21 December 2014

Up Front

By now at least some of you know that I am not a fan of practicing on the front row. I've got my spots on the second or third row that I love, and the corner spot on the fourth row for those times when by body doesn't feel bendy or I have eaten like a pig for a day or two. I know you aren't supposed to get attached to one spot in the room but it's all too easy to stay in the same spot for each class.

One afternoon a couple of weeks ago I was in my usual spot: second row on the right (hot) side of the room. One woman on the front row, nobody behind us. Then another woman took the spot in the corner to my right on the front row. Then with time winding down before class began, Florence (one of our instructors) took a third spot in the front. Still, there was no one behind me. So, for some reason, I grabbed my gear and took the last spot up front between Florence and the woman in the corner. 

"Feeling all alone. Thought I'd join you", I whispered to Florence. She beamed and gave me a high five. 

As class commenced, our instructor, Shannon, advised that he was not going to adjust the fans on our side due to a broken switch. Florence, who likes the room warmer than most, gave a thumbs up. 

"Yikes. What did I just do?", was my thought. 

So, off we went. As we started the second set of Pranayama, a regular front row student came in and, finding no room up front, took my original spot in the second row. 

"Damn! I knew I should have stayed put!". Quickly I calmed down and got on with the class. 

The biggest advantage to being up front is obviously getting an unobstructed view of yourself. Extra important for me since things are blurry without my glasses. Up front, you're not looking past people. It truly is easier to focus in on yourself. It also sucks, especially when I look at my body. As stated before, I hate looking in any mirror: studio, bath, or otherwise. Negative thoughts creep in about my shape, my weight, my lack of balance, etc. On the front row it was worse, especially when practicing next to or in front of such proficient students. Example: in Standing Head-to-Knee I know these ladies are all kicking out beautifully while I'm fumbling about trying to grab my foot while keeping my knee locked. In Standing Bow I know they are all rock steady while I'm working hard to keep my balance and not crash into one of them. As in many areas, I felt like I really did not belong in the front row. I felt out of place. 

The other big reason is that the heat always seems more intense up front. Now I like the hot side of the room, but on the front row it's REALLY hot. Why? Because the heat bounces off the mirrors and back at you. When the fans are on higher settings, the heat comes off the mirrors even faster. It's like being in a convection oven! Now, I sweat a lot in class, but I swear it was even worse in the front row. My work-study partner says she feels her skin get hotter when she is next to the mirrors. 

I made it through the class pretty well. I did lay out during stretching - I simply had nothing left. Being up front, and practicing alongside an instructor, did make me give a more honest effort and my postures were, in fact, better. No taking it easy in a posture. No sitting out Triangle. No doing only one set of Rabbit. 

Taking a chance and moving up front must have done something inside me as well. Why? Well this past Thursday I was able to take an extra class (normally it is tough to make a Thursday). There was a lady in my normal spot on the second row, so I just took a spot a couple of paces to her right. After a few minutes, I thought, "What the hell", and moved up to the front row and assumed Savasana. When the lights came on, I rose up to discover that the lady in question had followed me up to the front row. 

You never know how your actions affect others...


PS: Last week I was on the front row for a third time... What is going on?...

20 December 2014

The Holiday Post -- 2014

This post has appeared in various forms here and elsewhere. It changes a bit each year. Enjoy!

I know. The holidays are here. Rushing here and there. Looking for just the right gift. Planning the big meal.

Lights and tinsel and food, oh my! 

There are so many things to do. So many places to go, people to meet. 

Before all that, however, let's slow down. Just for a moment. Take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. 

It's not about mass consumerism and delayed flights and, "Just one more slice of pie..."

Give me a moment. It won't take very long. I have a few thoughts I want to share. 

1) If you are traveling, I hope your trip goes well and you get there and back safe and sound.

2) If you are in the military (of any nation) and the holidays find you far away, know that we are truly thankful for the sacrifices you make every day of the year. Godspeed and I hope you are with your loved ones very soon.

3) When you are with your loved ones, hug them. Hug them again.  Hug them harder. You just never know when (or IF)  you'll get that chance again.

3a) If there are children at your gathering, hold them, hug them, laugh and play silly games with them. Watch the sparkle in their eyes. Let go. Be a kid again. The cold, hard world will still be there tomorrow.

4) If you are at odds with someone, extend the olive branch. Call. Write. E-mail. Send a telegram. Send smoke signals. Try anything. Try everything. Try to make peace. Just try. Maybe nothing happens. Maybe great things happen. 

5) Never Forget: There are a great many people in need. Give what you can. The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, your local homeless shelter, women's shelter, soup kitchen, your local food bank... all would appreciate whatever you can give. Food, clothing, cash, doesn't matter. It all goes to improve someone's life (and therefore the world) just a little bit.

6) Never Forget II: Our four legged friends need a hand, too. The local Humane Society or SPCA can always use food or bedding for their charges. Perhaps you are looking for a new "furever" friend. Consider a shelter pet. 

7) Eat, drink, and be merry!!! If you choose to enjoy a drink, don't drive. Please. Call a cab. Call a friend. Anything. 

8) Laugh out loud. Do a silly dance. Let someone know just exactly how special they are to you.

9) Finally, perhaps most importantly, take some for yourself. Reflect. Take stock of things. Take a long walk and consider your life. What do you like? What needs changing? Seek advice. Write it out. Do whatever you need to start the new year out right. 

Love and Peace to all. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!!!

27 November 2014

Giving Thanks

It is Thanksgiving Day. A time for family, food, and football.
Here it has been a beautiful, sunny day. Nice and cool.

So, before the turkey knocks me out, a few things I am thankful for:

A job and a home.

Family and friends -- extra special at this time of year. Tomorrow will be the sixth anniversary of my Mom's passing. The holidays will always be a bit darker but time heals.

For all of those who serve the nation, especially those of my friends in the Armed Forces, Thank You!! May you soon be home with your loved ones!!!

While I couldn't make the single class today, I am thankful that, after two weeks of a cold, a respiratory infection, and an asthma attack, I made class the last three nights, and they were great!!

My yoga practice in general: the fact that once again I can practice regularly, the friendships renewed, the new friendships formed, the knowledge that, slowly but surely, I am building a better version of me. I cannot begin to describe what being back in that room means to me.

Quitting smoking: Over ten months now and I have no cravings whatsoever. In fact, the smell of a cigarette is repellent to me!!

Last but certainly not least: YOU!!!  If you read this, Thank You! If you are a Twitter friend, Thank You! If you are a long distance yoga buddy, Thank You! Your energy and support are appreciated!

Hoping the holiday weekend is full of joy... and a yoga class or two...

Much love to all!!!

03 November 2014

Meet Me In The Orchard

Meet me in the orchard 
And we'll walk among the trees. 
We can drink in the sun and dance together barefoot until we fall, 
Laughing, to our knees. 

We can sing the song in our hearts, we can lift it to the sky 
Without fear of reprisal
or someone asking, "Why?"

For a while, we can leave behind the anger, disappointment, and pain. 
We can hold each other close, and, for a precious moment, become one once again. 

