Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Downward Dog Ate My Homework

I went to a yoga class at Lifetime last night. *waiting for laughter to subside* I'm serious. I, the queen of clutz, was learning to stretch, balance and breathe my way into the relaxation that can only come from transforming oneself into a human pretzel! Tony has still been having back pain from his car accident and with my copious amounts of joint problems (my knees and hips tend to do random impressions of popping corn), we thought yoga might be a good habit to start. So we ventured over to the health club - side note here: What happened to the 80's when you could go "exercise" at "the gym"? Now it's all going to "work out" at the "health club"... anyways - little did we know that "Fitness Yoga" would be much more the former than the latter. Gone were my previous experiences of gentle stretching and calming breathing. This was an all out kick-your-butt stretching and straining of muscles I forgot I even had! I knew it would be rough when we started with a sequence of four moves (that we returned to several times throughout the class). The first is Downward Facing Dog - a pretty basic move with your palms and feet flat on the floor and your butt up in the air with your arms and legs straightened so that if you strung a line between your elbows and knees it would be an accurate impersonation of the letter A (no comment on the fact that people were not designed to be shaped like letters other than I). It's not too difficult but when you focus on keeping your heels flat to the ground it provides a somewhat pleasant stretching to the shoulders and quads. From Downward Dog the instructor shifts us to Plank. In Plank you are on your toes with your palms still flat and arms straight but your back straightens so that you're essentially in the up position of a push up. Then comes Chaturanga. If you've never done yoga, fear the Chaturanga. Chaturanga means "Four Limbs" and comes from the words "chatur" meaning "four", and "anga" meaning "oh wow, I found my triceps!". Your hands and feet keep the same position as Plank but you bend your elbows and bring them into your sides and balance with your nose inches from the ground for an undetermined length of time (see painful picture at right, well, maybe it's not painful if you look like THAT but for us normal humans....ow!). Yeah, it's basically like doing the first half of a push up but you're supposed to be all slow and graceful and if you're like me and haven't really done push ups regularly since high school, it starts with a slow burning in the triceps and moves into all out agony by the eighth time through the sequence. The last pose is Upward Dog and it took all my reserve not to ask the instructor or fellow pretzel people, "What's Up, Dog?". Yes, it's pretty much a reversal of Downward Facing Dog, in that your back is arched with your chest up, hips lifted and head back, but a more appropriate title would be The Little Mermaid pose. Really, no one's done it better since Ariel and you can see from her expression (at left) that she's extremely excited to have been relieved from the agony of holding Chaturanga for too long. I suppose it's also saying something that I need to take flexibility lessons from a cartoon character...

The other thing I should mention is that Lifetime Fitness does a really cool thing when the weather's nice - they have Yoga Under The Stars by the outdoor pool. It was a nice evening and I thought this feature would enhance the relaxation aspect of the class but a more accurate name for it would be Yoga Under the Stars Obscured By Light Pollution or even better Yoga With Our Friends the Mosquitoes! I was doing pretty good with some of the other crazy balance moves we tried except it's quite difficult to stand in a position like the triangle (at right) and try to focus on relaxing and breathing when a mosquito and three of it's buddies are feasting their way up your ankle and around the circumference of your elbows! And then, since the insects were out in full force their predators joined us too - and really is there anything more calming than staring at a sky filled with swarms of bats?!??? Every time we hit Upward Dog I found myself fearing a face-full of guano. *Eeeeuuughhhh* But the bats left us alone and I suppose I've done worse then sixteen mosquito bites in a night. I'll keep you all posted into my further ventures of human pretzel-hood in the future but for now all I can say is: Beware the Chaturanga!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I can't remember the last time August has been this rainy. No...change that. Rainy would be okay. Stormy is more appropriate and explains why I'm not enjoying it. I've never liked thunderstorms and I've never understood people that find them relaxing. Loud noises, bright lights, drenched in 30 seconds - you might as well call a techno rave relaxing. I would blame my anxieties on my recent forensics class where they shared with us all the lovely pictures and beautiful details of what happens to people killed by lightning, but I think my dislike of severe weather goes back even farther. When I was little my parents used to have to tell my siblings and I that thunder was the sound of the angels in heaven going bowling (as my parents and their friends were on a bowling league this did provide some appropriate comfort - but I still recall being frightened by the sights and sounds of storms). You can imagine my displeasure at being greeted almost every day this week by forecasts of "Heavy Thunderstorms", "Scattered Thunderstorms" and "Isolated Thunderstorms". Not my cup of tea. Yesterday was probably the worst. Supposedly there were record numbers of felled trees and power lines. Traffic was screwed up royally and it was on my more than double its standard length of time bus ride that I got a glimpse of this:

I had never seen lightning strike the Sears Tower before. (I need to put in the disclaimer that I didn't take that picture, it's from WGN's weather site - you can pretty much bet that my camera was the last thing on my mind while witnessing it.) I'm sure strikes like this happen a lot but this was my first good view of the phenomena. To the storm lovers out there, I will admit that it was a pretty awe-inspiring sight but at the same time I was glad to be in a bus... far away.... and (most thankfully!) on the ground.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thanks for your concern...

...but this was not me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

DM of the Rings

Perhaps I just needed a good laugh during a crazy rough week but this site had me cracking up big time. I guess that probably says a little too much about my nerddom with roots in D&D as well as LoTR... (Oh and maybe I should warn you that if you're asking what all the acronyms stand for, there's a good chance you're not going to be amused - but for those that recognize and admire the 20 sided di, by all means, click away!)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

One Week of Impact

So my church is helping to sponsor a City of Lights Workcamp over in East Aurora this week. Students from all over the country are coming together to repair houses - fixing porches, building wheelchair ramps, painting - of residents in need. It's a pretty amazing event! There's an article all about it in The Beacon News and you can also read more about the project on Kirsten's blog. The whole thing reminds me a lot of a service experience that Tony and I helped out with in college when we took a trip to Memphis and did repairs on inner city houses there. Not only did we get to do some great work (bet ya'll didn't know I had drywall installation and roofing skills?) but I really liked how we got to know the homeowner (Mary) and how she would pray with us and talk to us while we worked. I hope this week is an equally fun time of growth for the students working in Aurora. What's really exciting too is that even though most of us working stiffs are stuck in jobs while all this great stuff is going on, this Saturday our leadership teams have put together a work day with two elementary schools in the community. We'll be paining, mulching, gardening, power washing and repairing fences. It should be an awesome day!