08 November 2013

A sort of homecoming...

I did it!

I returned to where it all began -- my (new) old Bikram studio. Quite an experience!

Got there about 15 minutes prior to class. After filling out the necessary forms and meeting the instructor (an affable gentleman named Michon), I met up with the owner, Tammy. She welcomed me back with a hug and wished me a Happy Belated Birthday and told me how happy she was to see me back. Tammy was an instructor under the previous ownership but now she runs the place. She then stopped me and told me, "Hey, take it easy in there. Have fun."

The lobby is now a nice boutique with clothing, mats, water bottles, and the like. Works of art most of which are for sale) adorn the walls, and the place has a definite Southwesten/Old West vibe. Very nice indeed. The hot room was just where I left it -- only with a darker mix of colors and an extra ceiling fan or two. The carpet was different -- I did have a little trouble trying to keep my feet from sliding out from under me at times. here are four lines across the room instead three in the former configuration. That said, I set up in about the same place as when I took my first class.

Michon teaches a very brisk class. His delivery is good but fast, and he stays very true to the dialogue. Still, it was easy to keep up for a while. I am proud to say that, while I missed a couple of situps, I did not sit out ANY postures. Fell out plenty of times, but never sat.  Even in Triangle, I was able to get back in after falling out.

Other impressions:

1) Any posture involving a forward bend was torture. From Hands-to-Feet all the way through Rabbit, my gut got in the way and made breathing difficult. I would pop up, take a breath, and try to bend forward again. Hopefully, with a better diet and more Bikram, that will improve quickly. Also, my balance was atrocious. In Standing head-to-knee, Standing Bow, and Balancing Stick, wobbling and falling out was the order of the day.

2) I listened to my body and stopped where necessary. In Camel, I could bend back and grab my right heel, but when trying to grab the left heel, I had to stop because I felt a grab in my back. Before that, in Fixed Firm, I could not get my shoulders to the floor. I didn't feel bad about it -- I know that in time I will get back there. Michon even called me out during Camel, letting me know it was OK if I could not express the posture fully -- "You're doing what you can today. Next time will be better. Good work." I must admit that made me feel at ease.

3) There was one familiar face in the class, but at times I admit I was reminiscing. I could hear the voices of past instructors, I could see the room as it was before, I thought of struggling alongside Sweetie and other people that we got to know through the yoga. I did feel a wave of nostalgia at one point.

4) I was shocked at a) my breathing, and b) how little water I drank. My breathing was actually good. Very few times did I gasp for air. The only time I drank water was at Party Time, which floored me. I did feel thrst near the end but by then I decided it could wait.

And then, it was over. The lights were dimmed, Michon thanked us for attending and even said, "Welcome Back, Mark. Good job today." I stayed a while and soaked in as much heat as I could, then showered and departed. Before leaving I was reminded that I am still eligible for the $49 intro special.

Next payday is next Thursday.

I think I'm back.



07 November 2013

Hello, again!

Nice to be back. It was a long, stressful summer.

In addition to the long, hot days and ceaseless stress at work, I found myself taking Sweetie to ER twice. She is doing much better now, back to her normal, wonderful self. Turns out she developed an allergy to wheat/gluten. We are now much more cognizant of what we buy and eat. We are reading up on the subject, and have gone through lots of gluten free products in an attempt to find things that a) are tasty, and b) don't upset her system. Lots of trial and error, and less than appetizing items. We are having to rethink our way through grocery stores and restaurants. If anyone has ideas, books, or products to try, please leave a comment below.

Of course, there was little chance to practice yoga. However, over the last few weeks, we have talked about returning. Sweetie knows that one of the things I would love to do is learn to teach. She is fully on board with the idea. This means that I need to resurrect my practice. Therefore, I am going to take a Bikram class tomorrow for the first time in almost exactly two years.

I'm mortified.

I'm in almost the same shape as I was when I took my first Bikram class in 2009. Overweight. Smoking (yes, again). Weak in body and mind.

This time, at least, I know what I'm in for. The heat. The sweat. The discomfort.

I guess the thing I'm afraid of most is that I won't find whatever it was that kept me going to yoga in the first place. That I will go, have a horrible class and decide, "Well it was fun but I'm not up for this anymore.Two years of inactivity is just too much to overcome. I want a pizza. And a cigarette."

That scares me. It means that I'm weak. It means that I would prefer to continue to do the things that destroy my body rather than begin the process of healing it again.