So meet me in the orchard. 
Please hurry. Time is short. 
For soon I must be leaving you
And set sail for my soul's next port. 

01 November 2014


Recently, my Bikram studio started offering what is called a "Core Class". One of our fantastic instructors is a physiotherapist with 19 years experience. He has put together an hour long routine of sit-ups, lunges, crunches, and yoga poses to help build up the core muscles of your body. The routine differs almost every class to insure proper development of all the core muscles. 

At first I was all-in for this. I mean, what an opportunity, right? This can do nothing but help me, right? 


I hate it. 

I knew I was weak and unfit, but good God!! While everyone else (and I do mean EVERYONE ELSE) is knocking out set after set, I have collapsed on the floor gasping for air and wishing that my stomach would stop hurting. I am undoubtedly the least able person in there. I get flustered because I'm not the most coordinated and I fall behind the rest of the class. I get embarrassed. I want to leave. I want to run away.

I want to quit. 

Never mind that I felt a lot of improvement from the first class to the second. About halfway through each class I want to leave. And maybe get a cheeseburger. 

It has taught me one thing. 

I have no core. Physical or mental. 

I have no reserve to draw on when life throws more stress at me. I have no source of strength to call upon when the instructor is tacitly trying to coax me off the mat to please attempt at least one set of Triangle. I haven't the strength to tell myself that I really don't need a third cheese danish. Or a fourth. Or a fifth. (This actually happened one morning last week. I actually stuffed eight danishes down my throat. I'm not proud.) I personify weakness. 

Now that I know the full extent of my weakness, I also realize what it will take to repair the damage. It will be a daunting task to say the least. I really don't know if I have the stomach for it (pun intended). It means changing more things than I realized. Carving out more time for classes. Making better food choices (while on a tight budget). Loving myself more. Maybe even learning to get up and eat breakfat so I can avoid the eight-danish fiascos. First and foremost, it simply means developing a backbone. A true and healthy spine. Part of having a strong spine entails... you guessed it... a strong core. 

Of course, I would be doing this on the eve of the two biggest food holidays on the calendar: Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

I'm doomed. 

26 October 2014


I am a quitter.

Yes, I am.

I have quit a lot of times in my life. Some for the better, some for the worse.

I have quit smoking -- several times (I think this time it has taken hold for good -- fingers crossed).

I have quit drinking (not because of an abuse issue -- I simply have no more tolerance for it. One drink and the room is spinning.)

I quit college. Couldn't balance going to class and working 40 hours or more each week. 

I quit dating for a decade or so. I had better things to do than be continuously turned down or dumped.

I quit trying to advance at work. Actually I never really tried to advance. Just too much stress -- and the fact that I make as much or more when paid hourly as opposed to being on salary. 

I quit being lazy and start exercising more. Then I quit exercising because I'm tired and/or lazy. I quit junk food and start eating healthier, then I quit eating healthy because the junk is less expensive (or free in the break room fridge since the deli sends their day old subs and salads and sweets back for us).

You get the point. No matter what I am doing or attempting, I quit what I'm doing, and do the opposite, either because the effort is seemingly too much to give or because the expense is too great. 

Over and over and over again. The cycle spins ever onward. There seems to be no way to stop it. 

Yoga is one of the few things I haven't quit. That said, I am a quitter in the hot room as well. I fall out of poses and quit trying. I don't even attempt some poses. At the first twitch or pull or ache, I quit. When I know I have it in me to do the next pose, I quit and lay down -- or just leave the room. 

I quit quite a lot these days. I have regressed in many of the poses, so much so that I spend a lot of time staring down at my toes because I can't stand to see myself in the mirror.  Sometimes I wonder why I'm there at all. It would be simpler to stop practicing. It would be easier just to while away my spare time watching TV or surfing the net. It would be easier to get fat (fatter) and not give a damn. 

Yet, there I am, unrolling my mat, trying to stretch, and  standing up with the sound of the gong to begin class. Day after day. Evening after evening. 

Yoga is the place where I am trying to learn how not to quit. 

So far, so good. 



19 October 2014

Under The Autumn Moon

want to walk with you, hand in hand,
Under the autumn moon. 
I want to learn about you and how you came to be:
Were you an only child, were you one of two or three?
Were your parents there for you? Was there hostility?
Did you have friends who cared for you, or were you always lampooned?
What memories do you carry with you
Under the autumn moon?

I want to walk with you, arm in arm,
Under the autumn moon.
I want to learn more about you 
And how you came to be. 
Tell me how it felt
The first time your heart fluttered,
The first time you kissed someone,
The first "I love you" uttered. 
Did you give your heart of your own free will,
Or was it stolen away?
Was it treated well, then given back, 
Or was it crushed, broken, left to decay?
Does your heart still ache, or are you now immune?
Speak to me of your heart 
Under the autumn moon. 

Stay with me a little longer
Under the autumn moon. 
I want to share myself with you; 
Tell you how I came to be. 
I want you to know my hopes and fears, 
And the things that I've done wrong. 
Let me tell you of dreams undone
And my favorite dancing song. 
I'll tell you what stirs my soul
And sets my heart afire. 
I'll tell you how much I fear this life
And of the people I admire. 
So sit with me a little longer,
For the sun is rising soon.
Sit, and talk, and laugh with me
Under the autumn moon. 

23 September 2014

Burn The Leaves

Autumn comes again,
the land begins to cool.
The summer's heat dissipates --
dreams and passions never do.

Winter has yet to show
its cold and furrowed brow.
Spring is many months away.
The time to clean is now!

The trees have just begun to turn
from green to red and gold.
But this is not a time to grieve --
Rise up! Stand tall!!
Be bold!!

Gather up the leaves!
Pile them high in the setting sun
And along with those dying leaves pile up
the broken dreams
the silent regrets
the hopes that have been undone.

You see, in nature nothing is lost;
Matter merely changes form
As a phoenix must dissolve into ash
In order to be reborn.

So set that pile of leaves alight.
Watch them smolder and burn.
Warm yourself in the soft firelight
and let renewed hopes and dreams return.

  Copyright 2014 by Do The Posture

21 September 2014

10 Things I Love... About Myself

Let's get one thing straight: I don't mind taking someone up on a dare once in a while. Hell, it was basically a dare that got me into Bikram Yoga in the first place. That being said, I have accepted a dare from one of my Twitter friends to write this post.

You see, when asked how I would describe myself, it is usually in a disparaging manner. Something like this:

 Sarcastic. Hates to leave comfort zone. Fears change. Small talent for writing. Yes, hopeless romantic. Afraid to chase dreams.

Upon reading this, one of my Twitter friends dared me to write ten things that I love about myself. I've never been terribly adept at focusing on my better qualities, and for a good while I stared at a notebook page with nothing more than a title, a dedication, and a bit of text that had been scratched out and scrawled over. However, after a time I got one, then another, and then another. I have, as much as possible, resisted the urge to edit or redact anything -- the first time through is the most honest and meaningful. Aside from checking grammar and usage, here is how it went down from my screw loose brain to the paper:

For SR.

Ten Things I Love About Myself

1) My sense of humor: It is very dry and sarcastic at times, but I can generally make you smile, at least.

