01 December 2015

Join The #LOVE TSUNAMI !!!

It was a tough yoga class or workout. You gave everything. You are spent.

You think to yourself, "I just can't move another muscle."

You wait a few minutes, get your second (third, fourth) wind, get up, and go about your day.

There are others in this world who cannot.

I would like you to meet Elizabeth D'Angelo, an artist fighting a debilitating disease and needs some help. 

All I ask is that you read the following and consider purchasing from her shop. If you cannot, please consider a donation. If that is not possible, please share this post. Thank You!!

From her Facebook page:

Dear friends,

You have been chosen from a sea of amazing humans to carry a torch and help save a life!
This fire was ignited by a strong and beautiful soul: Elizabeth D' Angelo (Beth!). Beth is an inspiring and courageous artist whose life and work are a true example of what being a love warrior means. Elizabeth has been suffering from severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis for several years. She spent a year in bed, unable to move, speak, have the lights on or open the blinds. With perseverance, she has gotten a little better, but she is still almost entirely bedroom bound and her level of suffering is high. 

She has painted all of these images from her bedroom over the last 5 years. She paints while battling muscle spasms (with icepacks on her arms) on top of having about 5% of the muscle strength and energy of a healthy person. She also has two herniated disks in her neck that affect the use of her right arm (her primary arm). She perseveres. She fights and shows up daily. She comes to us to ask for help. She wants to get well.
Soon, she is scheduled to begin IV therapy and she needs the funds to do it.

Will you help us to share her story with your friends by changing your profile photo to an image of her artwork along with the links below? Will you choose to buy your Christmas presents from her shop? Will you share this folder with a brief introduction for your friends?

Redbubble Shop: http://www.redbubble.com/people/bethdangelo

Fundraiser: http://www.youcaring.com/medical…/elizabeth-s-miracle/213280

This is a TAOLK (A Targeted Act of Kindness) as part of The Love Tsunami. 

Join us, please!


Scroll down for a few examples of her work.

Courtesy solvecfs.org



30 November 2015

Starting Again. Again.

Well here we are. Time to bid November adieu. The holidays are nigh upon us and a new year is on the horizon. After such a strong start to my yoga year, my practice ground to a complete halt. Long days at work and little sleep have resulted in only six classes since Halloween, and none in the past twelve days. I haven't missed a cleaning shift in all that time, but many nights I have opted to stay home and nap during class before going in to tidy things up. In addition my weight has kept rising. I'm up to 258 lbs. Morning trips to the donut shop, pizza rolls or burritos for lunch, and lots of coffee and soda to wash it all down. 

I look horrible  I feel worse. 

I did stop down and visit my doctor for some blood work. I haven't had a physical since high school but the doc ordered blood tests in lieu of a full work up. Fortunately everything is in order, but it won't stay that way if I stay on this path. 

However, as Bikram says, "You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from the scratch once again."

So, I'm starting again. Again. 

Back in the room tonight. 

I am dreading it. 


Epilogue: I bailed out at Savasana. I couldn't keep my arms up, nor could I bend forward, nor could I hold my balance. It was comical. Oh, well. There is tomorrow. I think. 

15 October 2015

Freak Show

"Come one, come all!

Come and watch the bald, fat man try to do that new-fangled thing called "yoga".

Watch him gasp and then yawn uncontrollably during the Prana and Yama. 

Look as he tries to make a half of a moon.. Looks more like a man struggling to keep his arms above his head. 

Shiver as he vainly tries to touch his toes or put his hands behind his heels!

Feel the sheer terror as he falters during posture after posture!

Quake as he crashes to the floor during that "Triangle Pose"!

Avert your eyes as he flops around like a beached whale! 

If you are of a weak constitution you are advised to avoid this theater! Adults only, please!

Come one, come all!!

Watch the amazing bald, fat, wannabe yogi!!!"

06 October 2015

Burn The Leaves (Redux)

Note: The first version of this poem appeared last fall. I reworked it and I think it's better. As for yoga, bronchitis has had me down but I hope to be back in the room soon. Namaste.


Autumn comes again
the land begins to cool
Summer's heat will dissipate --
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!!!

So gather up the leaves!
Pile them high in the setting sun
And along with those dying leaves 
Pile up the dreams
And hopes that were 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 your dreams and hopes return

Copyright 2015 DTP

04 October 2015


Quite a long time since I wrote, but I'm keeping this one short. September was a long, cruel, difficult month. So many things happening. So much energy expended, so little gained, so much time and effort for others. None for myself. And it shows. 

Last week I got my yearly flu shot. For some reason, they decided to weigh me before getting the vaccine. 247.6 pounds. Oh dear Lord, it was worse than I thought. Too many late night meals, all the daily trips to the donut shop, all the pre-processed fast food. I can't recall the last healthy meal I had. 