I tried to get acclimated today by going to a different studio. Karmany Yoga has been hailed as one of the best in the area, so I gave it a shot. It was not good.

Lovely venue. Instructor (Eric) was very nice. Four other students, all female. One hour class.

I was miserable. It was warm but I didn't break a sweat until halfway through. Strange postures. Inversions. Using the wall for some postures. Using blocks and rolled up mats that you put between your legs or put on the floor under your belly. I spent a lot of those postures either standing around or in Child's Pose. Near the end, we did Cobra and a variation of Locust. Those went well, as did the Warrior/Triangle poses -- but the Triangle we did was a faint version of Bikram's. Overall, I was not impressed. I am not used to using props, and I don't think you need them. Some of the moves were just painful because (in my opinion) we were not warmed up properly.

I just hope tomorrow doesn't go down like that. I know it will be one of the toughest classes I've ever attempted. I just want to once again discover what drew me to yoga in the first place.

Time to continue hydrating. Class is tomorrow at mid-morning.

Wish me luck!


06 June 2013


This one will be short. No practice yet. Too many things going on. Seems as though neither Sweetie nor I will ever get back into practice. Not going to bore you with details, but I am proud to say that I haven't felt this good since leaving the hospital. It has been 99 days since I have had a cigarette, but if offered one right now, I can't swear I would refuse.

Anyhow, I do continue to read the blogs listed at right. In one of them, Bikram Butterflies , Kerry writes of her struggles and how it has helped her learn acceptance. Perhaps that is my issue. I've talked and talked ad nauseam about how badly I want to return to the hot room, to work on me again, to get back to where I was. Maybe I need to just be quiet and accept things for what they are and trust that the worm will turn eventually and my practice -- our practice -- will resume.

Problem: In my mind, I equate accepting with settling or giving up or setting aside.

Am I wrong?

If I stop trying and working and planning to achieve a goal, if I accept that I cannot return to practice, I'm giving up, right? That is the last thing I want to do.

I really don't know what else to say. I learned to love yoga. I miss it. I miss writing about it.

Perhaps I need to learn acceptance.



16 April 2013

one day...

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

                                                  -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Share your light.

Share your love.

One day, we will have no more days like yesterday. 

One day, no more innocents will die.

One day, we will all truly be one. 

 My thoughts and prayers to all.


(photos not mine)


29 March 2013

One step. then another...

Greetings! For those who observe Easter, I wish you a warm and happy one!

I am much recovered from the bronchitis described in the previous post. I have now gone 31 days without a cigarette. There have only been a few occasions where I wanted to smoke, but I brushed those feelings aside pretty quickly. Also, one of my co-workers is now attempting to quit. She has eschewed regular cigarettes for one of the electronic kinds that produce water vapor instead of smoke. She remarked that she feels better and that her clothes don't smell anymore. Excellent!

The new issue for me is food. I have been substituting food for nicotine and it feels like I am eating ALL THE TIME. I made a point to write down everything I ate for two days. I felt ill when I looked at it -- fast food, junk food, huge restaurant portions (plus all the free chips and salsa I could eat -- it was my favorite Mexican restaurant). Most of time I'm drinking coffee and precious little water. Listing my intake hasn't stopped me much, though -- so far today I have eaten two slices of  toast with butter, one slice of bread with butter (while waiting for the toast), two everything bagels (one with cream cheese), cookies and three four cups of coffee. No water, no juice, and not a crumb of anything healthy.

 Here is the goofy part: I went to the clinic today for a routine blood pressure and weight check. The last time I went was two days before going into the hospital. That day my BP was somewhat alarming: 154 / 94; and I weighed 253 lbs. (114.8 kg). Today, my BP was much better at 128 / 80, but the goofy part was that I had actually LOST four pounds -- I weigh 249 lbs. (112.9 kg). After all the crap I have consumed, how on Earth could I actually be lighter, if only slightly?

In any case, action must be taken. I have put together a three step plan to get myself to a more healthy place.

Step 1:  I have given myself three weeks to slow down and work on eating better. Why three weeks? Basically because Sweetie and I are going on vacation soon, and it's no fun trying to be "good" on your holiday. That said, I will attempt to at least drink 2 liters of water each day and eat decent meals without all the snacking that takes the place of smoking breaks.