2) Handshakes/Hugs: High/Low Five, fist bump, handshake, full-on hug. You need one? Come here. I have been told I give good hugs.

3) Cooking: I won't earn a Michelin star anytime soon, but I can feed you pretty well. Celiac or gluten free? I can work my way around that. Like grilled meats? I'm the guy.

4) Baldness: Fought the good fight for a long time but once I took it down to the wood I felt free. I believe I look better without hair. Aside from a small dent or two, it looks good!

5) Step-parent: Although we never married, I have been able to participate in raising two children from the time they were 8-9 years old to the successful people they are today. Proud of that. Even more proud of them.

6) Need something?: My last dollar? My last smoke (back in the day)? Need a secret kept? Someone to talk to? I will do my best to help, at least until I find your motives are insincere. Then, being a Scorpio, the stinger must be put to use...

7) Giving is better: In any facet of life, I've always felt happier when giving than receiving. Getting something is always nice, but giving always feels more meaningful.

8) Singing: I don't have a great voice, but you can often hear me humming or quietly singing a tune. Beatles to The Bravery, Miles Davis to The Arctic Monkeys, I like a lot of different music.

9) I love to write: Used to write a lot from a young age. I remember writing a story in my 5th grade English class about getting a new bicycle and I recall using the phrase "on it's maiden voyage". When asked to read it aloud to the class, I edited myself and said "the first time I rode it". I wanted to avoid getting called a nerd for using such "fancy words". I have been editing myself ever since... 

10) I practice yoga: I don't get there often enough. For now. I'm not as proficient as I would like to be. For now. That said, I love it. It helps me deal with life. It tries to teach me to be a better person. Being a stubborn man, the lessons don't always stick, but I keep going back. One day, the lessons will stick. When that happens, look out!!!

Well, there you are, my friend. Thank you for reading, and thank you for the challenge!!


14 September 2014

The Century Mark

Two hundred and nineteen nights ago, I sat in this worn, uncomfortable seat and wrote a post about how nervous I was about returning to a regular Bikram Yoga practice, thanks to a renewal of the work-study program. Tomorrow night, I will complete my 100th class since returning.

So, how am I doing?


I started off wonderfully, full of joy, ready to work, ready to get back to where I was before. For a time, I was on the fast track back -- four, five, six classes a week. Eleven classes in a ten day stretch. A posture clinic. Seeing old friends and making new ones. I was enjoying the hell out of it.

Then came the summer. Issues at work. Issues at home. Making class became more difficult. Then, when I did get to class, I would struggle. Badly. The postures I could do reasonably well became more difficult, and the postures I struggled with became well nigh impossible.

Yesterday's class was a perfect example. In Half Moon there is a huge grab in my side when I try to bend to the left. In Hands-to-Feet, I can't get my hands under my feet -- not even close. Awkward Pose is intolerable. In Eagle, getting my foot behind my calf was becoming easier, but no more. From there it just gets worse -- so much worse that the floor series has become a 15-30 minute Savasana. I can barely look at myself in the mirror these days. Once, I even started to well up with tears but I held them back. No use crying when you are the one to blame for this, and make no mistake, it is my own doing. I'm not smoking, but my diet is still a wreck. No self control. No discipline. Lately, I've begun to wonder why the hell I'm even practicing... if I keep trying to hurt myself with a poor diet, if I can only make two or three classes a week, then why bother? If going to class was just a way of avoiding other issues at home or work, then why bother? If all I'm doing is basically taking a 90 minute steam bath, then why bother?

I'll tell you why.

I have to. For no one other than myself. I have to re-learn discipline. Patience. Love of self. Appreciation. Gratitude. And much more.

I will go back in there tomorrow night. I will simply look at myself in the eyes and try to remember how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to practice this yoga.

I'm tired of staring a hole in the floor while the rest of the class refuses to give up. I'm tired of the instructor saying, "Join back in when you can.", knowing full well that remark is directed at me.

I am strong.

I am a yogi.

Toes on the line...


24 August 2014

It's Called "Awkward" For A Reason

I have a new "least favorite" posture (outside of Triangle, obviously).

The Sanskrit name is Utkatasana.

In class, it's known as Awkward Pose.

I call it a pain in the ass.

It's a three part pose, and I have difficulties in each part.

First, one must stand with feet hip-width apart -- about six inches. Interestingly, I no longer hear an instructor say, "... two fist-widths distance between your feet". Then the arms are extended out in front of the body, palms facing down. While keeping the feet parallel and the arms extended and the heels on the floor, you are supposed to sit down until your thighs are parallel to the floor (as though there was a chair there for you to sit in). There is always an instruction to arch the spine back while keeping toes, heels, knees, and hands all six inches apart. This seems to be an impossibility for me... I can lift my head up and get my neck straight but my shoulders are always angled forward and I see no way of "arching" the spine back. All the while, my hands are beginning to shake, and for some reason, the joint where thumb meets hand cramps up -- to the point where I have to flex or shake my hands to get them to relax. Then, a brief respite of sorts:

"Change. Come back up. Keep your arms there". Man, that hurts!! Sadly, though, we're just getting started.

"Second part. Stand on the tops of your toes (like a ballerina). Bend your knees and come down halfway...". Only I cannot. I try and try and topple and fall over and over. I have tried standing on the balls of my feet. No dice. I have tried to "wedge" my feet up where the toes meet the foot and stand in that "crease" of sorts. Nope. I have tried to fan my toes out and try to grip the floor. Negative. I either topple forward (I think because my gut screws up my center of gravity) or my calves can't stand the strain and I have to return to a flat-footed position. If you read from "Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class", it states:

"Give it all you got. Every time you think you've risen as high onto your toes as possible, you haven't. There's always a "higher" and "forwarder"... The farther forward and upward you roll the insteps and the heels, the farther backward you must lean to be anywhere near straight-backed."

I have asked instructors for tips, and while they can demonstrate the idea, I still have no clue. There is a disconnect somewhere between my brain and my toes. I'll keep trying.

"Change. Keep those arms up! Come up slightly on your toes and bring your knees together to start. Inhale, stomach in, and you go down. Slowly. At least ten counts. Spine straight position. Leaning against the (imaginary) wall. Hips 1/2 inch above your heels...." Before I hurt my knee in April this was the easiest part for me. Four months later I am just now feeling confident that a) it will take the strain and b) that it will be nearly painless. Even on my best days, however, I have really concentrate so I don't rock back and forth and fall out of the posture. As for that next bit about bouncing "up and down like a motorcycle ride", well, that would simply make me fall out. 

Finally, the instructor calls out for us to come back up and complete the posture. I am gassed damn near every time and the first part of Eagle always seems to suffer for it. My arms are dead, my legs are shaking and I feel defeated. 

Every so often, when I'm waiting in the lobby or locker room, the subject of "hardest postures" come up. I hear "Camel" or "Triangle" or "Standing Head to Knee". I never hear Awkward Pose mentioned. Am I missing something here?

Knees up, heels up!!