My yoga practice had become equally poor. After 101 straight days of yoga, I have taken exactly 30 classes in the last 83 days. None of those classes could be described as good. In fact at least three of them ended within 30 minutes. My worst class lasted 90 seconds. At the first inhale of Pranayama, I started coughing uncontrollably and had to leave the room. You read it right. That class lasted 90 seconds. I have no strength, balance, or flexibility anymore -- it's truly is as though I was back to that first day six years ago. I don't have any faith in myself and I spend long stretches of class sitting or laying out. I've considered resigning my work study position and giving up my practice. Seriously. 

I'm stuck. I don't know where to turn or which way to go. 

Be well. 

24 August 2015

Suffering, continued

So last night after writing "Suffering", I'm having a conversation with a friend on Twitter. He asks me how many posts I've written and that I should consider curating an "e-book". I really didn't think much about it. I mean, I have never EVER considered such a thing. This morning, just a few minutes ago in fact, another friend echoed that sentiment and even challenged me to go through with the idea. 

My response? 

First, nervous laughter. They really aren't serious. They can't be. I'm not a writer. Not really. I just write

Then when it was thought that I had accepted the challenge, outright panic. I said, "no. No. NO!!!". That was followed by an outright, "STOP!!". I was shaking. I wanted to run. Hide. Stick my head in the sand. Go and get donuts. 

Well, I held off on the donuts (just coffee). I began to consider my response to this event. It didn't take long to realize that how I responded to this "e-book" idea was how I have responded to most every portend of change in my life. With panic, distrust, and fear. 

The idea of a publishing a book. 
Accepting promotion at work. 
Finding a different line of work. 
Going back to school. 
Becoming a yoga instructor (Bikram or otherwise). 

Basically, anything that threatens to upset the status quo is an anathema to me. "Better the devil you know..." is my motto. Anything different and my knees buckle, my stomach turns, and I turn red and start sweating. The same response as when we were forced into square dance lessons in 7th grade gym class and I stumbled into classmate after classmate, or when that girl asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance in high school, or when I would be asked (time after time after time) to consider moving to a management position. 

I make excuses. I make self deprecating jokes. I change the subject. I leave the room. I tweet, "STOP!!". 

My heart whispers to me, but I don't hear it. 

I don't want to hear it. 

I'm afraid to listen. 

23 August 2015


Two or three months ago, I purchased The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you have yet to read it, it is a remarkable story about chasing your dreams and finding your "Personal Legend" -- your destiny or purpose. I've read this book several times now, and each time I find a different quote or passage that stays with me. Last night, after I wrote the previous post, I was leafing through the book when I happened on the passage in which the alchemist urges Santiago to listen to his heart. His heart speaks:

"People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that... they'll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful... Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly."

Santiago tells this to the alchemist. His reply:

"Tell you heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams..."

A chord was struck within me. 

How many of us suffer every day? How many of us live our entire lives in fear?

How many of us choose '...Hanging on in quiet desperation...' as described in the Pink Floyd tune "Time"?

How many of us forfeit the chance for the life we deserve because we fear the cost or the work or the possibility of failure?

How many of us realize that, as time passes, our hearts speak more and more softly to us, "...but we begin to hope that our words won't be heard: we don't want people to suffer because they don't follow their hearts."

I live in fear. Everyday. 

I have no dreams. No destiny. I've no idea where to start my search. 

Therefore, I suffer. Everyday. 

Even if I knew what it was I was supposed to do, my fear of change would override all. 

I can't hear my heart anymore. 

So the suffering continues. 

Do you suffer? 


22 August 2015

The Fraudulent Yogi

My name is Mark, and I am a fraud. 

I'm not really a yogi. 
just go to yoga. 
I don't always do the posture. 
I don't follow up the yoga with other healthy habits. Well, sometimes I try but sooner or later I'm back at the donut shop or the burger joint or the ice cream in the freezer. 

I try new classes. I feel as though I'm capable of new postures/exercises. In reality, I'm not. I'm lazy. I don't put in the work every day. Sometimes I'm so tired after work that I collapse on the bed and tell myself, "Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will try." 
Tomorrow usually doesn't arrive. 

I see other students progress and improve themselves. I watch them pass me by. 

I see people leave the studio happy and smiling. I do not. 

I see my body aging. I loathe it. 

