Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 89??!! It's Happening So Quickly!

I can't believe we're so close to the finish line! I don't want it to end. I think. I am in yoga bliss tonight. I can still recall many a night when I've felt depleted, drained, and cranky after class. It hasn't all been bliss! But right now, I am loving my yoga practice and loving the 101 Challenge with all of my heart.

Tonight we had a couple of newbies practicing at the back of the room, and two very pregnant (7 mo and 8mo along) women were set up next to the door. It was a fairly crowded class, but the room was cool, at least by our studio's standards. Our studio is known for being very hot. Our teacher opened the window a little for a bit, and also kept the exhaust fans on, so it was quite comfortable!

I wish it were not so, but I tend to do better at cooler classes. Too often, too hot and humid = depleted and cranky Sisya. Tonight I had one of my best classes ever. I felt very strong, and I saw progress in some of my postures. I felt very focused. I had to work at my focus, remind myself to ignore distractions, stay with the moment, listen to our teacher. It was a very satisfying class. If it hadn't been the last class of the day, I might have stayed for a double.

Last night I had a so-so, okay class. After class, I cleaned the studio. I do a couple of hours work each week as a trade for my studio membership and unlimited yoga classes there. I took a little break between cleaning the mirrors and getting the showers scrubbed, and I sat down and read a few random bits of Bikram's 'new' book, the one with the yellow/gold cover. I've read this book cover to cover several times, and I leaf through it every now and then. I always learn something new each time I read or reread any part of it. On the rereads, I often find myself thinking, "Wow, I thought I understood that when I read it before, but now I really understand it." Not even the parts about postures, but what Bikram says about how our minds work.

And it's just like that with the practice of yoga. I think I've understood a posture, or thought I did it 'correctly,' and then upon closer examination or review, I realize something entirely new about it, and I think, "Now I really understand it!"

Just about every kind of spiritual practice or teaching that I've ever encountered is very much like our yoga in this way: You can always revisit or review it and find more depth. The deeper you get into it, the more meaning you discover. The more you practice, the more the meanings--or the comprehension or the feelings or the benefits--grow exponentially. It's amazing stuff, this yoga.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 86: Why not Today?

I had a great day today, spent mostly in the sunshine with good friends, good food, and good conversation. I dragged myself away to go the last class of the day at my studio.

This past week, at class, I often found myself drifting off, not thinking about anything, really, but not really present either. Just spaced out, and coming to with, "wow, did we already do a set of half-tortoise?" What is going on?! I'm on some kind of blissed out autopilot. Is this good or bad? I'm not sure, but it's been interesting.

Today, I felt fairly present, and the room was hot and very humid, and the little voices of worry and fear and excuses started speaking to me: "It's really hot. I'm so hot, and I probably didn't hydrate enough. I ate a lot today, so I need to take it easy. My leg muscles are tired." And so on. But I was going through the motions, listening to my teacher and doing her bidding. When she said, "Push your hips, push, push," during half moon, I pushed. When she said, "Lock your knee!" I locked my damn knee! I was trying to stick with it all and put effort into each posture, but the the little chorus of the usual excuses kept singing to me.

I was about halfway through the first side and first set of standing bow when I realized that I almost always start to give up on the posture at about that point. Too often, I listen to that voice that tells me to "save" my energy for some other posture, that I can try really hard on some other day, that some time when I have a lot of energy, then I'll give it my all and try to do it perfectly for the full allotment of time. So I had to answer that voice today, and ask, "Why not now? Why not today? When will the perfect time be?"

So I had to keep trying, to keep putting all my effort and energy into it.

It's so simple, but so difficult, this business of being present, being aware.

And I can't believe that we only have a couple of weeks left in the 101 Challenge.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 82: Gratitude and Needing Peace

A very hot class this afternoon. Mostly just great. I kicked out better than usual in standing head to knee today, so it feels like a gift of a class.

Afterward, in the changing room, a woman I don't know was getting ready for the next class. She asked me, "How often do you practice?" I told her that I'd been coming every day since New Year's, and she said, "I've seen you before, and I notice how different you look. It's really changed you. It's nice for me to see somebody getting such great results!"

Her comments surprise me! I feel better, stand straighter, lost a little weight, but I didn't think that the gifts of this challenge were obvious to strangers! I kind of felt like crying. I'm so glad to be doing the challenge.

On another note, I've been doing a little research and making some inquiries, trying to prepare a little before moving forward with offering some kind of yoga for police and our community. In the meantime, another man was shot and killed by a police officer in our city yesterday afternoon. While I was at yoga class, a group of about 50 people protested by starting a small scale 'riot.' They broke an ATM, a Starbucks window, and damaged an insurance agency's office. The details from the shooting are still being withheld. It's sad and difficult, and emotions are running high.