03 August 2014

Double Feature, Double Trouble

I was browsing through the Documentary section of Netflix a while back and my attention was drawn to the title Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Released in 2010, the description read, "Two men whose bodies have been trashed by steroids, obesity, and illness, document their rigorous healing path in a bid to regain their health". I thought that it might be interesting to watch, saved it to my list, and went to bed. Last night, I watched the film. When it was over, I watched it again. Then I watched it again this morning.

Oh. My. 

Joe Cross is an Aussie who skipped college, made his fortune in business, and enjoyed the fruits of his labor -- so much so that at, in his early 40s, he was morbidly obese and suffered from a rare condition in which his body's histamine reaction had gone haywire. He went to a number of physicians, specialists, "... even a witch doctor...", as he says, looking for relief. He found none. 

So what does he do? He goes to New York City for 30 days, armed with a juicer and a goal. Under a doctor's supervision, Joe goes on a 30-day juice fast. Three large glasses of green juice each day. That's it. No solid food at all. His reasoning: juicing allows one to get a higher amount of nutrients than by attempting to eat the large amounts of fruit and veg that it takes to make the juice. In essence, your body is supercharged with vitamins and minerals, and is spared the trouble of having the body work to break down the food. 

The results were amazing. In thirty days Joe dropped 47 pounds! In addition, his dosage of Prednisone, prescribed for his condition, was cut from 15mg to 7.5 mg. Over the next thirty days, Joe continues his juice fast, or "reboot" as he calls it, while making his way across the country. In Iowa, he convinces a woman who suffered from constant migraines to try the fast for 10 days, with great success. As he travels, though, most of the people he meets aren't really interested in his ideas. Some say they don't have the willpower. Some (who have already had health problems) say that they aren't concerned about their diet ("I'll eat what I want..."). Only a few think that this plan might work for them. In Arizona, Joe meets Phil, a long haul trucker with the same rare condition. Joe convinces him to try the juice and pledges to help him in anyway he can. Phil doesn't take him up on it and they part. 

Six months later, Phil contacts Joe and asks for help. Joe flies back to the US and sets Phil up on the plan. We follow Phil on his journey and literally watch a man bring himself back to life! It is an amazing film -- one I highly recommend that you watch. 

After watching that, I looked in the "also recommended" section and came across  Hungry For Change. Since it listed Joe in the credits, I hit play. This film details how major food producers use science and marketing to convince us to buy their products. It discusses how our modern lifestyle, in many instances, is leading us to early graves. It also details the weight loss journeys of several people who were once obese but reversed their conditions by eschewing processed foods for a more natural diet. It is another fantastic documentary and I think everyone needs to see both of these films.

Why am I writing about them?

Well, for one, I work for one of the largest supermarket chains in the nation. As such, part of my job (even in my department, Dairy) entails stocking and merchandising processed foods. Flavored milks, cream cheeses, refrigerated dough, yogurt, the lot. While I'm no longer a huge user of these products (since my girlfriend has Celiac Disease, most processed foods are off the board), I rely on selling those items to pay my bills. It does affect me when I see someone pushing a cart full of frozen pizzas, canned soups, chips, cookies, and gallons of sugar laden drinks. The feeling is even worse when there are kids in or around the cart. Do they have much of a chance to learn healthy habits?

The other reason I have chosen to write about this does actually pertain to my yoga practice.

I love being able to practice yoga. It has meant a lot for me. True, I lost 45 lbs by doing back to back 60 day challenges in my first year of practicing. True, after a lot of struggle, I believe I have smoked my last cigarette. True, through this blog I have re-discovered my joy for writing (no matter what the quality).

The films, however, brought out something that I must finally learn to face and conquer: my own diet.

Just today, I've had processed breakfast cereal (two bowls), four cups of coffee with processed non-dairy creamer, two 12oz processed sodas, a bacon-cheeseburger and fries (I was traveling and stopped at a roadside joint), two gas station taquitos, a handful of graham crackers, and one forlorn liter of water.

Not good, eh?

At work, it gets worse. In the break room there is almost an endless procession of pre-made, heavily processed sandwiches, cakes, cupcakes, and donuts. When there is some type of gathering, it's pizza or nachos or ice-cream sundaes. Even before I get to work, there is the daily ritual of a 20oz. coffee. And a burrito. Or two. With hash browns.

So, while I'm a guy who does yoga, I'm also a guy who has no willpower and is back on the road to obesity just as my mom was along with her father and brother. When I first started, I was so much more disciplined than I am now. I don't know what happened. and it is really fucking hard right now to right the ship. I must find a way because I do not need diabetes, broken hips, or cancer to deal with. Watching those films struck a chord  -- now I must find a way to build on that. I don't want to do yoga just to say "I do yoga". I want it to be a cornerstone of a healthier, happier life.


26 July 2014

It's Never Easy


intransitive verb\ˈstrə-gəl\
: to try very hard to do, achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems
: to move with difficulty or with great effort
                                   : to try to move yourself, an object, etc., by making a lot of effort

via merriam-webster.com

Think about the word struggle for a moment.

Now, consider how that word applies to your practice.

For me, it is applicable in several ways. 

  : to try to move yourself, an object, etc., by making a lot of effort

The very act of performing postures is a struggle, at least most of the time. I'm a big, ungainly guy who has trouble with his balance but more than makes for it at times with a perplexing lack of strength. When I finally get my balance right, I'm too weak or breathless to hold the damn posture. More often though, the opposite holds true: I can enter the posture but cannot keep my balance for more than a few seconds. this seems to have worsened in the past month. There was one class two weeks ago where I received correction from the instructor in Pranayama, Half-Moon, Hands-to-Feet, Awkward, and Eagle. That never happened before; all because I had so much trouble keeping my balance. Then there are my knees, one of which I injured in April and the other which is now exhibiting a lot of the aches I felt before injuring the first one (did that make sense?). Of course, I have attended only eight classes this month, which leads me to....

...deal with something that is difficult or that causes problems

Just getting to class can be a struggle. It's July. It's hot. I just want to sit by the pool/fire up the grill/take a nap/go to the zoo/etc, etc. Your friends or loved ones want to do those things as well, and you don't want to miss the fun. So you tell yourself you will take an extra class tomorrow/next week/next month. Sometimes you do and sometimes you forget and sometimes you just say "Forget about it". Then there are times when your friends balk at your going to class again and become upset or downright angry. It can be amazing how many of your old friends disappear when you try to change your life... and how many new ones you can make.

: to try very hard to do... something that is difficult... to move with difficulty or with great effort

Once in the room, there are struggles great and small. From trying to get your hamstrings to stretch to reaching down to your heels to the sweat pouring into your ears or nose. Perhaps it's as simple as running late and not getting your preferred spot in the room (let's be honest: ANYWHERE in the room is good). Maybe your body aches and it is really difficult just to get your arms up over the head sideways. Maybe your heart hurts. Maybe you just can't quite get your breath under control and your chasing it in every posture. Maybe you've decided to do a 40-minute Savasana and you see no reason to change your mind.
And yet.. when you make that conscious effort to get to class, to find a spot no matter how unpalatable, when you just try to clear your mind, lift those tired arms up and breathe in deeply...