I practice alongside people with careers they LOVE instead of mere jobs. I see happy couples practicing together, showing their LOVE for each other by supporting one another in the room. I see people practice (and teach) with passion. I see the confidence they exude. I see SUCCESS

Myself? I am weak. I walk in that room with no strength. I mean no strength. When the instructor is trying to help me with arm balances (Crow or Frog), I make jokes: "It's gonna take a block and tackle to get my legs off the ground..."
I forget to do planks or push-ups (my latest challenges) and I cuss myself out. When I get to class (twice in the last eight days), I find that all the strength, balance, and flexibility I gained during my 100 day challenge are gone. I watch newer people nail postures in no time while I repeatedly fall out again and again... and again. My last class was just abysmal. Nothing went right at all. Everything hurt. Balance and flexibility were rumors, and strength was a flat no show. Oh, did I mention? All the weight I lost during the challenge is back... and then some. My gut had diminished to the point that forward bends were possible, and pulling both legs up in Wind-Removing was easy. No more. I can't breathe in those poses. During stretching, I have trouble reaching forward and touching or grasping my toes. 

I don't know what I should do. 

Press on?


Go grab a cheeseburger?

Lately I've been thinking. 

Thinking of epitaphs. 

For me. 


11 August 2015


This past Friday I was privileged to take a special Bikram class. For the past month. we have had a visiting instructor from Colombia named Monica. As a treat for all, she taught her final class with us completely in Spanish. 
This special class had been announced a week earlier and instantly people were talking about it and wanted to be a part of it. For myself, I had a choice to make: take the class en Español or take my second Core40 (intermediate) class. I wasn't sure what I would do until a couple of days prior. Since Monica was staying at the studio (there is a tiny room with a bed for visitors) she got to see the work-study crew quite a bit. So on Wednesday when she gave each of us a small gift of high quality chocolate, the decision was made. Honestly, give me chocolate and I will do almost anything...

Anyway, Friday arrived and an unexpected errand had me rushing to make the 4:30 class. Looked in the room and there was already quite a crowd. I grabbed a spot and stretched as much as I could. The gong sounded and Monica entered to a hearty round of applause. She was taken by the moment and expressed her gratitude at how many people were there. She then told us that there would be no more English spoken in class, to come to standing and ,"Have fun!".

Now, I am by no means fluent in Spanish, but I did take four years of it in high school. Every so often I do have to use it to try and help a Spanish speaking customer, but it's very broken. One extra help: one of my yoga buddies is Hispanic and was set up in front of me so I could take visual cues if needed. 

"¡Vamos! Inhale... Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis... Exhale..."

I could pick up bits and pieces about keeping your  codos (elbows) up and out. The first thing you notice is how many words are used and how quickly they are spoken. Monica did say that there are twice as many words in the Spanish version of the diálogo. Despite the language difference, it wasn't terribly difficult to keep pace. Once into the postures, it seemed easier. We bent our bodies a la derecha, then a la izquierda in Half-Moon; each time being challenged to, "Empuja. Empuja. ¡Empuja!" In Standing Bow we were exhorted to. "¡Patea mas alto!". El Triángulo is still difficult regardless of the language used. We all learned very quickly that the command "Cambio" meant "Change". When she gave a correction and the student complied, she would happily say, "¡Eso es!" ("That's it!"). I recall that most of the Sanskrit names were used for each asana. The memorable exceptions (apart from Triangle) were La Media Tortuga (Half-Tortoise), El Camello (Camel), and El Conejo (Rabbit). After each posture we were reminded to, "Respira por la nariz."


1) Because the language was different, no one could really get a jump on a pose. It seemed to me that we were moving in unison far more than in a normal class. It also seemed that everyone was giving maximum effort; pouring themsves out on their mat. The result? Less extraneous movement and much better, more pure energy flowing through the room. 

2) Personally, it was one of the best experiences I've had in that room. Joyous. Simply joyous. Because of the language change, I was actually listening for the first time in quite a while. I was involved again. Had to be to avoid looking silly. I got my hands under my heels in Hands-to-Feet for the first time since the challenge ended. I worked so hard in that pose that my heart was racing much faster than it would in a normal class. My pulse kept racing through Triangle but it felt fantastic. I felt alive!! After a while, the words became more like music to me and I floated into the yoga zone, that blissful, safe place where one is truly one with the universe inside you. That place where the rest of world disappears and it's just you and your breath. The class flew by so fast that suddenly we were doing Rabbit then stretching and breathing and I just wanted to slow time down and savor every second. One of my top yoga experiences. 

The applause at the end was even louder that at the beginning. Everyone was smiling and in such a great mood. In the lobby afterwards, there was champagne, laughter, and hugs. A marvelous afternoon of yoga. A beautiful event that I was privileged to be a part of. 

If the chance arises to take class in a foreign language or in a foreign port, DO IT!! You might just get a lesson in how interconnected we truly are. 


