Qi Gong

Image

Qi Gong folks in New York City

So I do yoga about 20 minutes a day 5 days a week because it makes me feel good.  I sleep better, my shoulders feel better yada yada.  Really it isn’t as big a thing as people make it.  I am always surprised when people say they are afraid to try yoga.  What?  Or that I must be really flexible because I do  yoga.  Um, I’m really not flexible, which is why I do yoga.  They say a woman must really love a thing if she practices it with no hope of mastery.  That is me and yoga.

Because I do yoga, I am on a few yoga email lists and I had a very interesting thing come across mid-week last week:  Qi Gong classes.  My acupuncturist (don’t get crazy about that either.  No big deal) said it would be really good for me.  I have no idea what that means, but I wasn’t there to argue the finer points of that comment.

‘Qi’ means ‘life force’ and ‘Gong’ translates to ‘work’ or ‘practice’.  It is a 5 week class and I signed up for it.  Starts tomorrow night.

So, of course I googled Qi Gong and found out lots of interesting stuff, but one thing really was super cool.  It said that Qi Gong is about ‘going with’ rather than ‘doing to’.  Interesting that they didn’t say ‘going with’ or ‘doing to’ your body.  They just said, ‘going with’ rather than ‘doing to’.  My guess is that it is a whole lifestyle thing.

Hmmmm…

So as I always do, I thought about that and horses.  Some of my best rides have been when I have had the feeling of ‘going with’ the horse rather than ‘doing to’ the horse.  Of course there are times when we have to ‘do to’, especially with green or unsure horses, who need to be shown the way.  But when I get on and provide direction to a horse and then ‘go with’ it rather than ‘making sure it gets done’ in a micromanagement manner, the result is always not only better, but more enjoyable for both of us.

I am reminded of my yoga teacher who says that ‘how you do something is more important than what you do’.  There’s a mind bender.

Advertisements

Sugar High

This picture has nothing to do with sugar, other than the fact that this was a really fun day, and I'd like a thousand more of them.

I’m still walking around in circles and figure 8s with the injured reserve horses (and will be for the next month at least) and it gives me some time to think.  Like almost everybody, I’ve had a few times in my life when I’ve been sick and therefore kept out of the barn for a while. So today I was thinking about our health and how prevention is a pretty smart plan, not only just generally, but as horsepeople, we know we can’t take care of our horses the way we would like (or get to ride!) if we are sick.

Some sickness is out of our control, but many more factors affecting health are in our hands than we used to believe possible.

A few weeks ago I wrote about giving up Coke (the drink not the powder, I’m so not giving up the powder!  JOKE, seriously, joke. If you ever met me, Miss Drug Ignorant, you’d be laughing.)  Anyhoo, I backslid a little bit on the giving up Coke thing.  Not badly, just one 12 oz. can to get the workday started, but even that was buggin’ me for how high it ranked on the stupid human scale.

Last Friday I got the kick in the butt that the Dr. ordered.  I was cleaning stalls listening to (nerd alert) NPR’s Science Friday, when Robert Lustig, a UCSF scientist came on the show.  He was advocating that sugar be taken much more seriously as a health threat, maybe even to the point of regulation or a tax on sugar.  He presented information from studies that indicated that sugar can do all the things you already know it can do: make you fat, help you develop Type II diabetes and give you a sugar crash an hour or two after you eat a bunch of it.  Then the doctor went on to explain how eating too much sugar affects your brain.  The stall-cleaners’ version is that it clogs up your wiring and can bring on early dementia.  Full audio version on the upper left corner of this page.

The idea of being a party to clogging up my own brain wiring seriously scared me.  I don’t know about you, but I really would like to have my brain continue to work really well for a long time.

So then I wondered about how many grams of sugar is the RDA.  Turns out it is 40 grams max, which is about 10 teaspoons, which sounds like a lot, but I looked at my yogurt today and it had 22 grams.  Half a day’s RDA!  Seriously, yogurt.  If you want to freak yourself out about how much sugar is in food  in beverages, visit Sugarstacks.com

So since hearing that Science Friday segment, I have been Coke-free again.  I have replaced it with hot green tea when working at the ‘U (partly because there is a superfast, hot water-for-tea heater there;  and I’m drinking unsweet iced tea otherwise.  I happen to like tea, so I can’t even earn hero points for the sacrifice.  Rats.  Sort of.

But what I can report is that water tastes better to me now.  I always liked water, but now that my taste buds aren’t daily bathing in the rock n’ roll amplification of high-fructose soda, they can better appreciate the subtle symphony that water offers.  Pretty sweet.  (oh  very punny, I know.)

