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.








Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New mat, new me!

Falling backwards in Padangustasana
I love my Jade yoga mat.* Or at least I did until it began to decompose. At first I was in denial of this process. I purchased it seven months ago (on the heels of a Jade Travel mat that's still in great shape) and have noticed signs of stretching and wear as of late. Boo and hoo. This mat was the perfect union of stickiness, thickness and I even loved the rubber smell. It overpowered the scent of any nearby neighbors who had eaten too many tator tots or hushpuppies before class.

Mat hygiene: I rinse my mat every day after practicing and leave it in the shade to dry overnight. I live in Miami so this location is outside most of the year. The rest of the time, it's slung over the tub in my bathroom (sleek bathroom + drippy yoga mat = unhappy OCD husband). 

I was content to blame the staining on detergent from my towel until I switched and used less detergent. Then I was determined to blame the studio for cleaning their floors with something funky. Not so. They use essential oils and rainbow juice to clean.*

My instructor said it was sweat and wear and tear. Gross. I'll revise this diagnosis because I know that I sweat rose petal and gardenia-scented water. My mat was ruined because of the salt air which has slowly deposited into the ultra-ecologically friendly rubber core. I was talked easily into a Manduka mat by my studio owner. I gladly paid him full retail for his help... and for not telling me that I have poor mat hygiene.

I toppled backwards onto my bottom during toestand on my new mat. Something I've never done. It made me giggle. Kudos to the new mat for opening the door to the giggles.

If you have a Manduka mat, tell me how long he's been your best friend! I'm hoping mine lasts five years.

*I love Jade's corporate Web site. They support so many causes, manufacture their mats in the USA and even plant a tree when you purchase a mat. I can safely say that if this Manduka thing turns sour, I'll be back!
**I practice at Bikram Yoga Falls and I cannot say enough positive things about them. The rainbow juice comment was purely in jest. This place is a Bodhi tree!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Rascally Rabbit - At my wit's end again

Four funny little rabbits rebelling.
I must have lost a purple pen. I never use blue.
Let me give you a quick background on the matter, in case you don't know me personally.

I am a yoga practitioner who loves the challenge of Bikram Yoga class. I repeatedly torture myself with one posture in particular. Sasangasana. Rabbit pose. 

Unless you're outside my window, you missed it.  I just cringed a bit as I typed the name of the posture, yet was relieved that it flowed rather quickly from under my fingers so as to move onto another word. Yes, I'm that neurotic. 

My entire practice changes as the class moves from savasana to Rabbit Pose - Sasangasana. What was previously an effortless flow turns into a labored, intense moment. I TRY SO HARD! Then I hate that I try so hard. Then I try to relax, but realize that I'm trying hard to do that as well (arms thrown up in exasperation). Needless to say, this is the worst moment of my class. What is supposed to be simple, becomes anything but.

I've heard some people say they do not like Bikram Yoga because of the predictability of the routine. Day in and day out. I find every class completely unique. Except for this posture. In Sasangasana, I only find variations to my torture. Again and again.

The teacher announces the posture, and I take a deep breath. Then the inner dialogue begins:

Calm me: Stay calm. Listen and follow the instructions. 

Crazypants: You stay calm. And stay out of this! I am not a potato bug! I cannot roll into a tiny ball. This posture is not natural. 

Calm me: Missy, you were perfectly relaxed through twenty-two postures. I find it hard to believe you can't breathe through this and get over yourself.

Crazypants: Well, believe it, sister! I'm going to listen to the instructions precisely. Follow as closely as I can. And pant like a dog while trying to do it. 

Calm me: No! No panting here! You are not going to breathe out of your mouth. There's no need for that. This posture is not as demanding as any in the standing series. Be reasonable. You can do this. Just relax.

Crazypants: Shhhh, I'm in the middle of of my pose. Don't talk to me now, else I might put more than 10% of my body weight on my head. You don't want to be responsible for that, do you?

Calm me: (Exasperated) I give up for today. Do as you wish. I'm going to secretly sneak-a-peek at my neighbor who has executed a perfect posture and has been praised by the instructor for doing so. 

Crazypants: So much for being the voice of reason and self control. Thanks a lot! And EFF-WHY-EYE; we'll be eating some chocolate later to make up for your lack of confidence in me.

The End

(I'm reading a lot of books these days with that definitive ending. I'd like to adopt it into my personal inner dialogue for effect. My inner toddler will be grateful.)

----------------------

I've been here before. Previous tirades on Rabbit Posture include:
http://therascallyrabbit.blogspot.com/2013/02/wascally-wabbit-sasangasana.html
http://therascallyrabbit.blogspot.com/2013/02/day-twenty-eight.html




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bikram Yoga - Is it a mental game?

I was chatting with a yoga friend at the studio. She's a mom like me and when our schedules get crazy, the first thing to go is a regular routine that includes a Bikram yoga class. She saw me the other day and said, "Are you finding it harder to get here since school let out?"

I said, "Absolutely. And when I get to a Bikram yoga class infrequently, I find it more a physical game than the mental game I'm used to." (As soon as I uttered the words, I knew it rang true, but wasn't aware the extent to which I would later analyze it.)

She said class was always physical for her. Which made me wonder, hmmm... is this a physical or mental challenge? The answer is both, but which is more apparent?

Once I grew past the initial "WTF-is-this-torture" phase, in which you want to sit out every other posture and swear the instructor was sent straight from hell for some kind of early karmic debt repayment program, I moved into a nice rhythm of challenge/achievements. These were physical challenge checkpoints that allowed me to see progress without being too judgmental about it.

Can I stand perfectly still and not wipe sweat? Yes. Check. Can I go ninety minutes without water? Yes. Check. Can I go to class for seven days straight? Yes.

So what's the mental challenge? Hmmm. Can I be pleasantly surprised by the achievements I make today? Am I unaffected when no progress is apparent?

I guess the mental game is this... that I'm still mentally spinning any physical achievements. I'm able to stay focused, but secretly hoping a super-bendy body with zero body fat will spring forth and grant that my chocolate addiction be metabolized as spirulina and wheat grass.

My biggest achievement to date?

I smiled at the unlovely creature before me in the mirror yesterday. I saw her trying her best and thought she might need a lift. Now THERE'S some mental progress!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to make dirty green juice

Green machine
I love my juicer. I loved the juicer before it that died a slow juicer death. My juicing days began about five years ago when I thought extracting liquid from an apple and a few grapes would be the beginning of a brand new me.

You see, I love quick fixes and gimmicks. I'm every marketers dream girl! The "As Seen on TV" section of the drugstore is MY domain.

I'm slow to enter juicing convos with fellow yogis because I've learned there are several levels to this addiction, each with its own revelations and pitfalls.

Stage 1: Apples and carrots. Someone gives you a juicer as a wedding gift and you think it's cool to throw  apples and carrots into it for a sweet treat. Occasionally you get crazy and try celery. Whoa. Dream big!

