26 May 2011


It was a beautiful morning here in North Texas. Not a cloud in the sky, light breeze, temperature in the high 50's (13-15C).  I mention this because it will probably be the last really cool morning around here for a while. Like, until October. The weather is warming; summer is on the way, and proper hydration becomes even more important - Bikram or no Bikram.

Before I started practicing this yoga, I lived mainly on sodas, coffee, and energy drinks. Water was rarely consumed in its pure form. When I started my practice in April 2009, that lack of water became painfully evident in a very short time. I started by drinking two or three liters of water each day.

Not enough. So, I would drink four liters per day.

Still not enough. Some days, five liters wasn't enough. For the first week of my first Challenge, I was downing almost SIX liters of water each day. I drank so much water I thought I would drown. A few days later I actually had to leave class to use the facilities, something that never happened before. After that class, my instructor said, "Your body is now properly hydrated. You can back off a bit now and see just how much water you need."

Now I'm not going to bore anyone with how to figure out your proper water intake -- you can find that anywhere, or ask your physician or dietician. However, I am curious about a couple of things:

* How much water do you take into the room? For me, it is a one liter bottle. For some, I see half-liter bottles, or those big mugs that keep their ice water cold.

* Is it cool, cold, or frozen? During the cooler months, I have been able to simply wrap my bottle in my hand towel to keep it cool enough throughout class. Today, however, I have resumed the ritual of freezing my water bottle. About 90 minutes before class, I take it out, wrap it in my towel, and throw it in my bag. By Eagle pose, it has melted enough for me to drink some. Now, I understand that this is a controversial practice for some: that having that frozen bottle is a distraction or a crutch. However, when the thermometer is nearing triple digits outside, the chamber becomes even hotter and just being able to clutch that icy cold bottle allows me to stay in that cauldron.

* Special to those who have gone through (or are working their way through) teacher training: How much more fluid do you consume during training versus at home in your regular practice?

* Finally, it has been difficult for me to drink enough water during the winter months simply because I rarely feel thirsty when I'm cold (plus the coffee is SOOOOOO good on a cold day). This week, I have met my four liter goal on three out of five days. Small wonder that my last two classes have been much better than the past month! Does anyone else have this problem? How do you combat it?


As I mentioned, my last two classes have been pretty decent. My current favorite posture is Eagle -- I am able to hook my foot around my leg more and more and I am beginning to really feel things open up. My least favorite (aside from Triangle)? Awkward, 2nd part. I just cannot get up on my toes and stay there, and I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to stand on the balls of my feet, or all the way up on my toes. I must ask tonight. As for Triangle, I know I'm not taking a wide enough step to start, which makes it even more difficult. Slowly, but surely, I am trying. I think the biggest change over the last two classes is that I'm NOT THINKING. I was just listening and trying to match my body to the words -- I was amazed at how fast the Standing Series went by....

Finally, I am rethinking this 200 class "goal". I have found that I think about that number too much. When I miss a day, I get upset because the math gets tougher -- you know: 150 classes with 185 days to go. Just adds pressure that I don't need -- and does nothing but interfere with my practice AND my life outside the room. I will still go as much as I can, but I'm not going to go insane if I don't get to that number.

No judgements, no expectations.

Time to get set for class. Hope you have a great class!!



24 May 2011


I have a longer post in the works but I haven't had time to finish it. Instead, as I get ready to go to class tonight, I wanted to share a couple of things that have inspired me over the last few days.

First, on a personal level, I had the opportunity last week to attend an academic awards program for my sweetie's daughter. She and her brother are graduating high school and she is off to university this fall to study chemical engineering. As each of the students were announced, the host shared with us the students background and future plans. Needless to say, all of these students rank among the highest in their class, and all have big dreams. One of the young women honored had started the school year five weeks late due to open heart surgery. She was able to not only catch up with her classmates but excel in her classes! I wondered at what determination that took. Difficult to fathom, but a lesson on setting your goals and realizing them.

