I did a proper inversion: with a little help

I am finally getting over the lurgae (bad cold) which was clearly helped by all my pills, Vicks and cough medicine (probably not but it made me feel more actively involved in my recovery). So finally I have had a go at my feet up trainer. This was bought by my sister for my birthday and its fair to say I was really chuffed and excited. I just wanted to get it built and get started. The cold held me back as my body wasn’t convinced that I could even screw the bits together never mind turn itself upside down. So I waited.

Yoga Inversions

These have eluded me so far. Clearly the photo on this blog isn’t me; Its what I would like to look like (and probably what I think I look like at times). Its not surprising though as I don’t have much core strength and am building this slowly through my practice. I have tried the dolphin to inversion on arms and with assistance from a very good and patient yoga teacher I got there. But not for long before my head decided it wanted to be touching the floor. My stomach also figured this was a good idea.

But there is something about inversions that makes me just want to do them. It is probably because they always were so achievable when we were children. So understanding why, as an adult (getting on a bit adult), my body doesn’t agree its a good idea is just confusing.

The Practice

They aren’t overly focused on in my yoga studio. There are workshops on arm balances which I have been too scared to try. I need to get stronger in my crow and my core to hold these things all together. Inversions, and particularly handstands, are not easy to do with control and in yoga it is about the movement, control and hold. So this is the difference with my childhood, where you would just go for it and the momentum would take you up. I can do a handstand at home against a door with this technique but its not what I am aiming for anymore.

How to get there? There are loads of different options. Check out Patrick Beach and sit back in amazement at what he can do. He, and loads of others do programmes which you can purchase and which do look amazing. If I am being honest though I think that will be a second stage for me. First stage is just being comfy in the position of being upside down and holding my stomach together long enough to start to feel supported. The alternative is a weird stomach wobble which is a clear indication that my legs should move towards the floor! So my first stage thinking meant that inversion chairs would be the best idea. I don’t want to do my inversions forever on them but I do want to start to use the muscles I will require for later attempts (free of props).

Inversion chairs

As I said, I was lucky enough to get a good one (Feet up trainer) from YogaMatters. There are loads of these on loads of different sites though (Amazon, Ebay etc.) at very different prices. A cheaper version can cost around the £60 and you can go up to the £180 or so. My one came in just under £120 and it looks like it has a bit of quality and I like the design of the legs and arms which allow you to hold on (hand placement). It has a facebook site and Utube videos galore for you to look at other newbies and experienced practitioners of inversions; so lots of great tips and advice to get you started. I think if you are going to use this go for something a bit more expensive (pounds per wear rules).

It is also worth getting a few books to start with (and then maybe going for the paid online courses at a later stage. I have the complete guide to yoga inversions (https://amzn.to/2KcBRqn) but there are loads to look at and they are useful in figuring out what the poses should be and what they should look like.

An upside down view

It is bloody brilliant! My first attempt took a bit of momentum and I did place it near to the wall – just in case i decided to inadvertently try a weird forward flip. But once up (or upside down) for the first time my first thoughts were ‘this is not as hard as I thought’. First small steps were to just hold and feel comfortable. I have also tried a few twists and leg drops / raises. This is probably where my practice will be focused as I do want to train and develop my core. I’m maybe not that graceful yet but I will get there. I probably need to do the whole video thing to record my development. Maybe not though. I prefer to write about it and consider myself as a graceful upside down person who looks like a yoga model. A video would shatter that view and deep down (deeper than my superficial vanity) I don’t really care – I just want to have fun doing my yoga. And my practice has just got a new toy to play with.

Spring forward? Into bed with a cold

It’s typical isn’t it? On the week where it is my birthday and I have had lots of lovely plans – I get struck down with the cold. It is also the weekend where the clocks go forward to British summer time meaning spring is definitely in the air. And typically I get the cold. Described by others as flu (which I always disagree with as flu is really serious and I can still drag myself onto the sofa) but regardless of whether its flu or not I have symptoms such as: an overly runny nose, sore throat, hoarse / whispering voice and general feelings of rubbishness. I am however strongly holding on to the fact that constant moisturising of my face and balm hankies has worked in avoiding the cracked skin. No one wants a flakey nose!

