Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Losing my yoga practice. It's personal...but stay with me...it's a long story!

I have not taken any yoga pictures or video since I attended and earned my SFG Certification in Houston, March 8-10.  Three months ago I did not expect to lose a huge part of my life and a huge part of my training and recovery.  It was not the fault or result of the rigorous three days of heavy kettlebell training, but it was an easy place for me to put blame, at first.

At the end of the first day of my SFG Cert I pulled a muscle behind my knee, (popliteus) causing it to swell up like a balloon (well, the size of an orange).  I believed it was a result of practicing hundred's of double 16kg swing reps..."hardstyle".  But in reality it was an accident waiting to happen.  It was in fact created, first, by my Bikrams yoga practice!

My knees easily hyper extend.  This condition requires extra attention when practicing and performing yoga poses with a "locked out" knee.  To me "locked out" is different than it may be for someone whose knees do not hyper extend.  As a person whose knees go into hyper extension I need to pay close attention to where and how I'm contracting BOTH my quadricep and my hamstring to protect my knee.  It seems as if I got lazy, too many times, relying on "hanging" out on my knee joint and ligaments, without paying close and extra attention on keeping tension (strength) in my hamstring.  Whoops.  This weakness, this habit, was exacerbated when performing heavy Hardstyle swing reps, as power, acceleration/ explosion, and contraction in the hips and legs is practiced at the highest degree.

BUT, this is really just a small part of a bigger story, and I've kind of been in hiding to what's been going on.....because it personal!  Like "female", "old lady" personal!

The first of the year started out with a BANG!  I was feeling great and I had many things to feel great about! I had a fabulous trip to San Diego, a great time in Columbus, my first Kettlebell sport competition.  Little did I know what was starting to happen to me, and it's taken me this long to write about it.

A few weeks before SFG I noticed how warm the weather seemed to be getting (in January/February!)....especially at night time.  In fact I got so warm during the night I thought Mark was sleeping too close to me!  It was Mark, it had to be him. making me so darn hot (no pun intended).

One morning I was just about to ask him, "Are you sweating on me during the night?"  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Damn.  No.  It can't be true.  Not me. Menopause.  Hot flashes.  Sleepless nights.

Are you kidding?  Memo to Universe...you got the wrong person!  I am not old.

SFG was on the schedule and I was as strong and prepared as ever.  A 6 week cycle of dbl 16kg swing training and I was on a secret mission to take my snatch test with the 20kg!  What I wasn't prepared for was  getting injured.  Getting injured from not strengthening my knee/hamstring, and actually weakening it during my yoga practice.

Fast forward.  I completed my SFG Cert, 20kg snatch test and all, but I came home with an injury severe enough to restrict me from any and all forward bends on a "straight" and "locked out" knee.

At the same time menopause really kicks in, and with it a crazy obsessional  crazy appetite.  I started stalking cheese and caramel popcorn!  I HAD to have cheese and caramel popcorn.  One problem.  I couldn't find any!  So I ate everything else trying to satisfy this obsession.  10lbs later..... Mark orders me some herbs, some creams, I'm not even sure what it all was, all I knew is I was willing to do and take anything to stop what was going on.  But the crazy obsessional hunger/appetite got worse.  Combine it with the sleepless nights and overall feeling weak and exhausted and I chose to feel miserable.

My next Kettlebell Sport meet in Seattle, April 27th....although I never posted it, I DID NOT make weight.  I stripped down to undies, and still I was .1 kg over.  Two months earlier I weighed in at 136lbs, way under my weight class cut off at 143lbs, seven pounds to spare.  And now overweight.  How did this happen so quickly? Screw not making weight, I felt like crap.

Fast forward back to yoga.

A couple of months ago I had a practice that rivaled many of my own Bikram's yoga Instructors....and now that was gone...completely.  Having to work with an injured hamstring, and a 10 lb weight gain, in a hot, 104 degree yoga room. (violins start now)  I was angry.  I was not having fun.  It felt like pure torture, but I made myself go, because the only other option was to quit.  I would not give up, or give in.  I resigned myself to look at my practice in a different way.

