“Bend and Stretch, Reach For the Sky”

Hello and welcome to Week 5 of Library Life Hack! Today, we’re checking out whether or not a person could realistically use library materials to learn yoga.

But First, a “Prior Knowledge” Disclaimer
I do have a little background with yoga: two six-week worksite classes and exactly one hot yoga session (which I decided was the new-age equivalent of Opus Dei). But I tried to approach this life hack with fresh eyes, pretending to be someone who was exploring the idea of regular yoga training but didn’t necessarily want to commit to regular studio classes.

So … I didn’t look for books on yoga – that just seemed like an impossibly tortured way to learn a physical skill. Instead I checked the DVD holdings in my home library, and came back with Yoga Journal’s “Complete Beginner’s Guide” and “Complete Home Practice”.

I skimmed both DVDs and started with the Beginner’s Guide. This is a two-disc set. One disc is a visual encyclopedia of basic yoga poses and the other is set of three “practices”: a 60-minute “Essential Practice”, followed by two shorter practices for awakening or quieting. I watched a few poses on the encyclopedia disc and then decided to dive right into “Essential Practice”. You need three props: a yoga mat, a yoga block and a yoga belt. The disc also advises on suitable substitute props – I found that a bath towel, textbook and the belt from my bathrobe worked just fine.

The first thing that struck me is how well thought-out this program is. When Instructor Jason tells you to put your hands behind your back and do something with your fingers, the camera moves behind his back so that you can actually see what he’s doing with his fingers. That being said, I did have to shift around to follow everything that was going on. (In the “Downward-Facing Dog” pose – which happens a lot in beginner yoga practice — I eventually turned my back to the TV and watched Instructor Jason through my ankles.)

60 minutes of Essential Practice went by quickly. At the end of it, I was nicely stretched but not overly tired. To me, this felt like I had lucked into the perfect beginner’s yoga workout – some of it was fairly easy, some a little more challenging and some of the poses I would need a lot of practice to be able to hold at all. In other words, there was plenty of room to grow.

Could You Actually Use a DVD to Learn Yoga on Your Own?
I went into this a little bit skeptical, and expected that I’d be advising you all to take a few classes with a professional and then try training with a DVD. But these videos are so well-executed that I’m going to say I think it’s quite possible to life hack this skill and learn yoga on your own. Mastering the “Essential Practice” would probably take several months, and then you’d be able to branch into Yoga Journal’s “Complete Home Practice” DVD, which goes through nine advanced routines. To help you along the way, Yoga Journal also maintains a comprehensive website, full of articles designed to support practitioners at every level.

A Word About Solitary Practice
One of the things I learned in this week’s experiment is that we aren’t always as solitary as we think. For example, I share my household with my trusty editorial assistant, Jack the Cat. Jack saw my 60-minute yoga class as an ideal time for us to bond. While I was sitting on the floor doing the first few poses, he hopped into my lap. My lap disappeared quite soon, but Jack was undaunted. When I rolled onto my stomach for “Cobra Pose”, Jack decided to strike “Triumphant Cat Pose” on my backside. That didn’t work out either, so Jack harumphed over to my yoga mat/bath towel and stretched into full-length “I’m Not Done With You Pose”, forcing me to finish the rest of the class on the bare floor.

This is pretty funny, but there is a point: practising yoga at home is maybe not as simple as I’d assumed. If a mere cat could generate this much interruption, I can only imagine what a husband or toddler would be capable of.

And Now, the Numbers
These two DVDs aren’t available at chapters.indigo.ca, but amazon.ca lists both Yoga Journal’s “Complete Beginner’s Guide” and “Complete Home Practice” at 22.49 each.

If you trained twice a week, I estimate that these two DVDs could keep you busy for at least four months. Based on the cost of a 30-class pass for the yoga studio nearest my house, you would be saving $345. Added all together, that’s a total of $389.98 saved with this week’s library life hack. Cha-ching!

Here’s the information on this week’s library resources:

Yoga Journal: Complete Beginner’s Guide
Released Nov 24, 2009

Yoga Journal: Complete Home Practice
Released Sept 6, 2011

And that’s it — thank you for reading this week’s post! Next week, we’re going to tackle another food hack – homemade goat cheese. We’re also going to check in on our imaginary portfolio of stocks from Week 1, and see how they’ve done. In the meantime, have a great seven days. Namaste!