Second, while enjoying the pro golfers' annual visit to town at Colonial, we saw a man who has been very inspiring to a great many people for several years. DJ Gregory suffers from cerebral palsy. However, he has not let this deter him from his dreams -- one of which was to walk all four rounds of each tournament on the PGA schedule. Since 2008, he has done so. Early Friday evening, after rain had suspended play, we were sitting in the stands at the 8th green, watching the last few groups attempt to finish before darkness engulfed the course. I spied a man walking along the path toward the green with the aid of a cane and accompanied by an assistant. It was Mr. Gregory. He moved slowly and methodically but with a sense of ease. He was stopped by a couple of patrons who talked with him briefly. He was smiling and gracious to all, then continued on his way.

Talk about bengal tiger strength, and English bulldog determination.

There is a video from 2008 about him at ESPN. It is 12 minutes but well worth the watch. Click here.


18 May 2011

Just when you think it will never get better....

I went to class Sunday morning. I have not had too many good (for me) classes lately. I went simply because I needed to go and try to work my way out of this funk my practice has been in; to find the peace that I allowed to be stolen from me.

When I arrived at the studio, I was surprised (and VERY thankful) to see that Greg (co-owner of the studio with his wife) would be teaching. They are two of the coolest people you will ever meet, and any class they teach is a treat. Sunday was no exception. I have told Greg before that I wish I could get a CD of his class -- so much knowledge and so many things to think about! To wit:

Pranayama: For the 2nd set, try switching your hands so your opposite pinky finger is to the outside. Felt like I was doing the exercise for the first time. Now I try to do it for every posture where you interlock your hands.

Awkward: Do not simply "suck your stomach in", bring your stomach "IN and UP" to better support your spine.

Eagle: Don't simply lock your hands -- "ALWAYS go for prayer position first".

Standing Bow: Instead of "bring your chin to your shoulder", he asked us to, "bring your SHOULDER to your CHIN". With that twist in dialogue, I think I was able to better keep my spine straight.

Savasanas: too much movement. To paraphrase: "As an observer, there is too much movement right now. Learn to master NON-MOVEMENT, and it will become easier to perform the MOVEMENT."

Locust: Fingers spread out on your mat. Don't focus on simply lifting the legs... PUSH WITH YOUR ARMS and observe the feeling in your upper back..."

Head to Knee w/ Stretching: Same as standing version except you don't have to fight the gravity... you are preparing for Standing Head to Knee tomorrow. The more you work on this one, the better your standing version will be tomorrow!

Some of his other nuggets:

Yoga is movement with awareness of breath. You must check in with your breathing often. Mouth breathing activates "fight or flight".

On backbends: Lead with your eyes... try to look further and further back... look past your eyelids... where the eyes go, the body will follow. Also: "Let gravity be your guru... don't fight it."

Balancing series/ Tree & Toe Stand: "Think about how you stomp your foot into the ground. Stomp that standing foot. Stomp, Stomp, STOMP (It does help me with keeping my balance.)

Perspective: "So much of reality is perspective. Change your perspective, change your reality."

The heat: "I hate the heat. I always imagine myself on top of a big block of ice..."

Results? Although I did have to slow down near the end, I did stay in the room and I really felt better after class. THAT is why I do this yoga. Monday afternoon's class was really hot and I did leave the room but only for two postures. I went back in at Camel and finished class stronger than at any time in at least six weeks!

I think better things are around the corner...

48 down, 152 to go...

My best is yet to come!!


13 May 2011

Panic! In The Room

I have managed to get to five classes in since my last post. It has been a tough week... so much so that I left early during two of them. The pattern was pretty much the same. I would have trouble standing on one leg... horrible balance. Triangle pose would only be a rumor. My hips would hurt terribly and every move would be uncomfortable to sat the least. Then, the heat and humidity would lay me out on my mat, and then it was just a matter of time until I would look for a chance to head for the door. Tuesday was the worst night. Things fell apart so fast... I was down for the count before long before Triangle... I panicked and left somewhere right after Spine Strengthening, and as I cooled down I considered whether or not I was really cut out for Bikram Yoga anymore. I told my instructor of my thoughts, and she silenced me immediately: "You are certainly made for this!! You are Mark!! You are a yogi!!"

