ruts, mud, stone steps, wooden planks, ladders, ledge, exposure, fragile vegetation and weather conditions are all parts of the hiking experience. Trails, such as the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail provide sections or side hikes that offer day hikers a piece of the pleasure of a thru-hike. Though walking paths through towns, fields or forests are very pleasant and surely an excellent outdoor experience in and of themselves, that’s not what we’re talking about here. Nor are the more extreme hikes of weeks or even months that demand a level of expertise, fitness and preparedness beyond that of the day hike.

PROS – Most able bodied individuals who can walk can hike. Get outdoors. Gain strength, agility, endurance. See beautiful sights along the trail and vistas from the top. Hike alone or with others. Steady pace is calming and allows time to think. Get away from it all for even a few hours. Feed your appetite for adventure and challenge. Enjoy a sense of accomplishment when you return to your car.

CONS – Most disadvantages of hiking can be summed up in one word – preparedness (or lack there of). Finding yourself on a hike that is too long or too strenuous is a deal breaker. Blisters or strained ankles from inappropriate footwear can ruin an otherwise remarkable day. Getting lost, failing to carry water or food, not enough layers to be comfortable in cooler temperatures at the top or unanticipated rain … the list could go on and on.

PREPARATION – Though I said this above: Most able bodied individuals who can walk can hike… Gain strength, agility, endurance, it also must be said that preparation is critical to thoroughly enjoy a mountainous day hike. You do need to have a certain amount of strength (especially in the lower body and core – many complain of quadriceps soreness after a good hike), a sense of balance and practice dealing with uneven terrain, and should have built a level of endurance that keeps you moving for any where from 2-8 hours. Hiking can be both a reward from having diligently maintained fitness over the preceding months and a means to enhance that fitness by its practice.

see also http://lindafreemanfitness.com/2014/05/24/hiking-promotes-demands-fitness/ 

LOVE these blazes! lfreeman

Furthermore, it is imperative to know where you are going. There are books, the internet and other resources available to help you chose a trail that is appropriate for you and/or your group. Personally I like to back up my cell phone (coverage is spotty) with AllTrails app and even a few notes on paper that will help me find my way. I rely heavily on trail markings (that white blaze is such a happy sight when I have mistakenly left the main trail) and make note of such things as unusual trees or rock formations or whether I am following a brook. (Cell phone pics are useful here.) I famously get lost driving to a trail head (even with Google maps) and then again somewhere along the trail. So perhaps my preparation is a little more significant than yours might be!

You don’t want to be a packhorse and carry so much gear as to burden your play, but you do need to have the basic necessities. My go-to pack includes water, energy bars, gloves, hat, at least one long sleeved layer and a windbreaker. I usually add dry socks, sunscreen, insect repellant, small first aid kit, cell phone and headlamp. Basically I know the distance I intend to hike and that I will probably not run into trouble. (I have, however, exited a hike at the wrong place necessitating several miles of road walking to find my car.) I also know that hikers are very friendly and will help each other if possible. If you rely on this, be sure to choose a hike that is heavily trafficked!

Elmore Mountain trail (now expanded with Ridge Loop trail) 9-17-2017. lfreeman

HIKING WITH MY DOG – For many years I have wanted to hike but am usually alone so have been hesitant. As a city slicker pretending to be an active outdoors Vermont girl, I’m pretty much a wuss. This year I have upped the ante and have hiked as often as possible. My now one-year old Lab, Sophie, is my constant companion. We have played in the woods on local trails, MTB trails, and town forests – all of which are great for building up both conditioning and behavior on long days when there is plenty of time after work in the evenings to do so. We laid the foundation for several months (on leash and off) before heading to the hills.

Now we are adventuring every weekend and plan to move up to New Hampshire’s 4000 footers in the near future. I am learning how to pack her water, leash, treats, extra food, and water bowl. I have studied a wonderful little guide to hiking with your dog in New Hampshire and Vermont. Though written in 2005 and somewhat dated, it is super helpful. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0898869889/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I do my best to practice good trail manners, leash my pup when it is best to do so and unleash her when it is equally appropriate. On a good day, on a busy hike, she will be leashed and sit to the side and wait while hikers pass. On a good day off leash on a lightly traveled hike she will run up to greet an oncoming hiker, but sit when she gets there and wag her tail. If another dog is off leash, I allow her to be the same and often she and her new friends romp for a few minutes while we proud parents swap dog stories. If all dogs are leashed, it’s harder as she is uber eager to make new friends. In fact, as you might expect, my Lab pup is often uber eager about most things.

Sophie after Mt Cube’s 7 miles with lots of vertical and play time in the woods and brook! lfreeman

Alas, another Hiking Pro – she sleeps very well after a long hike!

WHAT NEXT? – What happens next is anyone’s guess. As the days grow shorter we working folks have less time for the outdoors and often become weekend warriors. Hiking trails become treacherous in fall rains and wet leaves and downright nasty when covered by thin layers of ice. Maybe it’s back to walking the country roads for a few weeks? But then the white stuff will come to beautify the world and nudge us on from boots to microspikes to snowshoes to skis and to more fun adventures ahead. The trick is to just keep getting out there, right?

KELLY BRUSH RIDE 2017 – PLAYING SMALL OR LIVING LARGE

PLAYING SMALL OR LIVING LARGE – Sometimes, the unimaginable does actually happen. I find it beyond comprehension, even arrogant, to try to understand, or worse, experience, what it must be like to be so completely different from other “normal,” able-bodied humans that when your brain says “do this,” your body says “no.” Sure, we all get fatigued; we complain that after a long day on the hill, many miles cycled or many feet climbed our “legs feel like led” and it’s hard to walk up/down the steps. (And then, of course, there’s that old goodie – after too many squats and lunges you just can’t get up off the toilet seat!) But to know the reality of bodies that simply don’t move, don’t’ get the message, is just … beyond.

Hand cyclists at the start of the Kelly Brush Ride 2017 at which the fund-raising goal of $500,000 was surpassed.

KELLY BRUSH DAVISSON – I invite you to go to www.kellybrushfoundation.org where you will find more information than I can even hint at in this post. Read Kelly’s story. From the ski racing accident that left her permanently paralyzed (T7 and below), to her many athletic achievements, career, marriage, childbirth (yup, all but the labor pains), motherhood, and who knows what she might choose to address in future years.

But for Kelly and her husband Zeke Davisson, it’s now all about (parenting, of course and) the Kelly Brush Foundation which works aggressively year round to raise funds to translate into grants for adaptive sports equipment for those challenged by spinal cord injuries and to help promote ski racing safety.

