Thursday, February 25, 2016

10 Reasons Why Power Yoga Is the Hot Exercise to Get in Shape for an Outdoor Enthusiast

Power Yoga helps me feel strong when I’m out on the trails.

I’m dripping sweat. My hands move forward towards the top of my yoga mat and my feet back into the Downward Dog position then I hop, step or float to the top of my mat to Mountain Pose to Ragdoll to Flat Back and now step into Warrior Two. My heart is pounding, my face and body flushed, and I’m feeling GOOD.

Loud, inspiring music comes from the speakers in the small studio. And all around me, other sweaty bodies in the hour long Power Yoga class are somewhere in my consciousness.

But the focus needed to follow the rapid patterns of movements and step-by-step instructions that the instructor is calling out has me tuning both the other people in the class and the external world of to-do-lists and stressful thoughts OUT... Thus allowing an intensely gratifying tuning IN to my mind-body connection.

Stripped down to a sports bra and the lightest pair of yoga pants possible because of the extra heat pumped into the room for the class, all thoughts of vanity are unnecessary. The concentration required to get our bodies into the correct position before we quickly move into the next doesn’t allow obsession over body-image. And after just a few classes, I lose my shyness and whip off my usual layers to join the rest of the class in exposing lots of high temperature flesh. 

The hour is crammed with an intense fitness flow that is all about movement and massive strengthening. We all leave the class with a satisfying, post-exercise adrenaline rush of peace mixed with full on body power. YES. My muscles are worked and my heart pumped.

I’m fired up about this Power Yoga. After years of pushing my body to athletic extremes in the mountains and on the sports fields, and after years of dabbling in yoga based on gentle stretching with relaxy music, I just may have found a perfect, new exercise to complement my hiking and skiing.

Why?

One: Full Body Workout

Two: Faster Paced but Still, Oddly, Relaxing

Three: Strengthening

Four: Increased Flexibility & Stability

Five: Higher Heat Allows for Injury Prevention and Better Circulation. @ 75-85 degrees F

Six: Low Impact

Seven: Mind-Body Focus Required

Eight: The Best Kind of Flow

Nine: Stress Relief

And, Ten: Scientifically Proven, Finally

There is now real science backing up the health benefits of Yoga in general. Taken from a 2016 HuffingtonPost article, The New Science on the Health Benefits of Yoga, "'What I've found through studying yoga therapy is that people who have a daily practice have effortlessly and automatically changed their lifestyle. They eat better, sleep better, their lifestyle is more regulated.' says [Dilip] Sarkar, who also serves as chairman of the School of Intagrative Medicine at Taksha University in Hampton, Virginia."

Now back to Power Yoga, specifically. Note: I highly recommended knowing some basic yoga poses before joining a Power Yoga class. Since you quickly flow from pose to pose, there’s little time for adjustment because, bam! you’re onto the next pose.

Don’t push too hard: It’s ok to take it easy. Be gentle with your body. As with any yoga or new exercise class, build up to the more difficult level of poses. I watch my neck due to fun but massive wear-and-tear from high impact sports over the years, so I’m extra careful about my twists and often take the easiest version of a pose with no yoga-pose-shameAlert the instructor before class begins if you have back or neck issues or are new to the class.

I’m excited about this movement. Mind-body-health. Athletic yoga. And although I'll always prefer getting outside and being on a mountain, Power Yoga is an excellent complement to trail-time, especially when I only have a quick hour to spare.

Hiking up the trail last night my legs felt like steel. Powerful. Connected. I can feel the benefits of my Power Yoga in my trail performance and in my overall enjoyment of the hike.

See you in the studio. And out on the trails.


PS. There are a LOT of guys in the Power Yoga classes - not a female dominated class. For more information about Power Yoga, read here



Monday, February 15, 2016

Why Kindness in the Outdoors is Good For You. It's Random Acts of Kindness Week #Pledge2BeKind

A moment of Kindness in the outdoors. Aspen, Colorado.

Sunset on Sentinel Dome in Yosemite and we note a group of hikers discussing a not-good situation. They'd left their food bag in their car, and although the trail head was only a mile or so away, the sun was setting and it wasn't safe to go grab it before dark. In good "be-prepared" fashion, we were overpacked with food, so we happily shared our treats with the grateful, hungry hikers. 