Stage 2: Ginger crazy... with a shot of wheatgrass. You find the local juice bar that offers seriously over-gingered juice. They toss in a shot of wheatgrass for free when you get the 10th punch in your frequent-juicing card. You carefully watch these masters at work, then vow to save a few bucks by juicing on your own. After all, that wedding juicer is in the appliance garage... somewhere!

Stage 3: Green machine. You're a serious yogi now and your friend with the most radiant skin you've ever seen, hands you a mason jar full of the "good stuff." It is some seriously foul green goo. But you can't argue with her perfect skin. So you steal the recipe and become a devoted follower of the real-deal green juice.

Stage 4: Juice fasting. Inspired by the documentary, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," and various compliments about your glowing skin, you embark on a juice-only fast. You scour every resource possible for recipes and learn the difference between dandelion greens and watercress leaves in what was previously deemed "that green mystery wall" at Whole Foods.

Stage 5: Masticating what?!? I was at this stage for about six minutes when my first juicer died. I had all the ingredients for green juice washed, chopped and ready to go... and decided that I should just blend it, rather than let it go to waste. I'll save you the trouble. It was bad. Don't go there. If your juice takes ten minutes to process in a masticating juicer... please tell me how you got to this sad place in your life. I don't think I'll ever be ready to chew my juice.

WAIT a minute. I forgot that I was going to share my recipe for dirty green juice. My favorite recipe is not for public consumption. You can email me to get info on that. Here's an easy one to get you started...

Dirty Green Juice
1 bunch of baby spinach
2 stalks of celery
2 medium cucumbers
2 small green apples

Doesn't sound too dirty, does it? Here's where I went wrong with this. In such a hurry and in a state of upset over a broken piece of juicer (I love you dear juicer, but why do your instructions say dishwasher safe, when you are clearly not safe there?), I forgot to rinse my fresh-from-the-garden baby spinach. I downed the entire juice without realizing my mistake. There was sediment left in the bottom of my glass. That means DIRT, people. I ate dirt.

I invite you to share your favorite juice recipes with me. I love trying new concoctions. Give me your best shot.





Monday, June 3, 2013

Indiana Jones and the Yogini

I've been doing a lot of at-home yoga . While finding a peaceful moment as a stay-at-home mom is tough, I've found a great partner in my unlikely hero, Indiana Jones.

Arguably one of the best film heroes of all time, Indiana Jones is a man of substance. A scholar. An archaeologist, A lover of ancient civilizations. A patriot. A cynical romantic (it exists!). And best of all, a hero who needs no superpowers to overcome evil. He's even got a weakness that I can relate to... a terrible fear of snakes!

Oh and why am I so slow to relate to this less-than current superhero? It was my five year old son's wish to have an Indiana Jones-themed birthday party. He knows the character from a Nintendo Wii video game which makes Dr. Jones a new household name in the form of a temple-raiding LEGO action figure.

Last week, as I prepared for the party with my perfect yogic state of peace, I found a similar duality with Indy. He is a scholar and a professor, yet finds himself driven to the drama and satisfaction of being an adventurer. Don't we all live on the sidelines in some way or another, but find ourselves drawn into drama of a "better self?" Content with the day-to-day but easily lured into gossip, an adrenaline-filled hobby, or maybe just the double shot of espresso with our Greek yogurt? I won't presume to know where your duality lies. Mine is all over the map. Literally. Nat Geo maps I folded into four dozen origami balloons for party decor. And the cartoon above? It's a 24x30" painting on canvas I made for my son. Just for his party. Dee-eye-why gone crazy!

Sigh. I love my kids. Now back to the business of yoga!






Sunday, May 19, 2013

How to prepare a mat for yoga

In my former working life, I did a fair amount of online marketing. I'm intrigued by search activity and the browsing habits of the general public. It's highly entertaining, and I'd love to illustrate why...

As of late, multiple someones out there have typed the following phrases into Google and found my little blog as a result:
  • How to prepare a mat for Bikram yoga
  • Porn gallon water
  • Water porn
  • Bikram sea green color
  • How to market your yoga blog
How to prepare a mat for Bikram yoga
I have no clue how to prepare a mat for Bikram yoga. You certainly don't need to rub it down with sex wax, hemp oil or chia seeds. But if you found my blog as a result of this search I think it's my duty to try to enlighten you. If you're going to practice Bikram yoga, you need to buy your own mat. You can rent one at the studio, but this isn't your grandma's YMCA yoga class. This is sweaty hot yoga, my friend. And that means a rental mat probably has residue from the last guy who thought buying a Groupon for Bikram yoga would be a fun venture as part of a New Year's resolution to get in touch with his softer side. Buy a mat. You can "prepare" it by also bringing along a cool grippy yoga towel (if you feel the first time class is worth that extra investment for the fancy towel). Or just bring a bath towel just to try this whole thing out. I recommend the latter. I own several fancy towels, but I don't want you to come back and blame me for that $25-50 wasted on a towel if you're going to give up yoga next month. Here's my post on how to prepare for your first class. Here's my best shot at some practical advice...

How to prepare your mat
  1. Buy a mat
  2. Wash your favorite bath towel in unscented detergent and skip the fabric softener. Fabric softener = Ice Capades on the mat during standing postures.
  3. Take mat and crunchy towel to the Bikram studio and set up in the back of the room. Follow the lead of those setting up in front of you for direction/placement. 
  4. Take your sweaty towel and mat home, hose the mat down, and hang to dry. They sell mat cleaners if you're feeling extra germy. In a pinch, I've been known to dip my mat in the pool. 
Porn gallon water
So you searched for "porn gallon water" and you got to my blog. I'm very sorry. I'm trying to process what you might be thinking... and I'm not getting very far here. My mind is a blank with anything appropriate for the moral majority. I hope you find my post on water porn interesting. Water is quite enticing when you're dehydrated.

Water porn
I know what you mean! You don't know what I mean. But I know what you mean! I own this phrase. You: want to find out about having sex underwater. I assure you that having a mat neighbor in yoga class with a sweaty bottle of Fiji water within arms reach while you are dying of thirst is FAR more inviting than a video of some creeper having sex in a hot tub with a $99/month crooked breast implant girl. Wanting to lick the condensation from a perfect stranger's water bottle? Now that's desire!

Bikram sea green color
You: heard that Bikram is opposed to the color green. You are going to teacher training and you want to know if he is opposed to all greens or just kelly green. Does he balk at seafoam green? Does he detest a deep evergreen color? Is chartreuse a big no-no as well? Can you wear turquoise in his presence? What color does he really dislike? The answer to this is... just don't wear green. There's so many other lovely colors of the rainbow. I don't like green either. Incidentally, Pantone has named Pantone 17-5641 (Emerald
Green) as the 2013 color of the year.

How to market your yoga blog
Oh my! You searched "how to market your yoga blog" and you got to me? I'm floored. I love it. I would love to help you market your yoga blog! Prior to mommying and painting on the side, I had a full-time gig in marketing. I'm going to tackle this search term another day. Maybe I'll write an e-book and suck you into a link farming affiliate marketing program pyramid scheme.