You might want to check out the story I wrote for the Rutland Herald and Times Argus Active Vermont page after meeting with Kelly and Zeke in Maine in 2015.http://lindafreemanfitness.com/2015/08/27/kelly-brush-century-ride/ What I remember most, and what compels me to continually support the KBF, is: There are two types of individuals who submit grant applications. One is clearly the athlete, perhaps injured during his or her athletic pursuit. The other is the individual who may or may not have been previously active but suddenly sees the possibilities of adding something to his or her altered life expectations. Adaptive sports programs that offer coaching and equipment fill an essential role in developing adaptive athletes and introducing the potential to engage in sports. “We want to be the next step,” Zeke said. “We want to offer to that individual the ability to take ownership of an active lifestyle, and to be able to join family and friends when and where the opportunity exists.”

Initially I had decided not to ride this summer as I would be indulging in my study and practice of yoga and the joys of walking and hiking with my growing Lab pup. With a full work schedule, there are only so many hours to go around; but …

STOP PLAYING SMALL – I met Alison Heilig at Teaching Yoga to Athletes training with Sage Rountree at Kripalu in January 2017. We became instant friends. She is an amazing woman who gives freely and puts herself out there with complete honesty. Earlier this summer she posted this on her Facebook page and it hit home:

“Yesterday I made a decision to put myself out there in a way that’s incredibly exciting but also terrifyingly vulnerable – triggering the broken record of all my old, familiar doubts and fears. I can feel myself wanting to contract, slow down, pull back and shrink into comfort. But it’s time to stop playing small – I can feel it in my bones. So here I go, feeling the uncomfortable sensation of fear … and doing it anyway.” Alison Heilig http://thepursuitofawesome.com

I chewed on this a bit and wondered what I might do. Nothing? But then eventually I knew. In other years I had trained meticulously for my cycling season, which had always culminated in the Kelly Brush Century Ride. Drifting into purposeless activity had not been satisfying. So, I registered for the Event, lubed my bike and hit the road. Once the commitment was made, it felt good. Besides, as a Personal Trainer, I know that motivation and accountability are key components to any successful fitness endeavor. Signing up for something is a solid dose of both!

This is what I posted on my Participant’s Page for the Ride: “Each year this amazing ride is personally different and unique. My son Teague and his wife Tara rode the Kelly Brush Ride together in 2009 – it was Teague’s first, but Tara, one of Kelly’s Middlebury Ski Teammates, has been in since the beginning. I was on the course in 2009, but as a journalist, not a cyclist. The following year my first ever century ride was, yup, you guessed it, the Kelly Brush Century. And it was painful – on a heavy bike and only my first year riding on the road (actually my first year on a bike – no kidding).
Six years and many centuries later, I met my time goal, wearing Tara’s original jersey, and had the most fun ever. My first 50 were with Teague on my wheel and I couldn’t have been happier.
Each year has been special and meaningful – whether 50 or 100 (or one year something in between) – each has been an achievement and a poignant reminder of why I was out there – connecting with adaptive cyclists of all types. My rides have integrated training, goals, family, friends, and purpose. I value the friendship of Kelly and Zeke and am constantly humbled by Kelly’s courage. Is there anything this woman cannot do?!
Frankly, I had not intended to participate this year. But one day, walking my Lab puppy around Berlin Pond, I passed a hand cyclist clearly in training. I called out “Hey! Are you doing the Kelly Brush Ride?” He smiled a huge smile and replied “YES!” So, of course, I said “See you there!” I was still on the fence, but a few days later Teague gave me a nudge.
So, here I am. In a very small way, I know the gratification of digging deep (if only for a few hours) and reaching a goal. Once again this year I have a goal – a cycling goal and a fund raising goal – to help support the Kelly Brush Foundation and all the recipients of their work.”

Cycling partners-keeping it in the family. KBRide, 2017.

POST RIDE – Bottom line, I rode those 50 miles (which might previously have been an easy trek, but which made me reach), with huge pleasure and finished with gratification.Furthermore, I added to my collection yet another ride with my kid

Oh yes, there’s plenty more – I supported a cause in which I deeply believe. I rode for these brilliant people on the road with me and I rode for those who got out their checkbooks (figuratively) to support me. [A few #s: 810 riders; $514,499 raised.]

I’m glad I chose to take the risk, do the work, and breathe through my anxiety. I’m glad I chose to stop playing small. As I said, it felt good.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2018 – KELLY BRUSH RIDE 2018 – It’s on my calendar. How about yours?

LF greeting a biker on the Kelly Brush Century Ride.

DUALITIES. BALANCE. THINK ABOUT IT.

Dualities. Balance. Yin and Yang. Effort and ease. Activity and stillness. Community and solitude. Sound and silence. The list just might be infinite. Sage Rountree (http://sagerountree.com) introduced the concept of dualities to those of us participating in training at Kripalu to Teach Yoga to Athletes. It is a profound concept.

It’s something we think about – a lot – in the practice of Yoga. Life is so full of ups and downs, ins and outs, happy and sad, ease and disease. Our quality of life, our emotional and mental stability, in fact our very lives, depend on the balance of these opposites, these dualities, these partners in each individual existence. And it is, in fact, a balance rather than the elimination of one or the other. Many dualities are equally positive or equally challenging, just different. Often it is a matter of coincidence, coordination, comingling, cooperation.

In our Yoga practice, we give equal time to stretch and strength, twist and bend, prone and supine, kneeling, standing, lunging, forward fold, back bend, Tadasana and Savasana. And those are just the Asanas, or physical poses. (Asanas are but one of the eight limbs of Yoga so there’s plenty more to practice!)

In the gym we make certain to cover all our bases: warm up and cool down, challenge ourselves aerobically, build muscular strength, enhance quickness and coordination, balance without falling as well as balancing opposing muscle groups in training, and, of course, flexibility.

Once again I am reminded of the shared elements of all forms of training. Yoga has been around for a very long time, so coincidences in functional training, physical therapy, Pilates, and so much more can usually be traced back to some form of Yoga. Likewise, practice in one discipline aids performance in another.

Perhaps I find it most significant to remember that there is no right or wrong. Of course, asking each individual body to move in a way appropriate to that body, seeking maximal alignment for each, is key. Repeatedly practicing a movement, a training exercise or a Yoga pose inappropriately leads only to overuse or even wear and tear that negates the effort invested over long periods of time.

But that being said, there should be no feuds between instructors, coaches, athletes, or schools of practice.