The more we are aware of the pain and violence in this world, the more crucial it seems for us to cultivate peace within, through yoga, meditation, prayer, or whatever means you have. Pray for peace. Practice peace.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 81: Good Enough

I can't believe I did this, but I skipped yoga yesterday! No yoga at all on Sunday. I met some friends for brunch, and it turned into an all day socializing session. I ate some great food, had a total of 3 cocktails, and got home around 10PM. I rarely drink alcohol, so I worried a bit about how it might affect my practice.

I've decided to not feel guilty for missing, since I had some yoga in the bank. I plan to make it to a class every day for the rest of the challenge.

I didn't sleep very well. I had a strange sensation of achy heaviness in my legs all night. I dreamed that I was trying to buy support hose to help make the heavy feeling in my legs go away. Today, my legs felt like cement, especially in the quadriceps and ankles.

But yoga was just right. My legs loosened up and felt great almost immediately. I didn't have any big new problems, and I did both sets of every posture. It was a hot and crowded class, and in spite of a couple of people going AWOL and many others sitting out postures, there was a lot of strong energy and focus in the room.

I'm noticing that more often now, I feel much more present in the moment at yoga class. I am finally finding myself detaching a little bit from judging myself and my practice. Doing my 'best' used to involve more stressful judgment in my mind...as if I had to be shamed into doing a better a job. Lately, I am just there, trying, and feeling like it's good enough. It is a very good feeling!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day 79: A Lovely Class and a Wandering Mind

It was positively gorgeous weather here today, the first day of spring, and everyone was out enjoying the sunshine. Only 8 of us showed up for the 6:30 class this evening, but it was a great class. Our teacher, a young woman who just graduated from this fall's teacher training, is just getting better and better--very insightful, able to inspire, and quite precise about the corrections she gives. It's amazing to see how quickly she has grown as a teacher.

Some days, my focus at class is very good. Sometimes, my mind wanders all over the place. Today, I kept thinking of things unrelated to yoga...some community issues that have been in the news recently, especially. As I stretched, inhaled, held my postures, I kept thinking of yoga as the answer to all the world's problems.

In my city, there is a bit of a crisis concerning our law enforcement agencies. A few of the many incidents leading up this: A mentally ill man who ran from the police was beaten to death by the officers who caught him, and those officers were exonerated. Recently, an unarmed man was shot in the back and killed by police, and the officer who fired the shot remained on duty afterward. A twelve year old girl who ran from police was shot with a beanbag round...by an officer who was involved in the beating death mentioned above.

Citizens are organizing to speak out, and the city is trying to reform some of our police oversight procedures. In the midst of all this, the city and the police union are trying to negotiate a contract. It's very contentious. Police speak about how stressful and unsafe their jobs are; citizens are concerned about a lack of police accountability.

I've been a volunteer for a few organizations that teach yoga to the incarcerated and to those who are homeless, living in shelters, or going through alcohol and drug addiction rehab. Yoga is a mandatory activity at the facility for people sentenced to drug treatment in our city. We have seen how much yoga helps addicts, people with mental illness and/or unbelievably stressful lives. The focus developed from yoga gives us those 5 qualities Bikram talks about: Faith, Self-Discipline, Determination, Patience, and Concentration. Yoga gives us better impulse control and some tools to use (BREATH!) to calm ourselves, energize ourselves, relax ourselves.
You don't have to do a headstand or have an amazing half moon posture to develop those qualities. Everyone can benefit from yoga, everyone can benfit from having more of those 5 qualities. Everyone around us benefits from us developing a greater sense of peace within.

So I was thinking, maybe the police could use some yoga too. Maybe they could use some help reducing stress, learning to calm themselves, energize and relax. I was staring at my hand during triangle and imagining having the city council make yoga mandatory for police. Or having the community yoga night at the Police Athletic League every week. Maybe I'm totally nuts, but I want to see something like that happen. Is that a crazy thing to propose? Like, if I got a few of the other teachers from the non-profits together to offer community class for PAL, could that plant a seed? I want to see more yoga everywhere.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 77 is now done! Stick aa fork in it!

I made it to the 6:30 for my double, and it was a hottie. One guy left the room, and 2 other people tried to leave but were persuaded to stay. I noticed a lot of students sitting out postures.

