27 January 2011

Oh, for a cup of coffee....

 How does the time fly? Another week between posts. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
Last Friday was a day off for both Missy and I, and we relaxed with lunch and shopping and a little pampering at the nail salon. I was able to get her some new clothes, including a great little black dress. I bought a new pair of jeans, and I was happy to find that I fit easily into a 38” waist, down from 41”!! On Monday, I had my weight and blood pressure checked, and both were DOWN!! I checked in at 231 lbs. I can’t tell you the last time I was this light! That now makes it 47 pounds lost since I started Bikram yoga.

Only two classes this week. 43 students on Sunday, 35 on Tuesday. Both were brutal. Tuesday was really difficult – sat out more than posture, wanted to leave the room more than once. It was tough for a number of students, so much so that the instructor actually opened the doors for a short time to try and revive us. It felt great, but it didn’t really energize me. No triangles, or the Forehead to Knee posture that follows. Completely sat out through Camel, and half-assed it through Rabbit. I was so uncomfortable that I was twitching during almost every savasana --  a sure sign that I am ready to get and up and head for the door. I stayed in, though. The other problem was that I was a bit lethargic due to a little experiment we are trying – a cleanse.

While we were out on Friday, we stepped into a GNC store to look around. We saw that their 7-day cleanse kit was on sale. We have discussed the idea more than once, so we asked the manager. She said she uses it every few months and that it was really good and gentle. There are supplements for the morning and evening, along with a fiber/prebiotic packet you mix with water or juice and drink with breakfast. We agreed to give it a go.
Of course, there is a diet plan that you can follow, but basically it is as follows:

No processed food
No red meat
No dairy or eggs
No caffeine

Now, I can live for a week without meat, or dairy, or eggs. I REALLY miss my morning coffee, though. REALLY miss it. I had a horrible headache on Monday night into Tuesday which I believe was due to withdrawal from caffeine. Monday was Day 1, and my biggest issue was being constantly hungry. I ate a dozen rice cakes while I was at work. I’m eating apples by the bushel, since it’s the only fruit I like, and I’ve eaten buckets of salad.  Made a pot of vegetable soup, and while it was good, sure could have used a grilled cheese with it. Or a steak. Tuesday was a little better. I found out that rice flour bread is pretty decent, that natural peanut butter has to be stirred since oil has risen to the surface, and that soy yogurt is actually good! We had grilled chicken last night and I thought I was in heaven! Tonight, it’s turkey burgers, which should be good. I’m not sure
How much weight I will lose this week, but I am feeling better, and even sleeping better. I need to find more things to try and eat, though. We have agreed to try this again in six months or so. It is a change, but I would encourage anyone to try it.

Tough schedule for a few days. Hopefully, my next class will be on Sunday.

10 classes down, 190 to go.


20 January 2011


A hectic week has left me with little time -- time to rest, write, or do much of anything else. I have taken three classes so far this week, and they have all been markedly different, save for the fact that the heater is repaired and working ever so well. It has been really warm in there, at least to me. However, that's not a bad thing, especially when the temps are in the 20's or 30's. In winter, that hot room is really a godsend!

Sunday's class outright scared me. First few postures went well, then my body didn't want to work for a while. We were about to begin Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose. You start from a standing position, then raise your arms over your head. Next, you take a wide stance so you are straddling your mat and at the same time lower your arms so they are parallel to the floor. The next move is to bend at the waist, reach down and grab your heels, attempting to touch your forehead to the floor between your feet. (No, I have never been able to do that -- yet.) As I tried to bend at the waist, I got a nasty cramp along the outside of BOTH hips. I eased back up and tried again, to no avail. I stood back up and quietly waited for the second set. No good, then, either. The next pose is Triangle, the "... pinnacle of the standing series" and the most difficult pose in that series. The first part is exactly the same as the previous pose, and this time it HURT just to try and get into that wide stance! I couldn't even stand, so I sat down on my mat with head down, trying to figure it out. In the final three postures of the standing set, it still hurt, but not enough to sit out. The weird thing was that the floor series went really well for me. Maybe I wasn't hydrated, maybe it was being away from class for a couple of days, I do not know.