18 July 2015

The Aftermath

It has been just over a week since I completed my 100 day Bikram challenge.

The grind is over.

No more doubles. No more rising in the wee hours to fit in a class before work. No more late night loads of laundry to make sure my gear is ready for the next day. 

People ask how I'm feeling. They ask if things are different. They ask if I feel a real change. 

My answer? Well, yes. And no. 

Physically, yes I did feel different -- at least for a few days. I was lighter. I was more flexible. Poses that were very difficult were easier. Poses that I excelled at became fun, even joyous. My breathing was better. There were mental improvements as well. My focus was so much better! Those negative voices and thoughts receded into the background. For a day or two, I was on a real emotional high. I felt so good about what I had accomplished. My yoga "family" gave me so much love and support that a simple "Thank You" seems too simple. Banal. Trite. 

Just a week later, it all seems foreign, as though it was a dream. A story I made up in my head. Now that my yoga "bubble" has burst, I feel as though I'm back where I started. 

I've been on vacation this week. A lazy, do very little staycation. I haven't done much this week. The first four mornings, I got up and walked 2-3 miles each morning. It was quite refreshing and I easily worked up a sweat in the warm, humid conditions. As for yoga, I have completed only two classes since the challenge ended. Monday's class wasn't too bad. I was still able to kick out both sides in Head to Knee. That said, it had been 85 hours since class #101 last Friday, and it showed. I was much less flexible. The strength wasn't there. The balance was more difficult to maintain. I ascribed this to the fact that my body was recovering from the grind, and that in a few days an equilibrium would be found. Not so. Wednesday's class was worse. I had no strength or balance. I fell out of almost every pose. I sat out Triangle, something that hasn't happened in weeks! Anyone watching would hardly believe I had just completed a challenge. 

This brings us to Thursday. 

I was invited to take class and then join some of my friends/classmates for dinner. I was hesitant because they are younger, more successful, and have better yoga practices than me. Most of all, they always seem to be much happier or content than I am. Always smiling and playing around in the room after class. I didn't want to be a downer or a nuisance. 

So it's Thursday and class begins and I can hardly breathe or move. It quickly becomes apparent that I'm panicking. I make it through the first three postures, then grab my mat and beat a hasty retreat. I text apologies and go home feeling terrible. I binge on cheeseburgers and fall asleep. 

Many people say that a long duration challenge changes you. You feel different. You look different. Your temperament changes. Your life improves. One of my instructors even used the following quote:

"Do your practice. All is coming."
- Sri K Pattabhi Jois

For my two work study friends who completed 30 and 60 day challenges in the midst of my own, this is true. One started her own business. The other found a dream job that she loves. I am insanely happy for them. 

Me? Well it will be back to the same old job with the same struggles and fights and disappointments. I had the fortitude to go to yoga for 100 days, yet I cannot summon the courage to search for a new and better way of living. Living in a yoga bubble for three months plus gave me a place to hide, to consider what I could do if I merely made an effort. I thought I made strides forward and gained a measure of confidence. I thought I was ready for real change. In reality, little has changed. I'm still watching my life pass by through a glass that I cannot break. I know there is a better way. I just can't get there. I am weak. I am gutless. And the clock keeps ticking. 

I should have kept going. 


13 July 2015

The Icing On The Cake

It started on April Fools Day. 

It was supposed to be thirty days, but it stretched to sixty.

Sixty days weren't enough, so I decided to push myself harder than ever. I decided to try for 100 classes in 100 days. 

Along the way there was good, bad, and ugly. Days where I felt wonderful, and days where I just wanted to give up. Seventeen doubles. A wardrobe malfunction. Holidays to work around. A stomach virus. Seven classes in the final five days. 

Somehow, I made it to July 9. 

Class 100. 

Had to work that day. Hustled home, grabbed my gear and headed to the studio. I wanted to get there as early as I could before the 4:30 class. I walked into the studio and was welcomed with cheers and applause. I had invited the staff and some friends to join me, and those that could attend were already there. I asked our instructor, "Now I get fans on demand, right?"

"Yeah, we'll see about that..." 

I went in early and stretched and found myself nervous. I couldn't wait for this to start. One of my work study partners, Su, set up close by and gave me a thumbs up. She was on day 29 of her 30-day challenge. 

The instructor started class by announcing my accomplishment, and away we went. It was so beautiful! There was so much positive energy in the room. I was calm and focused. It was a watershed class because for the first time ever, all in one class:

I kicked out both legs in Standing Head-to-Knee. 

I held all four Standing Bows without falling out. 

I held all four Triangles without falling out. 

I cannot tell you what that means to me! In April, this was unthinkable. Now it has actually happened. Feels really good!