I'm not trying to corner the market on Bikram Yoga blogging, I'm just having fun. I have amassed an interesting mix of search terms. If you're a blogger, I'd love to hear interesting keywords and phrases.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

MOMent in Half-Tortoise Pose

My MOMent in life affirming and invigorating Half-Tortoise pose
I'm really not sure what a MOMent is, but my favorite tea purveyors are running a social media campaign asking you to share a picture of yours. In exchange you can win fabulous prizes including free tea! I hope I win, I hope I win...

Back to the MOMent. I'm a mom. I have my moments.

Like today... I was walking across the street when I was almost struck by an elderly driver. She was so close to hitting me that I touched her car with my hand. Afterwards, and completely unrelated, a man barked at me. He didn't shout at me. He actually barked. Like a dog (I can't make this up. I just wish I had Google Glasses with Blinkety Blink photo app to capture this moment).

If you're still reading this, Teavana friends, here is my MOMent.

Half tortoise pose. The Bikram Yoga Web site insists that this posture will help you live longer. My MOMent in this posture leads me to forget about barking men, children who are home sick with the flu, and brushes with death.

Won't you send me some Monkey Picked Oolong today? It's my fave. I couldn't take a photo of myself in the half tortoise pose, but I can draw a mean purple caricature of it.

If you want to share your MOMent with Teavana in hopes of some freebie tea, check out this mommy blog. Or Tea Twitter. Namaste.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

My first Bikram Yoga class

When I began my Bikram yoga practice a couple years ago I weighed... ahem... more than I do now. I was seeking personal peace with my then-current size, contemplative moments away from the tiny humans crying,  and pooping in my house, and emotional comfort for the loss of a career I had voluntarily walked away from... to be with tiny humans twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week.

I was a mess. Fat. Unhappy. Fulfilled. Empty. Complete. Confused.

The day I found Bikram Yoga was like the best first date ever. If you haven't had your best first date ever...  imagine one from a movie and take your expectations down a few notches. Back into the realm of possibility and human error.

  • The possibilities are a tiny glimmer of optimism rising forth in your heart. 
  • The human error is just that. Ordinary feelings that sabotage an otherwise perfect day. In this case, the insecurities of being a first-timer in yoga class.

Here's how my first Bikram Yoga class unfolded.

Possibility: 

1. There are people here in this yoga studio who embody peace and well-being. If I follow them home I will find kale and kombucha in the fridge.

2. These yogis seem at peace, and without judgment. I may see them as fat, thin, bendy or unbendy. They see themselves as a work in progress in the universe. How evolved!

3. I feel the quiet corners of my mind when I step into this beautiful space. A glimpse of bliss? Is this the goal of the meditation? Did I catch of glimmer of it after one second? Score!

Human error: 

1. In walks the local high school baseball team. The entire team. I'm not kidding. I was a hormonal six week postpartum mom with mom hips and belly goo. I did not want to be trapped in a hot room with a bunch of 18 year old boys, chuckling at the thought of YOGA. They were leering at the tiny girls in cheeky shorts and wondering why they agreed to this torture. (They weren't looking at self-conscious chunky old me! But having them in such close proximity during a tenderly emotional moment of my life is unthinkable.) Mentally: I can't escape fast enough. Physically: I've already agreed to try this. I'm not running away now.

2. There are three dozen people crammed in this little room. I can't see myself in the mirror. I'm too far back to see the teacher or anyone that knows what they're doing. I might as well leave.

3. It's effing hot here. It's summertime in the desert, hot. Remember when you were twelve and your best friend convinced you to lay out on her roof atop a carpet of tinfoil to get a quick tan? Oh yeah. You remember. It's THAT hot.

Possibility:

1. Nirvana. Is that possible?

2. Freedom from self. Is that possible?

3. Patience. Is that possible?

Human error:

1. Jerk in front of me in the Lululemon mannequin sale won't stop giggling with her mat neighbor. I guess she has abundant free time away from the tiny human hurricanes. "Hey lady. I'm on borrowed time here! Some respect!"

2. Sweat. I knew it. The consequence of all this heat is stinky human sweat. Smelly armpit-in-your-face, sweat. I'm counting the moments until this ninety minutes of torture is over. There's no clock in this room! It's okay. I'll just count to 5400.

3. Exhaustion. I want to go on and finish this class, but I'm positively exhausted. Can I get a raincheck and grab a drink on my way home?

Once my first class was over, my world felt amazing. I heard those fateful words from the instructor... "See you tomorrow!" Every first-timer must think this is a joke. But you know what? I went back the next day. I hope you do too!

My practice continued on and off, which led me to my first-ever 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge this past February. Sometimes I get to class. Other times, like today... I have to settle for home hot yoga in the steam shower.



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The breath of fire: First foray into Kundalini

Lotus flower drawing. It's your soul expanding!
I do draw & paint things completely unrelated
to yoga. Check it out on evergreendream.com
Oh my dear Bikram practice. I have forsaken thee!

The following is not a paid endorsement for YogaGlo.com. Unless they want to pay me... then I might re-post with something more... glowing. I'm not sure how I feel about you yet, Yoga Glo! You were certainly convenient.

I decided to try YogaGlo.com.

In the spirit of trying something completely new, I opted to begin with Kundalini. The blurb under the video player indicated that this was the means to unleash creative energy. Let's go, Kundalini! Get my creative energy flowing... now! I need to finish a painting that's trapped in my head.

I clicked play and sat back while this amazing teacher, described the creative energy that's currently trapped at the base of my spine. Like a snake coiled.

I know, I know... I just wrote about those darn snakes in a coital snake "moment." I won't go there.

I was taking special note (to better dissect, dismiss and discard later. As my judgmental mind does) of the  Breath of Fire technique. At first I was sure it was the same as Kapalabhati breathing from my Bikram practice, but it was lighter and less forceful. The inhale and exhale seemed more rhythmic. That is... it seems more rhythmic when the instructor was demonstrating. Me? I was hyperventilating like a trapped animal.

I love my Bikram yoga vacations. Ninety minutes of uninterrupted meditation. The YogaGlo.com was a nice break from my day, and I'll try it again but it also came with the distractions of:

1. My four year old banging on the door twice, "Mommy, are you finished doing YODA yet?!?"
2. Savasana with my lap dog.
3. My two year old running up and down the hallways screaming at the top of her lungs, "I wanna wear my tutu!"
4. Bathroom breaks. I had hydrated, expecting to get to my regular Bikram practice.

I like you, Kia Miller!


Friday, April 12, 2013

8 Ways to cool down in hot yoga

Activity conquers cold, but stillness conquers heat    -Lao Tzu

Pada Hastasana - Hands to feet poseI am the foremost authority on how to remain cool in a hot Bikram Yoga class. Why? Because I'm extremely lazy and I've researched and performed extensive trial-and-error experiments on any shortcuts possible.

I'm also genetically blessed with poor circulation. During Pada Hastasana (Hands to feet pose) I reach down and my feet are still icy cold despite having been in the hot room a full ten minutes. Try not to be jealous. And please don't ever touch my toes to cool yourself down.