In between the tissues

I did manage lunch yesterday with good friends and the weather is changing for the better. It is also good to feed a cold – surely. Massive burger later and a few red wines and you might not have even noticed. Apart from the fact that I would normally manage a few more wines. Lots of good advice later, and most things tried this week, to manage this cold and I now feel like an experienced tester of remedies (some better than others).

Get over it

I wish I would! So here was my list. And yes, yes I realise that colds are colds and nothing actually works to get rid of them other than time. But there is much needed symptom control.

First action – First Defence. Usually the thing I think works. I am convinced by this normally, but it didn’t work this time and so the cold bugs took over my nose, face, throat and neck…and pretty much my whole body started to feel rubbish.

Tiger balm next. The local Thailand brand (hot and cold) as I also think this works on literally every thing (sore muscles, insect bites etc. etc.). It definitely helps. Maybe I am just biased though.

Cough syrup – by the bucket load as no one wants to hear a raspy cough interspersed with gurgling as you try and get rid of the goo. Cough syrup is a must and yes it helps. I took it out to lunch with me (hidden in giant handbag) and I had a gurgle in the loo when the red wine bit the back of my throat and a few coughs ensued. It does work. Maybe the alcohol isn’t advised :-).

Then onto the tablets. I started with the ibuprofen but actually found a hot flannel (face cloth – but it sounds more like a grandmother type saying when you say flannel) to be better relief. I’ll try anything though so next onto the cold and flu tablets and to be fair they have given me some temporary relief.

Finally the friend advice (you know who you are!). Vicks on my feet and earlobe. Dutifully rubbed in for maximum effect (apparently it won’t work otherwise). The feeling – like the opposite of deep heat on your feet. Convinced – no! Will I keep going with this – yes. Do I have doubts – to be fair I think the easter egg I ate last night whilst on the sofa did more good. Why keep trying? It’s better to try things than to succumb to the damn cold.

When it’s over

Having a cold is like having hiccups. You forget about it when it’s over and can’t really remember how it all went away. I’m hoping that will happen today. It’s sunny so I am going to sit in the garden, get some sunshine and read my latest kindle book (The Rumour). Maybe that will be the cure.

Birthday wish lists: are they a thing of the past?

Are birthday wishlists a thing of the past?

It is my birthday soon. Next week. Its not something I am keen on focusing on as it will be my 42nd year. This means I am definitely on the way in my forty something life. Ok – enough focusing (depressively) on my age. Its not that bad, but I’ve never been that good at birthdays. So when asked the question (yes it comes every year from my sister) ‘What would you like for your birthday?’ I usually coil into a small ball and rock front to back (much more smoothly may I say now that I started yoga haha!).

Do I have a wish list?

I generally don’t have one. This in some weird way makes it easier for everyone. I have got some wonderful presents just by not having one. Take, for instance, last year. Me and my mum went for lunch to Chez Jules (fabulously french and cheap but cheerful) last year and then we drunkenly went to Stewart and Christie‘s on Queen street because I suggested that I had always wanted a good ‘tweed’ jacket. Stewart and Christie’s is the oldest tailor of this type of attire in Edinburgh and I knew (in a loose way from a few parties) one of the owners and one of the tailors. This was following a quick look in a few George Street shops who would never compare. Result – I got a tailored (not bespoke but only a bit of work done) tweed jacket. It will last a lifetime! It is beautiful. My mum, having forked out for my birthday on my one, went back a month later to order her own. This also resulted in a drunken lunch (Tiger Lilly) to celebrate. All events combined meant good bonding over good presents over quality attire. The one thing it didn’t mean was that we stuck within the unwritten budget rule that as a family we have on presents.