Josh Summers (https://joshsummers.net/podcast/what-is-yin-yoga/) presents an excellent definition of Yin Yoga. The notion that Yin and Yang are BOTH valid and should BOTH be practiced, simply triggers the imagination to consider the value of blending opposites of all kinds.

Balance is, after all, equilibrium.

*****************************************************************

For the past three weeks I have indulged in shared time spent with my dog, or friends, or family. Each dynamic generously gifts its own special blessing. This year has been different from past in that my “me-time” has been with my 11 month old Lab. (As my brother quipped, “it’s just like having a toddler!”) She has been by my side for multiple and daily trail walks, swims, off leash runs/on leash training, and even a little rock scrambling in Camdenhttp://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/camden-hills-state-park-interior-trail-network). We’ve both learned a great deal about each other and have kept each other moving almost constantly, mutually increasing fitness as we go.

Balancing outdoor activity have been hours of Yoga practice (both Vinyasa and Yin at Freeport Yoga Company, http://freeportyogaco.com) and the deck.

Time spent on the deck where I am living is time sketched in gold. Vivid oranges and pinks fire up the day even before the sun makes its early appearance, bouncing color and energy off the surface of the water. (No wonder Sun Salutations are integral to one’s Yoga practice.) Though the sunset on the other side of the peninsula is equally dramatic, there is something oh so lovely about its residual glow from our deck. And the full moon? There are not words …. But if it weren’t for the deck, would I pause to sit there and observe?

The deck is the intuitive gathering place for all of us. Sophie could sit there and look for hours. My family and I can talk endlessly, but there always comes the fall into a reverent or contemplative silence – just watching. Tides ebb and flow, lobster boats motor up and down the sound working while I play, fish rise and re-enter with a significant slap, ducks search for food as cormorants dive under for so long I wonder if they’ll ever reappear. They do.

But it is not in stillness that my random thoughts are born. Movement, not stillness, generates curiosity, the attempt to define, ponder or even organize what floats in and out of mind. Hours spent hiking the trails, walking the rocky shoreline, or riding the roads are the hours that produce thoughts that beg follow up study.

So, in my experience this summer, it seems that balance has been paramount. The Yin and Yang of the hours teach. May I be a receptive student.

CREATE YOUR OWN, PERSONAL LOGO? WHY NOT?

 

A logo is a symbol that helps to represent or identify a particular business, organization or individual. A logo plays a key role in “branding.”

Did you notice that I said “individual?” Do you have a logo? If not, why not?

Creating your own, personal logo is not just crafting a design, but it is an exercise in probing who you are, how you identify, what you would like others to see in you, and perhaps peeling away a few layers to find core values, purpose and preferences.

After developing this website in 2014, I waited to work with a professional to design a logo. I’m glad I waited. This is not something to do frivolously or hurriedly. And, most likely, it is not something to do only once.

With a few simple lines, colors or words, one must snapshot a profession, service, career, qualifications, or even a belief system. Good grief! While a logo might characterize services available, it equally suggests more intrinsic values and personality.

Let me use my own new logo as an example. While I chose to work with a professional designer, it was also significant that she is a friend who knows me – my work and enthusiasm. What I thought would be a quick and easy exercise (since I had done plenty of groundwork prior to our first meeting), turned into months of give and take, trial and error, introspection and expression.

Professionally I have altered my course. Yes, I am still a dedicated Personal Trainer working with individuals and small groups. Yes, I have untold hours of continuing education and training in many aspects of fitness, sports performance and rehabilitation. And while I am still passionate about cycling, I am no longer teaching multiple Spinning® classes per week or spending hours and indeed days on the road riding and training.

My life has taken a turn that perhaps is more a continuum, bringing me back full circle to my early days. As a 13 year old, I began a series of 3 summers on scholarship at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Lee, Massachusetts. (I went on to have a long and successful classical dance career performing and later teaching.) When I began the study of yoga in January 2015, I attended an eye-opening workshop, Yoga for Athletes, with Sage Rountree, at Kripalu – just a stone’s throw from Jacob’s Pillow. Full circle?

In any event, I am now a dedicated Yoga practitioner, thrilled to be a student, and, with my RYT 200 completed, am on my way to 500 hours. I am also eager to share what I am learning, to enrich the work that I do with my clients and classes, and perhaps more. I am also passionate about family, Vermont, the outdoors, and well-being in its broadest sense.

Linda Freeman Fitness logo designed by
Carrie Baker Stahler, 2017.

Therefore my logo embodies more than a superficial business. Hopefully this one small design suggests life, health and wholeness as organic – to be lived, loved and savored.

The central design suggests an athletic body in a yoga pose that is part of the Dancing Warrior sequence, a composite of strength and grace. The mountain is Camel’s Hump, Central Vermont’s well-loved and well-hiked mountain.

The rings represent miles of cycling as well as full circles or life’s spirals. The colors? Spring green is all about newness, freshness, birth, curiosity and possibilities. Shades of blue touch on the spiritual. And orange? Orange, of course, is all about fun: laughter, playfulness, the ability to let go, be spontaneous, recognize happiness, honor joy.

It is quite possible that when I look at this logo, only I know what brought this design into being. That’s ok. It works.

What about you? You may well have a professional or business logo with which you work day in and day out. But what about yourself? Given the opportunity, how would you design a logo for yourself? What would you like to put out there for others to see? What would your logo say about you? Are you willing to expose yourself, to share, to relate, to touch?

Designing a logo can be fun/meaningful; frivolous/intense; disturbing/satisfying….

“Given the opportunity?” Well, why not? Maybe it will be just for you, tucked away in a journal or the wallpaper on your computer screen. But I suggest that the process of conceiving a personal logo is an act of self-awareness, identification and perhaps meeting yourself as others might meet you. Go ahead. Take the “opportunity” and have a go at it. What have you got to lose?

EVERYONE DESERVES YOGA

 

While at Kripalu in January, I picked up this post card.

EVERYONE DESERVES YOGA. courtesy of Kripalu

EVERYONE DESERVES YOGA. courtesy of Kripalu

It is a request for donations to help share the Yoga experience, but the message is an apt reminder that Yoga is, indeed, for everyone. Whatever one’s age, physical ability, educational, social or political beliefs, anyone and everyone has within his or her reach the practice of Yoga.

Full disclosure. Oh how I resisted Yoga! With a long-ago professional ballet career in my resume and a boatload of training and certifications as Personal Trainer, athlete and Fitness Professional, I was sure that, in addition to strength and cardio training, a sensible, flexibility routine was all that one needed to remain healthfully fit and functionally sound.