Even in the poses I couldn't fully execute, there was progress. I still can't get my hands under my heels in Hands-to-Feet, but I'm soooo close. One of my most troublesome poses is Standing Separate Leg Stretching, where you straddle the mat, bend from the waist, grab each heel, and try to touch the forehead to the floor. I'm nowhere near close to doing it, but I'm finally getting my hands from my calves to my heels. On the floor, Locust and Rabbit are the toughest, but there is progress. 

I had worked so hard while standing, I had to dial it back a bit on the floor, but I think I only sat out one set. After the final breathing exercise, there was more applause and some very kind words from our instructor. I lay in Savasana with a huge smile. 

After a shower, I walked back to the lobby. My friend Andres (holder of the studio record 390 days) said there was a gift. I found that he had supplied a large Tres Leches Cake adorned with the studio logo. It was ridiculously good. It was also quite large, so much so that I left it there to share with the 6:30 class. In lieu of champagne, Su gave me a bottle of Sparkling Cider (like myself, she has given up alcohol). From the staff, I got a gift card from the juice bar next door. Their fresh pressed juices are fabulous and I can't wait to get one! It was overwhelming and I was quite touched. I went home on Cloud Nine. 

My challenge was officially over, but there was one more box to tick. I had told Su that I would practice with her on the final day of her challenge. July 10 marked her 30th and final day, so there I was at 5:30AM to help her cross the finish line. She accomplished so much and it was fun to be a part of. She says she was inspired to do a challenge by watching myself and my other work study partner do challenges. I'm very proud of both of them. 

So, it was supposed to be just thirty days. 

It ended up at 101 days. 

I wouldn't trade it for the world. 


12 July 2015

The Turning Point

It was June 18. Class #80. The studio owner was teaching. It was a Thursday. Lots of people in the room. Going in, I felt a little tired but no worse than normal. I figured that once we got four or five postures in, I would find the groove and all would be well. 

I was so wrong. 

I crashed. I crashed hard. Before Triangle, I was laid out. Toast. Kaput. I made feeble attempts at Tree and Cobra poses, otherwise I was on my back the entire time. I stared at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity, just wishing that either the class would end or the floor would open up and swallow me. Tears burned the edges of my eyes. Not only was I failing, but failing in front of the boss. I was embarrassed. I was angry. I was a wreck. 

After class, as I made my way towards the door, she stopped me and put an arm around me. Asked if I was ok; if there was anything she could do. I said no, I would be ok. She then leaned in and whispered,

"You know, you don't have to do 100, right?"

She was giving me an out. 

I looked at her and said, 

"I know I don't have to, but I'm going to."

It was my idea to continue on from 60 to 100 classes. I wanted to see what could happen not only on the outside (asanas), but to see if I could focus in on the inside: my mind, my heart, the very core of myself. As I wrote on June 8:

'You see, every so often over the last two weeks, I've gotten a glimpse of something in my mind. A glimpse of change. How miniscule or profound that change is, I know not. So, the challenge continues. My stated goal is now 100 classes in 100 days. I think I owe it to myself to find out if these glimpses portend something real and attainable, or if they are mere mirages.'

I think that I got so caught up in the numbers game that I forgot the point of this: to gain physical and mental strength. It was no longer a journey. It was just a race to an arbitrary number. My body was trying to tell me by falling out, by screaming in pain, by shutting down. 

From that day, I worked bit by bit to get back on the path. I did nothing new. I simply did what the hell I was supposed to do: hydrate, move with purpose, and breathe. I listened to the dialogue more intently. Yes, I still faltered. Yes, I still sat out poses. It was ok. I listened to my body, and it rewarded me by moving deeper into poses, by breathing more deeply, by staying in the moment more. It took 80 classes to do it, but I felt as though I had broken through and found a new level, a new love for my practice. I changed. 

Next: Class 100. 


01 July 2015

You Can Do This!!

Well here we are. Ninety one classes complete. Just nine remaining in this part of my yoga journey. There is so much I want to say but I'm going to wait until class #100 is complete. I've been writing down notes and quotes and observations and I'm going to sit down and put it all together. It may take two posts to get it all out. 

Today, however, I want to challenge YOU. 

I am asking you to consider a challenge of your own. 

It need not be the 100 day variety as I have undertaken. It need not be 60 days, or even 30 days. 

Try three straight days. Try five. Try one full week of yoga. 

Try a double. Take a morning/evening double or an old-fashioned back-to-back double. I strongly recommend you speak to your instructor before doing so. If there is a different instructor for your second class, inform them straightaway that you are doing a double. 