I got there just as class was starting, and I had to practice next to a heater, a super-hot spot. to make matters worse, I was wearing capris and a long top because my laundry needs doing and my shorts & sports bras were not available. I SO prefer to wear short shorts and a sports bra. I was once too shy to practice in shorts or a top that left my stomach uncovered, but I don't let body image issues or modesty come to class with me. It's hot, I sweat a lot, and I just feel cooler with less on. One of our teachers said that wearing long pants and a tee shirt adds as much as 5 degrees to your body temperature.

I felt a little more tired than usual toward the end of class, but my energy stayed strong for most of the practice. I had the dizzies/ black-out feelings during a lot of the standing series, and I felt so light-headed during tree that I just squatted down during toe-stand. Spine strengthening series felt great though. My first set of bow went somewhere new. It just felt completely different and lots higher and stronger than it's ever felt.

This the was the third time ever in my life that I've done a double, and it was lots easier than I expected. I'm hoping to squeeze a few more doubles before the challenge ends, just to have the experience. I stayed late to clean the studio tonight, an extra shift in my work-trade set-up. I
covered for another work-trade student whose band is playing at SXSW Music Festival (Knock 'em dead, Emily!), and I am amazed that I have so much energy right now. I've always been so afraid of doubles, and right now, I feel as if doubles are a very wonderful thing.

Day 77--Not Over Yet...

I went to a morning class today, and if i can get across town in time for the 6:30 this evening, I'm going to do a double. It was a fine class, but I really felt that morning stiffness in the first backbend and the first forward bend. I want to do more morning classes. I am such a night person! Morning practice is a whole different thing.

Today, the teacher spoke at length about accepting where you're at in each moment, about not judging ourselves or our practice, just accepting them and being present for them. I love those sorts of reminders. I find it very encouraging, inspiring.

Off to finish work and drink more water!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 76: Sorry, Bikram, I always wear green on St Patrick's Day.

This week, I feel great on alternating days, feel sick with fever and congestion every other day. I felt absolutely awful yesterday during pranayama and half-moon, but once I got into sync with class, I felt fine. Tired afterward, though.

Today was a good day! I am back in a head space where class moves quickly, is over before I know it. Our teacher pushed pretty hard, held us in some postures for extra time, and class ended almost 10 minutes late. Yet it seemed so fast. I feel focused enough that I don't notice thirst, heat, discomfort--at least not as much.

I wore my green Adidas sport top today. I bought it for yoga before I'd ever heard of Bikram's aversion to the color green. I don't wear it very often. It might seem a little silly, but I wouldn't feel right if I didn't wear green on St. Patrick's Day. My hometown has a lot of people of Irish heritage, and St Patrick's Day is kind of a big deal there. Nearly everyone there wears green on St Pat's, even if they're not Irish. I will be forgoing other St Pat's Day traditions: No Guinness or Jameson's for me.

I can't believe that there are only 26 days left in the challenge. I'm not sure that I'll be ready to stop daily practice then. I sort of feel like I'm just warming up...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day 73: About Realignment

Still feeling a bit under the weather and not very energetic or ambitious. Yoga and the hot room feel so good though. I could feel something clearing out in my congested lungs during class, feel my sinuses opening. It certainly wasn't a rock star class, but I made it through again, and I feel better for it.

I'm experiencing some awful aching in my left knee and much of the lower leg. It's the same dull ache that I've attributed to realignment, but it is intensifying in one area. I mentioned it to my teacher after class, and we got out an anatomy book and talked about what might be going on. I am still convinced that the pain is part of realignment. We talked about keeping the weight distributed evenly all over the foot, to avoid causing any additional strain to my lower leg, but mostly I just have to hang in there and endure and wait for the yoga to bring my bones into proper alignment.

I have mentioned before that my toes and mild 'bunion' have been straightening out because of my yoga practice. I've also noticed that my legs and hips line up much better. When I began yoga, I was slightly bowlegged, couldn't get my knees very near each other when my feet were together. Now, standing straight with my heels and toes together, my legs touch together inside the knees. My scoliosis seems less pronounced as well. Yoga really truly seems to be realigning my entire skeletal system.

I want to write about emotional realignment, what I am experiencing as I go through the ending of my relationship, but I can't quite express what I want to say. All I know is this: Change can be painful, whether it's emotional or physical. You needn't get attached to your pain, and if you do, you are likely to prolong it. If you're willing to face your pain and feel it, you can start to heal from it. You can emerge from painful realignment, whether emotional or physical, with more strength, with a firmer foundation, with better flexibility. Fireproof, etc.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 71: Muddling Through & Whining a Bit...

I'm in a daze. I feel, once more, as if I am fighting off illness. Yesterday, after a pretty good late morning class, I threw up. Ugh. Had a headache the rest of the day, and by mid-afternoon, I had flu-like body aches too. I broke down and took ibuprofen, an extreme measure by my standards.