The budget

This, as noted above, is an unwritten rule. A good rule as lets face it we are in an age where we buy what we want when we want. So a pre-defined limit takes some thinking. Don’t be shocked but its basically £50 per person. So my mum and dad will spend £100, me and my sister will spend £50. Its not much at all nowadays but to re-emphasise the point – we are in a time where we already have what we want so presents are something that should be different. Times have changed. Im not that old (as I keep telling myself) – but when younger we used to keep a list for ages (for birthdays and of course Christmas). The only times we got those overly desired objects was on these special occasions. At some point this all changed. We spend, use and discard. We don’t keep lists because most things are immediate. Its kind of sad and also wonderfully gratifying. I don’t even think its an age thing. As a single 40 something living in Edinburgh you would expect that I can sensibly afford the things I want. But to have the excitement back of the present list, the waiting, the build up and even at times the disappointment (oh the trauma of not getting that specific Barbie I wanted) would be something! We don’t do this kind of excitement in 2019. Its kind of a shame.

Rebel against the age

So….I thought of a list. All the things I have fancied since the start of the year. When the text came through ‘what would you like…’ I jumped on it like a typical amazon prime member. Here is my wish list. A feet up trainer (or alternative product)…oooh yes please (although that as you might have already calculated would be a joint sister and parents present). Or pick from the rest: yoga wheel, Blackberry and something or other Jo Malone perfume (my daily go to scent), Jo Malone soap (can’t recommend highly enough and am never using any other soap in the bath or shower ever again), candles (of any variety as always a good thing), or my incense sticks (this is a new thing but makes me very relaxed of an evening). If this list doesn’t work for them then I will take any surprise at my age! Only thing missing is a good man (possibly only useful at this time of year to buy me another lovely present)….ok scratch that – they are more trouble than they are worth and never meet the wish list expectations 🙂

Men in shorts: the good, the bad and the somewhat disturbing

I have had a busy week so when I get home around 7pm from a long day I tend to just want to nip into the local store for something easy. So on two nights this week, whilst looking a bit bedraggled and feeling blooming knackered, I have done the Tesco run (actually a short walk but you get my meaning).

But on the upside to this long week and my knackerdness, my grocery (wine and nibbles) shopping trips have been what you might call interesting. It might be due to the milder weather, or the fact that the whole of Edinburgh seem to have been involved in some kind of fitness (on the days I have stuffed myself with fatty food), but there is an odd phenomenon of increasing numbers of men in shorts.

This is not a wholly good thing. In fact it ranges on the spectrum of ‘ooh he looks good in them’ to ‘why on earth did you not look in the mirror before going out in public’. But, as I said, definitely interesting.

The good to the disturbing

Good shorts need to be worn by good men. Fact! Although the definition of a good man whilst assessing their ability in short wearing does not merit the full range of goodness that we would usually use a measure of someone. In fact, sorry about this, it really just relies on confidence and body shape. Men with confidence will pull anything off. The rest of those mere mortals however should really consider what suits them. I don’t feel bad saying this, we all try and wear what works for us. So if it works then great. I can still curiously look on whilst wondering about the decision making; but only in a curious and self amusing way rather than being horrible about it.

Take for example the 80s style bloke who lives around here. He wears luminous shorts, high socks and a headband. Curious but interesting (he must be confident). Then there is a bloke who (thank the leg gods) has great legs and wears not too short shorts but not baggy and long shorts either; just the right length and just the right legs :-). Then there are a good few who haven’t focused on the legs at the gym (instead favouring biceps) who wear a slightly longer short to suit. All of these are good.