 Don't deny yourself. Don't let anyone or anything deny you.

You are special. You deserve to be healthy and happy.

It is not, and never will be easy. And that is just fine.

See you on the mat!!



09 July 2014

"The Real Yoga Begins on the Floor" -- Part Two

To refresh: I recently attended a workshop detailing the Floor Series of Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class. Last time, I described the tips given for each posture from Savasana through Floor Bow. You can read about it here.

As always, your instructor is the most reliable source of information. I'm simply relating what I saw and heard to the best of my ability. I can and often do get things wrong. Double check with your instructor. Please leave a comment or drop a line to the email address above if I'm incorrect about something.

Now, on with the rest of the postures!!

Fixed-Firm: The most important point is this: If you cannot get your backside to touch the floor between your feet, go no further!! You risk injury if your butt isn't on the floor. After that, the most important point is to protect your head/neck. This means that when you exit the posture, after putting your hands to your feet and using your elbows to help you up, then and only then should bring your head up. Remember the dialogue: "... head comes up last."  Never bring your knees off the floor!!

Half-Tortoise:  The goal is to get your forehead to the floor AND keep your hips touching your heels. Most of us can do one or the other. The instructor said that she goes for forehead first because she likes the rush of blood to the brain that gives her a burst of energy. Personally, I try to keep hips to heels and work on moving my forehead closer to the floor. Important to just keep your pinky fingers touching the floor... you are attempting a stretching posture. This is one of the few postures that can be done outside the room safely (I believe wind-removing is the other).

Camel: The deepest backbend (and maybe the most disconcerting posture) we do in class. As I learned in the MasterClass , you should think of beginning the backbend by pushing your pelvis/pubic bone out as far as possible before bending back. Be safe: if you cannot reach back and grab your feet, do not try!! It can take a long time to get there, be patient! Here is what got me: you know in the dialogue the instructor says, "... I want 360 degrees for gravitation". I have always thought about being as circular as possible. I was wrong. The instructor is not looking for semicircles around the outside of the body. He/She is looking for a square: four 90-degree angles created when you are in the full expression of the posture. The angles created from hands to heels, the bend in your knees, the bend from hips to lower back, and from upper back to arms...  Why does this posture make you feel nauseous or nervous? It's your fight or flight response kicking in. When you perceive a threat coming toward you, you assume a defensive stance: knees bent, arms up, upper body bending forward to protect your heart and vital organs. In Camel, our body and mind want to override the backbend -- they want desperately to move you back to a more normal position. That is when you breathe slowly and deeply and work to let those fears pass. Again, exiting the posture is just as important as entering -- especially taking care when lifting your head back up.

Rabbit: First, make sure you have a good, solid, dry grip by using your towel or the back of your mat. Keep your stomach in throughout. Pull, pull, then pull some more. The first goal is to get your forehead to touch your knees while keeping the top of your head gently resting on the floor. From here the idea is to lift the hips up and get and try to get your arms as straight as you can. You must try to keep your chin tucked to your chest (I always pop back up here -- just too difficult for me to breathe -- I always feel as though I cannot draw any breath). Never stop pulling!

Head to Knee w/ Stretching: I have to admit that by this time I was a bit tired and dehydrated -- I had taken the regular class before this workshop. What I can tell you about this posture is that 1) it's very important, when bending either leg and tucking that foot against the extended leg, that the heel is as high up on the leg ad possible -- to your crotch if possible; and 2) that your foot is pressed hard against the femoral artery. As most of us know, this is your opportunity to practice Standing Head-to-Knee without the added task of balancing on one leg. Again, keeping your chin to your chest is important. Be honest with the sit-up -- don't cheat. When stretching, you must try to keep your spine straight, as opposed to during the first part, when you work with a curved spine.   

Spine Twist: Whichever knee is on the floor must stay there, along with your backside. When you inhale, try to lift your spine with stomach drawn in; twist during each exhale. 

Blowing-in-Firm: Honestly, by this time I was spent and I don't recall any special instructions other than this: the only muscles that move are your stomach muscles.

I hope that you were able to gain something from this post. PLEASE ASK YOUR INSTRUCTORS FOR HELP WITH POSTURES -- THEY LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN HELPING US LEARN MORE ABOUT THE YOGA -- AND OURSELVES. If you get the chance to go to a workshop, posture clinic, or Master Class, do it!! You will not regret it!!

One last thing: two of the people who attended the workshop had never taken a Bikram class!! They were friends of regular practitioners and wanted to see what it was about. How cool is that?  How much better would anyone's practice be if they had taken that chance?


01 July 2014

"The Real Yoga Begins on the Floor" -- Part One

Thanks to a quirk in my work schedule, I had this past Saturday off from work. How did I use this wonderful gift? Well, by attending the normal 10:00AM Bikram class, then staying for a special event: a beginner's workshop dedicated solely to Bikram's floor series. An extra hour and 45 minutes in the room with no Triangle Pose? Bliss...  ;)

Although we were there to work on floor poses, our instructor started by discussing the Standing Series -- why we start with Pranayama (to stretch the lungs in preparation for class), then Half-Moon with Hands-to-Feet (to begin to extend the spine in all four directions). She continued by explaining that in Awkward and Eagle, we begin to work the largest muscles in the body (thighs, glutes, hips, calves) as well as begin to open up the joints. Next, she reminded us that not only that one posture builds on the last and prepares for the next, but each group of postures builds upon the previous. The warm-up postures prepare us for the Balancing Series (Standing Head-to-Knee, Standing Bow, Balancing Stick), which prepare us for the Separate Leg Postures (Separate Leg Stretching, Triangle, Separate Leg Head-to-Knee, Tree, Toestand).

She then reminded us that (and I'm paraphrasing) :

"The Standing postures are the "sexy" postures -- the curves of Half-Moon or Bow; the beauty of a well done Standing Head to Knee or Eagle. We work very hard in those postures. You must always remember, however, to save as much energy as possible during the Standing Series. Why? Because the Standing Series is simply the warmup.

The true Hatha Yoga begins on the floor.

Hatha Yoga is defined by Yoga Journal as follows:

The word hatha means willful or forceful. Hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), and sequences of asanas, designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body—especially the main channel, the spine—so that energy can flow freely.
Hatha is also translated as ha meaning "sun" and tha meaning "moon." This refers to the balance of masculine aspects—active, hot, sun—and feminine aspects—receptive, cool, moon—within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies we develop a balance of strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance our effort and surrender in each pose.

The more basic definition we are given is, "Moving in and out of postures slowly and deliberately, breathing always normal." 

I say this because, before we began working on postures, our instructor took a moment to talk about the dialogue; specifically why it can be so wordy at times. Again I paraphrase:

"First the dialogue provides a precise way of entering the posture safely. From the podium, we see so many times where students jump ahead of the dialogue, sometimes forcing themselves into the posture in an unsafe manner, which can lead to injury. Second, the dialogue provides a way to keep you in the posture ('...keep kicking, don't stop kicking, the harder you kick you can balance forever'). In addition, the dialogue asks you to 'focus', 'concentrate', and 'meditate' to help you work on the mental aspect of the practice." Finally, the dialogue allows you to exit the posture safely. Please, slow down, listen to the dialogue, and follow the words exactly."