Then, just two years ago, I woke up one morning and thought “Yoga is missing.” A quick check on my computer identified an attractive Yoga studio just minutes from my house. “Serendipity,” I thought. And I was off.

I began with a one-hour class each week. Then two. Then I explored classes in my area and while on vacation. I started to read. And read. Bottom line, I was, and am, HOOKED. Within weeks I will have completed three certifications including my basic 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, Teaching Yoga to Athletes, and level one of YIN yoga.

I am fully cognizant that this is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, the scratch on the surface. Yoga is so very much more than the asanas (the Yoga poses) and the “workout.” Yoga is the epitome of mind-body connection. In fact, it sounds trite to say even that. I am humbled by all that Yoga is. I do not have enough years left available to me to learn enough about Yoga to teach the many aspects of the practice, but I can share what I do know and share my respect for this ancient wisdom.

Perhaps the first thing I want to share is this – whoever you are and whatever you do, wherever you are in life’s journey, I encourage you to cast aside preconceived notions, find a legitimate Yoga studio in your area and begin at the beginning. Check in with the studio, introduce yourself as a newbie, ask about an appropriate class to attend, and then attend several. Give it a chance. Take time to openly experience breathing techniques, flexibility, balance, and, yes, strength challenges, honor Savasana (you might welcome the stillness at the end of the class or be popping to get on with your day, but stay…) and listen to the cues flowing from your instructor. Then pay heed. How do you feel later the day of your class, the next day, the day after? Do you notice a change in your energy, your mental acuity, or your spirits? Does your body feel leaner, primed? (Over time you will even note that your performance is enhanced and you acquire tools to help you get through your days, activities, workouts, meetings and competitions.)

Remember Yoga has been around for thousands of years. You are not going to take a big bite out of it in just a few weeks. Become an observer, a participant and a friend.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey), “Everyone deserves a few moments when life is quite perfect.” Might those few moments be found in Yoga practice? .imagesYes, Yoga is for everyone and Yes, EVERYONE DESERVES YOGA.

YOGA FOR ATHLETES revisited

January 2016 I attended a weekend workshop at Kripalu that set me on a new course. I wrote of my experience for Active Vermont. You can read it again here if you’d like:  http://lindafreemanfitness.com/2016/02/09/yoga-for-athletes/ 

IMG_2028That was my first visit to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. I vowed then it would not be my last, and so it hasn’t been.

When attending a workshop or training program at Kripalu, the participant has the option to enjoy privacy and personal space or to engage in community whether choosing to bunk in a dorm setting or eat alone in the silent dining room. Furthermore, there are multiple daily classes from which to choose, discussions to attend and indulgences to be savored such as massage, facials, and Ayurvedic or Yoga personalized private consultations.

In 2016 I thought perhaps I had simply dropped into a happy coincidence of people and events when my experience was as good as it gets. I learned ever so much, appreciated the opportunity to meet and interview Sage Rountree, and bonded with my roommates to the extent that we have continued to keep in touch since.

Having also vowed to return in 2017 for the longer training “Teaching Yoga to Athletes,” you can imagine my delight when I checked in and found that my bunk mate was none other than one of my 2016 friends and another roommate was a professional and personal friend from my home state. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. As the week progressed, all of us in the training connected on what I feel confident will prove to be a deep, meaningful and lasting way.IMG_2060

I tell you this because connection is perhaps what our training is all about. Whether we are competitive athletes or individuals seeking health and fitness, training must be about ever so much more than running faster, lifting more, or achieving maximum performance while letting everything else fall by the wayside.

Here is what Sage Rountree wrote in part in her Manifesto: Yoga for Athletes:  “Yoga aids athletes by increasing holistic, organic strength; by creating enough flexibility in the muscles and range of motion in the joints so that they can move fluidly; and by sharpening mental focus. Yoga, then, is an approach to balance: balance of the body in space; balance between strength and flexibility, sthira and sukha; balance between work and rest, doing and being; balance of mind, body, and spirit.”

Yoga for Athletes is NOT athletic Yoga. (We quipped that Yoga for Athletes could also be called Yoga for Tight and Tired People!) An athlete’s training schedule is periodized to functionally perfect his or her sport and sport’s season. The practice of Yoga during that cycle must not compete with the sports specific training, but balance and enhance it. Sage continues: “Yoga offers a system for connection, not just exercises or workouts.”

In the weeks and months ahead I will continue to blog about Yoga – Yoga for every and any body, for every and any purpose. I am new to the practice of Yoga, having begun only two years ago. I could not presume to have more than scratched the surface of this ages old practice, but what little I have learned, I am eager to share with you.

The practice of Yoga, as Rountree points out, connects opposites that need to be connected: stress and rest, strength and flexibility, stability and mobility, what we want and what we need, to name just a few factors of duality.

If you have not already added Yoga practice to your life, I encourage you to do so. Won’t you join me in this journey? Once begun, we will connect the dots: explore the relationship between practicing Pranayama, or breathing, Asanas, or physical poses, core strength and stability, meditation, and Savasana – how all integrate to enhance what is perhaps the ultimate connection of mind and body. Then we will begin to explore the possibilities that our newfound connections present to us, the opportunities heretofore limited and the goals and objectives we dare to dream.IMG_2048

CHANGE – SEASONAL, PERSONAL AND ATHLETIC

 

October at Blueberry Lake in Warren, Vermont. L. Freeman

October at Blueberry Lake in Warren, Vermont. L. Freeman

Periodized training often corresponds to seasonal changes, sports and each individual’s personal preferences. Here in Vermont the autumn of 2016 has been sunny, warm and dangerously dry. However, it has also been an excellent season to view an unusually vibrant foliage season and steal as many outdoor hours as possible to train and/or play.

Transition means integrating the new with the old - not replacement. L.Freeman

Transition means integrating the new with the old – not replacement. L.Freeman

Fall can be a tricky time. For those of us who thrive in the warmer months of high energy and correspondingly high enthusiasm, the shorter days and cooler temperatures of autumn can drop us into a bleak state of imbalance, susceptible to cold, low energy and a lack of motivation. Perhaps it is the loss of summer’s bounty that makes us feel this way – the inability to play late in the day after work, the need for layers of clothing, (and, yes, gloves), the loss of our cycling season (for those of us who road bike only above 50 degrees!), the advent of hunting seasons that limit our hiking and woods time, and an undefined heaviness of heart that manifests itself in leaden legs and slow feet.