Step 2: The first day back from vacation, I will begin a 14-day cleansing program. We did a seven-day cleanse last year with great results. The 14-day program is a bit more intricate but the dietary rules are the same: no red meat, no caffeine (that will hurt), no bread or pasta, no dairy or eggs (my cheese habit will suffer), no corn (?) or any processed fruits or vegetables, NOTHING artificial. As I said, I have done this before for seven days... I hope I don't go insane in the second half of this. I could stand only so much rice bran bread and puffed rice cereal with soymilk, and have you seen the price of organic/all natural nut butters or quinoa? Perhaps green juice is the answer? I have found some promising recipes online. In any event, I have already purchased the cleanse kit, so no turning back.

Step 3: This is the big one. Sweetie and I have talked at length about finding new careers. We are both less than happy with our current jobs, and I asked if she thought I would make a good yoga instructor. She said I would be fantastic. Then she asked a couple of our friends (one who practices and one who doesn't) and they both said that was a good thing to try. So, if I truly want to chase this dream I obviously must resume a regular practice. So, on May 1, I will be at a studio and taking class. Problem: I'm not sure which to choose. I love practicing Bikram but the cost of training is scary. It costs less to train for Sumits and while I very much enjoy his form of yoga, I seem to feel strongly that Bikram is where I need to be. Of course, attending Indigo and learn the Baptiste form would be interesting as well.

In any event, I have put together this timetable and I hope we can make this work. I may be broke before it's over but I'm going to get this done. Time is ticking and I'm tired of the person I am. I can be so much more, so much better.

I'll keep you posted. Questions, comments, or good wishes? Send them my way... I'm going to need a lot of good energy.


PS: Lunch will be two apples, 5 oz. Greek yogurt, and 1 liter of H2O.


10 March 2013

And then it all went horribly wrong...

Hello again! I've not been able to make any yoga classes since last time. Instead, I learned for the first time just how my body has been affected by the way I have treated it.

It started innocently enough. Almost two weeks ago, I woke up about 2 AM with a sneezing fit and draining sinuses. It subsided shortly thereafter and I went back to sleep. A few hours later, at work, I started to feel a tickle in my throat along with a dry cough. My boss had suffered from something similar and said I might need to get it checked. I went to the clinic (not having a primary physician) and they diagnosed Bronchitis, gave me meds (antibiotic and steroids), and sent me home. The next day I felt OK until dinnertime, when my breathing became more labored, with a distinct wheeze. Back to the clinic, where they said I had strep throat, gave me a stronger antibiotic, a steroid shot, and a breathing treatment, and sent me home.

Then came the third day.

I had the day off, and I pretty much stayed in bed all day. I wasn't feeling horrible, but I wasn't feeling better. I went to pick up Sweetie from work, but I stayed in the car while waiting for her because I felt weak. When we got home, I sat down on the couch and tried to catch my breath. No good. Hit my rescue inhaler. Nada. Hit the inhaler again. This isn't working. I start to panic. I get Sweetie and she sees my discomfort. She is asking me what to do but I have difficulty answering. I dropped to my knees, trying to rally and just get one  deep breath. My panic worsens and I feel myself sweating uncontrollably. I manage to tell her, "You better call an ambulance." She does and I am still on my knees trying to calm myself down.

It seemed like forever for the medics to arrive. When they did, they checked my oxygen saturation level. It was 85 (should be 97 or better). They gave me a treatment but it didn't help. Things got worse when they helped me onto the stretcher. I felt like I was suffocating and went into a full-blown panic. I even got out of the stretcher for a second so I could try and catch my breath. I laid back down and then everything went dark for a bit. The next thing I knew, I was still in the ambulance and I had a full mask on and oxygen was being forced into my lungs. I don't remember the IV stick being put in my left hand, but I do remember someone asking me to open my mouth and keep something under my tongue without swallowing ( I later found out it was not one but two tablets of nitro-glycerin ). Next thing I knew, I was in ER and hooked up to another machine that helped me breathe. There was another IV rig in my other hand. I remember talking to the ER doctor, x-rays being taken, and lots of blood drawn. As I became more aware of my surroundings, Sweetie arrived and sat beside me ( stayed beside me every step of the way ). In the next treatment area, I could hear people working on a man who had apparently suffered a stroke.