As I have said before, I am not looking to be a famous, world champion yogi. I just want to be healthy and happy. Later, I took a longer look at the last few days. I have not eaten well every day. On Tuesday, for example, it was 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and 2 liters of water. When at work it is not always possible to eat or get enough fluids in, and it has been tough for me to drink enough water anywhere. I just haven't been that thirsty, unlike when we were doing Challenges and I was easily drinking 4 or 5 liters each day. Add allergies to the equation plus the occasional cigarette (I know, I Know, I KNOW...) and I have not treated my body well lately. It has often been said that your practice is a mirror of your life outside the room. I don't like what I see... so much so that it was difficult to stare at my own two eyes in the room.

Today's class brought new hope. I am still having a really hard time keeping my balance...my legs just shook today. However, I got through three out of four sides in Triangle, but had difficulty in SSL Head to Knee. Really, my standing set was better than in weeks! I started to lose it on the floor, though... Cobra, Locust, and Full Locust were very hard as my back felt really weak. I sat out Camel and Rabbit, and Head to Knee Stretching and Spine Twist were pretty half-hearted, but I stayed in for the duration.

Lessons? Many. Diet. Hydration. Self-confidence. I must work on all of these.

One of the themes of late at the studio has been, "Be happy about the postures you CAN do. Don't get down on yourself for the postures you cannot do.  Each day is different and your body will be different. Honor yourself for being here and doing the best you can on that day."

Along those lines, the other mantra has been, "The only bad class you can have is the class you do not attend."

For me, it has been a reminder that I cannot half-ass my way through this process. I must stay focused and committed.

When is the next class?


My goal for 2011: 200 classes.

46 down, 154 to go

04 May 2011

Well, so much for being positive....

Yesterday, I wrote about trying to keep the proper perspective in class... about how I usually decide how my class will go by balancing stick and how last night I was going in with the expressed intention of keeping a positive frame of mind throughout the class.

So, just how did that little experiment go?

I left the room at Fixed-Firm and did not return.

Class started off really well. I was able to keep my stomach in all the way through both sets of breathing. I worked really hard to keep my arms locked out in Half-Moon, and it went great! Awkward was, well, as awkward as usual, but I actually felt good about that, too. In Eagle, I actually got each foot hooked around the leg in both sets. All in all, the opening set went really well, and I was beginning to think, "Hey, I'm doing pretty well here -- keep it going!!" Even in Standing Head to Knee, I felt pretty good about myself. Although I have never been able kick out, I was working hard to keep my knees locked -- harder than normal. I did fall out near the end of each phase, but I kept my balance longer than normal.

Then, things began to go downhill. It started slowly, but soon turned into a veritable nosedive.

The first set of Standing Bow was OK, but lost all balance in the second set. In Balancing Stick, I was leaning one way, then another, then coming out early. In Standing Separate Leg Stretching, I purposely tried to take a wider stance in the second set, and that tightness in my hips came back with a vengeance. This is where I fell off the cliff. Triangle was a complete failure -- when trying to lunge forward on my right side, it felt like my body would tear itself in two as one might tear a piece of paper in half. Sat down, no second set. In first set of SSL Head to Knee, I fell out as soon as I tried to bend forward. No second set. Tree was difficult, and when I hit the ground trying to do Toe Stand, I sat out the second set. Wind Removing was OK, but the Spine Strengthening was laughable -- it just hurt to do Cobra or Locust or Full Locust. After first set of Fixed-Firm, I was done. My mindset went from, "Hey, maybe I'm on to something here." to "I am positive of one thing and one thing only. I'm leaving."

I spent the rest of the evening in a funk. Memories of goals never attained, of things left undone, of being afraid of trying ANYTHING new danced around my brain. That was one of the reasons I took up Bikram... it was something new and different... something I might actually be able to be PROFICIENT at. I'm not looking to become a world-renowned yogi or anything, I just want to be able to do the class and enjoy the learning process.  Why did I leave? What does everyone else know that I don't? How do they manage to stay in that oven while I bail out? What am I missing?