If you are not ready for those, how about an in-class challenge? Example: if you always sit out the second set of a pose, commit to doing both sets. For those poses you revile or have trouble with, challenge yourself to truly listen to the dialogue. Move slower into and out of the poses. Try to focus in and feel the body move. I have been working very hard in this area, and the results are tangible. And astonishing. 

If a yoga challenge is not in the cards right now, try something else. Perhaps commit to one less fast food meal this week. Try a new healthier version of your favorite recipe. Commit to doing just a little more to strengthening or healing yourself. For July, my challenge is to do push-ups and planks each day. Maybe taking 15 minutes each night to journal or meditate would be good for you. I try to do these but I must improve on time management to fit these in. I'm going to keep trying. 

If you don't meet your challenge, it's OK!! If you gave an honest effort then hug yourself for trying. Figure out what happened and take whatever steps you can to improve. When you can do so, try again. Keep trying. Fight for yourself!! YOU ARE VERY MUCH WORTH IT!!!

Gotta get going. Class 92 tonight. Thank you to all who have supported me. You all rock!!!


12 June 2015

The Last Class

You know how there are those days when you just know it's going to be a rough day? One of those days where you wake up with that uneasy feeling in your gut? Where something deep inside you is almost begging you to lock the door and pull the shades down? Today was one of those days.

It started around 2:30AM. That's when I woke up and could not get back to sleep. This happens more and more these days, and I'm mystified as to why. I mean, after 70+ days of yoga, I should hit the pillow and sleep the night away. Anyway, I lay in bed until just after 4:00, then gave up and got up.

"Well, I could go to the 5:30 class."

I nixed that idea right away. I was hungry so I made breakfast then puttered around the house. I could eat, hydrate, and be ready for the 9:30. So, that's what I did. However, as departure time approached, I found myself more and more leery. Something kept telling me to stay home. I fell back on the mantra, "The only bad class is the class you don't attend." I tried to silence the voice in my head and drove to the studio. I sat in the parking lot for 10 minutes before entering the studio. I eschewed my normal spot on the right side of the room and instead set up on the far left. Back row. Right by the door in case I decided to bail. The instructor hit the gong, turned on the lights, and welcomed us to class. That's when it started to go wrong, because he had a theme -- something for us to think about during class:

"For this class, I want you to think about how it would feel if you knew that this class would be your last class. Ever. Eventually we all make that transition from this life. If you knew that this was your last time here, how would you feel? What would your practice look like?"

Immediately, a lady in front of me pointed to her water bottle and declared, "If this was my last class, that thing would be full of vodka." This brought a ripple of laughter, then class began.
Between breathing sets, the instructor implored us to really feel ourselves breathe: "Really feel the inhale and exhale. If these were your last breaths, what would you think about them?"

After the first set of Half-Moon, he kind of challenged us: "Everybody is just raising their arms like this (he mimics the majority of the room by raising his arms over his head in a somewhat indifferent manner).If I knew this was it, I would be like this (extends his arms fully, making near perfect upward arcs, reaching them up as though he was trying to grab the ceiling fan)." 
At the water break, he spoke again: "How does the water taste? Feel the coolness, feel it going down."

I'm not sure how anyone felt about all of this. I do know that it pretty much wrecked me.

As the question rattled around in my head, I withdrew more and more from the class. Tears would well up, then disappear, then well up again.So many things started bouncing around in my brain. To wit:

Damn. My postures are never going to improve.

I wasted a lot of time in my life.

I never even tried to find out exactly what my "best" was.

I always "settled". I never took a promotion. Never tried to find my passion. Thirty years in the same grocery store doing the same thing is as safe as safe can be. And it is death.

I rarely fought for anyone or anything, and almost never for myself.

I never will see a mountain or walk on a beach.

I never took risks. Comfort meant safety, and safety meant building walls and spinning cocoons. I let so many opportunities slip by because of fear or because someone said I shouldn't or couldn't (usually it was me -- that would mean leaving the comfort and safety of the known for the unknown).

I spent way too much time on everyone else and not enough on me. And, when people accused me of thinking too much about myself, I gave in more often than not. I let others set my path -- or I walked someone else's path instead of my own. So, now that I am taking a few timid steps forward toward figuring this out, NOW IT'S FUCKING ENDING??!!??

I will never get my hands under my heels.

I guess there was no need for that bucket list, since I accomplished exactly NONE of them.

 I don't want to die. I don't even want to contemplate it. I fear death.

On and on it went. All the while, I'm trying to kick out in Head to Knee, I'm trying to hold Standing Bow, I'm giving up and sitting out Triangle because I already know the outcome. I could barely keep my balance in Tree, and I didn't dare even attempt Toestand. The floor series was really no better. I did three or four postures, but mostly I was just "killing time", so to speak. I did not spend my two minutes in Savasana. I got up and out of there just as fast as I could. I drove home with the radio off, telling myself I should have stayed home.