I hadn't been a patient in a hospital since I was born -- in the very hospital I was in now. To say I was scared would be an understatement, to say the least. I was terrified. After a couple of hours I was calmer and the breathing machine was discontinued, but I remained on oxygen. The tests slowly came back. The doctor came back with good news: the blood tests were all coming back good. The X-ray showed no pneumonia but quite a lot of chest congestion -- I was diagnosed as having acute bronchitis brought on by COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder -- a direct function of my smoking habit). I was told that I would be admitted for a day or two with lots of breathing treatments, antibiotics, and more steroids.

I thought, "OK, not so bad. Could have been worse."

Then the doctor said, "There is more." I went cold.

"We did find damage in the bottom lobes of your lungs from your smoking. This makes your heart have to work harder to oxygenate your cells, and there is some weakness in the right side of your heart." I went colder and looked over to Sweetie, who was shaken as well.

"Now the good news is this: IF you stop smoking NOW, within two years you can still undo most of this damage. Your lungs will be almost as good as any non-smoker. But, you must stop now."

Understand, I have always known the risks. However, I always felt like such things wouldn't really happen to me. I would know when I needed to quit. I mean, I've never had to go to the hospital for anything. I could always just stop and things would take care of themselves.

Now, I understand. As I lay in bed that first night, unable to sleep, it finally sank in: I'm 45 years old. I'm not bulletproof. I simply cannot continue to hurt my body like this. I have no choice but to choose a healthier way of life. If not, I won't be here. At all. I've got things I want to do, to accomplish, to be a part of. Hard to do if I am an invalid. Or dead.

It was the longest 40 hours of my life. Sweetie was an absolute gem throughout. My boss was kind enough to grant me vacation time so we didn't have to worry about losing income. Of course, we will have to see just how much this little escapade has cost, once the hospital and insurance company have settled. Cost doesn't matter -- this episode has already changed two lives. Not only mine (obviously), but Sweetie's son -- he witnessed that crazy night and has said he would quit smoking as well. I took my ID bracelet from the hospital and put it in my wallet in front of my license so it is always in sight. That way, if I feel like buying a pack of smokes, that reminder will be right there for me. I don't think that will be a problem though. All I have to do is look at my phone and this picture:

I have no desire to return to that bed. Ever.


01 February 2013


Last time, I wrote that I had to find a way to make it last Sunday's community class at Sumits.

I did get to class. It was amazing.

Not for the class I had. It was amazing for the positive energy in that room.

The community class is held each Sunday at 4 PM. Five dollars, cash only, for those who do not currently have a package. The Facebook post from the studio said to get there early because of the potential for a full room, and they were not kidding. Class started at 4 so I arrived at 3:25 to make sure I could get in. As I pulled in to the lot parking was already a concern. The studio is in a small strip mall with an AT&T store on one side of the studio and a pizzeria (yes, a pizzeria -- talk about temptation!) on the other. I found a spot to park and, as if on cue, about nine other yogis/yoginis popped out of their vehicles. I grabbed my gear and headed for the door. The line was out the door! -- talk about the power of yoga! I paid and made my way into the room. Staff members were helping to find spots for everyone and remind them of proper etiquette (no shoes in the room, please...). The front row was full and the second row was almost full, so I dropped my mat in the back corner under one of the heaters (yay!). Men and women of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds were there. The room continued to fill, with the staff gently asking people to slide one way or the other. The sign on the door quotes a maximum occupancy of 63, and while there weren't that many people in there, I don't believe you could have squeezed another soul in there. I think they cut it off at around 40 or so. and by the time class began I was right up against the mirror on the side of the room. The instructor entered the room and off we went. I don't know where it came from, but I was smiling to myself as we started warm-up.

The room was HOT! I was sweating before we even started, which I loved. The instructor was really keeping tabs on the heat and humidity, so the conditions were never debilitating. It has been more than a month since I practiced, so I expected nothing. As class progressed, I was having difficulty remembering what to do and how to do it, but I didn't really care. My thoughts kept going to the energy, the vibe, the positive feelings in that room. It didn't matter that I was having problems with being strong enough or flexible enough or breathing correctly -- I was actually keeping my focus and having a great, fun class! The last part of the standing series was really hard, and I was very glad to hit the floor. Still, I could feel the energy of the room helping me to press on through the rest of class. Even as class ended, and there was a mad dash to the door, I lay still until the room became quiet again, soaking in that positive flow for as long as I could.