I woke with a lot of congestion, and I had very little energy. My head felt fevery and hot. I wanted to skip class today, but I went anyway. One of my fellow students was urging me to go and just do one set of each posture.

It turned out to be a lot better class than I expected. I sat out one set of triangle, but I made it through all of the other postures with no real problems. I didn't drink any water during class today, fearful about being able to keep it down.

In the last week, teachers are suddenly giving me corrections for postures that I thought I was doing properly. Am I slipping, or are the teachers demanding more of me now?

During pranayama, one teacher yells "No back- bending, Sisya!" on a fairly regular basis. I don't feel like I am back-bending, and after class last week, I asked her to go through it with me and tell me when I was back-bending. She said, "Oh, that looks pretty good. You got it." Then today at class, what do I hear during pranayama? "NO back-bending, Sisya!"


Another teacher said, "Sisya, don't let your chest collapse!" during pranayama in two separate classes in the last week. No one has ever before said that I let my chest collapse. Is my chest really collapsing? WTF? She's a new teacher, and very young...maybe middle-aged DDs look like a collapsed chest to her, regardless of what my ribcage and sternum are doing. Or maybe I've been doing everything wrong the whole time. I feel baffled!

In the past, many teachers have told me that my awkward pose is very good. Lately, one teacher keeps yelling at me, saying that I am "hunching" forward in the first part, not "showing a lumbar curve, " not back far enough with the upper body. It's making me crazy! I can't see or feel "hunching" in my spine.

I was also told, today, that I am not relaxing my shoulders properly in standing bow pulling pose. That's another new one for me.

If I hadn't been so exhausted after class today, I might have asked for a mini posture clinic afterward. I love corrections when I can actually identify what I'm being told to correct, but it's hella frustrating when I can't feel and/or see what I am doing wrong.

Ah, well, how will I ever learn what's in my blind spot if I don't listen to my teachers giving me corrections? I know it's really a gift. I'm just not in the mood to open these presents right now! I hope to feel better tomorrow and to DO better tomorrow too, in my asana, my attitude and my focus.

And I hope the rest of the 101 Challengers are doing great!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 68: Focus = Peace

Winter has returned. It was cold, wet, rainy, and windy today. It felt so nice to get into the studio and relax into the heat.

Class was taught by the teacher whom people fear. My teacher is really getting better and better, and while she still pushes people to work in class, she is smoothing things out so that she inspires and encourages too. She did a lovely thing today. Gently, without making a fuss about it, she paid extra attention to my old friend, The Crying Girl, and The Crying Girl was almost Quiet Girl today.

The Crying Girl has often burst into sobs during classes, with and without tears. The Crying Girl hums and vocalizes throughout class, every class. The Crying Girl is almost always at the afternoon or evening classes that I attend. I try to focus on myself, I think, "Let nothing steal your peace!" but I still find myself sighing inwardly and sometimes cursing silently when I hear the sobs or humming begin.

My teacher gave several gentle, direct corrections to The Crying Girl about her postures, right at the beginning of class. She pushed and prodded The Crying Girl into a state of concentration. And throughout the rest of class, The Crying Girl was mostly quiet.

When I've felt annoyed and cranky about the noise, then felt ashamed of myself for being so bothered by what doesn't concern me, I have often said to myself, "This girl just really needs or wants, on some level, to be noticed and acknowledged." My teacher not only acknowledged and noticed her, she also got her to focus on her postures so intently that the need to make noise was gone.

The teacher whom everyone fears is really an amazing teacher.

Next time, it ought to be MY turn--I could use somebody pushing me into better focus and a state of concentration. Focus and concentration can quiet the chatter in my mind or the noise in the room. If I focus and concentrate, I have peace, no matter what anyone else is doing.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 66: Patience

Our studio has these words painted on the wall above the mirrors: Faith, Self-Discipline, Determination, Concentration, Patience. They're all qualities that Bikram yoga will demand of you. They're qualities that a Bikram yoga practice will help you develop. When I first started coming to classes at this studio, I really loved having the words up there to remind me. It's been a long time since I paid them any notice though.

Today, leaning back into fixed firm, I felt a little restless, wanting to make class move faster. I was grumbling a little inside too, thinking that it really sucks to still have to keep my knees way apart ("New York, LA") in this posture, after all this time doing the yoga.

So, of course, as I raised my upper body out of the posture, what did I notice, right in front of me? The word, "Patience," written in letters ten inches tall. Could it be any clearer?

I practiced on the "hot" side of the room today, over by the folks I call the super-yogis. I managed to keep my focus mostly on myself and avoided comparing my practice to others'. It was hot, but it didn't feel hot to me. I guess my heavy sweating was doing its job, keeping my body cool.