This simple story comes to mind when asked by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation to take part in their campaign to spread their powerful message this week. [btw: My first thought in getting asked: How Kind! Immediately, my happiness levels soared, my energy increased, and wow, I think I just upped my lifespan by a huge margin...]

I see kindness on the trails all the time. It's one of the things that draws me to the outdoor community. The sense of, we're all in this together. And taking care of someone who may need a hand either physically or emotionally on say, a mountain-side 6 miles from the trail-head, is an immediate no-brainer. Of course we help someone in need. 

No doubt if you're reading this you know exactly what I mean. You too are drawn to communities who value caring, thoughtful treatment of each other and of Nature. Spending time in the outdoors almost requires it. Because it is always a reminder of how we fit into the larger ecosystem of life. We need to work with Nature, bend and sway with her, treat her well. And work together to preserve her and take care of the creatures, including humans, who live here. Again, we're all in this together.

So exactly why are we drawn to kindness in the outdoors or anywhere else for that matter? And what benefits does it bring? 

Kindness Increases:
- Energy
- Happiness
- Lifespan
- Pleasure
- Feel-good, natural chemical Seratonin and hormone Oxytocin

Kindness Decreases:
- Stress
- Anxiety
- Pain
- Depression
- Blood Pressure

And best of all, Kindness is Contagious. It is one of those things you WANT to catch. 

Sharing our food with the fellow hikers in Yosemite who'd left their grub bag in their car, my kids learned about kindness. And the contagiousness of it. The grateful hikers laughed that they'd pay our kindness forward someday. And I believe they will. And probably already have. 

For more information on the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and the kindness movement, visit them at their website and #Pledge2BeKind

-Annie @OutdoorsyMama




Monday, February 1, 2016

Gear Review: WoolX Brooke ¼ Zip Midweight Layer

The rolling hills on the side of Mt Tamalpais overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Northern California. 

I reach into my backpack and pull out the WoolX Brooke ¼ Zip Merino Wool midweight layer I’ve come to rely on as an essential part of my outdoor, adventure gear.

For the past three months I've been testing out this top, and like any good piece of outdoor gear, it's been dealing with my sweat, dirt, the thrash of peeling it on-and-off throughout the day, crushing it into a ball at the bottom of my pack, throwing it into the laundry, pulling it on for skiing, and rolling it into my bag for a back-up, warm layer. It has gotten the full, use-it-or-lose-it treatment.

And it’s a keeper.


1 minute Video Review of WoolX Brooke 1/4 Zip
Location: California redwood grove


It’s warm. It wicks sweat. It doesn’t itch. Merino Wool is my fiber of choice for layering in all of my outdoor adventures. This isn’t your grandma’s old, scratchy, wool sweater, friends. The Merino Wool is soft and, with the WoolX brand in particular because there are a few Merino Wool brands now on the market, I am not feeling any abrasion from the fiber on my skin. 

WoolX uses a “superfine” Merino Wool which must give it that even softer feel. I have described it as similar to the soft feel of cashmere. And, I notice their marketing does too. P.S. If you get itchy they’ll take it back.

It’s low-maintenance. Throw it into the laundry. Very few pills.

It controls sweaty smell. The beauty of this layering piece is that I’ve used it on both multi-day trips and full, sweaty days and I can still be socially acceptable to have a beer with the crew afterwards without a shower or wash. The Mernio doesn't trap odor the way a poly does. Vital.

It fits well and holds it’s shape. After tons of washes and mangling of pulling on and off countless times, the piece still holds its shape. The fit in general is spot-on for me as a 5’7” curvy gal. It’s slim enough in the torso so it doesn’t look baggy. Arm cuffs cover to my fingers. Good torso length. Gorgeous, deep purple color.

It costs more. The challenge with any piece of quality gear like this one is going to be the price. We pay more for this kind of top than say, a poly based-fabric. However, the natural fiber, durability and overall top quality of this piece of this WoolX gear makes it worth the investment in my book. Keep an eye out for discounts that WoolX throws out here and there.


Company: WoolX 
Price: $99

See you out on the trails!