So that was all horse-related because you have to take care of you in order to take care of your horse.  Sort of new take on “Love me, love my horse,” except now it is self-love in the most altruistic sense.

Other thought for the day, I love my new nathe snaffle bit, because my horses love my new nathe snaffle bit.  It is extremely flexible (you can easily bend it in half and put the rings together.  It is gum/plastic over a wire (wire so that it can not be bitten through, which would be unusual.)

Flexible.  Thin.  Two hooves up.

I work really hard on having correct hands, using my seat first, and having elastic connection.  But I still have one horse that hangs his tongue like a hound dog and another who grinds like a grist mill.  I’m happy to report that the hound dog is noticeable less houndy (the thinner bit seems to fit his mouth better) and the grist mill now mouths the bit in a relaxed manner.  The more I ride the less I bit.

I’m Camie and I’m a coke addict

Oooooh, icy cold deliciousness

Oh, how I loved the icy cold deliciousness of a coke in the morning.  The sweet release of carbon when the can is opened, the sound of it pouring over ice and the quiet fizz as it sat by my computer.  Sometimes I would buy a 32 0z. coke and sip it all morning.  It was great.  I wouldn’t get hungry at 10 a.m. if I had a 32 oz. coke there feeding sweet sugar into my veins all morning.  Have a coke and a smile.  I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.  Coke is it!

I’d be driving in to work and thinking to myself, “I need a little treat.”  Stop in at my favorite fuel station, talk and laugh with the attendants since by now I’d developed a relationship with them, fill my cup with cubed ice (not crushed!) and fill the plastic cup with the nectar of the gods.  Enjoy all morning.

I never drank coke in the afternoon or evening.  It was a morning ritual for me.

And then one day I noticed how ridiculous it is for a college-educated extremely fortunate person to put high fructose corn syrup daily into my body.  It just finally made no sense.  I decided to quit.

I didn’t quit because continuing to drink soda would make me fat (though it would) or because my mom has Type II diabetes.  I quit because I finally realized just how stupid it is to drink soda on a regular basis.  There just is no redeeming quality in soda.  I simply fell out of love with it.

It has been 12 days.  Driving past my Quik Trip the first few times was really a challenge.  I drove a new route to work.  I also bought the kind of tea I like, even though it is more expensive than soda (which was my excuse for not buying it on a regular basis before.  Lame-o.)   I also had to start bringing a 10 a.m. snack, since I couldn’t rely on high fructose corn syrup to carry me to lunch.  So I brought apples or pears or nuts.  The first of the positive changes.

Then, since I had a healthy snack at 10 a.m. and didn’t have gut rot from all that soda, I felt like having a decent lunch.  With the lack of morning caffeine and the more frequent healthy lunches, slowly but surely the afternoon crash I used to be able to set my watch by at 2:30 has dissipated.  Another unanticipated bonus.

After a week off soda, I started to sleep through the night rather than having to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Maybe TMI, but also a bonus.

And other changes.  I don’t have to carry my cans home for recycling, my teeth are whiter and I drink more water, which tastes better to me now for some reason.

But the best, THE BEST, was today.  It was 78 degrees at our house today.  The forecast for tomorrow is for 40 degrees and a rain/snow mix.  Today I could wear a T-shirt and ride in the fields and woods near our house, tomorrow I will have to wear a sweatshirt and ride indoors (ok, that isn’t so bad either, but still, my point is that today was glorious weather for November 1st in the mid-latitudes).  So I wanted to ride all four horses TODAY.  I wasn’t tired.  I didn’t hit the afternoon nap wall.  I didn’t have to run in and go to the bathroom.  I just rode 4 fabulous horses.  I hacked all over southern Story county.  I worked on connection, lengthenings, galloping, leg yields, you-name-it.  They were all great.

Coke or this?

Charlie reminded me about the thrill of galloping.  Eddie aced the cavaletti.  Sammy is learning to let go in his poll and breathe.  And Elliot was the last to go.  Many is the time in the last year where I was too tired to ride the last horse.  Very disappointing and left a hangover of guilt along with the tiredness.  Not today.  Today I tacked up the last horse with ease, warmed up in the arena over the cavaletti and then out for a hack as the sun set.  Balanced canter and medium canter, joyful, springy goofy-warmblood trot.  Then a swinging walk the last quarter mile home.  I was the luckiest person on earth tonight.

All because of one change.  I gave up coke because I decided it was a ridiculously stupid habit.  I didn’t know how right I was until I stopped doing it.

Have you given up a bad habit and been pleasantly surprised by unanticipated horse-related repercussions?  Maybe you have changed your diet specifically for your horse.  I’d love to hear your experiences.


