31 March 2011

Yogic Haiku 1

Don't ask me why, but I have been lately been interested in poetry, specifically haiku. The format of five, seven, and five syllables is a challenge for me. So, from time to time, I'm going to try my hand at it. The idea will almost always be some facet of yoga. Hope you enjoy.

Like a spring shower
The drops of sweat hit my mat
I will soon be clean



Tuesday night, 6:30 class. Worked all day, then rushed home to pack gear, then off to pick Missy up from work, then finally to the studio. Last ones in before the doors are locked. Hurry to change and get in the room. Sarah is teaching, and class has already started. I find a spot in the second row (left side of the room), just throw down my mat, and get into first set of  pranayama. I can't catch my breath, gasping instead of taking those long, fluid breaths. Second set is marginally better. We haven't completed one posture and I am already a wreck.

It doesn't get any better.

Half-moon is ridiculously difficult; hands-to-feet is worse. There is no such thing as locking the knee or maintaining any sort of balance. I fall out of every balancing posture in 10 seconds or less. But hey, it's ok, my breathing sucks, too, huffing and puffing and unable to slow it down. In Standing-separate-leg-stretching, I am nowhere close to grabbing my heels. Sarah offers encouragement and I give it a rather lame try. I do grab the outsides of my feet but my hips and legs scream at me. Triangle? HA! I might get that posture down in the next decade or so. By Tree pose I was past the point of caring. I spent most of the floor series on my back, just trying to stay in the room. I have never left the room so quickly.

I had given up.

I had quit.

No, it's not the first time something like this has happened. It just seems like Tuesday night was the worst case ever.  It has had me thinking ever since: What is my problem? Why, when others fight through their issues and can at least participate in each posture, I give in? Why do I just stop? Am I that weak? Is it simply circumstance? What is it that makes it so tough for me to grind out a class?

Is it simply a lack of time to prepare? Perhaps. We all have some form of pre-class routine. I feel odd if I can't get the right spot in the room, or if I can't get in the room early enough so I can let my body get warmed up a bit. Those are attachments, and we are told over and over to let go of any attachments.

Is it diet? I bet there is a lot to this. I haven't been eating as well as before. Fast food is creeping back into my life more and more. Yes, there are times when there is simply no alternative. That said, I know I can do better, and must do so. Now. Hydration has been an issue as well. One or two liters of water is not enough. Coffee is taking way too high a priority. Hotter weather usually takes care of that, but I must be more conscious of my fluid intake. Proper nutrition and hydration make a world of difference in my practice.

The biggest question I have is the one I have no answer for: Just exactly how do I get my mind to work better, to concentrate better, to let go of what is going on around (and inside) me, and focus on breathing and movement?

29 classes down, 171 to go.


30 March 2011

Road Trip, Part II

Last time, I was writing about our little getaway to San Antonio. While there, I was able to take a class at one of the three Bikram studios in town. Luckily, the class was led by Lisa, one of the owners and a teacher trainer. One of the best classes I have ever taken. First, a little background.

The studio I visited is located in Alamo Heights, about 10 minutes north of the downtown-riverwalk area. It is set in a small shopping center. The lobby is small but inviting. After filling out my sign-up card, I took my mat into the room to set up. The room is almost square, with dark carpeting and 5 white lines or rows. There are mirrors to the front and to the right, while two large picture windows give one a view outside to the the left. The ceiling is dark brown, with six fans hanging down. The back wall, as well as the wall above the mirrors, is painted a pale yellow, giving the room a Southwestern feel. Around the three walls, on top, are stencils of each of the postures and breathing exercises. I thought that the coolest part was on the back wall. There, one will see where students have signed their names. These are students who have completed a 60-day Bikram Challenge (60 classes in 60 days). Really cool to be able to put that mark on the wall to inspire and encourage others!

Now, to the class itself.

With all six fans on, there was a constant breeze, which was refreshing. The room just didn't feel hot at all. Warm? Yes. Did I sweat? Sure, but not anywhere near like I would here at home. Then, Lisa opened the doors not once, not twice, but three times during class. (Some of my classmates here would be jealous of this!!)

