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.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's okay to have yoga anxiety

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?