Life is Better Upside Down
90 minutes of roughly 40 Chaturanga push-ups, intense spinal, hamstring, hip, and shoulder stretches, balancing on one leg, all while keeping my core engaged and my breath controlled, getting to headstand is a relief. This, my friends, is Ashtanga yoga.
In Ashtanga, I practice inversions for a number of reasons. I believe inversions purify my body. Going upside down brings fresh blood flow to my heart and head. This oxygenates my vital organs and keeps me young. They even stop the hiccups by turning my diaphragm upside down. They also require tremendous courage. The consequence of losing balance while in headstand is crashing down, sometimes on top of the unsuspecting yogi on the mat next to me.
Breath is Key
While yoga is a controlled stressor — meaning it confronts me with difficult situations while on my mat. It leaves me with the choice to either keep a focused mind and calm breathing, or quit. This translates directly into my life. Through my yoga practice, I’ve learned that if I can keep it together in a sequence as tough as Primary Series, I can handle anything. The goal is to keep a steady and rhythmic breath.
The Importance of High Protein Foods
The Ashtanga Primary Series is meant to be practiced daily, otherwise I won’t build the strength and flexibility needed to master the postures and move onto the next sequence. This sequence is very physically demanding. It requires a clean diet, plentiful in complex carbohydrates for energy, essential fats for mental focus, and high protein foods for stamina.
I don’t eat solid foods up to 2 hours before I practice, as I’ll definitely be going upside down and don’t want my food going with me. This is where my Gnarly Whey Protein Powder Travel Packs come into play. I use two Travel Packs, which allow me 10 grams of complex carbs, 4 grams of essential fats, and 25 grams of lean protein. It also has a little over 5 grams of branched chain amino acids to help with muscle repair, so my body recovers quickly for my next session. It can easily be taken on the go, and won’t negatively affect my performance if I drink it an hour before I practice. I have a serving (2 sticks) before my yoga class and a serving promptly afterwards.
I choose Gnarly products because of how they make my body feel. There’s nothing worse than feeling off during a yoga session as a result of eating food my body disagrees with, especially when it’s time for an inversion. I rely on these products because they contain nothing but the highest quality ingredients — like antibiotic-free, non-rBGH grass-fed cow’s milk to make up the whey concentrate.
Yoga is Gnarly
Because of the incredible changes I have made in not only my body, but more importantly in my mind, yoga has taught me life doesn’t have to be so serious. When I master a posture that was once impossible to me, I feel like I can do anything.
Yoga has a way of changing the practitioner from the inside out. Just like any successful relationship, yoga requires a good relationship with myself, and that often starts with eating foods that nourish me.
When my diet is in check, my yoga practice thrives, and my mind and breath remain at ease. I am able to spend more time upside down, where life is far more enjoyable, so long as I don’t hold my breath.
P.S. For the top 10 Ashtanga Yoga studios in the country, click here. You just may be near one of them! You can also check out my Instagram account: @zies_balancing_act.