For the workshop, there was the lead instructor plus a second instructor who moved about the room helping to check alignment and answer questions. In addition, we had a young lady demonstrate each posture before we did the posture ourselves -- and she was outstanding. So, we were asked to move into Savasana for two minutes, and off we went!!

For each posture, I'm going to try and give the key points given during each demonstration. If there is an error then it is mine for not recalling correctly.

Savasana: You must learn to get into Savasana quickly and efficiently. Don't worry about the sweat dripping in your ear, or that your costume has bunched up in a most uncomfortable way. Each posture constricts the flow of blood to a certain area of the body. When you come out of the posture and assume Savasana, your blood flow becomes totally unrestricted, allowing the blood to flush out your joints and move toxins out of the body. Why is Savasana 20 seconds long between postures? Because it takes approximately 20 seconds for the blood to make one complete circuit of your body!!

When taking Savasana on your stomach, always work to get your ear all the way down to the floor, giving your neck muscles a gentle stretch.

Wind-Removing:  The grip is important: two inches below the knee. (At this point she had us grip our hands together tightly and look at how the knuckles/joints turned white because the blood flow had been stopped.) Always strive to get your shoulder, knee, and heel all in one line. There is always a tendency to roll to one side or another -- work to keep the opposite shoulder on the floor.  Chin always to the chest.

Sit-up: Should be all one motion. Too many people do it in two or more parts -- throwing their arms forward to yank themselves up off the floor, then roll forward to reach the toes. As I watched the demonstration, I thought of rolling up your mat -- arms always with the ears, try to curl up from head to waist and reach forward to grab the toes. I am horrible at situps; mainly because my core is so soft that I almost have to do the situp in segments. Still, after trying it as demonstrated a couple of times, I started to get the idea. Don't forget to grab the big toes and pull at the end (rarely happens for me). 

Cobra: How do you make certain your hands are placed correctly? Roll slightly to one side or the other and look down. If you can see the tops of your fingers, move them back. Legs together, knees locked, hip muscles/glutes contracted. When demonstrated, you could see the line across her lower back where blood flow was being restricted. Keep challenging yourself to look up higher -- "...where the eyes go the body follows".

Locust: Read the following dialogue (as best as I can recall):
"Get your arms underneath the body, lie on top of your elbows, palms facing down, pinky fingers touching, spread your fingers out and grab the floor, your elbows are supposed to hurt.
Chin to the floor."
What do the vast majority of us do first? We move our chin to the floor first, which is wrong. (See what happens when you listen and focus on the dialogue? I'm still reeling from that.)
Push your hands down and towards the back wall in order to gain the leverage to lift each leg or both legs. Remember that we are attempting to work the upper spine here, as opposed to the lower spine in Cobra. Another revelation for me: how high you lift the leg(s) is much less important than making sure your leg is straight, toes pointed, knees locked and hip on the floor. Don't roll your hip up to get height -- that ruins the alignment of the spine and renders the posture useless. Finally, you must keep your mouth on the towel when lifting both legs -- else you risk injury to the cervical spine.

Full-Locust: Now we are working the middle of the spine. When you go up, make sure that the arms stay level with your head, and that the arms go up, then back. Don't hold your breath when lifting up!

Floor Bow: When you grab your feet, placement of the hands is crucial. Try to grab the feet so that your pinky fingers touch your feet just where your toes join the foot (hope that makes sense -- if you can't see your toes your hands are too high, if you can see part of the foot between your toes and hand then it is too low). Just as in the standing version, you are not pulling the feet up with hands, you are kicking your legs up. Keep looking up and try not to rock back and forth -- roll forward and never stop kicking.

Halfway through and time to stop for now. Hope this helps rather than hinders your practice. As always, your instructor is the most reliable source of information. I'm simply relating what I saw and heard to the best of my ability. I can and often do get things wrong. Double check with your instructor. Please leave a comment or drop a line to the email address above if I'm incorrect about something.

Back soon with the second half!


24 June 2014


They come in one at a time, in pairs, or perhaps in a small group.

A mother and her daughter looking to help themselves... and each other.

A smiling couple, radiant with health, ready to push each other forward to new frontiers of fitness.

A newcomer (be they male/female, young or not so) hesitantly asking if this is, "...where they do that hot yoga?".

They arrive with different goals in mind. Some want to lose weight. Others want to build strength and/or flexibility. Some want an exercise regimen that is a little more gentle on their bodies.  Some are attempting to exercise for the first time in years -- or, perhaps, ever. Still others are looking for something beyond fitness or physical health. They want to (re)connect with something inside themselves that has been missing, or worse, stolen from them. They want to (re)discover the best part of themselves.

So, they try yoga.

They learn to listen:

first to the instructor,

then to their minds,

and finally to their hearts.

They may realize that it's really hard to , "...suck your stomach in", or, "Grab the foot...", or ,"...concentrate one point in the front mirror".

They may realize that one little muscle can turn a good Standing Bow into a fantastic one.

They may realize that one less soda and one more bottle of water can make a world of difference.

They may realize just how badly they have been treating themselves, how poorly they have treated others -- or been treated by others.

They may realize that pain does indeed kill the pain.

They may realize that tears are OK -- and, perhaps for the first time ever, that they control their own destiny. 

If they can persevere, they will realize all of this -- and learn so much more.

One day, they might even recognize just how strong they really are, and if they can do 90 minutes of yoga in a boiling hot room, they really can do any damn thing they want to.


What are you seeking?

What are you waiting for?


09 June 2014


Just over a week ago, I found myself in the hot room on a Saturday morning. This was unusual, as I am at work on most Saturdays. Even more unusual was the fact that I wasn't simply there to take a normal class. This would be different -- a MasterClass.

The notice stated that students would be led,  "...through Bikram's Beginner Series as we all know it, spending extra time to share information on alignment, execution, adjustments and modification as well as medical benefits. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the yoga and take your practice to a new level; it will surely be great fun to experience a slightly more interactive and colloquial class than usual. So drink up, sign up, see you there!!".

The first thing I noticed when I got there was the buzz. In the room, the normal 8:00AM class was wrapping up, but there were a lot of people sitting in the boutique/lobby. There was also a bit of a line at the desk of people waiting to sign up. Several instructors were running about taking care of people and prepping last minute things. I saw more than a few familiar faces (including a yoga buddy from back in the day), and some people who were visiting to take this class. The room filled up quickly and I was able to snag a second row spot for myself and a front row spot for YB. I stretched and tried to remain calm -- I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.

There was good reason, too. As we rose to start class, I took a quick look around to find myself surrounded by fit, healthy men and women (there were more gents in there than one might expect). I saw lean, fit, healthy bodies all around -- and then there was my reflection in the mirror . Pale, doughy, blobby , the antithesis of fitness. I tried to wipe those thoughts away and focus on the task at hand.

