Monday, September 9, 2013

When the same old class is different

You know why I love coming back to Bikram Yoga class?

Because every class is different. 

Maybe this is Bikram yoga's best kept secret. If you get busy and neglect your practice for a while and come back... there are lessons waiting for you. Life lessons. Lessons about your body. Lessons about your spirit. Lessons about tolerance and love. So many lessons!

I wasn't able to get to my regular Bikram Yoga class for a couple weeks. Then I decided to take a few more weeks off. To meditate, to do some other yoga, to enjoy copious amounts of caffeine and carbohydrates... and to just have a break.

When I returned today, I knew that even though I was dehydrated and unbendy, it would be one of those AMAZING classes.

The kind of class where you...

  • Have no expectations
  • Are incredibly accepting of your limitations
  • Are surprised by progress
  • Embrace the heat

Now don't get me wrong. In a lot of ways, the first class back after a break is impossibly hard. I have the focus of a housefly and spent the entire first breathing exercise reviewing this inner dialog:

  • Damn, this is hot
  • Was it always this hot?
  • Is this what a marathon runner feels like before they succumb to heatstroke and collapse during mile 18? (I'll bet if I ran a marathon, I could make it to mile six before making friends amongst well-wishers and water-bearers and leaving the course entirely to have a cherry Icee.)
  • Oh shoot, I'm supposed to be breathing. I forgot. I hope the new kids behind me are watching someone else.
  • The people in the first row have been coming every day, twice a day since I came here last. That means that if we were in a yoga race, they are 70 classes ahead of me for the year. If there was a Yoga Network on TV, they'd be on it. (If there was a reality show on the Yoga Network, I'd be the chunky slacker yogi who woefully whines about of being a carnivore and other ahimsa violations. Maybe they could film me stalking snakes in my back yard with a can of wasp and bee killer?)
  • Damn, this is hot. Will anyone notice if I run out of the room now?




Friday, July 19, 2013

The Legend practices yoga

My love, my dearest husband, shall be here (on this blog) called "Legend." Legend is the title of the best-
selling reggae album of all time, by his personal hero, Bob Marley. My husband loves Bob, but also listens to and recognizes many other reggae artists. Here's a fun fact about reggae: The average american, does not know the name of any other musician. Just Bob Marley. My husband is highly amused by this (in a genuine, not such a smug way)... by the fact that his conversations go something like:

Legend: I love reggae.
Average Joe: Me, too! My favorite song is "Every little thing gonna be alright"

Let's stop there. Average Joes equate Bob Marley's Legend album as the only reggae collection on the planet. While Bob Marley was a legend and there is no one that quite compares... even Bob Marley produced other songs! Does my husband point out to Average Joe that the song is called "Three Little Birds?" No. That's why he's the Legend.

Back to yoga.

I've had the following conversation with Legend almost daily for years now.

Me: Would you like to join me at Bikram yoga?
Legend: Um, no. Not feeling up to it yet. I'll join you tomorrow.

Among other excuses, he maintains that the heat is just too... um... hot. Deep in my heart I admire him for knowing his limits. With this as the mainstay excuse and with my deep affinity for Bikram Yoga, I'll bet Legend thought he was off the hook for good. Not so, Legend. Never underestimate me! I've been to other yogas before... and I can cross the bridge back to other yogas again.

I found a REGGAE FLOW class .... and my trap was set. He fell for it. 

Legend is a yoga virgin no more. Now, did he rave about how fantastic it was and how energized and alive he felt afterward? No. But with men like Legend these affirmations come more subtly. He was proud of his abilities to balance. He was concerned about his breathing technique (join the club), and he was in entranced by the vibrations from chanting Om. He was right on about that. I'd forgotten how beautiful the vibrations of creation can sound. You don't get that at Bikram.

I'll ease him into Vinyasa then hit him hard with the Bikram sweat lodge next month. I jest! I joke! I'm completely proud of Legend for stepping foot in the door, for trying his best, for acknowledging his limits, and for opening his mind to the possibility of yoga. He brought me back to the simplest point of reference. The first step of any journey.

Thanks, Legend.




Monday, July 1, 2013

How to get through the awkward in Awkward Pose - Bikram Yoga

Guess what? Utkatasana, or Awkward Pose is called that for very good reason. It's kind of unwieldy!

I'm going to share a little secret. How to get through it without feeling awkward at all. But I wouldn't be me if I didn't detail why I used to feel so awkward in it to begin with. In (excruciating) detail.

There are three parts to this bad boy posture. It comes up third in the series of twenty-six asanas. By this time you're feeling like the class should be over, but are able to count on one hand the number of postures you've done. It's a big "uh-oh" moment. As in, UH OH... I'm barely sweating, but now I'm into a wall squat position from high school gym class... only there's no wall. And I'm going to fall on my bottom.

Part one (squatting pee position) 
Utkatasana: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, as in the Bikram Yoga series


Thought one: This is public humiliation for women who are not adept at hovering over a public toilet to pee. Peeing on the seat is not cool. Sitting down is usually disgusting. If you're ill-equipped to squat, you've now been outed for your private inabilities, In this hot-as-heck claustrophobic studio. Where you paid for the pleasure of this humiliation. Thanks Bikram Yoga!

(I have a very active imagination. If you have horrible knees and cannot sit low in this position, I promise you that not only am I not looking at you and judging you for you for peeing on the toilet seat at the restaurant, but also that I've evolved through the next level of awkward posture narcissism).

Thought two: "Suck it." I can sit down completely low. I have mastered this sitting-low thing and no one is looking at me as if I were the serial urine sprayer that just used the stall before them. I rule!

Thought three: I'll be fine tuning this for the rest of my life and can't help but wonder... Sitting down low, with the Bikram Choudhury-book promise of perfectly toned thighs running through my mind, "just how long do I have to sit here before I can outmaneuver the chocolate that takes up residence on my thighs?"

The source of the
ouchie toe pain. 
Part two (ouchie toes): I have very ouchie toes as the result of surgery to both my feet. I have implants in both of my "going-to-market" piggies and the ones that "cry wee-wee-wee" have been broken and reset during removal of bunions. My toes constantly betray me during part two of awkward posture. Unlocking when I say, "stay locked!" and wobbling under the poorly planned distribution of weight when I go into the posture too quickly.

Part three (knee smoosh): Part three has always been the true test of my practice. If I can lower myself with grace and consistently smooth movement, then I know I'm feeling good. If I waver, rush it, or fall onto my heels, I know I've got some work to do. This is how you master all three parts of awkward posture. Mental toughness.

How to master Utkatasana:

1. Listen to the dialogue carefully and follow instructions. Listen to the instructor as if they were giving you the answer to life's greatest mysteries.The more you listen, the less your mind can wander and complain!

2. Lose the scowl. (I have trouble with this.) Relax your face and ease into the posture. Calm face = calm approach.

3. Overpromise yourself. When you can't take it one more second and you know you're going to fall down, take a slow breath and inaudibly say "One. More. One. More..." By the time you say it twice, the posture is over. Whew!

4. Fake it. You're closer to mastering this posture than you realize. Accept where you are, and you always win.