Contrasting greens and colors mimic our need for balance from summer to winter. L.Freeman

Contrasting greens and colors mimic our need for balance from summer to winter. L.Freeman

Yoga students might find that they check the boxes of VATA characteristics and determine that this year they will find balance through their Yoga practice. Athletes might begin their transition into the gym to emphasize strength training to support their summer aerobic training and activities. Fitness enthusiasts might need to join classes to maintain motivation and to replace their after-dinner walks or group activities on lakes or trails.

Though water shortage is not good, there is something positive about being able to explore new shores. L.Freeman

Then there are the others who are chomping at the bit for the first signs of snow – those who wait and/or train for months following the spring’s melt until there is enough snow cover to pursue their sport. For skiers and boarders the long hours of endurance work are done and they are already ramping it up for strength, power, quickness and agility, activities that generate enough body heat to eventually nullify freezing temperatures.

We are so very individual – in body type, preference, adaptation and spirit. There is no right or wrong. We are all needed to complete the human portrait.

A sense of humor helps make any journey lighter! L.Freeman

A sense of humor helps make any journey lighter! L.Freeman

Balance may well be the key to transitioning from one season to the next. We live and move and breathe in cycles; the pendulum swings from lethargy to adrenalin, weak to strong, slow to fast, defeated to victorious. Should we fight or go with the flow? Should we make excuses for ourselves or push through? Is there something wrong with us? NO. We are fine. We are human. We ebb and flow like the ocean, rise and set like the sun and moon, and change as the seasons.

There are tools to be used and our contemporary civilization is seeking answers to ancient questions. It’s true, some are affected quite seriously by seasonal disorders and need more that self-help. But others of us who simply notice our seasonal preferences might want to delve more deeply into researching tools that are available such as updated information about nutrition, sleep, meditation, exercise and counsel.

Adjust the lens. Look for something you might otherwise pass by. L.Freeman

Adjust the lens. Look for something you might otherwise pass by. L.Freeman

Plan ahead. Just as you would fill your backpack with fuel, liquids, layers, cell phone and other safety needs prior to a hike, so fill your toolbox of helpful aids as changes near. For example, when you must put your kayak or road bike away for the season, replace those hours with something different such as mountain biking, walking or, when appropriate, hiking. Not only will you work different muscles while maintaining a certain amount of aerobic conditioning, you will also begin to acclimate your body and resistance to cooling temperatures. And then there’s the concept of trying something new like indoor climbing, swimming, Spinning®, martial arts, Yoga or square dancing.

Enough said. YOU are the one to best identify your needs and select options that spur your interest and tease your motivation.

Even a setting sun coaxes new sights and colors to the field of vision - physical and emotional. L.Freeman

Even a setting sun coaxes new sights and colors to the field of vision – physical and emotional. L.Freeman

Bottom line? Plan ahead; seek balance; try something new; take heart. Each season ultimately segues into the next whether we like it or not!

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October 18. 2016:  I have heard from a number of you that this time of year is all about putting things away. In the spring we get “things” out – sports equipment, gardening supplies, etc and now we put them away. It is also a time of harvest. In the spring we plant, and in the autumn we reap. Perhaps here in Vermont we mimic the former farming lifestyle that turned inward during the wintemonths to mend harnesses rather than plow fields.

Read what one of you had to say about autumn:

“I love the changes that accompany the fall season.

The garden has been put to bed, the fields mowed,

the woodshed is full and it is time to explore the

woods. You see things during stick season you

never see any other time of year and hunting lends

a bit of excitement and focus. As soon as the hunting

season ends we can put on our skis and skim along

through the serene, brilliant white landscape in

the cold and invigorating air. Then you come inside

to the warmth of a wood stove, a hearty dinner and a

night of reading and listening to classical music.

What could be better.”                                  Rodney Buck

OVERLOAD

The training principle of overload demands self-discipline, balance and the knowledge to use it well. Overload is for everyone – young and old, novice and expert, recreational and competitive, fitness enthusiast and pro, but must be used judiciously – not EVERY time, but often enough to keep one’s options open.

Every time I hear the word “OVERLOAD,” I think of Patrick Swayze and “Dirty Dancing.” And for you kids, yes, a generation (or more) of us fell in love with either Swayze or Jennifer Gray nearly 30 years ago. And I’ll just bet some of us are still singing those songs.

Overload, however, is also a training principle without which an athlete or fitness enthusiast of any level cannot progress.

Even Mark Twain knew about overload. “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got,” he said.

Usually there is more. Overload opens the door to dreams and goals, possibilities and opportunities. Without overload we simply stay where we are. Briefly. Maintenance is an ambiguous concept. Can one really stand still? Or is it true that if we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward?

EXERCISE

What do you call it, that thing you do that falls somewhere under the heading of exercise? Training? Working out? Being active? Moving? It really doesn’t matter what you name your exercise or even how you define it; the principles are the same. Getting in a rut is bad; moving forward is good.

The athlete who trains to keep up with his 10 year old on a hike to the top of Mt. Abe is not really so very different from the athlete who trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Furthermore, neither is far removed from the sedentary office worker whose doctor mandated weight loss or the joint replacement patient putting one foot in front of the other through rehab.

If exercise, or training, or working out, or any form of “purposeful activity” is on your radar, then you are part of a growing community that values the importance of movement for performance and/or wellness.

Some of you adhere to regular plans; some of you are still in the planning stages. But wherever you are, you are looking at a journey. As time goes on, you become leaner, stronger, faster, more energetic, flexible, knowledgeable and finally more dedicated to your quest. In fact, as you continue to push back your previously perceived limitations and enlarge your possibilities, the more important your active lifestyle will become.

TRAINING PRINCIPLES

Pause for a minute or two. Take out a piece of paper and a pen, or type in a few notes on your iPad. Make a list. Think about it. Hammer out 10 things you think are important to your exercise plan.

Now check your list to see if any of these words appear: doctor’s approval, preparation, motivation, accountability, assessment, measurement, goal, time, recovery, sleep, nutrition, hydration, balance, base building, endurance, strength, speed, flexibility, agility, overload, specificity, tools, partner, race, cross-training, class, solo, commitment, play, gear.

We could do this all day. But it’s up to you to choose 10 fitness training elements that work for you. Remember, you might hold in your hand a perfectly conceived plan, one that has been developed to meet your personal goal and to take you from where you are right now to where you will be when you reach that goal. But, if you do not DO it, that perfect plan is worthless.

Let’s consider just two training principles that might act as reminders of what you already know, or a few good ideas to incorporate in your top 10 list.