 41 classes down, 159 to go.


03 May 2011

A Matter of Perspective

I was able to make the 4:30 class yesterday. I had gone back and forth about going -- I was still fighting a cold and I knew it would be a tough one. I was ready to bag it but Sweetie encouraged me to go, so off I went. It was a pretty good sized group, and I knew I was in trouble early. By Eagle pose, I was lost. I couldn't get either foot to hook behind my legs, I couldn't keep my balance, I was tired and not very flexible. I was unable to get my arms back to my heels in Camel, and came out of it with my left shoulder hurting. Long story short, it was a class to forget, save for one thing.

At one point during the floor series, our instructor, Heather, spoke about having the right mindset. I don't recall her exact words, but the point was this: The perspective you take into the room will make a world of difference in your practice. When you are tired and complaining about coming to class, think instead of how much better you will feel after it's over. When you are pulling on your heels, or trying to hold a decent Triangle, and you feel that same old tightness in your hip or leg or back, do you think, "Oh man, this is never going to get loose.", or do you think, "This is good. This isn't tightness, it's a new area of my body opening up."? Do you silently chastise yourself for the postures you are unable to hold, or do you enjoy the quiet little victories that appear in every class?

I must admit that while those words struck a chord, I was unable to put it into practice in the middle of class. Tonight, I will go into the chamber with the intention of keeping a positive frame of mind from first minute to last. This is not an easy thing for me... by the time we get to Balancing Stick I usually have decided how the class will go, good or bad. Perhaps by concentrating on my intention, I can put the heat, the humidity, and my weakness aside and just DO THE POSTURE, PLEASE!!!

40 classes down, 160 to go.


01 May 2011

Lazy Sunday

May Day in Texas. Usually, that means sunny skies and warm temperatures. Not so, this year, however. Gray, rainy skies with thunderstorms in the vicinity, and it's in the 40's!!! This made for a very lazy, quiet day in our home. Sleeping in was very easy with the dark gray clouds. Yoga was considered for the briefest of moments. Instead, sleeping, napping, movies, and sports have been the order of the day. With our hectic schedules, classes have been once again few and far between. However, there have been a couple of triumphs.

First was the fact that my sweetie got back into the room after that nasty fall on the stairs. She was welcomed back by a number of people at the studio, which I think shocked her a bit. She has had to take it slowly but she is doing well. I AM SO PROUD OF HER!!!!

Secondly, I was actually able to string 5 classes together the week before last. (Only two this past week, however...) Anyway during last Tuesday's class, two things happened. In Hands-to-Feet (first set). as I was pulling on my heels, my spine popped. It felt like a new vertebrae had appeared from nowhere and popped into place. It seemed so loud that I was sure everyone else in the room heard it. It made my a bit dizzy, so that I lost that all important grip on my heels -- I almost catapulted myself off my mat.

The second surprise came in Triangle -- one of the most difficult poses for me. I actually made it through BOTH SETS!! I didn't fall out and I didn't sit out -- they weren't pretty but they were triangles!! After that, I breezed through the rest of class. I did sit out a couple of times but I didn't berate myself for it -- I simply tried to enjoy it. I should have gone back in today, but sometimes rest is best. Plus, my allergies are driving me insane -- breathing would have been really hard. Planning on getting back in tomorrow.

So, my count now stands at 39 classes for the year. With my goal set at 200, that means I need to attend 161 more classes in 244 days. I am nowhere near giving up on my goal but I just hope life slows down a tick or two so I can really put some classes together. It may take doing my own 30 or 45 day challenge to get me to my goal. There is still time....

Speaking of challenges, there is a newspaper reporter in San Antonio, Dennis Ayotte, Jr.,  who has taken up a 60 day Bikram Challenge and is writing about it. Follow Dennis' journey here.

Along with that, it is now Week Three of Teacher Training in Los Angeles. Those 400+ people are almost a third of the way home already. I have found several cool blogs to keep up with:

From The Hot Room.


The Grateful Yogini.