When class began, it became very apparent why Lisa has taught new teachers. Her class is well-paced and her dialogue is impeccable, as one would expect. Here are a few observations:

Lisa was seemingly everywhere. She spent a lot of time moving around the room giving corrections and tips. I knew this class would be different in the Hands-to Feet pose. I have never been able to get both hands behind my heels at one time. So, imagine my surprise when, as I'm trying to get my right hand behind my right heel, when Lisa knelt down behind me, and said, "Bend your knees three more inches." I did my best to comply, and she took each hand and turned them so I was actually doing the posture correctly with both hands directly behind my heels. When she instructed the group to start pulling, it felt completely different than ever before. I was shocked that she would do that, and even more shocked that, yes, I can get my hands there. It hasn't happened since, but now that I have seen and felt the proper setup, I can envision the goal far better.

Most of the class was like that. As she gave dialogue, she would occasionally say, "Inhale", then would actually take a deep, measured inhale. She gave tips on water, diet ("Your body tells you what it needs, am I right?"). She even had two students demonstrate Standing-Forehead-To-Knee. These two students had obviously been practicing for sometime,and to my untrained eye they were doing the posture almost perfectly. Lisa gave them small corrections about their extended leg and how their weight was resting on their other leg. With small movements, they now had achieved that "upside-down L like Linda" that we work for. Each of the ladies reported just how they did feel a cramp in their extended leg. When finished, they received a rousing ovation from the class. Never seen an exhibition like that in class, and it was cool.

Another nugget from class: Lisa talked about attachments. She said that she where she would always set up in one area, she now just tells the instructor to just "put her anywhere". As she was saying this, I realized where I was in the room: right side of the room, second row, three mats from the right side mirror. Exactly where I take most of my classes here at home. Since coming home, I have tried to take class in different spots in the room. I even set up in the front row one night, something I am usually loathe to do. It went OK, but I always feel more pressure when I am in the front row. I feel like I have to lead the way, and I'm just not that good at this. Yet. I have to keep working at being unattached to a certain spot in the room, or a certain time of day to take class, or having the right water, etc.

When class was over, while in Savasana, I took stock. I have now taken class in a different studio, in a different city, under different conditions. I felt really good after class. It was a great experience. I hope to go to one of the other studios next time we are in San Antonio, and if time permits, it would be fun to try a class closer to home. I hope that if you are in San Antonio, you take class there. If Lisa is teaching, pay very close attention. You will be rewarded.

24 March 2011

Road Trip, Part I

Wow. More than two weeks since an entry. It has been fun, though. I have had some really hot, challenging classes (seven in all since my last post). One class, in particular, stands out for a number of reasons.

Last week, Missy and I took our first extended vacation ever: five days in Fredericksburg and San Antonio, TX. Shopping, sightseeing, dining (oh, the food – difficult to even think of eating Mexican food here in Fort Worth – it was THAT good.). We had an absolute blast away from work, kids, and the humdrum, boring details of daily life.

While planning our trip, I searched for Bikram studios in San Antonio. Fortunately, there are three, all under the umbrella of  Bikram Yoga San Antonio. I was very keen to take a class while there. I thought it would be fun to take class in a new environment: Different studio, instructor, room, vibe, voice, etc. So on Friday, I found myself at the BYSA studio in Alamo Heights for the 9:30 AM class.

Now, I had found out from Cindy (one of our instructors in FW), that one of the owners of BYSA, Lisa Ingle, had been an instructor at Cindy’s teacher training (more on TT in a later post). By my great good fortune, Lisa was to teach that morning.

You have to wait until the next post for more. Running short of time and I have much to say. Let’s just say that it was one of the five best classes I’ve ever taken. I will continue this just as soon as time permits.

27 classes down, 173 to go (My 2011 goal: 200 classes)


10 March 2011

Tough, then tougher

Have made it to three classes so far this week. Sunday and Monday were difficult, but Tuesday night's class was off the chart. The weather here in Texas is changing rapidly, as is normal. A couple of days near 80, then a few in the 60s and 70s. Tuesday was a very humid day here, and it really came through in the room.

REALLY came through.