Eugene, our instructor, has practiced for over eight years and has been in competitons. He is outstanding at quietly getting the most out of you -- almost lulling you into a trance with his voice while just killing you (well, me, anyway) in the postures. That is not negative in any way -- he is one of the best human beings you will ever meet, and he is a great teacher. If you've been around long enough, you've heard the phrase, "The instructor (or class) you dread the most is the one you need the most." For me, Eugene fits that to a T.

The class lasted just over two hours, and most of it is still a blur. Here's what I can tell you:

1) From the off, the energy in the room was so positive, so supporting. At times the postures were so easy simply because everyone was working in unison. Sure, people fell out but got right back to it. I really felt the difference -- it was a living, breathing definition of Namaste.

2) Lots of focus on anatomy and setup. For instance, when doing backbends, do not think of only pushing your hips forward, think instead of pushing your pubic bone/pelvis forward. This automatically pushes the hips forward. Not only in the standing postures, but in Camel, too.

3) Lots of emphasis on the feet in standing/balancing postures. Lots of emphasis on the inner thigh muscles and how they are critical to establishing a stable posture (to stop rolling over on the ankle when on one leg).

4) Exiting the posture correctly and safely is JUST AS IMPORTANT as entering the posture. Do not simply pop back up or out of a posture. You take time to go in properly, you can undo the good work you've done (and injure yourself) by hurrying out of it.

There was so much more to tell but I simply could not absorb it all. It was a wonderful experience. By the time class was over, my mat and towel were absolutely soaked, but I really felt good! Not just physically, but mentally as well. I was quite proud that I was able to hang in for the duration. The staff was awesome about keeping the room just right. Adjustments were continually made: exhaust fan on, or ceiling fans up/down, even cracking the doors every so often. Everyone was on the same wavelength, and the two ladies who did demonstrations were very accomplished.

If you get a chance to attend one of these, DO NOT PASS IT UP!! You will not regret it!!

Hoping your next class is your best.


07 June 2014

The Mirror

"Don't get upset with the mirror. 
Change the reflection."
-- Unknown

It is a sentinel, ever watchful, tirelessly waiting.

It is a window into your mind -- and your soul.

It can be as warm, open, and seductive as any lover.

It can be cold, harsh, and unforgiving as the Arctic.

You see it every time you walk into a Bikram studio, and it "sees" you.

It's the mirror.

The mirror is omnipresent. When you enter the chamber, the mirror is always in front of you. It is always to one side of you; in some studios it is to both sides. While you unroll your mat, spread out your towel just so, and stretch before class, you may not pay the mirror much mind at all. Your too busy trying to acclimate, to calm your breathing, to clear your mind. 

The mirror stands silently.

Will it be welcoming, accepting, and benevolent?

Will it tear you apart and leave you in pieces? 

Will it be a stern but loving taskmaster, or will it be a ruthless czar torturing you until you give in -- or give up. 

That depends on one person. 


Everyone has a... dynamic relationship with the mirror. For myself, it is difficult to look at myself for an entire class without a bit of disapproval... and some self-loathing. More often than I care to admit, I look away and focus on the floor, or my feet, or the piping on the ceiling... anywhere except on my own eyes. 

Here is a normal class for me. I start out OK in Pranayama and Half-Moon... I can look into my own eyes or focus on the "third eye" on my forehead. In Awkward, still not too bad... even though I have difficulty with the second part (I have so much trouble just standing on my toes). Eagle Pose is where the "fun" begins. Even if I can get my foot behind my calf, my reflection still presents that big blob around my midsection that reveals just how poorly my abs look. From there on our relationship goes downhill. In Standing Head to Knee, I dare not look up from the floor or I will lose my balance, even though the dialogue clearly asks to focus on your locked out knee in the mirror. Even in Standing Bow, I tend to look at the tip of my extended arm rather than at my visage. Usually it gets worse from there, as I look down after each successive posture, especially if I'm having a lot of difficulty that particular day. For the floor series, I tend to avoid the mirror altogether until final breathing. 

What am I thinking when I look upon my reflection? Well, on a bad day:

"When are you finally going to do something about that damned gut?"

"By the way. a push-up or two might help those pecs..."

"That breakfast at McDonalds really wasn't the best idea..."

"I don't care how fucking long you practice, you will NEVER do Triangle correctly, you idiot!"

On a good day, well, I still think a lot of the same things. The difference is that I try to be mindful of why I'm there. I remember how fortunate I am to have this chance to heal my body, mind and spirit. I think about how special it is to practice with a wonderful group of people from all walks of life, all working together to improve themselves and, in turn, the world. I remember that despite the sweat, pain, and sometimes the heartache that I face in that room, that blasted oven is the best place in the world!!!

One last thing. A blogging friend recently asked me for a tip to improve one's practice. My answer: 

"Thank yourself. Making time to take care of yourself takes courage."

Do me a favor. At the end of your next class, before you fall into that blissful final Savasana, look into your own eyes and thank yourself. Don't just think the words. Whisper it to yourself. Let the words slip into the ether, a tiny piece of positive energy you are giving back to the universe. Imagine how much the world could improve if everyone gave just a little bit back....


29 May 2014

It's A Partnership

For the last week or so, I have been having a rough time in the room. I'm not talking about sitting out a posture or two. I'm talking about laying out before Triangle and staying down for the remainder of class (Monday). I'm talking about getting fed up and walking out at Camel (Tuesday). I'm talking about feeling so weak and at times ashamed of how poorly I'm doing that I started to reconsider my practice (last night during the floor series).

Let me explain. 

If you have been following along, you know that I hurt my right knee almost two months ago. It's coming along but I still have a lot if trouble balancing on it. Also, the spine series has become problematic -- Cobra is good but Locust, Full Locust, and Floor Bow are painful. Locust is the worst -- each time I attempt to lift a leg -- how do I explain this -- it just feels like there is a power failure at the base of my spine. My leg goes up an inch or two and then I run out of power and my leg falls back down. Trying to lift both legs at the same time is next to impossible. I've managed that only once since returning to practice. 

So what happens next? First, my Fixed Firm pose suffers, as I cannot always get my backside seated on the floor, which infuriates me. Then we get to Half Tortoise, which I have never been able to do correctly, and I get pissed off. Now, Camel has become an issue -- difficult to do both sets, and by then I'm ready to just quit. 

So last night during a Savasna, a horrifying thought popped in my head:

"What if I just can't do this anymore?"

There are times in one's practice that you hear the instructor's voice but aren't really hearing the words. Then there are times when those words cut through the fog in your head like thunder. Last night was one of those times. I do not recall the exact words but the basic idea was as follows:

"Try to let your mind and body work as partners. So often, when the body doesn't do what we want it to do, it becomes adversarial... It turns into 'My knees aren't working right... I can't do this...', as if the knees were you to blame. You abused your knees for years and now you're blaming them? Don't blame your body, WORK WITH YOUR BODY. Be partners. "


Those words snapped me right back. 

I made it through class and took stock of things:

My nutrition and hydration have not been up to snuff lately. Lots of sweets in the break room, few if any vegetables, not eating regularly, far too much coffee and not enough water. 

Although I have now been to over 50 classes in just over 100 days, I need to attempt a more even schedule -- no more three or four day layoffs if I can help it (fully realizing that sometimes it is unavoidable no matter how hard I try -- and that is ok -- sometimes there ARE more important issues than yoga).