Bonus!

It is good to have some appreciable level of fitness when your horse does something extravagant and unexpected like this bit of air time... (Luke Klemm, Camie up. Jay with the video camera.)

It is that time of year when lots of people either a) put on the holiday 7 pounds and just learn to love their new shape or b) put on the holiday 7 pounds and go all manic with the workout resolutions, in this year’s case on January 3rd (Too hung over and/or tired on New Year’s Day and this year January 2nd falls on a Sunday, the resolution killer.  Who can start a serious workout program with that much lounging to be done?)

Last winter produced record snow for our part of the world and what started out as character-building in January, turned in to absolute will-shattering, never-ending tedium by mid-February.  It was absolutely impossible to ride with no indoor.  The horses had confined themselves to the 10′ feet around the barn because that was the only snow they could keep trampled down enough to walk around on.  I had to do something, so after I cleaned every closet and rearranged every room in the house out of sheer desperation for activity, Jay and I decided to join the local rec center which has some treadmills and a track, raquetball and basketball courts.  It was pretty easy to work out every day.  It was a big stress reliever and our bodies actually started to take on a some form of a shape, other than “roundish”.

As spring and summer came, we were plenty active around our place so we dropped our membership and picked it up again a week before Thanksgiving this year when the days started getting pretty short.  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to go inside a building and work out when it is light and pretty outside, but when it turns dark early outside, I am attracted to a bright building with people who are actively not hibernating, like a moth to a deck light.

So I started working out and it bummed hard.  Of course I was comparing the fitness I had worked into last winter with where I was starting in the fall. I know better than to do that, but I went all momentarily stupid and did it anyway.  Active as we were over the summer, apparently the cardiovascular part of the equation is not challenged by mowing pastures and riding horses.  Who knew?  Jay joined in about a week after I started and hit the same wall.  By that time, I was pretty much back on track and, ok, I’m a naughty-bad wifey sometimes, so I’ll own that it was kind of fun to see him struggle as I had that first week.  Heh, heh.  For better or for worse for sure, honey, but if you are sucking wind and sweating because you procrastinated and I am fairly whizzing along with a light step and glow, I will not stop myself from smiling and cheerfully asking how your workout is going.  It’s in the fine print honey, really it is.

And there are days where working out still is a slog for me.  Such as, I can definitely feel a drag on my workout if I had more than one beer the day before.  Rats!  Or too much soda.  Double rats!  And some days it is hard to get started.  “My Ipod is out of charge.” “That dog walk I did today should cover it.” “My socks are downstairs in the dryer.”  The answers are “Your Ipod is optional.” “That dog walk was way too easy to be considered exercise.” and “Go downstairs and get them.”  Go.  Go.  Go.  Workout.  So I do.  We try to go every day, but it turns into 5 days a week.  Sometimes my teaching gets in the way, sometimes Jay’s work does.

I had no idea, though, that today was going to be a real payoff.  Today I got on a client’s horse to help square him up for an exercise they were having a challenge with.  I have really long legs and I didn’t feel like messing with her stirrup length, so I just flipped the stirrups over the horse’s withers and rode stirrupless.  I did a lot of canter depart work and lots of cantering for about 20 minutes.  It never occurred to me while I was riding that I really haven’t ridden much lately because of the footing and the arena project and I am therefore seriously out of riding shape.  As I rode, I was so focused on the horse that I didn’t think about that.  Then, at the end of the ride,  I was sliding off and I thought, “Ho, Nelly, that wasn’t smart, I am going to be really sore.  This might even hurt when my feet hit the ground.”  And when that is going through your head, it is a long, anxious way down from a 17h thoroughbred.

And nothing.  I felt great.  Not a twinge anywhere many hours later.  And no, I’m not 18 anymore.  All that stuff they say is true.  Just do it.  Or my personal favorite, “Excuses don’t lift up your butt.”  You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to train for a marathon, and it doesn’t have to take over your life.  My walking program is 33 minutes long.  I crank the heck out of the elevation on the treadmill for two minutes, then go back to a level that is easy for me for two minutes.  I do a little interval training repertoire that I made up.  I keep changing it as my body acclimates.  It is totally Camie’s made up fitness plan.

Effective, not terribly pretty... Camie on Derith Vogt's lovely mare, Carolyn

So, if you’ve been thinking about getting in a workout program, go on, do it.  Do whatever works for you.  Go all crazy fancy, swim on Tuesdays, join a spin class, get all yoga-ed or keep it simple.  Like cross country riding, a workout program doesn’t have to always be pretty to be effective.