THE PRINCIPLE OF BALANCE

The word balance touches upon what is mental, emotional and physical. We speak of balancing appointments, budgets, nutrition and rest just as often as we consider the balance needed to maneuver a ropes course or stand in tree pose. It is no surprise, therefore, that your fitness plan needs to be balanced.

You need long days, short days, hard days, easy days, fast days, slow days, flats, hills, intervals, that which is serious and that which is just plain fun.

Do you hear your friends rave about how hard a class might be or how completely depleted they were after a particular workout? That’s good. But not every time.

Your body needs regular practice going the distance as well. You need to teach your body to recover both within the context of a training session and before the next one. Your workouts must include the commitment to finish as well as start; to accept moderation as well as stress. As we like to say, “It’s all good.”

THE PRINCIPLE OF OVERLOAD

This brings us back to the principle of overload. For some, overload is the fun stuff; for others, sheer dread. To progress, to move forward, you need it so go ahead and embrace it.

“The Overload Principle is a basic sports fitness training concept. It means that in order to improve, athletes must continually work harder as their bodies adjust to existing workouts.” www.sports-training-adviser.com/overloadprinciple

Elizabeth Quinn (www.verywell.com, January 2016) wrote this about overload: “Definition: The principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. The body will adapt to this stimulus. Once the body has adapted then a different stimulus is required to continue the change. In order for a muscle (including the heart) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it is used to. To increase endurance, muscles must work for a longer period of time than they are used to. If this stress is removed or decreased there will be a decrease in that particular component of fitness.”

Overload is appropriate, therefore, to building strength as well as endurance. By increasing resistance and/or repetitions, the body responds with increased strength. Increase time and/or distance, the body responds with increased endurance.

Note: such increase must be done in a safe and deliberate way in order to build rather than injure. Also note that as Quinn said, the opposite, decreasing intensity, causes a loss of power or fitness.

MOVING FORWARD

It is already the first weekend in August. Summer vacation times come early for some and later for others, perhaps when the season has matured. Goldenrod is prolific; back-to-school specials are too. But there are still a few weeks to play the part. There is yet time to indulge in activities best enjoyed at a pace and intensity suitable to summer.

While doing so, why not anticipate the months ahead and develop a plan? You’ve made a list and pondered some of the many elements of fitness training. Take another look at that list and be sure that you have both balance and overload on it. Then get ready to take the next step, the step forward from where you are and headed in the direction of where you want to be in your fitness future.

HEAT, HUMIDITY, EXERCISE & EDIBLE SUNSCREEN

Respect the impact of summer elements on your exercise.

You either like the heat, or you don’t. Those who live in Vermont because they prefer cooler temperatures, and snow and winter sports, just might start to complain when the thermometer hits 70 degrees. Others luxuriate in the penetrating heat of a sunny Vermont day. Both camps often agree, however, that high heat combined with elevated humidity often cause a game change.

In any event, longer daylight hours married to pleasing temperatures lure most outdoors. An added bonus is how little one needs to wear in summer versus winter conditions.

That does not mean, however, that one should be unprepared for what summer elements may produce.

— Weather: It may change any minute. If it rains, will you be prepared? Be sure to check the forecast. Right or wrong, it will at least give you a good idea of what is possible. Above all, avoid getting caught unprepared when dangerous lightening strikes.

— Heat: The condition of heat exhaustion is preventable; heat stroke is deadly. Learn the symptoms and treatments for both (see, for example, www.mayoclinic.org). Your troubles may appear initially as heat cramps. If these escalate to dizziness, hot and clammy skin, rapid pulse, headache, nausea, fatigue (to name a few symptoms), it’s time to take action. Or rather, it’s time to stop, find a cooler place (even the shade of a tree) and hydrate with water or a sports drink. Untreated, heat exhaustion can become unmanageable and dangerous. If symptoms continue for an hour and body temperature is elevated to 104 F or above, seek immediate medical attention.

A warm, dry day is an excellent time to get outdoors to train for a sport or participate in a game, competition or event. However, if conditions are adverse, best to err on the side of caution: Play it safe, dial it back, reduce the intensity or length of your training, take special care to hydrate well and spend every available minute out of the direct sun.

— Wind: Unintended consequences prevail when one embarks on an adventure on a windy day. When checking the weather forecast, also be sure to note the wind. When cycling, paddling or running, for example, a headwind is disadvantageous because of the effort involved. Yet a tailwind, though often an exciting relief, just might be more than you bargained for. On water it’s easy to be blown off course, and on a bike those pesky cross winds can be unsettling. Wind is also unexpectedly dehydrating.

— First aid: It’s smart to refresh your memory of basic first-aid and to pack along a few simple aids that could make the difference between a blip on the day and a sad experience.

— Bugs and bee stings: Oh my; these do come with the territory. Some people seem to attract insects more than others. Know your personal tolerance level and bring along whatever you need to protect yourself whether it’s a topical spray or lotion or long sleeves and pant legs, or even netting. If, of course, you are allergic to bee stings, always be prepared with an EpiPen (epinephrine injection) or whatever antidote you use, and inform your companions of your allergy.

— Poisonous plants: Learn to identify poisonous plants such as ivy, oak, sumac, parsnips, and even common plants such as sunflowers wild grapes and clematis (www.uvm.edu). Reactions to toxins from these plants vary in different individuals.

Surely when your work is in the outdoors, choices are limited and precautions take on new meaning. If, however, you are off for a day of fun, think ahead to insure a safe and pleasant outing for yourself and those with whom you spend your hours.

— Sun protection: Finally, by now, unless you live on another planet, you have heard repeated warnings to protect your skin from the ravages of skin cancer due to exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Apply and reapply sunscreen as needed.

Read below to see what Kimberly Evans, a registered dietitian, has to say about nutrition and the sun.

EDIBLE SUNSCREEN

by Kimberly Evans, MS, RD.

The sunscreen dilemma is a frequent problem with athletes and outdoor enthusiasts come summer.  One might think that this is a no brainer.  After all, for a very long time now we have been programmed to lather up on sunblock before we even step outside.  You do this to protect your skin from harmful sunrays, and therefore protect your skin from cancer.  For the most part, we can all agree that skin protection is an important consideration for those who are active outside in the summer months.

But wait, there are some cons; maybe even more cons than pros.  For one, not only does sunblock keep out harmful sun rays, it also keeps out very beneficial Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a crucial hormone-like-vitamin that not only keeps athlete’s immune systems healthy, but also plays a role in preventing stress fractures and other sports-related injuries. 