I feel fairly confident that I will wake up tomorrow and take at least one class. I feel confident it will be better than the class I had today.

But what if?

It really would suck if it all ended this way. 
If I don't figure this out, it will end this way.
The clock is relentless, and I haven't a clue where to start.




10 June 2015

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

NOTE: I am not a doctor, nor have I ever played one on TV. If you are reading this, I assume you are pretty good at taking care of yourself. If you have specific questions about hydration, ask your doctor, yoga instructor, or both. I am simply relating what happened to me tonight, and how I normally hydrate.

It's just past 10:30PM. Took the 6:30 class then stayed to fulfill my work-study obligations.

How was my class?

Dry, very dry.

You see, I got so wrapped up in running errands, going to visit my Dad, and do household chores that I did not hydrate properly. Normally, I try to get 3-5 liters of water/Gatorade/Powerade/mineral water per day. I try very hard to get 2-3 liters down before class, and 1-2 after (when I am taking afternoon/evening classes). Today, I got a grand total of one liter of water in before class. One.


I got through the Standing Series ok (I did kick out in Standing Head to Knee for the fourth straight class!!), but as soon as we got to Cobra, it was game over. I couldn't lift myself up far, nor could I hold the pose. I felt really weak. My fingers cramped. I gulped water time and again just to stay in the room. Needless to say, I laid out most of the floor series. My 40oz HydroFlask was empty when class ended -- just a few small ice cubes left. When I got back to the changing room, my 32oz Powerade was gone in seconds.I refilled my flask and drank half of that before returning to the hot room to start cleaning. As I type, I've got a 24oz glass of ice water laced with four Emergen-C packets, and it's almost empty.

All of this made me think that, in reality, I've been a bit lax about hydration this entire week. I'm on vacation, so I'm not on my normal routine. This is good in that there have been no trips to the donut shop to OD on sugar and carbs. This is bad in that I buy a gallon of water every day at work and try to get through three quarters of it before I leave.The rest goes into my flask with lots of ice. I also get a quart of Gatorade/Powerade that I drink one or two hours before class for extra electrolytes, and a liter of mineral water for after class. When hydrated, I rarely get through half my flask during class. When not.... well, nights like this happen.

So, is a gallon of fluid per day enough for me?

Yes. And no,

The month of May was one of the wettest ever around here (17-20 inches of rain). This meant there was not a lot of sun, and temperatures were moderate. So, a gallon of fluid was just fine. This month, temperatures are closer to normal -- mid 90s -- with loads of humidity due to all the rain. So, I need to increase my intake even more. Now, I also enjoy my morning coffee as well as my iced tea (unsweetened). Both of those drinks dehydrate you, as does your favorite beer, wine, or distilled spirit.

Of course, there is also the matter of this little 100 day challenge (today is Day 72). I firmly believe I am sweating more in class now than I was on Day 1. How do I know? Well, I now take a shower towel into the room so that when class is over, I can wrap my soaked, dripping grey towel in it, and get it to the laundry bin without leaving a trail of sweat that people have to walk through. So, I have to keep the fluids coming just to keep up. 

The sum total of all this?

I must keep a closer eye on my hydration levels as summer arrives and I continue my challenge. 

Don't forget, you can eat your fluids, too. Water loaded vegetables like cucumbers help. Also, chia seeds swell up to 3-4 times normal when placed in water. I have been experimenting with chia seeds lately. I mix them with almond milk, vanilla, and a touch of honey, let it set overnight, and eat it for breakfast topped with some nuts or fruit. Good stuff! I've heard about Himalayan salt and how great it is for maintaining the levels of trace minerals needed to assist with hydration. That will be my next experiment.

So, want a simple tip to improve your yoga practice and general health?

Drink your water and maintain your electrolyte levels.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm thirsty again.




08 June 2015

"Not ready to stop."

When last I wrote, I needed to take nine classes in seven days to meet the challenge of 60 classes in 60 days.

Challenge completed!

Not without some struggle, however.

The first three classes were relatively easy. The room didn't seem to be as hot, and I did well. The mid-week classes were a nightmare. I had the same feelings I did before starting this challenge -- overwhelmed, frustrated, wondering why I was even there. I related this to a friend who snapped me back to rights:

"Enjoy your class. Focus on your breath during yoga. Only on your breath... Allow your yoga practice to be
a moving flowing "meditative" dance focusing on the breath."