Another student asked me about how the challenge was going, and she wanted to know if I noticed "new aches and pains." It's funny, because although my muscles often get very tired as I try to move more fully into a posture these days, I don't really feel tired, achy, or sore muscles later on. I have noticed small weird aches in my legs and hips occasionally. It feels like realignment pain--like my whacked out knee is slowly moving back into the right place, or that my hip joints are slowly slowly opening a bit more. I don't know if that's the case or not, but that's how it seems to me.

I'm baffled by how my appetite changes with this practice. For awhile, I came out of every class ravenous, ready to eat a horse. Then for awhile, I didn't feel like eating much. Then I went through the intensive pickle cravings for weeks and weeks, and I indulged them. Lately, I crave fruit juices and protein. I can't get enough protein. I'm eating fish, eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, you name it. Right now, if I didn't have to leave the house for it, I'd get a quart of fresh juice--preferably something with berries in it--and a big old steak, medium rare. Yikes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day 65: Lovely Day

We had the most beautiful spring weather today. I took my Buddy dog on a nice little walk (his leg is healing up nicely) and spent a lot of the day in the garden. Went to the last yoga class of the day at my studio.

I have no special progress or insight to report, but I felt good during class, feel great right now. I guess that's actually progress! I am getting to class, doing both sets of all the postures, and loving my practice. That's all I've got tonight, but that's more than enough for me!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 63--A Piece of Blueberry Cheesecake

Today was almost...dare I say...easy, a piece of cake.

Well, no, it wasn't exactly easy. I remember how difficult it was to try to hold proper alignment for half-moon. It was hard to catch my breath after standing head to knee. And I fell out of head-to-knee several times. I struggled with triangle and was called out for not having my thigh parallel to the floor. I felt like a broken toy during full locust. All I could think of during bow pose was that I waould have the chance to drink water before fixed firm. I got scared and felt my throat ache during camel.

So it wasn't an easy class. Not at all.

But somehow, it was a pure pleasure to do yoga today. I loved class today. It wiped me out, and I am famished and exhausted. But it was just perfect. It was a difficult class, but so easy to be there, doing the yoga. Something's changing in my brain. This stuff is so amazing.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 61 Bikram in the Room

I went to the last class of the day, and even as I walked in to lay down my mat and towel, I could tell it would be a difficult class. It was very humid again, and pretty darn hot!

There were 2 newcomers right behind me today. A young woman who'd been to our last community class brought in 2 friends. They were both hiding under giant T-shirts and long pants. As class progressed, they rolled up the pant-legs. One of them shed her T-shirt, as she had a sport/bra top on under it. They both struggled mightily with class, but they signed up for 1 month intro packages, so I am hoping to see them again.

So, class was very humid and hot, and I was drenched, soaked through, sweating gallons and gallons. I was a little dizzy, but I powered on through. Teacher suggested sips of water for the weak ones among us, just before triangle, and I sat down to take a drink. I was feeling wiped out, and my inner monologue was something like this:

I'm so tired. I could just sit out the first set of triangle. Then I'll feel better for the rest of class.

Wait. What about trying to bring some determination and focus to class? What about all that crap I just blogged about wanting to do?

Oh, no one here reads that.

How do you ever freaking expect to get through teacher training if you can't handle one hot humid class? What if Bikram was here? Would you still just want to rest instead of using/developing focus and determination if Bikram were here?

And then I stood up, started triangle, and thought, "Wait a minute...Bikram is here! Every day!" That made me smile, and I finished up the class without sitting any postures out.

Pardon me if I sound like a cult member. Maybe it's what happens during a challenge. But honestly, Bikram's words, his instruction, his inspiration, and his constant needling and pushing and insisting that we do better--they are all with us every day at Bikram yoga class. He's not a god ( I think, but you never know...), yet his presence extends far beyond his own body. And Boss definitely has my respect and gratitude. And it makes me want to do better!

I'm thinking of Johan and Happy Yogi, who got to take classes from the Boss for real this week. More inspiration.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 60! Woohoo!

We've made it to Day 60! This is the first challenge that I've ever done, and coming to this point feels HUGE to me.

Class today was interesting. I started out strong, felt as if I really had some focus during the standing series. It was an intensely humid class, and I was sweating buckets. I got very worn out, and I ended up drinking water at fixed firm. I sat out one set of camel, afraid of the water-in-stomach nausea, but also hoping to catch my breath. I wish that I had finished up strong, but I was drained, exhausted by the end.

I wonder what tomorrow will be like, at yoga. It's a new class every time, isn't it?