Yoga invites us to drop beneath the surface of life into quieter, more introspective realms; at our house it’s a family affair.
First and foremost, it’s important to pay close attention — especially to one’s breathing.
Next, sink into stillness and get comfortable…
Our online instructor says, “Yoga straps help us stretch to the limit, increasing flexibility and muscular strength.” Willa’s look says, “You have GOT to be kidding!”
“Happy Baby” pose gently brings a greater awareness to the hip joints.
The “Butterfly” pose (also known as “Cobbler’s” pose) provides relief to muscle tension around the inner thigh area.
We use several props in our practice. Lexi will be the equivalent of 77 human years this August. She appreciates the comfortable support of an extra blanket throughout the session.
Legs-up-the-wall (or simply balanced in the air) is a posture that gets blood flowing to parts of the body that need it.
Willa is doing an exaggerated “Downward Facing Dog” pose. This posture feels especially good after resting because it elongates and lengthens the back. And as a mild inversion, it’s great for increasing blood flow to the brain and eyes.
Certain yoga postures can strengthen the cervical curve in the back of the neck.
Commonly referred to as “Corpse” pose, we simply call it “Dead Dog” at our house.
After a balanced practice, the muscles in the entire body will have been stretched. “Shavasana” provides the body with a chance to regroup and reset itself.
Namaste — hands held in prayer-like fashion in front of the heart, accompanied by a slight bow — represents the belief that there’s a divine spark within each of us. This gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one, by the soul in another.
nam means bow as means I te means you
Therefore, namaste literally means “bow I you” or “I bow to you.”
If you have animal companions at home, what do they enjoy doing with you?
Our friend and avid cyclist, Nan, told us about another gorgeous bike trail that she and her husband, Dave, found. The trailhead is in a tiny little town in northern Illinois called Hebron.
On Monday we, too, rode the trail and discovered that it was flanked on one side by breathtakingly beautiful wetlands. And just out of view for a good camera shot without a zoom lens, but well within earshot, there were hundreds of Great Blue Heron and wild turkey. They were singing. We couldn’t tell if it was a combined effort of both types of birds, or if it was one, or the other. Regardless, it was startlingly magnificent to be serenaded in the crisp morning air.
A little further down the trail, we came to the sporadic placement of several manmade nesting boxes. We’re not sure what type of waterfowl they’re for, but we’re fairly confident they’re not meant for the Great Blue Heron or the wild turkey as neither of them could possibly fit into the small circular entrances.
On the return ride, we were gifted to see the same birds, but this time there wasn’t a sound—not a single peep. It was hauntingly quiet. Either they were all asleep, or choir practice was over! Regardless, it was again done in unison.
We hadn’t known until Monday morning that Great Blue Heron hang out with wild turkey. If it’s true that “birds of a feather flock together,” what type of “birds” do you hang out with?
The mornings of riding our bicycles in short pants and sleeves are done and gone. We’ve consistently been greeted each dawn by 43-45 degree weather. Add in the speed of a bicycle, and we’ve got some additional wind chill to contend with.
And while outerwear is certainly important, it doesn’t compare to the importance of what’s inside the final layer:
Moisture wicking briefs and sport bra
Capilene long underwear – top and bottom
Under helmet skull cap with ear flaps
Yep, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts! This isn’t just true for outdoor sports; it’s true for life as well. You’ll recall that Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies with in us.”
1 – BICYCLE RIDE Sunday we rolled out of bed at 4am and arrived near Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin by 6am to get our wrist-bands to ride 50-miles of the Harmon Hundred bicycle ride.
It’s very early and plenty cold; about 49-degrees. Roughly 5 miles into the ride we hear gun shots! Oh Lordy! we think. We look around only to see a duck blind on the side of a hill. At this we cheer the ducks and geese on: fly, Fly, FLY! Then it dawns on us, some hunters are wont to drink and hunt simultaneously. In our high-visibility yellow jerseys we make pretty easy targets; we pick up the pace!
Len Riding Point
There are two designated rest stops on the 50-mile route. Long before we reach the first one, we’re overcome by scent mirages. We’re both certain that we smell French toast, waffles, pancakes, warm maple syrup, honey-whipped butter, raspberry jelly, and hot coffee. Our minds are playing wishful tricks on us.
First Rest Stop
In the state of Wisconsin, courtesy dictates that you give “a” finger (not “the” finger) when you pass another person. This is true whether you’re on a tractor, in a truck, or on a bicycle. It’s easy; you simply lift your index finger, while nodding and smiling at the other person until they’re past.
Giving "A" Finger (Not "The" Finger)
When we got to where the second stop should have been mile-wise, we realized that we missed a turn. I’m no longer sweet, loving, kind, and thoughtful. Rather, I’m tired, sore, cranky, and hungry. After multiple additional miles, we arrive at the second rest stop, butt weary.
Second Rest Stop
Our total ride was 62 miles, not 50. We averaged 11.34 miles per hour, with our fastest speed being 28.67 mph. The actual riding time—pedals in motion—was 5 hours and 26 minutes.