8 Ways to Cool Down in Bikram Yoga Class:

1. Stand still. It's simple. Less motion equals less heat.
2. Work hard. Another simple lesson. Sweat is your body's natural A/C unit. If you work hard during class, you'll break a sweat immediately and begin to cool down as fast as possible.
3. Ask the instructor where the "cool spot" is. If you really can't deal with the heat, there may be a cooler spot near the back of the room (like two degrees cooler). Here's a previous post that discusses where to stand, in detail.
4. Focus your eyes. Focus on a spot directly in front of you. Either stare at the back of the person ahead of you, or at your reflection in the mirror. Concentrating on one spot will help you immeasurably.
5. Count your breaths. This is hard, but it helps. Counting long slow breaths during a difficult posture is the easiest method to slow respiration from "ohmygoodness" panic to something closer to normal.
6. Ignore Crazypants. Crazypants is the name of the judge and jury that live inside my head. Together they evaluate, try and condemn. I've worked hard to keep them from judging YOU. But they continue to judge me. Every thought that begins with "Why can't I..." is a victory for crazypants. Mental activity of this kind keeps my body on a slow broil instead of cool, calm and collected.
7. Wear clothing that stays put. See hint #1. Tugging on your top is motion. Motion equals heat.
8. Leave the hand towel at home. Wiping sweat is like turning up the heat. You want to sweat! It keeps you cool.

The little purple sketch is a self portrait. Or, it would be if I could  fold forward perfectly in two like a human wallet. To see all my little yogi sketches, stop by and like me on Facebook.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bhujangasana sex ball

To be clear, these are two separate thoughts. I want to write a bit about Cobra Pose, Bhujangasana, but today I witnessed a snake "sex ball." We called pest control to remove what we thought were a pair of mating water moccasins from our grandmother's lake. I have many long and scary, but completely harmless rat snakes in my yard. When I heard there were potentially deadly snakes nearby, I had to be there for the removal.

Trapper John (I'm not making up the name, I swear) said we had four snakes in a "sex ball." He fell into the lake while concocting a plan...to grab the sex ball and fling it towards me.

Time out! Had I a moment to think this through I would have said... "Let's think of another plan that doesn't involve throwing snakes at me."

Instead, I stopped filming on my iPhone and ran to higher ground. I managed only this photo, which faintly captures the sex ball on the lowest branch hanging over the lake. Can you see it?

So back to yoga...

Wait, you want to know about the sex ball, don't you?

I had to leave the scene to get to my beloved Bikram class. I missed the big event, but I later heard that the snakes were not venomous at all. They were a completely benign cousin, the Florida Banded Water Snake, which is often mistaken for a moccasin. They are so stealth, they actually squidge (technical trapper lingo) their heads back so it appears to be diamond shaped, like their lethal cousins. Trapper John broke up the orgy and got three of the four of them. I expect the female was smart enough to get away. I further expect more snake stories when the eggs hatch.

Now back to yoga and specifically, Bhujangasana, Cobra Pose. I never feel as though I'm making progress deeper into this one, but it feels ah-may-zing! Benefits are abundant and include:

1. Strengthens back muscles
2. Massages and adds pressure to the lower abdomen, which aids digestion and alleviates menstrual problems
3. Opens up the sacral chakra...

Which will enliven your "sex ball."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Green Day

I tested fate. I did a little experiment during my last three classes.

I have one thing in common with the "man" Bikram Choudhury. This guru and I both detest the color green. He famously forbids students to wear the color in his studio. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Colors have so many different associations. Green is the color of money, peace, and health. I see green and think of nausea, vomiting, cowardice and eighteen years of wearing my school colors proudly, while looking not-so-cute.

I also associate green with items on sale. I'm no retail marketing expert but I think shirts made in black, white, red, blue and yellow will outsell a green shirt any day. Thus... the green surplus shirts will always be on sale. Or as Lululemon points out... "We made too much." You didn't make too many! No one likes the color green and you need to unload stock.

Back to the experiment. I own a green sale-towel. My favorite towels are Yogitoes and I must have gotten the green one on sale because... um... I don't like green. I ran out the door last week and grabbed the green towel, while thinking... "ugh I hate this towel."

Mental and physical state have absolutely no correlation with performance in class. I can be sick, overtired and in a foul mood and have a fantastic class. Or I can be having the best day ever and have to sit out half of the standing series. You never can tell. I've learned to have no expectations.

I entered the studio, took note of how many classmates had hit that Lululemon green sale... and had the worst class ever. That is, until I tested fate and brought the towel again the next day. Another unhappy-camper class. And the ultimate in self torture? You know it. I took that green towel to class a third time and not only spent some quality time in Vajrasana, but I also must have turned white as a ghost because my instructor appeared kneeling before me, wagging a lollipop in my flushed face.

I wouldn't say that I'm superstitious, but I'm never bringing a green item to class again. If you'd like to purchase my green towel, send an email to me at missybriggs@gmail.com. I'll gladly accept cash from any proud Irish yogis.

Today's class was green-free for me. My mat neighbor had green towel and mat sale ensemble going on. She ran for the door during savasana. Coincidence?



Monday, March 25, 2013

Camel lights

Ustrasana, Camel Posture*
Let distractions melt away like clouds disappearing in the sky -Milarepa

I never smoked Camel Lights.
I smoked Marlboro Lights. But I have seen camel lights. The dazedly happy feeling after completing Camel Pose, Ustrasana.

I felt a glimmer of truth in class after the camel posture. It was a memory, seen as a third person narrative of truth. What I once pretended was an endearing memory, became one. This happened in a few seconds and took a few days to unfold. Another thing I love about yoga. The ability to shift perspective.

In his book, Bikram Choudhury describes the following benefits of Camel Pose, Ustrasana:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Relief of backaches
  • Help with constipation
  • Relief of spinal degenerative problems


I would add that it just feels delicious. Is that a benefit?

*My little purple friend is me in Ustrasana. My little drawings are all me, but way better. I use me for basic proportion and then add and subtract when my own physical attributes don't match up to aesthetic perfection. One day I'm going to hurt myself sketching while upside down! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

The art of sweating

Preface: I don't know a lot about cleansing practices. When I use the word "bizarre" I do it with the utmost respect and admiration. I'm a collector of odd hobbies and interests.

Do you really cleanse your system when you sweat in a Bikram or similar hot yoga class?
Yes. And no. While you could be sweating out the toxins from an evening of poorly chosen beverages, your body is also responding to the increased heat and trying in earnest to regulate your core temperature.

Really? Sweating doesn't get it all out?
I would say, no. If all you needed to do to be healthy is sweat, we'd all just stand in a steam shower for hours and hours. You can sweat without too much effort. Take a look at this video and tell me if your palms aren't sweaty.

I remembered a yoga class many years ago in which the instructor began talking about Vastra Dhauti. It's the bizarre practice of cleansing your system by eating a length of cheesecloth (like 15 feet!) and then pulling it back out of your tummy tum tum. There are also variations of ingesting and then immediately vomiting salt water.

To that, I say... my body is clean enough!

I'm off to Bikram Yoga class to sweat, but not necessarily cleanse anything.