It is a good practice for active people to get vitamin D levels tested once a year, especially if they are sun-avoidant or heavy sun block users.  Salmon and mushrooms are a great natural source of Vitamin D, but many folks find that they need to take supplemental Vitamin D3.

Another very real sun block con is that many sunscreens are loaded with harmful chemicals, commonly referred to as endocrine disruptors. 

The skin is the largest organ of the body and creams, oils, and lotions applied to the skin quickly make their way into the blood stream.  Chemicals such as PABA, paraben, sulphates, phthalates, oxybenzone, and forms of Vitamin A are common sunscreen additives. 

If you lather up before going outside, a good rule of thumb is to choose a sunscreen that has strong broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, such as those containing zinc oxide.  Badger All-Natural Sunscreen and Aubrey Organics are two good examples. 

The Environmental Working Group (a non-profit research group focused on public health protection) has several guides to choosing a good sunscreen, as well as several interesting articles such as “Eight Little Known Facts About Sunscreens.”

 As a registered dietitian and food enthusiast, I find there is always a celebration to be had when food comes to the rescue. In my world it often does.  Beyond topical sunscreen, foods themselves can offer sun protection for the skin. 

The next time you are heading out for a run, hike, bike, walk, swim, round of golf or any other outdoor activity, plan a meal where you can eat your sun block or take sun protecting snacks along. 

Wait, what?  Yes. I am not talking about finding an edible sunscreen here.  I am saying that many foods in your kitchen contain natural protection against solar radiation. 

The phytochemicals in foods actually make their way to the upper layers of your skin, increasing resistance to UV damage. Think of these foods as part of your summer medicine cabinet that can be found in your kitchen and your garden.

Here are the top foods that offer skin protection.

TOMATOES. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a phytochemical that has been shown to protect the skin against sunburn.  This protein is enhanced by olive oil and cooking the tomatoes. (Bruschetta anyone?) 

AVOCADOS. The oils in avocados help protect the skin from damaging effects of the sun.  Avocados make a great addition to a smoothie, a salad, or as a sandwich spread.  (Although I have been known to simply cut them in half and eat with a spoon right out of the skin.)

APPLES, particularly red apples.  The triterpenoids in the skin of apples fight cancer cells by inducing apoptosis, or death of cancer cells.

GREEN TEA. The catechins in green tea offer skin protection.  Make a goal of two cups per day.  Green tea can be a good liquid to add to a smoothie, use in a sports drink or to make a simple iced tea.

CITRUS. Beyond the healing properties of the Vitamin C found in citrus, the essential oils found in the skin of lemons, limes, and all citrus contain limonene, an essential oil that offers a dose of skin protein when eaten.  Zest lemons or limes into your tea (hot or iced) or even onto a nut butter sandwich. (Trust me on this one; it is delish.)

OMEGA – RICH FOODS. Salmon, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are omega powerhouses.  The omega-3 fats act as sunscreen and have been shown to decrease squamous cell skin cancer by 20%.

POMEGRANATES are rich in ellagic acid and support glutathione production in the body. These phytonutrients offer antioxidant protection and fight skin damage caused by free radicals. Pomegranate juice is always available and makes a tasty pink lemonade. 

Pomegranates also make an excellent addition to guacamole. This is a win-win. Try this recipe.

Pomegranate Guacamole

 2 ripe avocados

¼ cup diced red onions

3 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp salt

½ cup finely diced cilantro (mint or parsley can be used for those non-cilantro lovers – cut down to ¼ cup)

½ cup pomegranate seeds

Halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl. Add red onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro to the bowl. Mash the mixture together with a fork. Stir in pomegranate seeds and serve with chips or crudité (jicama is very nice here)

If you are active outside in the summer, add these foods to your shopping list.  Food does not need to replace sunblock entirely, but it can work together with it to increase its effectiveness in a most tasty and delicious way. Culinary medicine is a growing science that combines the art of cooking with the emerging science of nutrition, genomics, and biochemistry. Eating your way to skin protection is just one example of culinary medicine. 

To contact Evans, email Kimberly@wholehealthnutritionvt.com or visit her website: www.wholehealthnutritionvt.com

ASANAS ON THE WATER – SUP AND YOGA

This story ran in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus on 7-10-2016, written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor and Correspondent for ACTIVE VERMONT.

Last week on the Active Vermont page you read tips on how to choose your own SUP. Once selected, what next? What can you do with a SUP? The short answer is “a lot.” A stand up paddleboard is legally a vessel and can be used much like a kayak or canoe. One or more users can navigate ponds, lakes and rivers for sport, recreation or fitness.

Standing up is a lovely way to tour. The vantage is just that much better and what is below the board is easily seen. Looking straight down you will see far more than glancing across the top of the water from a seat. Though the very idea of standing on something potentially tippy in the middle of a lake can be daunting, it’s really not so bad. In fact, there’s no rule that says you must stand. You might want to begin seated or kneeling. In fact, if there’s a stiff wind and you really need to get where you’re going, you might want to lower your mass and cut through less wind.

But back to your first time out. Because I was skeptical about the touted simplicity of SUP, what I had heard of as “user friendly,” (yeah, right), I knew I had to try it before writing about it. So I did and will share the few bits I learned.

Begin, of course, with the right SUP and the correct length paddle. Don’t forget your pfd (personal floatation device), leash, water and sunscreen. (Refer to Active Vermont, July 3, 2016.)

If you start from the shore, simply push the board out a little way, lay the paddle across like an outrigger, put one knee on the board, then the other, and voila you’re afloat.

At this point the paddle is much too long to be effective, but will do something. As soon as you are ready, take your time, find a centered balance on the board, and straighten up. At first you might be tense, (I sure was) but allow yourself to move with the board and start to paddle.

Find a functional alignment: feet parallel, about hip-width apart, toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent tracking over the toes, back erect, and looking where you are going. “Much like bicycling, when your forward momentum increases, your stability increases as well.” (www.rei.com)

With one hand over the end of the paddle and the other partway down the shaft, begin to make sweeping strokes close to the board. There is a way to refine a “J” stroke that will help keep you tracking forward, but you will need to switch sides regularly anyway. The longer you’re on the board, the more comfortable you will be. Try standing slightly fore or aft and see what effect that has on your paddling. Practice turning and using so many of the same techniques that you would use with a canoe. The wider your board, the more stable. Soon, however, unless the water is really disturbed, you should find yourself relaxing and enjoying the ride. And, oh yes, don’t forget that the strength of the paddle stroke comes from your core and not just arms and shoulders. With arms relatively straight, twist from your torso to execute the stroke. Paddle wrong and you’ll tire too quickly.