End Of The Ride
2 – BOOK SIGNING We get home in the nick of time for showers and decent clothes before we’re back out the door and off to the Lakeside Legacy Arts Park (the historic Dole Mansion) in Crystal Lake where our friend, Kris Hayden, hosted a book signing for her newly published book, “Under the Eaves.” Here’s a LINK to her website if you’re interested in learning more about her book. From here we continue on to …
Kris Hayden Far Right (Short Dark Hair and Glasses)
3 – BIRTHDAY(S) PARTY … a multiple birthday celebration for Eoghan, Kayley’s brother-in-law Ryan, and Kayley’s grandmother, Effie. As you can see, a good time was had by all.
Birthday Celebration - Effie, Ryan, and Eoghan
Kayley and Eoghan
Kayley and Eoghan - Smoochin'
YAHOO! It was a whirlwind of a day, and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. When we got home we crashed saying, “Yahoo, tomorrow we’re closed! We’ll just sit like two bumps on a log and contemplate the speed at which hair grows on our knees—nothing more strenuous than that!”
While riding our bikes through the Heartland, we see lots (and lots!) of silos. For you city slickers who may not know what a silo is, they’re ginormous storage structures for silages and high-moisture grains used for livestock feeds.
[Discussion while bicycling]
“Len, you know that today, right now—this moment—is our life, right?”
“You know how those farmers are storing food for their livestock for the winter months?”
“Are you drinking it all in—tucking these memories into your heart like a treasure for this winter when it’s 40-degrees below and we can’t get outside?”
“Well, why not?”
“Because you’re taking dozens of photographs and will show them to me over and over again. I won’t possibly be able to forget!”
“Laurie, if you stop pedaling one more time we’re gonna have a domestic.”
As we came around a bend in the road we averted our eyes because right there on the side of the bike path was a farmland hussy—a topless silo! Listen with your heart,
The law of gross tonnage is usually thought of in terms of the maritime world—an unwritten, yet accepted nautical law that has everything to do with common sense: “If it’s bigger than you are, get out of the way.”
As bicyclists we, too, have this law. Together my bike and I weigh well-less than 200 pounds. A car—even a small one—weighs a heck of a lot more! In the state of Illinois it’s a law that vehicles passing a cyclist must give them at least 3 feet of space.
It’s a nice law to have on the books, but in our real-life experience, sometimes we’re lucky if we get 3 inches. But when push comes to shove, regardless of the written law, the unwritten, yet accepted law of bicyclists dictates, “If it’s bigger than you are, get out of the way.”
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.”
–Charles M. Schulz
“Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.”
“I thought of that while riding my bicycle.”
–Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”
–John F. Kennedy
“Chasing records doesn’t keep me on my bike. Happiness does.”
–Lance Armstrong after his third Tour de France victory
“Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling.”
–James E. Starrs (sometimes referred to as the father of Indiana Jones)
Wasps don’t adhere to the law of gross tonnage. Even though we weigh thousands of times more than they do, they’ll still chase a bicyclist down and sting him right through his glove!
The day started out like any other non-law-breaking day. We woke up and were going to take a nice 20-mile bike ride. However, when we got to Elgin, we got to thinking, “We’re not going to have that many more nice biking days this season, let’s ride just a little further.”
Riding along, minding our own business, thinking we’ll do a 30 mile ride instead, we came across a barricade on the bike path.
We came across a barricade in the path
WHY? we wondered. We looked around and not seeing anyone, asked ourselves, “What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like they’re going to confiscate our bikes and throw us in jail, right? Let’s just go take a quick peek and see WHY the path is closed.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way …
Where there's a will, there's a way
We find that they’re replacing the bicycle path — it doesn’t exist — so we’re walking our bikes next to the tracks. We can see another barricade a half mile, or so, ahead that’s stopping bicyclists from coming through the other way.
We’ll just sniggle around that barricade when we get there and keep going.
Walking our bikes next to the tracks
We can see that they’re building a new bike path and a bridge. We stop to admire the work. This is going to be fantastic when it’s finished!
They're building a new bike path and bridge
All of a sudden we hear something in the distance. It’s getting louder and has kind of a rumbling feel to it.
We turn to each other wide-eyed and say, “Oh crap! What’s that noise?” as we realize it sounds like a train!
Scrambling as fast as we can, we make it down into a work area with our bikes and turn to see a trolley ambling along, passengerless, the conductors smiled and waved as they passed.
Oh Crap! What's that Noise?
When we reached the “Stop, or I’ll gnaw my arm off now” point, we realize we’ve gone a little over 26 miles. Not too shabby.
Then in dawns on us, we’ve got to ride that same distance all the way back!
We’re so hot (90-degrees) we can hardly stand it. The little “rest area” we stop in has a water spigot. I turn it on, take my helmet off, and stick my head and shoulders gratefully under the cold running water. (yes, my eyes are still black and blue from the “gargling incident”) …
Laurie after sticking her head under cold running water
Len turns to me with a great big grin and says, “I think maybe we shouldn’t have left The Shire, Pippin.”