Namaste.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's okay to have yoga anxiety

Salabhasana
Anxious during yoga class? Yoga is supposed to be part of the breath of life. A calm moment away from the everyday. A vacation for your mind and body.

Seriously... I've spent a good amount of time during one particular posture in a state of full blown PANIC. 

Here's my version of the Bikram Yoga Locust Posture, Salabhasana, with added notations where you should be panicking...

Lay down on your stomach. 
Perfect. How could we go wrong from here? I love this. I am one with mother earth and the forces of gravity. 

Arms straight, put your arms underneath the body with palms facing the floor. Your elbows are supposed to hurt a little. Now grab the floor with your fingertips.
I personally have no issue with jamming my arms under my body this way, but from the groans and sighs around me, I can tell that my classmates are not on board with this move. So I'll empathize and say "Ouch."

Relax your left leg, make your right leg solid and point the toes. (I'm paraphrasing, guys. I don't actually know the dialogue) Slowly lift the right leg up, minimum 45 degrees.
Okay, here's where I start to hyperventilate instead of breathing calmly. This looks easy. Why can't I lift my right leg up more than two inches without using my left leg to help? HELP! Someone help! I can't lift my leg more than an inch. Why is this so hard? I look up in the mirror and see a sea of cheater cheater pumpkin eaters with their legs waggling up a good 60 degrees in the air. I don't want to be envious, but I am. Oh why can't I do that?!? 

Then we do the left leg. And what follows is similar whining and complaining accompanied by erratic breathing into my now stinky, wet towel. Lying down no longer feels fantastic.

Both legs. Turn your head in, mouth on the floor. Readjust your hands to place your elbows closer together underneath your body.
Great. Now we're doing tricks only a trained circus seal could properly perform. Once I've taken a few classes and I know what's coming next... this eternal dialogue of preparation in between the one-legged party trick and this two-legged impossibility just allows me that much more time to PANIC. 

Hi. I don't believe we've met. I'm not a dolphin at SeaWorld! My lower region does not arch up on it's own in this manner. Someone stop the ride. I WANT TO GET OFF!

Grab the floor with your fingertips. Take a deep breath. Inhale, and... without bending your knees lift both legs up. 
Hey, instructor. I know you're not doing this along with me. How about a little compassion? 

Struggle harder. Go higher. Don't give up. (If I could rewrite the Bikram dialogue, this would be the line I'd change. I'd say: I know this is the worst moment of your entire day, but it's over--now!)
Struggle harder? No, my friend. It's too late. I'm on the floor exhausted. I may as well have just run five miles. I know darn well I shouldn't be struggling so hard that I'm holding my breath and turning blue. But I did. 

This was the moment in class where I swore I wasn't coming back. I did this every class for at least a month. Like so many other moments in life. It passed. Life is not defined by these mini-struggles. I was not about to let the plague of the locust pose get the better of me.

Nowadays there's still a second or two that I find the breath becomes erratic here. When I caught myself doing it yesterday I knew I needed to share. Maybe someone else is stuck in the locust trap and needs some kind words to pull through.

You can do it. This may have been the worst moment of your day, but it's over now.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Water porn


Not-so-subtle take on the matter.
There is a movement in the yoga studio I frequent that advises against drinking water in class. This is given that you've been practicing a while and that you come to class well hydrated. The idea is that...

1. Water is a distraction. Like wiping sweat or adjusting your ponytail.

2. You can't properly hydrate during a 90 minute class. It takes much longer for the cells in your body to reabsorb lost fluids. The best way to hydrate is to ingest fluids steadily throughout your day and to load up on fruits and veggies.

3. Your body is supposed to be busy breathing and focusing on asanas, not processing water.

Go ahead and chug a gallon bottle of water and do asanas on your belly. You might throw up.

Me? I like having my water bottle in class. I brought it with me for a while even after I stopped drinking it.

Why? Water porn. That's right. You've heard of food porn. Well, water porn is similar. Provocatively dripping with condensation... Your water bottle is such a tease! I'm attracted to your water. When I kept my water in the room, I was mentally unaffected by your water bottle. But now that I've weaned away from it I occasionally want to leap across your mat and steal a sip.

Worst placement of your water: towards the front of your mat, off to the side. Put your water here and I may reach over during savasana and take a swig. And backwash in it too.

Second worst placement of your water: At the bottom of my mat. When placed here, your water is out of your way. But my feet are spooning it during savasana. Don't worry, I heard it's good luck to rub your toes on someone else's water bottle.

Have I ever touched your water with my toes? No, not intentionally. I might next time. So it's probably best to just keep it close to the bottom of your own mat.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Day Thirty: 8 Reasons Why You Should Try It

I'm the purple star girl! I did it!
8 Reasons Why You Should Try a 30 Day Bikram Challenge

1. You will stop giving lame excuses why you can't do Bikram Yoga. The convo usually goes like this: That's the sweaty hot yoga, right? I can't do that, I have/am (fill in the blank) claustrophobia, hypertension, inflexible, too old, a big whiny baby.

2. You can start a blog for shiggles, accountability and to offset costs of a new yoga-wear shopping addiction. And because blogging is so retro, you'll be cool again.

3. You will find yourself in yoga forum conversations about the potassium content of orange juice and the exact daily recommended dose of magnesium. It's 310-420 mg depending on age and gender (in case you were dying to know)

4. Your skin will glow and people will tell you how great you look.

5. You can call yourself a yogi or yogini.

6. You will maintain complete stillness even when two of your yoga neighbors fling sweat on you. I'd strike this from the list, but maybe the idea of sharing bodily fluids is a nostalgic reminder of your youth.

7. You will become acutely aware of your erector spinae muscle group.

8. You will lose 60 lbs. Depending on how much you sweat, you could lose 60 lbs during 30 classes. And then gain it all back once you hydrate.Sorry! No miraculous weight loss claims here!

My first ever 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge is over. I think I lost a couple pounds. Nothing to sneer at. I'd like to thank "my love," my dearest husband, for picking up the slack of abandoned mommy duties this month. I think he's a fan of my shiny new spinal erector muscles too.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Day Twenty Nine: Listen to Mr. Steam

Mr. Steam looks so official in his role as curator of heat and humidity... I was certain that he would have some keys to success in Bikram Yoga practice.

His number one recommendation for success is to stop wiping sweat during class.

Wiping sweat is fruitless. You're standing in a room heated over 100 degrees. You will sweat. Think of it this way: Your body is on fire. Perspiration is your only hope to extinguish the flames.

Um, Mr. Steam... I hate to interrupt this jolly announcement on the benefits of body temperature regulation, but the sweat is stinging my eyes! Then it rolls into my ears. I can't stand it. Any suggestions?

Certainly. Don't wipe your sweat. No matter what. It only serves as a distraction to your practice.

Today was day twenty nine of my 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge. Please don't tell Mr. Steam that I wiped sweat off the tip of my nose about five times today.




Friday, March 1, 2013

Day Twenty Eight: Look out for Locusts

Full Locust Pose
Poorna Salabhasana

According to the Bikram Yoga site, this posture increases strength, opens up the rib cage and increases elasticity, and... get ready for it...