I don't stretch any more before class. Why??

I may be 46 (gulp), but I'm not a damn invalid. I can do yoga! For Chrissakes, just do the damn posture!!

So, what's next? More yoga, of course... including a first on Saturday... a MasterClass.

According to the studio, we will be led, "...through Bikram's Beginner Series as we all knowit, spending extra time to share information on alignment, execution, adjustments and modification as well as medical benefits. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the yoga and take your practice to a new level; it will surely be great fun to experience a slightly more interactive and colloquial class than usual. So drink up, sign up, see you there!!"

Sounds like something I need to be a part of.

I'm in. I'll let you know how it went next week.


12 May 2014

Bikram Yoga Works!! (But you knew that...)

Originally, I planned to write about one of three things today: a string of rough classes, my top 5 pet peeves in the hot room, or "The Quiet Assassin" ( the latest instructor I've taken class from ). Instead, I want to relate what happened this morning when I visited my fantastic doctor for a checkup. 

As you might remember, I am a reforming smoker. Also, you may recall I hurt my right knee about a month ago. While it does not hurt all the time (and I can now do all the postures again without much discomfort), my knee still hurts when put in certain positions. For instance, when I lift my right leg in Tree Pose or Toestand, the torque placed on the knee creates pain. So the visit to the doc was to a) renew the prescriptions for my inhalers and b) get my knee checked out. 

The news I got back was more than encouraging. It was FABULOUS!!!

So after 45 classes in 92 days:

I have dropped 15 pounds (253 to 238).

My blood pressure is back in the safe zone (122/80).

One inhaler discontinued. That leaves me with two, which I only use as needed!

As for my knee, the doctor said it was a meniscus problem, and that while we could look into MRIs or physical therapy, "You are already handling it in a great way by doing yoga." When I described how my instructors told me to work on contracting my thigh muscle and locking the knee, she agreed completely. She told me that continuing my practice was the best thing I could do!!

Yet another reason to go to yoga!! 

Class is about three hours away. After that sort of positive feedback, I can't wait!!!


05 May 2014

Go to Yoga!!

Although I have yet to convince any of my friends to join me in the hot room, I am asked from time to time, "When is the best time to go to yoga?".

Good question. 

So, I thought about it for awhile, and I think I have the answer:

When your heart is light, go to yoga. 

When your back is tight, go to yoga. 

After a fight, go to yoga. 

After a long flight, go to yoga. 

When you wake, go to yoga. 

Before you sleep, go to yoga. 

Depressed, stressed, or maybe blessed? Go to yoga. 

Relationship in tatters? Go to yoga. 

When it seems that nothing truly matters, go to yoga. 

Searching for answers, or the right questions to ask? Go to yoga. 

Want to meet new friends and have a blast? Go to yoga. 

When you want to learn more about the universe and your place in it? Go to yoga. 

Want to learn more about yourself? Go to yoga.

Want to smile more, laugh more, maybe even dance? Go to yoga. 

Want to be thrilled when you buy smaller pants? Go to yoga. 

There really isn't a reason NOT to go to yoga. It doesn't matter which type you try: Bikram, Sumits, Baptiste, or any other type. 

Just go. 



04 May 2014

No Excuses

This morning I woke to a lovely spring morning. I considered staying in bed, but only for a moment. Sunday mornings are one of the few times I can go to class without too much trouble, so I grabbed my bag and headed out.

I am so glad I did.

I like to get there as early as I can so I can spend more time in the heat to get loose -- especially in the mornings when I am not so flexible. As I walked into the room, I noticed a woman setting up her mat in the front row near where I normally practice. To me it looked like she was simply taking her gear out of a large bag hanging from her right shoulder. I gave no more notice, set up my mat, and lay down to await the beginning of class.

As class began, I noted the woman walking back into the room to take her place. I then realized that she had not had her gear in a bag. That "bag" was actually a rather large, padded sling holding her right arm, which appeared to be in a cast. I was more than a bit shocked. Her right arm was almost completely immobile, but that was not going to stop her. She was there and she was going to do her yoga!

How fantastic is that??!!

Obviously, I didn't want to violate her privacy by staring at her -- I have enough on my hands with my own practice. That said, I did notice her from time to time. She did Pranayama like everyone else -- just with one arm. Half-moon was the same. It really was inspiring that she was doing everything she could. Yes, all of the postures were modified, but who cares? Her hard work got me thinking that my aching knee was really not that big a deal to work through. That thought pushed me to not only hold Standing Bow longer than ever, but also to hang on during both sets of Balancing Stick and Triangle. Yes, I fell out of both, but I got back in and got through them. I did every set of each posture on the floor and it felt great!

I do not know this woman's name, and I did not see her as I left the studio. She does not know me or know what a positive effect she had on me and my practice this morning. 

So next time I think that I'm too tired or too sore or sleep deprived or anything else, I will have a reminder that, really, I don't have a reason NOT to do my yoga. 


One other great thing from this morning: I finally did a solid Locust pose! Especially the last part when you lift both legs up -- it felt like old times in the room -- and it was wonderful! 

Have a great week!


27 April 2014

Eye of the Beholder

After a 10 day stretch where I was unable  to make it to the studio, I was able to take class this morning. I really didn't want to go... I was so tired last night that I woke up on the couch at 3:30 AM. Then, I could not go back to sleep. Finally at 7:10 I decided to make the 8:00 class. As I drove to the studio, I thought to myself, "This one is really gonna hurt...".

It didn't disappoint. 

Right from the off, it was hard. I couldn't reach my heels or lock my knees in the first set of Hands-to-Feet. I heard and felt several pops in Awkward. I had no sort of balance in Bow or Balancing Stick -- in fact I simply stood during second set of stick as a wave of jealousy and self loathing came over me as I could see the people in front if me do those postures AND do them well. Since it was the first class of the day, the carpet was completely dry, which meant I had no traction and kept sliding out of Triangle as well as the postures before and after. I sat out most of those, staring down at my mat and chewing myself out in my head. Because my right knee is still an issue, even Tree was difficult, and Toestand was out of the question. 
It wasn't all bad. I was able to press back up out of part three of Awkward for the first time since I hurt my knee. Cobra and Full Locust were really strong, and I had the best Floor Bow since resuming practice. All in all, though, I thought the entire class was just not that good. At least, not as good as I've had before. 

So, imagine my shock after class, when the instructor said, "Good work, Mark!! Your postures are really starting to open up. You did so well!". 

I was in a bit of shock. "It felt horrible in there. I have not been here in ten days and I felt like I was in quicksand in there."

She said,"Well, you know it's difficult when you have had a layoff or when you have an issue. But you did really well in there. Have a great day!". 

My mood changed instantly. I let myself decide that it would be rough, so when I started to encounter resistance in my postures, I let it affect my perception of the class as a whole. Another reminder that our minds can fool us into a negative thought pattern when, if we really examine the issue, it's sometimes better than we think it is. 

It really depends on the eye of the beholder. 

Ready for another go tomorrow.