The next two classes, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, were better. Lots of people in the evening class, not so many the next morning. However, it was warm enough that in both classes, I was dripping before the opening breathing exercises were done. My hips and legs did not hurt either time, not that it helped me hold those poses. They are really tough for me, and I try not to sit them out. Most days, though, I end up falling out of those poses, or not even attempting them. My legs hurt, my balance sucks, I just don't feel like doing them; insert excuse here. I must try to be more mindful to try every time, or it will be just that much longer until I can do them. It's mind over matter, I know. Problem is, when I get frustrated, or uncomfortable or both (which is VERY easy to do when trying this yoga...), I tend to stop. If I can't do it right, then there is no use doing it at all. That attitude holds one back in any facet of life, not just in yoga -- know that well, too. Yet another reason I continue to practice. One day, my brain will learn to shut the hell up and let my body do what it needs to do!

I had originally planned to write about a different aspect of practice, but I got going on this tangent and now I'm short of time. Oh, well. the subject will definitely keep.


8 down, 192 to go.

14 January 2011

Tuesday Heat, Friday Cold

Tuesday night's class was another very warm session. I don't want to say it was hot in the room because if I say that now, how will I describe it in July? Another large group, lots of energy, and loads of sweat.  I struggled more in this class. I had a difficult time keeping my balance in the standing set, then I began to fade near the end of class while on the floor. I never truly contemplated getting up and leaving -- it did flash through my mind once but I quickly dismissed it. No, the conundrum for me was this: Should I continue to try and perform each set of each posture (which was becoming difficult), or should I lay out for a set or two and basically stew in my own sweat on the mat? It seems that when I choose to lay out, it is worse -- I get even hotter through inaction. Doesn't make sense, I know, but it's true. Anyway, I survived in decent form and I was glad I didn't lay out or quit. As far as postures, it was a challenging night. I have sooooooo far to go, but I will not quit.

Today's early class was canceled because the heater failed yesterday. In fact, Missy went to class last night and said people were leaving because it was not hot. It was funny, when I went to pick her up last night, to see people leaving and NOT drenched. She said she was more sore than usual because it was cooler than normal. So, next op is on Sunday. I am sure it will be quite, quite, warm.

I have spent a good deal of time looking at other Bikram blogs, especially those concerning Teacher Training. It really speaks to the dedication of these people to the yoga how it changes them. At some point, I'll give a list of the ones I like most.

5 down, 195 to go.


11 January 2011

Something's Happening....

Survived the "Blizzard" of 2011. It snowed here for about two hours and everyone here panicked. Went to class Sunday morning and was surprised at how deeply I could breathe. The pneumonia is gone and I feel great!! The class flew by and I did not seem to be overtired or overworked. My back bends were ok, Eagle was really good (again), and I fell out of Triangle, as usual. It went well and I could have done a second class, but we decided against it.

The great thing about Sunday, though, was after class. It was raining (the snow had not arrived yet) and a lot of people were taking their time to change clothes. There was a great deal of conversation and laughter -- there was a lot of positive energy and fellowship in there. It is one of the best things about the yoga and the studio itself. There are a lot of really cool people that attend, and you always get a "Hello!", or a nod, or a smile. It's the most positive, focused environment I've ever been a part of.

Yesterday, we made a rare Monday appearance at the studio. Missy had the day off and we attended the 4:30 class. WOW!!! More than 40 people in the room! Lots of energy, and lots of sweat. I was drenched before the first breathing set was complete. It almost felt like a spring or summer class -- warmest one I've been in since being ill. I must say that the heat didn't bother me until close to the end. No, I still can't "lock the knee", but I did hold it much longer than normal. Was it all the people and energy? Was it actually me?

I did have one "uh-oh" moment. In Locust, when asked to lift both legs at the same time, I felt a huge cramp in under the ribs on my left side. It happened in the previous class, too, but not to the same degree. I have to ask about that tonight.

As the title of this post says, something seems to be happening in my practice. I am able to do some postures better than ever, and the ones I can hardly do are getting (slightly) easier. I don't know if it due to the holiday "break" or because I feel really good right now. Whatever the reason, I just have to roll with it. I fully realize that, sooner or later, I will "crash and burn" -- it happens. Gotta roll with it, good and bad.