It's good for scoliosis, kyphosis, spondylosis and slipped discs.

I'm not certain what kyphosis is. I'm pretty sure spondylosis has to do with arthritis. Having none of these conditions, perhaps I can skip it.

Nahhhhhh. There's a great feeling that flows through my veins after completing this one. I'll never skip it.

Everyone look up toward the ceiling and take a deep breath.
Now arms, body, head, legs, everything lifts up. Like a 747 taking off.

The yoga instructors mostly neglect to mention that if you're mat-to-mat with your neighbor, then you might need to make alternate arrangements for your flailing arms. I almost got clipped today. Some helpful bobbing and weaving kept me safely in flight. For the second set, I attempted to inch backwards using my belly. I'm now suffering from an acute ache in the aforementioned strengthened rib area. Tummy scooching is not advisable! 

Did I mention that I'm on day twenty eight of my 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge?



Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day Twenty Seven: The Real Sasangasana

Critique my Rascally Rabbit pose. Yep. That's really me.
It's day twenty seven of my 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge. I'm almost there. Almost to thirty classes in thirty days.

Let's talk Sasangasana. Again. That darn rascally rabbit pose. How I detest Sasangasana. Have I mentioned this before?

The teacher calls out Sasangasana and I freeze. Still dazed from the Camel Pose, I can't seem to get to my feet and out the door. Darn it. I'm trapped again.

This little purple cartoon man is actually me in the pose. I drew it while performing the posture against a mirror with a tiny sketchbook between my tightly gripped feet. I'm a multitasker.

I've never actually left the room during a class. I've been winded and had to sit down on my mat. Many times! What do people do that leave the room? Are they going to the bathroom? Out for a good cry? Do they leave?

"Roll forward like a wheel..."

Eff you. I want to hide in my bunny warren a while longer. Head on my knees.

I received a new hydration drink in the mail today. I'll take some time tomorrow to compile hydration notes.


Day Twenty Six: Ancient Indian Wisdom

Who's the laziest?? Raise your hand!
Anyone unfamiliar with yoga: This is a posture. I'm not kidding.
Get this, they say it's the hardest one to master!

Me! Me! Me! I'm lazy. I want to be home on the couch!

A brief history of yoga. By me. A couple thousand years ago there was a wise old Indian hanging around in a yet to be densely populated area in southern Asia. He knew religion was big business so he wrote a best-selling novel, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  Blah blah blah blah. Fast forward to the first century AD (CE for you scholars)... Hatha Yoga was born of these Sutras by some Indian kids. They were like, "Let's create a method of fitness to make us super bendy and strong." In walks a distant couch potato relative of mine. He says, "Wait just a minute... I've got it. In between these contortions, let's lie down on our backs and stare into space. Completely relaxed. We'll pretend it's contemplative."

Another thousand years go by and the Western world is buzzing with the benefits of yoga and the sage wisdom of the ages. All except me. I hail my distant cousin who allows me time in the dead body pose... when my body is worn down, drippy with sweat, and my heart is beating out of my chest.

I didn't know I was Indian until I began practicing yoga.

Today was day twenty six of my 30 Day Bikram Yoga challenge. I've been hanging out in a sweaty heated room for ninety minutes. Every day for twenty six days. It's mighty impressive for lazy old me, but I know that there are some crayzeeees out there that faithfully practice every or nearly every day.




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Twenty five: Cold Stone Yoga

Cold yoga


It's day twenty five of my 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge. I was well hydrated from...

1. Pineapple for breakfast.

2. Homemade electrolyte juice consisting of 16 oz of water, a good squeeze (that's an imprecise version of 1 T) of honey, a dash of sea salt, half a juiced lemon and half of a juiced naval orange.

3. Sixteen ounces of Ultima Replenisher. My experience so far has been so-so with these powdered electrolyte drinks. This one tastes good (ie: better than water, but not as good as a good herbal Teavana tea).

4. Water.

I was ready to sweat and avoid any headaches or cramps from dehydration during or after class. The only problem is... I picked the coldest spot in the hot yoga room. To avoid this I will note the following:

Where not to stand in a hot yoga room

The purpose of hot yoga is to blend your mind and body into a room heated just below the boiling point of water*, in order to mentally block out everything except what you're doing. At that moment. It also loosens your body to allow Gumby-like bending with little effort. When you pay for this experience, um... you should probably just stay where it's HOT!

Back to my what-not-to-do tale...

The oasis away from the torturous heat is right next to the exit door. I stood so close to the door that I could feel the cool a/c seeping in halfway through class. And by the time we began the series of floor postures I was COLD. A trickle of cold sweat rolled down my cheek during some hateful posture. By then I was ready for a sweater, and completely pissed off at myself.

It's my own fault, really. The teachers at my studio crack the door at various points to regulate the heat in the room. If I hadn't been six inches from it I'd be fine.

I've chosen this spot before when I was a little under the weather and in need of a reprieve from the earth's core. Today was not that day. I was hot and sweaty and then freezing cold. It was the makings of some old wives tale about getting sick from a cold head.

Where to stand in a hot yoga room

My favorite spot in class? The mama bear area. Not too hot, not too cold, not too close, not too far. It's just right... In the middle of the room. Preferably in the second row. If you see me there, wave hello.

*I'm fully aware that the boiling point of water is 212 degrees F/100 degrees C.  It's one of those random facts that still clutter the empty corners of my mind. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day Twenty Four: Choose Your Destiny

I'm now officially achy all over. Did I just begin to work or is this a slow breakdown of my body?My body doesn't know how to count to thirty. If it did I'd be finished with the challenge.

A man in the back of the hot yoga room was wearing an inspiring t-shirt during class. "Choose your destiny." On the way home a black cat crossed my path and I nearly squished him with my SUV.

On the surface, inspiration prevails and I love the message from a stranger's tee. On the surface, superstition makes me rethink stepping on a crack. Sad reality: (why must I dissect and ruin everything?) The t-shirt is a tag line from a Matrix-like knockoff movie called Wanted from 2008. The black cat was lucky to be alive.

Choose your destiny, dear friends.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day Twenty Three: Wind knocked out of me

Wind removing pose. Ahhhh. My little drawing is
on scale with a Barbie doll's abnormally long legs.
I hit a wall today. I totally got the wind knocked out of me in class today... and I don't mean the Wind Removing Pose! My mind was everywhere else but on my mat. And even when I was focused in the room, I was focused on what I was doing wrong.

  • Can I hold this for two more seconds?
  • My knee sure does ache today... did I do something funny yesterday? 
  • I love my mat. It's so grippy and comfy. I hope it never wears out.
  • Why did I just wipe sweat? I never wipe sweat. 
  • I wish I had been more aligned before I went into this pose. I look crazy crooked in the mirror. 
  • I forgot to take my eye make-up off. Darn it. Runny smeary mess. 
  • Did the kids eat enough for lunch? 
  • I think I just attempted Standing Bow Pulling Pose ten times. Is that a record for a sixty second posture?


Enough about that. Let's talk Wind Removing Pose.