The bad ones are noticeable. I know that the whole men tight things with shorts over the top is a ‘gym thing’ but I find it slightly odd (maybe disturbing was too dramatic a title). What is the need for it? Surely a thinner joggy bottom type attire would have done the same job. I am not even convinced about the 2 in one type shorts for the gym; aren’t they more suited to cyclists? The ones with a thin pair of legs wearing short shorts more suited to rugby players are not my cup of tea either. The only bad shorts I feel are acceptable are the ones similar to the deliveroo cyclist I saw. Functionally bad but rather acceptable given that Edinburgh is full of hills and the poor man must be cycling up and down them all day.

Why think about this?

I honestly don’t know. My only excuse is I like to notice things and I have a dry sense of humour. This amused me this week. Its probably an attempt in my head to avoid the fact that I should have done more exercise; instead commenting on the silliness of exercise attire. I also appreciate a good pair of legs in shorts. Disturbing – possibly. Bad of me – yes. Good – hell yeah! All I can say is bring on the summer for a more shorts variety.

Starting yoga: buy a good mat

When I started yoga (now called my yoga journey since I am 7 months in and feel comfortable with the yoga type language) I did a few classes in my local gym. Cue the rag tag bunch of various types of mat. I tried them all. Some were far too thin, far too thick, too sticky, and worse – not sticky enough. This was frustrating because your mat does matter (see what I did there).

Joining a studio changed my view. It is one of the good ones where you can always get a mat and don’t have to pay extra for the privilege. The mats were good too! All the same, all Manduka pro. Just the right thickness and hold. This was especially important for me given my ever elusive core muscles were not holding my ‘form’ in the right place (update – it still isn’t; but it is getting better).

Choices – confusion – choices

The temptation as a new Yogi is to go for comfort. Don’t fall into the trap as you will end up with a gigantic and very thick mat which will look ugly and make you look rather ungraceful when you keep falling due to the lack of root to the floor (aka feet feeling like they are stable).

Don’t go for too thin either (I would suggest leaving out anything classed as a travel mat; unless you are only using it when travelling). Especially if you are into you forties and your knees protest at even the though of a hard floor.

Consider price. You can go cheap but I would avoid it (for the reasons above). So then you are into the £60 – £120 range of prices. But the problem – there are blooming millions of them to choose from.

My choice

Having searched all the possible sites I got it down to 2 choices. The Lifeform mat definitely appealed. I am a sucker for the most expensive choices which doesn’t always mean quality but the reviews on this one do stack up to it being a great product. I almost went for it but there was one thing that held me back. The lines for alignment (or something like that) are brilliant. My alignment is lacking in brilliance though. I still end up at different bits of the mat in my sun salutations. I get that this might improve matters however I would not like to highlight my inadequacies just yet; opting for the blissful joy of feeling like I am getting through my classes, improving in posture and decreasing in the sweaty knees and red face effect. Next mat though; this is probably the one.

So Manduka it was. I already knew (from the studio mats) that I was comfy on them. But again there is so much choice. The 5mm ones looked good but I worried about them being a little heavy to carry up the hill. Mandala also do different styles. The pro or eKo. I went for eKo which is made from natural rubber and so has enough stick without being sticky. I also figured the eKo lite wasn’t giving away to much comfort in thickness with the bonus of being lighter to carry. Choice made and mat purchased (by my sister as a present: bonus). It cost just over £60 (the lifeform is just over £100) so mid range in terms of cost and brilliant in terms of quality./

The bag

This was important. I know they have these strap things which you sling round the mat and over your shoulder. The weather here isn’t always great though. So I bought a bag. Check this one out. This took me just as long as the mat choice as I wanted to look at least a little stylish walking to and from class. I apparently do. My neighbour caught me coming back in one day and said I looked very ‘New York’. I felt like a yoga pro 🙂

The practice

I said buy one in the title and I really mean this. If you are going to go to yoga regularly, even if it is just once a week, having your own mat makes a difference. It settles you into the practice without the distraction of your mind trying to figure out how your body will manage on a mat you don’t know. Your knees (even if they do get sweaty like mine) will thank you for it.

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