 There was a new instructor as well. Sarah used to practice and teach here, then moved around before returning. She is small but don't let that fool you -- she is a strong, strong instructor. She puts you through a tough class -- her dialogue is almost right out of the book and she holds postures for every last second prescribed. After the first set of pranayama, I was worried. After the first set of Half-moon/Hands-To-Feet, I was downright frightened. The postures seemed to be coming at me so fast, and I was sweating soooooo much I almost felt like it was my first class ever.

By the time we got to triangle, in a class of about 30 students, a dozen or more were sitting out (I tried the first set but hit the floor very quickly). By Savasana, I was toast. I could barely lift my legs in Wind-Removing, and after the first set of Cobra, I was out. Out of the room. That rarely happens. I came back one posture later, but all I did was poach myself in my sweat-soaked mat.

I wasn't the first, or the last, student to bail. I counted at least four other times I heard the doors open and close.


To me, it is always cool to get to take class from a new instructor. It presents a new challenge because it is a different voice, different cadence, and there are different nuances in the dialogue. Tired and dehydrated as I was, I was glad to take that class. It is easy, when you hear the same voices and see the same faces, to fall into a false sense of security or confidence. When you have one of those, "What the hell am I doing in here?" classes, you are educated as to just EXACTLY where your practice is at. Can't wait for my next chance to take class from Sarah!!

Off to get ready for tonight. FOUR classes in a week? WOO HOO!! Maybe even a fifth on Saturday? Bring it on!!

20 down, 180 to go.


02 March 2011

One Step Forward....

Wow, almost three weeks since my last entry. It has been a crowded schedule, and my practice has suffered for it.Only six classes since my last post, and three of them were this week. Of those six classes, one was bearable, but the other can only be classified as brutal -- the types of classes where I am completely gassed, or overwhelmed, or both.

After getting hit by the "yoga truck" (see Feb 10.), I returned to the scene two days later. THAT class was really relaxing -- felt fine, did most of the postures, no real problems. The next five have been problematic, so much so that I think it's getting to be more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. It goes like this: the opening set is OK, most of the time by balancing series is decent for me. I am getting better at keeping my knee locked, but I still have far to go. Anyhow, the dread starts in Balancing Stick and keeps getting worse through Triangle. Triangle is always the same -- I get into the first part (legs spread, arms outstretched) and my thighs and hips start to hurt. Not terribly, just sore. Then, when I try to bend my knee, everything from waist to knee just wants to seize up. Even when I am able to stay in long enough to move my arms perpendicular to the floor, I lose my balance and fall backwards. Sometimes, I try to get back in and do the other side but usually I just sit and keep my head down, trying to stare through my mat. In the last two classes, that pain/stiffness has stayed with me into the floor series. The entire spine-strengthening set is miserable for me. Last night it hurt to even try to do those postures. I ended up laying out for most of the floor set because every time I would try to get up, my hips, thighs, knees, and lower back just got so tight. I was not a happy person at the end of last night's class. I asked the instructor about it and she told me that (a): I did the right thing by just staying in the room, and (b): to remember that "pain kills the pain" in Bikram's words and the only thing to do is keep trying. There was one epiphany last night. I am getting better at Hands to Feet pose. In that pose, you are supposed to put your hands under your heels and pull your head to your legs while trying to lock out your knees. Well, I have never been able to get either hand under my heel -- I usually have to grab the outside of the feet. Last night, though I was able to get my right hand under my right heel in the first set, then my left hand under the left heel in the second set. Doing both at the same time was unsuccessful... for now.

The instructors always say that in the room, and in life, you must "... be open to everything and attach yourself to nothing." Also, "No judgments, no expectations. Your body is different every day you come in." Those are my mantras for the moment. I simply need to go in that room and do the very best I can. I need to drag myself in there when it's the last thing I want to do and work as though it is my last class ever. I need to hydrate and keep my diet in check.

As far as my goal of 200 classes for the year, it is still attainable, but a lot of days have slipped by. Spring is nearly here and I haven't gotten to 30 yet. Must step it up.

For anyone that does stop by here, I hope you find something at least mildly interesting. If you are a practitioner, I would love to hear your stories or thoughts. If not, I hope you try Bikram Yoga soon. It will change you -- FOR THE BETTER!!!

17 down, 183 to go.