Finally, I was so proud of Missy last night. Sometimes, large crowds or limited space can bother her. Last night, she was a complete trooper and stayed with it for the whole class. I can't say enough about that! AWESOME!!!!

4 classes down, 196 to go


06 January 2011

Late Meals and Early Yoga

Had to work late last night, which led to a later dinner at the local taco shop. No, not the best meal or best time of day to eat, but sometimes it's simply unavoidable. Anyway, Missy and I did make it to class at 6:00AM.
It was harder for me than yesterday. For one thing, I was sore after going to class yesterday. Second, my stomach was not totally happy with my food choices of last night. Finally, I set up my mat right under one of the vents, so I had a constant stream of hot air on me during the standing series. Pranayama was better, though I still coughed a lot after first set. I did Eagle really well for the second straight day. I tried Triangle again, and fell out twice, but I feel better about it. It's simply about strength, and I'm going to have to keep working at it. The floor set was pretty good, at least for me. I didn't sit out any postures, and I was able to stay focused. Not bad for me!!

Today's nuggets from the instructor:

"Yoga is a dance between tension and relaxation..."

"Don't try and think your way through the postures. Move and breathe your way through the postures."

2 down, 198 to go. 

05 January 2011

Pleasantly Surprising

Well, any idea of getting back into the room last night didn't quite work out. A friend called last minute and asked a favor, so we were unable to go to class. (Bummer!!) However, I was able to go to the 6:00AM class this morning. It was illuminating!

First, the initial breathing exercise did not hurt as much as I thought it might. That said, by the time the first set was completed, I had to cough a lot. It got better in second set -- a lot better. After that, there were fewer and fewer pauses to clear my lungs AND my inhaler stayed in my locker!!

The biggest shock, though, was in the third posture, Eagle. I was actually able to get each foot completely behind my leg on each set. I had trouble holding the form, but just the fact that I had never done that posture so well on both sides shocked me! From then on, I just rolled with the flow. It was a good class: flowing and calm, with lots of little bits of advice and encouragement. The instructors have so many nuggets of knowledge, it would take forever to recount them all. The one that stuck with me today?

"Repetition is the mother of mastery."   

After class, I was told that my success in Eagle today was a foreshadowing of things to come; that in the next few weeks, as I get back to regular practice, that will happen more and more often. Gotta keep working though!!

1 class down, 199 to go.

03 January 2011

The Name

The name for this blog comes from inside the "torture chamber". I was in the middle of my first Bikram Challenge (52 classes in 60 days). I was still trying to get my bearings in the room, concentrating mostly on simple survival. We were in the first set of Standing Head to Knee; the first part of which requires one to stand on one leg, knee locked, while bending to hold the other foot in your hands (forming a stirrup with your hands and holding the foot in that). Well, as you can imagine, it is difficult for most beginners, much less a flabby, 275 lb. guy like me. I huffed and puffed and tried to make that happen, but it didn't. The instructor, Jonathan, called out from the far side of the room,

"Do the posture, please, Mark!"

If I'd had any energy at all, I might have said something back. It stung. I had taken correction before from teachers, but this one pissed me off a bit. I was trying. Maybe not as hard as I should, but I was trying. I know now he was trying to push me, and I still appreciate him for it. Jonathan has moved on, but his words still echo in my brain from time to time. Especially over the past month, since my classes have been very up-and-down. I go from having a strong, good class to laying down during the floor series. During my last class, on Dec. 26, I even fell asleep. Embarrassing -- at least to me. That may be why I started this blog. I keep hearing his words:


Medical: Went for the follow-up today. Pneumonia easing quickly. Still on meds/steroids for another five days, but ready to get back in the room tomorrow!! Got to hit the scale: 237 lbs.!! Wow, I thought it was a lot higher than that!! Yeah!! The only trouble is that the steroids are making me hungry all the time. I need to be really buckle down and get back to eating better -- thank goodness the holidays are now past!

0 classes down, 200 to go.


02 January 2011

How did I get in that room?