First thing is that I HAD to rebuild the strength of my hamstrings, the right way (and carrying ten extra pounds of body weight while trying).  I had to focus on not hyper extending my knee and/or not hanging on my joint, and putting stress in my ligaments, taking extra care to be more aware of contracting my hamstring, not just my quadriceps.  The only choice I had was to back up, start over, and do what I could "the right way".  No short cuts.  No laziness.  Which limited me in many of the standing forward bend postures (a big part of the practice).

But really, Bikram's yoga is not my life!  My kettlebell training is!  (second of course to my marriage, and my family)  So I decided to take advantage of what I could do, instead of what I couldn't do.  Yes, I could physically go and practice each posture to the best of my ability.  And I could actually take advantage of not being able to focus on "Bikram's" ideal of yoga and reinvent my own version to benefit the needs of my own health and recovery.  Now I start each class with the only intention of stretching.  It's my time to listen to what my body needs, being able to just stretch is a luxury.  And what a good time for me to take advantage of trying to counter balance the challenge I put on my hands and grip during my GS practice.  In every posture where it is applicable I position my hands in a way to best completely stretch out my fingers, my wrist and my forearms.  Otherwise I might not ever do it, and now I get to pay special attention to it.

So, that's been a priority, three/four days a week, while continuing building my practice back to it's former glory...in fact, better actually.  Strengthening the weakness that got me into this mess in the first place.

And menopause?  Well, I decided to refuse it.  Whatever will be will be.  In the mean time I will not play victim.  Oh, I might whine and cry a bit, but not out loud.  I will take advantage of the time I have to sweat, stretch my forearms and grip during my 90 minute practice.  Of course I will show up to teach and lead my classes, my training, my GS sets.  I do not feel the need to stalk online sources for caramel and cheese flavored popcorn.  And I will get on with my life.

I've gotten rid of half of the ten pound weight gain.  In less than 1 week I'll be getting ready to produce 2 more awesome swing DVD's with a fabulous male co-swinger, Jeff Sokol SFG.  June 29th I've got to lead my students through #3 of The Swing Quest 2013 (are you ready?), and finally on to the "piece de resistance" in August, on the 17th, for the OKC Kettlebell Sport competition that will coincide with my 50th birthday!

I may be close to 50 years old, and I might be menopausal, but I am a brick house, and I am mighty, mighty.


KKC said...

You are a brickhouse!! Thanks so much for sharing Tracy!!

Mahda16 said...

This Post comes at the most special time for me.... I have let myself "go" and now paying the price, but your pep talk yesterday has moved me to do better and care more for me (of course that's what it's all bout, right), and today's - right on the money. thanks again for your inspiration and your introspection. - Mary Ann

Tracy Reifkind said...


I keep visualizing myself with the strength and stability of a stack of bricks! Hey, wasn't there a brick house in the story of The Three Pigs? lol

Wind, rain, wolf or menopause! Bring it!

Tracy Reifkind said...


As I always say..."it happens to the best of us!" In fact I believe we all are and do our best, all the time, and then one day we realize we can do better....and then we do!

Isn't it a great thing?

To be able to change our minds! Whoops...just when you thought it felt better to "let yourself go" you were mistaken! And now you have changed your mind! Me too!

Hanneke said...

Menopause (sigh), it's something I also did not ever thought about until it hit me. I also thought I would breeze through it like my sister did, she just discovered after 7 months that she was period free. Unfortunately I am not that fortunate.

All I can say that it's a shift, I am not sure where it will take me but it's hard work.
Weight is also a problem for me that I have under control now but losing it is at this moment practically impossible. I guess that too shall pass. I run high mileage and train KB 3 times a week but I can't eat more than around 1800 calories or I will gain weight. The result is that I am freakin' hungry a lot of the time which doesn't make it easier.

I do take bio identical hormones, the jury is still out on that too. (I do like the testosterone).

You know you'll be fine, it's just another journey.

Tracy Reifkind said...


Thank you so much for sharing your experience (and your sisters!) I like how you describe it as a "shift"...

After having to journal my calories I too have discovered that around 1800, and for sure under 2000 is where I need to stay. Good thing is I still get plenty of foods I love, bad thing is I used to be able to eat 2400! Maybe it will all balance out in the end...or I won't care! I'd gladly trade it for being stronger, or faster, or healthier, or cuter, or whatever...but that doesn't seem to be the case! lol

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