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....