In April 2009, I tried Bikram Yoga for the first time. My fiancee had tried it the week before at the behest of one of her closest friends, who has practiced Bikram for several years and thought my betrothed would enjoy it. She did, and a week later, they asked me to try. I was nervous, but I tried it. The following comes from I testimonial I was asked to write by one of the owners of our studio:

When I started, I weighed 278 pounds. Fast food and soft drinks were my favorite poisons. For the better part of the last 10 years, exercise was just a rumor for me. My fiancée had taken up the yoga a week prior and asked me to give it a try.

April 13, 2009 – I attended my first class. I was completely overwhelmed, flopping around like a fish out of water. I could not control my breathing, or keep my balance, or do much of anything. I left the room with 25 minutes remaining in class. As I sat in the lobby I thought, “This is impossible. This is madness. I’ll never be able to do this.” Then I sat quietly and began to listen to my body for the first time in ages. I was sore, tired, and really thirsty! Strangely enough, however, I felt as though my body was telling me, “More. We need more. We need it now!!”

I took class for four straight nights during that first week. It wasn’t until the fourth night that I stayed in the room for the entire class. I decided then that I was in this for the long haul, and purchased a two month package. About a month later, Melissa and I agreed to do a Bikram Challenge: 52 classes in 60 days. Yes, doing a challenge is difficult. You must discipline yourself to eat right, hydrate, and make sure you get your classes in on time. I will tell you, though, that benefits are almost innumerable. You lose weight and inches for sure, but you get so many more benefits!! Your practice will improve so much faster. (Never thought I would be able to do the Camel pose, but I can now!!) Slowly, you will begin to feel your body heal and strengthen itself. Your ability to focus and concentrate on your daily tasks improves. Your view of the world, and those in it, begins to change.

August 13, 2009 – Today, my weight has dropped to 233 pounds (that’s a decrease of 45 pounds)!! However, that is only the beginning! The chronic pain in my knees is almost a thing of the past.  Instead of 4 – 6 sodas a day, I drink almost a gallon of water. My diet is so much better. My practice is better. My body is healing itself. I am transforming in ways I never thought possible!!

If you have never tried something like this, I urge you to consider taking three or four classes. First, your body will thank you for the chance to heal and improve itself. Secondly, you will have instructors who are very passionate about their calling, and will answer any questions you have. Finally, you will connect with a group of wonderful people who, at one time, were beginners as well. Many of them will share their own stories with you, and you will learn so much from them! 

Now, we had to take a break from November 2009 until this past June. It has been a bit of a challenge getting to class on a regular basis but now things are much better and three or four classes a week is doable.

So, what are my goals for this year?

1) Stay off the cigarettes!! I quit three weeks ago after basically smoking for 20 years, usually 3-10 per day. (The fact that I am being treated for pneumonia is a good reason to leave them alone!!)

2) My target is 200 classes for the year.

3) Learn more about and improve my diet. If I could be around 215 pounds I would be ecstatic.

4) Improve all my postures to some degree, but mostly be able to hold a Triangle!

5) Lock the knee!!! (Practitioners of Bikram have that engraved on their brain. It is their mantra.)

The general idea is that, now that I have lost a good deal of weight (even though I have definitely gained some back), it's time to really learn and do the postures the right way. Unfortunately, I still don't have the energy or lungs to get back to class. Tuesday is my target date for first class of the year.

By The Numbers:
0 classes down, 200 to go
Weight: IDK (will go to Doc tomorrow)


01 January 2011

So, why am I doing this???

Hello, world! My name is Mark and I have decided to try my hand at blogging. The subject, for the most part, will be my experience of practicing Bikram yoga. For those who do not not know, it is commonly referred to as "Hot Yoga", since the 90 minute class is held in a 105-degree room. I have been practicing since April 2009, and have found wonderful benefit from it, which I will relate as I go forward. Hopefully I will have the willpower and desire to keep up with this -- I've never done this on a regular basis. I hope to be interesting enough to have you, my reader, to return, or to perhaps try Bikram. Unfortunately, as I write on New Year's Day, I am fighting my first ever case of pneumonia, which is going to set me back a bit. I'll write when I can and I hope you enjoy it!