Len says to me, "I think maybe we shouldn't have left the shire, Pippin."
By the time we got back to Crystal Lake from Geneva, Illinois, we’d ridden 53.36 miles. Our legs are still wobbling!
We all know it’s coming—autumn. There are itty-bitty hints of it, even in the current hot and humid weather: the days are getting shorter, there’s a wee bite in the air at 3am when I do my star gazing, and the moon leaves her mantle of fog lying on the ground in the early mornings.
Len and I know that weather-wise we won’t be able to ride our bikes past October, and maybe not even all the way through the full month. With that in mind, we’ve started looking into various health clubs so that we can stay active and fit through the winter and spring.
In doing so, we’re being wooed—big time. And we’re having a blast! The compare and contrast process is sort of like dating multiple partners to find out which one you get along with the best, which one you want to spend your time with, and your money on.
Part of the wooing process involves receiving guest passes to use at the various facilities. Neither of us is interested in any of the equipment, so flexing those muscles doesn’t impress us. We’re in it for the pool—and yes, size does matter. As serious lap swimmers, we don’t want short lanes.
The locker room is also important; as important as opening the car door, flowers, and maybe even chocolates. We want to be able to get completely ready for work when we’re done swimming. And we’d like to do it in relative privacy in exceptionally clean space.
We’ve both been pleasantly surprised at the amenities that are provided: spacious lockers with key-card entry, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and razor, body lotion, blow dryers, and unlimited heated towels.
We haven’t decided who to have our winter affair with yet, but we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, the wooing process is awfully fun!
The morning started out almost like any other, but there was the slightest hint of something different in the air—magic—as we turned our bikes onto the Fox River Trail and headed south to historic Elgin, Illinois.
We turned our bikes south on the Fox River Trail
Riding along the Fox River, we enjoyed the way it winked back at the sun who was flirting shamelessly with it.
The river winks back at the sun
We rode past beautiful scenery that waved its leafy fingers, beckoning us to leave the trail and play.
We rode past beautiful scenery
But we didn’t. We stayed on the trail that eventually took us within feet of the river.
The bike path took us really close to the river
We could tell by the change in scenery that we were getting close to our destination.
We're getting close to our destination
Finally, we arrive in historic Elgin, Illinois—made famous by the Elgin Watch Company.
We arrive in historic Elgin, Illinois
I love libraries. As you can imagine, lots of magic is let loose in the children’s section of the Elgin library.
The children's section of the phenomenal Elgin library.
We continued our journey to see the Grand Victoria riverboat casino. After dazzling the security guard with our brilliant smiles (and using just a hint of magic), he allowed us to use their very nice restrooms.
The Grand Victoria riverboat casino
On the return trip, we stopped and fortified ourselves for the ride back home with a delicious breakfast at “The Measuring Cup.”
We ate a delicious breakfast at "The Measuring Cup"
Then, you’ll never … ever … believe what we saw. How had we possibly missed this on the ride down? Impossible!
How could we have possibly missed THIS on the ride down?
A castle! The early morning hint of magic in the air proved to be true.
With the zoom lens we got a closeup view. How cool is that?!
With a zoom lens, we get a closeup view
See those blue tubes hanging over our right shoulders? Those are how we drink water while riding. We wear “Camelbak” packs that each hold 100 ounces of water. When we’re thirsty, we just bite down on the bite-valve and voilà! Perfect for a long, hot ride.
Our Camelbak packs make it easy to stay hydrated on a long, hot bicycle ride
There’s magic around us all the time, all we have to do is pay attention.
In an editorial published in the January 2010 publication of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Elin Ekblom-Bak of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences said that authorities need to highlight the dangers of sitting. “After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals because the genes that regulate the amount of glucose and fat in the body start to shut down.”
Tim Armstrong, a physical activity expert at the World Health Organization said that people who exercise every day—but still spend a lot of time sitting—might get more benefit if that exercise were spread across the day, rather than in a single session.
A new Australian study by Melbourne-based Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, in conjunction with health insurer Medibank Private, has alarming findings about the simple act of sitting down: It’s dangerous, particularly at work and watching TV.
The study was published in the American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report in January of this year. They said that the theory of sedentary lifestyle being bad for you isn’t new, but that the findings in this study are alarming.
Australian researchers tracked the lifestyle habits of 8,800 adults and found that each hour spent in front of the television daily was associated with:
An 11 percent increased risk of death from all causes.
A 9 percent increased risk of cancer death.
An 18 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related death.
Compared with people who watched less than two hours of television daily, those who watched more than four hours a day had a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes and an 80 percent increased risk for CVD-related death.
This association held regardless of other independent and common cardiovascular disease risk factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, unhealthy diet, excessive waist circumference, and leisure-time exercises.
Len stands—all day. There are stand-up desks. And there are pub tables. As you can see in the final photo, Len’s preference is the latter. A good choice, as he burns an extra several hundred calories per day just by taking a stand!
If you’d like to find out how many calories you burn per day doing certain activities—including standing—simply follow this LINK to the AOL Health page and use their “Calories Burned” feature.