P.S. A Little Extra Research
As part of this week’s blog work, I also watched the 2008 documentary “Enlighten Up!” This quirky yet thought-provoking little movie was made by Kate Churchill, filmmaker and dedicated yoga practitioner. She recruits Nick, journalist and yoga know-nothing for an intense six months of yoga training, convinced that he will undergo a dramatic spiritual transformation. (If this story sounds familiar to you, it should. It’s “My Fair Lady” in stretchy black pants. Except that Nick and Kate don’t fall in love. Or sing.)

Nick spends most of the next six months being followed by a camera and trotting around the globe, talking to and training with a whole palette of gurus. His physical skills improve, but he infuriates Kate because he doggedly refuses to reach any kind of enlightenment – and some of the scenes are laugh-out-loud funny. I highly recommend it. : )

Long May You Run …

Hello and welcome to Week 3! This week, we’re going to be using library resources (with the help of a website) to build a training plan for a middle-aged runner aiming for their first marathon. (That would be me, but I’m hoping I have some company out there.)

I started running in 2006, at the age of 44. I took a “Learn to Run” class early in the spring and loved it. Once I’d finished my first race (10 km) that summer, I was hooked. I ran my first half-marathon the following summer, followed by four “halfs” the next year. And then in the summer of 2010, I went back to school part-time and stopped running completely. I made a resolution in January 2011 that I would run a marathon that year … and did almost no training. Undaunted, I made a resolution in January 2012 that I would run a marathon that year.

Admittedly, 2012 started off better than 2011. By the end of June, I was running during the week and breaking 20 km on my weekend long runs. But my pace was slow. As I piled on the mileage, it got slower. And slower. And slower. I had a look at the previous year’s average pace times for the marathon I was planning to run. I was going slower than the people who were the last finishers.

At this point, I had an awful vision of myself on race day: plodding along, just barely past the half-way mark, when a police car pulls up behind me. Guess what happens next? The officer in the passenger seat rolls down his window and says “Hey, lady! Sorry, but we have to shut down the course. Hop in the back and we’ll take you to the finish line.” Yecch. You never want to be the “Hey, lady!” lady. I fell off the training wagon again, except for a 10 km race in August.

So now it’s 2013. I’ve learned not to make any resolutions but I still would really like to run a marathon. With that in mind, I went looking in my home library, and found Jeff Galloway’s “Running Until You’re 100”. I wasn’t expecting anything earth-shattering but Jeff surprised me. An older runner himself, he’s developed a system that involves longer warm-ups, a combination of running and walking, specific drills, and slower pacing. He also has a section on nutritional advice for older runners, written by a dietitian. This book made a ton of sense to me.

I had a look at the marathon training plan found on Jeff Galloway’s website. At 32 weeks, it’s quite a bit longer than the traditional 16-18 weeks. And the pacing is much gentler than anything I’ve done up until this point. I combined the training plan from the website, information from another Jeff Galloway book called “Running: A Year Round Plan” and fine-tuned it with advice from “Running Until You’re 100”. I have a plan!

Now that I have a plan, I’m looking for some peeps. Specifically, I’m looking to form a little network of first-time marathoners. You don’t necessarily have to be over 50 and you don’t have to live in Edmonton. I want to hear your running stories and what you’re doing to train. Leave a comment or send me a note at LibraryLifeHack [at] gmail.com.

Chicken-Hearted Disclaimer
I have a plan. I do. And I will undertake this training in good faith, reporting back to you at the beginning of March. But I’m not quite ready to brazenly guarantee that I’ll be running a marathon this summer. Before I do that, I want to see how this training works. But … I’m excited! Dang! Let’s put this hack in motion and see what happens. (If you want to see the first six weeks of my plan, it’s here.)

To wrap things up, here’s the scoop on this week’s library resources:

Running Until You’re 100
Written by Jeff Galloway
Published by Cardinal Publishers Group
Released Aug 15, 2010
ISBN 1841263095

Running: A Year Round Plan
Written by Jeff Galloway
Published by Cardinal Publishers Group
Released Oct 31, 2005
ISBN 1841261696

Between amazon.ca and chapters.indigo.ca, the books average out to $14.78 and $15.82 respectively. Since you’re saving the cost of a marathon class, I thought we could add that in as well. Where I live, the most popular clinics are $69.99 plus tax, for a total of $73.49. That makes this week’s life hack worth $104.09.

Bonus Hack
This plan is built solidly around short interval training. Rather than investing in a piece of advanced runner’s technology, I went looking for an interval timer for my phone. There are several but this one looked perfect for my needs. And it’s free! Cha-ching!

That’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll be tackling a less ambitious life hack, and learning how to make gyoza at home. Remember … if you’re running your first marathon, drop me a line. And even if you aren’t, have yourself a great week!