“The paddle in the water is your 3rd leg of stability,” Mike Strojny said. As assistant retail manager at Umiak Outfitters, he has seen many newcomers to SUP. “A couple hours and you should be good. Wrong equipment is a problem. When it comes to technique, a lesson helps accelerate the learning curve.”

Finally, wear a swim suit. If you fall, you want to fall into the water, not on the board. Just be cool and pretend you meant to take a dip.

YOGA and SUP 

Yoga on a stand up paddleboard is not new. In fact, Wikipedia refers to this as an “emerging sport,” and cites its acceptance within an “international community.”

The Huffington Post lists the following reasons to practice Yoga on a paddle board. Certainly, if your Yoga is getting stale, SUP makes it a uniquely different experience. Because of the unstable base, you need to refine your technique and, in the process, get a better workout. Once you accomplish your goals, there is a sense of empowerment; and, because it is “a touch scary,” your success is well-earned. Furthermore, it is noted that the practice can be calming with more attention paid to breathing. It’s fun and it’s beautiful.

A quick Google search will find SUP and Yoga alive and thriving in Vermont. In the Killington area SUP Yoga is in its fourth season. (www.killingtonYoga .com). At Waterbury Reservoir both Grateful Yoga and Siren SUP with Merin Perretta and Anjali Budreski offer multiple classes each week into September. (www.umiak.com).

“FLOAT YOUR YOGA ”

Merin Peretta, SUP yoga.

Merin Perretta, SUP yoga. Photo courtesy of Merin Perretta.

Merin Perretta brings to her teaching a rich and varied background with personal, physical and intellectual depth. “I took my first Yoga class at the age of 15 or 16 with my sister at a Community Center in Newton, Ma,” Perretta said. “There was a lot of meditation and I liked it.”

Perretta has always been fitness-based and athletic. Her Yoga experience “planted the seed. It took a long time to germinate and set down roots.” First there was a move to the Northeast Kingdom where she found a little studio that “drew me in,” she said. As her Yoga learning and practice continued, Perretta went on to enhance her bachelors degree in medical sociology with a masters degree in counseling. Today in Montpelier Perretta pursues mind-body integration through her work as a certified personal trainer and Yoga instructor.

When Perretta and Budreski met, “we totally hit it off,” Perretta said. Both teach at Yoga Mountain in Monteplier. “I’ve learned so much,” Perretta said. “I’ve found my Yoga platform at Yoga Mountain.” Perretta and Budreski both love SUP and both love Yoga . “We’ve got to bring this to people,” they said. Siren SUP was born of their shared enthusiasm. The two became business partners planning their SUP classes as well as a trip to Costa Rica in March 2017 to a surf and paddleboard destination where they hope to work with women of all ages, engaging all the element of youth, coming of age, and maturity. It will be about sister groups, partnering, Yoga and, of course, SUP. (For more information visit http://trilliumhealthworks.com)

My own experience with Yoga on a paddleboard happened a few weeks ago on a beautiful, though breezy, sunny day on Curtis Pond in central Vermont under the guidance of Merin Perretta. I had never, ever, been on or near a paddleboard. Perretta was unfazed. I do, however, practice Yoga and, though relatively new, am also relatively comfortable with some of the asanas.

What are asanas? Though strictly speaking asana may refer to a seated stillness, asanas in Yoga are often referenced as postures, or the physical actions of Yoga . Though Yoga is indeed about far more than exercise, it is often the place where most of us begin.

So to begin at the beginning, I managed to stand up and paddle and reach the point where I might try a few simple asanas. Working from a tabletop postion, on all fours, was easy and a real start in adapting to the movement of the board on water.

Transitioning into downward facing dog, basically a pike position with hands and feet on the board, added something new. As I looked back past the end of the paddleboard (for all purposes upside down) the play of the water against the board did weird things to my eyes and balance. Looking the other way in camel pose was another story. As I looked up at a cloudless sky the world seemed still; so much easier.

Trying a few poses lifting one leg, twisting, stretching or moving from plank to the board were all done with a sense of exploration. Strangely aligning from bow to stern on the board was do-able (warrior I or pyramid pose) but aligning with the long side (warrior 2 or triangle poses) was far more challenging. Just as I was feeling pretty good in dolphin pose with one leg in the air (sort of half standing on my head) I looked to see Perretta in a full head stand. Oh well. The sky’s the limit I guess.

The bottom line is that if I can do this, anyone can. Each class,similar to my experience, is taught with respect for what each individual brings to the board. No previous SUP or Yoga experience is needed.

WHY YOGA ON A PADDLEBOARD

SUP yoga class taught by Merin Peretta.

SUP yoga class taught by Merin Perretta. Literally Asana on the Water.  photo supplied by M.Perretta.

Perretta, who practices her Yoga with precision focusing on alignment and fitness, also brings to her work a deep sense of the mental, emotional and spiritual. “Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice,” she quoted.

And then there’s the fun part. Speaking of SUP Yoga she said, “If you’ve even a glimmer of curiosity, try it. Encounter it, look it in the eye, and do it.”

But perhaps more importantly the experience deepens a Yoga practice and expands it to include more than navigating the poses on water.

The unstable surface challenges core strength and balance, yes, and there is a playfulness about the process. But there is also a connection with your immediate yet vast environment; with water, sky and air.

The board becomes your mat, the space in which you engage. It becomes your partner and your teacher. You learn to release, to float. You may sit, kneel, stand or lie on your board, your Yoga mat in action. You feel buoyancy and relate physically to the movement of the water, to tides, to flow.

Your perspective is organic. When you seek your drishti, your focal point, you may need to look inward.

When you finish your practice, you lie supine on your board, eyes closed, and give yourself to the water’s surface, be it active or still. You feel and sense rather than see and do. Your board gives you feedback from your practice. You learn which muscles worked and which joints opened. You feel your spine, hips, skull, heels, elbows and hands against a stiff but moving surface. It makes you think about where you’ve been and where you are going, and then perhaps relieves you of thought. Flow is a word often united with Yoga . On the water, flow is quite literal.

For me, my take home was a very real example of what in Yoga is called Sthira and Sukha, steadiness and ease. Uniting these two qualities that could be perceived as opposites, is profound. Finding a balance between effort and ease significantly impacts sports performance as well as daily living. Striving for strength, energy and capability; then softening with ease, release and freedom, just might be what it’s all about.