Pavana Muktasana. This is Sanskrit for: I didn't get enough time in Savasana, so I'll pretend I'm pulling on my leg a bit. No one will notice that I'm zoned out.

I happen to love this pose. It makes me feel strong and flexible. My hips are pretty flexible I guess, so it's like a big hug to my knees. I also find myself in a bastardized version of this posture while lying on my side, sleeping. Knee hugging is just a nice warm and fuzzy feeling.

Unlike my killer class. Seven more to go!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day Twenty Two: I got yoga skills

Ardha Matsyendrasana
My two year old attempts spine twisting
posture. Her legs are wrong and she's
twisting the wrong way, but she insists her
"yoda" is right on. Can't argue with that.

This roughly translates from Sanskrit to mean: twist until your head pops off. It turns out that twisting around like a twizzler is a very handy skill. I can pick up sippy cups from the floor of the backseat while stopped at a red light.

Thank you yoga for giving me a meaningful talent in my daily life. If you have a crazy spine twisting ability to share I'd love to hear about it (photos are unnecessary).

Today was day twenty two of my thirty day challenge. Class was a balmy 105 degrees and no one dripped sweat on me. A complete success.


Day Twenty One: making pretzels

Are you a writer? How far are you willing to go for a story? This guy became a competitive pretzel.

Hell Bent: Obsession, Pain and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga: I don't know Benjamin Lorr, but I adore his persistence and infiltration into the elite backbending club in order to bring us this story. Who knew competitive yoga could be such a compelling story? I've recommended this book to my non-yogi friends.

In other news... today was day twenty one of my challenge. I enjoyed every breath of my class and every ounce of water shed for the cause. Amazing.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day twenty: hydration mission

I'm on a hydration mission. I love the Nuun tabs, and my homemade electrolyte concoctions and juices, but I'm ready to expand.

I've purchased Ultima Replenisher Drink mix. I'll let you know what I think when it arrives via Laser Ship on Sunday (How I love you, Amazon Prime. It's like Christmas every day at my house).

While I wait, I'll continue to hydrate with whole fruits and veggies, green juices, honey, lemon, and any magic beans I may find around the house. I love to confuse the checkout crew at the supermarket with my array. I have toddlers and believe in liberal amounts of fun food. So yes, I check out proudly with M&Ms, organic processed foods, Spaghetti O's, boxed juice boxes (oh the horror of the high fructose corn syrup) and my regular mountain of fruits and veggies for juicing.

How to prepare for Bikram Yoga class

How to prepare for a Bikram Yoga Class

You're looking for a new workout routine when you spot a signpost that says Hot Yoga. Remembering some Zen incense-filled trips to a local studio with a particularly crunchy vegan college friend, you think... "Hey I've done this. It's stretching and breathing in a heated room. Hot Yoga is like aerobics. I'll burn more calories and get into a bikini that much faster, all while de-stressing from a tough day at the office. This is perfect. Maximum benefit with minimum energy.

Wrong. Wrong and WRONG, my friend. Luckily I stopped by the studio for a chat with the owner before my first class. Otherwise I'd be right where you are now. Allow me enlighten you with some tips...

Drink water. From the moment you decide to go, until roughly a half hour before class, drink water. It's important to be well hydrated. Bring a water bottle with you, too.

I like: the Sigg and Camelbak ones best. They're just better than the average bottle. Period.

Purchase a yoga mat.  Your local studio may rent mats, but do you really want to rent a mat? (It's a bit like renting a bathing suit. I'm sure it's clean, but still disgusting). Most yoga mats are between 2 and 5 mm thick. Thinner mats are lighter and easier for travel. Anything thicker than 5 mm is overkill for Bikram Yoga practice. You don't want to teeter over while trying to balance!

My choice: I like the Jade Yoga mats, but to be a super cool kid on the block (after you're practicing a while and you're willing to make the investment), get this Manduka one. It's supposed to last forever.

Bring a towel. Towels are just as important as the mat. When you arrive at your class you will set down your mat perpendicular to the mirror and place your towel on top of it. A nice beach towel is good to start. Make sure you skip the heavy detergent and fabric softener on this load. You want the towel to lie flat and provide a bit of a grip, especially during triangle pose. Fancy yoga towels are amazing. They provide some traction and can absorb a gallon of your sweat with no problem. If you're just starting out, no need to make this investment ($25-$60). Any old towel will do.

My pick? The Yogitoes. But not if you've made the Manduka mat investment. I haven't tried it myself, but I've heard the Yogitoes grippy dots slip on a Manduka mat. Manduka fans need to use the same brand towels to be most effective and grippy.

Wear light clothing. Pretend you are about to jump into a swimming pool. Would you wear long pants and a baggy t-shirt? You will be spending 90 minutes in 105 degree heat. You will sweat and should prepare by wearing as little as possible. Men go shirtless. Women wear sports bras or tight tees/tanks and shorts. I wear pants to the beach and I wear shorts to Bikram Yoga. 

Stop eating. This idea makes me laugh because it reminds me of the best diet advice ever. "You want to lose weight? STOP EATING." Your body is going to heat up and change from the inside out during your yoga practice. You want it to get busy doing just that. Not spending this valuable time digesting your last meal. Don't believe me? Go ahead and eat a burrito less than an hour before class. You'll be sorry! It's best to zip your lips a couple hours before class. If you're starving, have something light.

Ask questions. Don't know what to expect? Can't touch your toes? Arrive a little early to your first class so you have time to register and ask questions.

Sit in the back of the class. Bikram Yoga classes are led by verbal instruction. The teachers are certified to recite a dialogue and taught to give specific corrections for proper alignment. They focus on this to give you the most precise information. You will watch students in front of you to get an idea of how to bend, stretch and contort along the way. If you set your mat up in the front of the class, you will not be able to see how it's done.

Now, try to relax. You're in for the best hour and a half of your life. Namaste.


Day Nineteen: Wrapped up like a bow pose

It's the nineteenth consecutive day of practice. I don't remember the nineteenth consecutive day of any practice so this feels particularly triumphant. To celebrate, let's ponder the nineteenth posture of the series. Floor Bow. Let's explore with inner dialogue.

Floor Bow. Dhanurasana.

Place your chin on the floor. Now hold your feet from the outside, two inches below the toes. Don't lose the grip. Hold your feet six inches apart beween the knees and toes. 

I'm already anticipating the next move. Breathe. Don't react. Just listen and follow.

Take a deep breath and gently kick up both legs to the ceiling.

Okay, I can kick a little. I look up to the dotted panels of the ceiling for the answers to my wary leg conundrum. "Hey, ceiling? Can I get a little help here? I'm awfully tired. That ache in my left quad. Ouch. Why is it so much weaker than my right?" I dare not look, but I know already that my left knee is waggling out to the side. I pull it in harder, causing my balance to sway back toward my hip bones instead of onto my belly. Whew. I've lost the battle already, but I give it a valiant effort again.

I honestly don't know what the rest of the dialogue dictates. My mind is squirrely with the balance between kicking strength and a release of the tension necessary to bend my spine further. If only that breath could flow, I'd have it.