We hear the word energy used every time we step in a yoga room -- no matter what type we practice. We are encouraged to contribute our energy to the room, to our practice, even to the Universe. There are classes when the energy in the room is so-so, or even non-existent. There are classes when the energy in the room is decidedly negative -- sometimes even close to malevolent. We are taught to recognize and fight through this. Then, there are classes where you just float happily through the practice. Last Sunday was one of those. The surprise for me was just how intense that positivity was -- and how much it did help.

I will be back this Sunday. Hopefully, the good vibes will continue.

Help: I broke down and got a smartphone a couple of weeks ago. Does anyone know of any good apps about yoga or meditation? Let me know.


25 January 2013

The Dark Side is winning...

About a year and a half ago, I wrote the following post. It is written from the point of view of the "Dark Side" of my brain, telling me to give up this "yoga thing"...



Hey, Mark.

It's me... you know, the guy you were before you started this insanity.
The guy who loved nothing better than pounding cheeseburgers and pizza, and washing them down with liters and liters of Dr. Pepper or Coke. The guy who would inhale potato chips or cheese curls while sitting for hours in front of your gaming console, stopping only to go out and enjoy a fine cigarette. Or two.

You do remember me, don't you? The guy who would toss back a couple of beers (or more), plus a couple of shots (or more)? The guy who thought that runners were weird (I mean, really, you run and run and run, and you're not really going anywhere, you're just tiring yourself out). The guy who never understood how someone could work out in a gym for two hours, or swim three miles, or hit a silly punching bag. 
And God forbid you try anything like yoga. Those yoga people are true freaks -- tree-hugging, soy-eating, tattooed freaks who bend their bodies in unfathomable ways. Just looking at them made you feel uncomfortable!

So, what happened, buddy? Where have you gone? Off the deep end?

Ok, I can understand. It was new, it was different. It has also been a pain in the ass!! I mean, those classes are really hard! It's so friggin' hot in there!! Not only that, you did something called a challenge: 52 classes in 60 days! I thought that was ridiculous in itself, but then you did it AGAIN!! Insane!! I was so glad when you had to stop going for that six months -- I thought sanity had prevailed. Imagine my horror, then, when the studio called looking for work-study people. You never gave me a chance to put in my two cents, you just hauled off and went right on back without any chance for me to shout you down. So, once again, I am put through this hell two, three, sometimes five times in a week!!

And for what?

You make me drink so much water or Gatorade -- I want a soda!
You make me eat vegetables and, God forbid, fruit! At least you don't eat a lot of that yet.
You drag me into that oven, bend me, stretch me, and make me sweat and sweat and sweat.
You force me to breathe that hot, humid, nasty air.


It doesn't have to be this way. Let's be reasonable about this.
You don't really have to do this anymore.
I know you lost 45 pounds, and you are a bit more flexible and all that.
I don't care.

Let's go back to the way it used to be. No more of this foolishness. 
No more spending all day trying to get three or four liters of water down your throat.
No more eating better.
No more sacrificing two hours of your day for this madness.
Let's go get that ice cold Coke. And a couple of burgers.
Let's not worry about how you will fit in three classes this week. Let's watch TV or play games.

You can do it. I know you can. I've been watching.
I've seen you give in from time to time. Fast-food breakfast here. Candy bar there.
And yes, I've seen you have a smoke from time to time. It's once a week, for now, isn't it?

I've watched you crumble in that room, too. Laying out for long stretches of class, or leaving the room altogether -- what's wrong Mark? Can't take it anymore, buddy? I notice that once the postures start, you're having a really hard time looking in the mirror at your own two eyes, or your knee, or anything else. You stare at the floor (or the ceiling when you're on your back, which is happening more and more often). Your muscles scream and your body feels limp (that's my doing -- it seems to be the only way I can get your attention).  You have trouble hearing the instructor because I am there, whispering to you, "It doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to do this to us.... Let's quit."

So, come on! Let's get that pack of smokes, a giant pizza, and a 12-pack of soda. Let's fire up the Playstation, or watch the ballgame. Let's not have anymore of this lunacy.

No one needs to know.

It will be our little secret.....

Take your time. I'll be here.
He is winning.

As much as I think about yoga, I have not been able to get back in on a regular basis. 

Part of me is happy -- the part that cannot stop eating junk and smoking. I have gained back nearly half of the weight I lost.

Part of me longs for that hot room -- so I can try to heal myself.
On Sunday, there is a community class at Sumits -- $5 for anyone who wants to come in.
I must get myself there. 
"The moment you're ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens."
-- Unknown
So, it MUST be right around the corner, right?