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?