Well, there's always the second set.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day Eighteen: It's tricky trikonasana time

Trikonasana: It's Tricky

The one on top is me, with my hip sticking
up and leaning down too far. 
Here's a little trick that will not help you in the least with your triangle pose.

Take a deep breath, bend your knee and think... Run DMC. Uh-oh, now it's stuck in your head. It's trick-ay!

"It's tricky to rock a rhyme. To rock a rhyme that's right on time. It's tricky, tricky, tricky, tricky, tricky, tricky."

Now with your new mantra, go ahead and breathe into this one. Hips down!

I decided to think Triangle today. It's a good posture for me, because I can accept where I am, feel the misalignment, and breathe into a correction. Am I close to perfection here? No way. I'm not even as close as my drawing.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day Seventeen: Machine Head

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness"
Breathe in, breathe out...

I've got Allen Ginsberg on the brain.

I saw a glimmer of the entire class during my practice today. It was a moment on autopilot and the words of the teacher rang true... I'm the brain, you are the body. Listen and move.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Day Sixteen: I heart Bikram Yoga

Our dog Buju Banton, appalled
at my Reggae selection. 
I'm in love. I heart Bikram Yoga. I am in love with the rush of happiness as I drive home towards a cool shower... and the Inner Circle song "Sweat" is randomly rolling in the background (thanks Sirius).

During the day I ache for the peace of final savasana. I long for that moment when I break a sweat that begins to roll down my back, offering a cool break. And if the teacher brushes past during that moment... oh, it's a cool breeze treat. Better than a fudge pop on a hot summer day!

These musings sound completely crazy.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day Fifteen; Halfway there

The halfway mark in my 30 day challenge.

I can feel it already... joining my dear suffering R in Popsicles and ice cream this morning is going to mean some sloppy and sluggish yoga this afternoon. I take empathy to a new level.

Class was amazing, and much too short.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day Fourteen: Quit looking at me during yoga class

Couldn't get a class in until late afternoon and I barely made it on time.

Utterly exhausted from my day, I plodded into the hot room angling for a spot in the rear. Instead I was greeted with a sea of new folks littering the back rows. I grumpily set up in the front, knowing that I enjoy having the unobstructed view, but hate feeling eyes on me during the half moon pose, as those behind are looking for their own escape to that first stretching/strength/full body asana.

Most yogis are too busy learning or perfecting their own positions to look around at others. But when they do... Man you can FEEL it.

Hey you! Peekie Peekerson! Stop looking at me! Can't you see I'm busy mentally sketching lotus flowers and trying to free myself from the human condition?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day Thirteen: The tonsillectomy

No class today. This was the day I was planning to skip when completing the double. R had his tonsils taken out this morning. What a whirlwind of mini drama!

By late afternoon he was crying, not in pain, but because I wouldn't let him outside to run and play. Two weeks without strenuous activity? Surely the one that suggested this has no children. Impossible!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day Twelve: Panting in class

I took class today next to a Siberian Husky. Or similar sled dog. Let me preface this. I take yoga with a pretty good sense of self-containment. This is not a spectator sport. When I catch a reflection in the mirror it's with great admiration and self-deprecation that I make mental notes.

  • Why can't I have such a flat tummy?
  • How is she able to lock her knee out so easily?
  • Her hair falls so nicely into a bun. Why does mine stick out in ten directions after two poses?
  • I wonder where she purchased that hot pink towel.

So when I say I took class with a husky, it does not mean she was doglike in any way. Physically. She was actually long and quite lovely. But all I could hear was her panting for ninety minutes. Like a dog overheating. The heavy breathing was so consistent that I secretly thanked her for creating a breeze during triangle pose. She cooled me off.

I've never seen her before, so it was likely her first time panting in class. Or maybe she's a regular 6 am musher...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day Eleven: Night owls

Went to An 8:15 pm class for the first time. Going to classes at different times of the day seems to release different stress levels. Morning classes carry the benefit of shaking you awake in place of caffeine. Mid-afternoon classes (my fave) hit you when you're wide awake and fairly loose and flexible. Nice.

This evening's class was a new experience. I was loose and flexible but ultimately so tired that I couldn't hold a pose for long. There is an explanation of the inner workings of flexibility and muscle strength. One does not function without the other. I see it now. Clearly. My strength was waning and the extra flexibility meant... Nearly nothing. Phew.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day Ten: Half Moon Pose

Let's talk poses. Half moon (or half moron as my phone autocorrects) with hands to feet. The moron reference was not entirely off. The emotions brought about here can make you feel a bit crazy-dumb with questions swirling about, constant corrections if you can't find your breath, and wonder of how on EARTH you'll make it through an entire 90 minutes of this torture if the first pose is so darn difficult.

It doesn't seem to be that complicated. It reminds me of side stretching done in elementary PE class. Maybe I'll never get my upper body perpendicular to the floor, but I sure as heck can hold this pose with confidence and calm. Right?? Oh no! This deceptively easy posture is done at the beginning of class.

I'm convinced that even pre-class hammys (those that plop down in the room before class and perform a ritual of 1970's Jane Fonda workout, something-I-saw-a-jogger-do-before-running-in-the-park hammy stretches) are not sufficiently warmed up to complete with any sense of proficiency or poise.

The small advances I've made in the posture seem monumental. That's why I love it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day Nine: The hushpuppy incident

My daughter has a terrible cough and was fussing and crying and throwing a fit alllll day. By the time I was able to run off to yoga I was relieved but felt incredibly guilty for leaving my dear husband behind.

Into that hot room and... ahhhh a beautiful moment of relief. Calm. Warm. Welcoming. Once I learned the sequence of postures and began to breathe normally, the feeling of stillness my practice brought me was simply blissful. There is no room for pondering why I'm so ill-equipped to deal with toddler tantrums. Or what I'm going to cook for dinner. Or even the next posture. Just this moment. Just the smell of hush puppies.

Oh yes. I forgot to mention that I stumbled into the hush puppy section of the hot yoga room. Yes, I'm in the moment. Yes, I am able I block out most of those around me. There is a distinct moment in every class that brings out my evil core of judgment and evaluation. It's normally directed at me... But today I picked up on a funky scent of fried bread crumby hush puppy. Do those still exist? Did my neighbor discover the lone Arthur Treacher's in town and have a hush puppy party for lunch?

I silently pen a passive aggressive note to my unknown neighbor.

Dear Hush Puppy:

While I empathize with your recent ingestion of breaded and deep fried fat, it leads me to wonder... And worry... Does anyone smell a sugar addiction oozing from MY pores during class? Does metabolized and sweaty sugar smell like caramel apples? Or something foul? 

I'm thankful to have kicked my nicotine addiction several years ago and grateful for my renewed sense of smell. I am not grateful for my bloodhound ability during class today. I was sadly distracted by your hush puppiness. I don't judge you. Just keenly aware of my own recent fried eggplant trespasses and feeling utterly exposed with every pore weeping in public. Perhaps next time you can pow-wow with gardenia girl before class?. She's got a lock on her scent.

Your snarky mat-mate,
Missy