Of course. The breath. Simple as that. Once again, I had gotten so caught up in how poorly I was doing and had forgotten the most basic step: breathing.
After that, the final classes of the week were much easier. I didn't make huge leaps in my form or depth, but it was ok -- I was breathing and just letting my body do what it could.
Saturday, May 30 was Day 60. I took the day off so I wouldn't have to stress about getting to class after work. It was a good class for me -- I took it a bit easy but I did quite well (my balance was really good that day). Our visiting instructor, J, informed the assembled of my challenge and everyone applauded. She asked, "How do you feel?"
I was still trying to collect myself and as I tried to catch my breath, everyone giggled a bit.
"I feel better than I did 60 days ago.", I said. 
The next day, there I was, back at the studio. J was teaching again.
"61?", she asked.
"Not ready to stop.", I replied.
I haven't stopped yet. 
You see, for the first thirty days, the idea was: do I have the physical capabilities to go day after day?
The next thirty days, the idea was: am I mentally strong enough to go every day?
The answer is yes to both questions. Yet, I still feel there is more to come. You see, every so often over the last two weeks, I've gotten a glimpse of something in my mind. A glimpse of change. How miniscule or profound that change is, I know not. So, the challenge continues. My stated goal is now 100 classes in 100 days. I think I owe it to myself to find out if these glimpses portend something real and attainable, or if they are mere mirages. That said, I draw the line at 100 days. There can be such a thing as too much yoga.
It might mean nothing.
It might mean everything.

Stay tuned.


23 May 2015

Laid Out

So there I was: Tuesday afternoon. I'm finishing up at work, knowing that class was just over 90 minutes away. I had one more crate to move ( I work in the grocery business ).

One more f***ing crate. 
Then it happened. 
I picked up that last crate, and something gave way in the lower left part of my back. I dropped the crate and dropped to a knee. It felt like someone had jammed an ice pick in there. It swelled quickly and walking was difficult. 

(I should point out that this part of my back almost always gives me problems in class. This is the area where I feel discomfort almost every time I try Locust Pose.)

Since I had dealt with this before, I figured it would not be that bad. I thought that, as long as I took it easy, I could do the class. Admittedly. I also felt some pressure to keep up with the challenge and not get too far behind. So, very gingerly, I made my way to the studio. 

The instructor immediately asked what happened and I told her the story. 

Her: "Would you like some Advil?"

Me: "Oh, no. I'm ok. It will be fine."

Her: "You just injured your back and require an anti-inflammatory. Let me ask you again. Would you like some Advil?"

Me: "You know, that sounds like a good idea. Two, please."

The first part of class was not bad. As long as I made sure to suck my stomach in, there wasn't much pain. However, any forward bend was uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. Then we got to the posture before Triangle: Standing Separate Leg Stretching. For all intents and purposes, that is where the class ended for me. 

                            Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose

As soon as I tried to go forward, I crumpled to the floor. I eased my way to a seated position and stayed there until Tree and Toestand. I was able to do Tree but that was it. The floor series was a complete washout. I thought that, if nothing else, laying on the warm floor would help ease the pain. It did. At least until class was over. When I tried to get up I found that my back was completely frozen. It took minutes to roll to one side, then I was able to gingerly get to my feet. Even then I was leaning on the wall to get from the room to the showers, shuffling along like a 200 year old with tears of pain welling up. 

I went to work the next day and was able to get through it. Since Wednesday is one of my nights to clean the yoga room, I took class. It was a carbon copy of the previous night except that I was able to move more easily after class. After a few hours of sleep I was back in for the 5:30 AM on Thursday. This time I was able to do some of the floor poses and had a decent class. Yesterday I took the 4:30PM and I was good all the way until Rabbit Pose. That asana proved a bit much and I rested for that one. I was complimented by the instructor after class! 

                                  Rabbit Pose

In retrospect, had I not been in the midst of a challenge, I would have sat out for two or three days, let the pain/swelling subside, and get back to it. I might have let my pride or competitiveness get the best of me. I could have taken a day off and still met the deadline. In reality, I'm glad I did what I did. I really got to test my limits. Without the yoga, I truly believe that I might still be in some discomfort. Instead, my back feels great! 

There was no yoga today due to my work schedule. This means that I must complete nine classes between now and next Saturday the 30th. I am hydrating as I write: doing a double tomorrow (8 and 10AM). It's going to be a long week but I can do this. 

I am strong. 



(And so are you!!!)

See you on the other side!!


20 May 2015

We Are All Warriors

I came across this poem a few days ago. It has stuck with me ever since and I read it nearly every day. I want you to read it and simply remember we are warriors, one and all. 

"Warrior of the Light"

By Paulo Coehlo 

"Every Warrior of the Light has been afraid to enter combat.

Every Warrior of the Light has betrayed and lied in the past.

Every Warrior of the Light has lost faith in the future.

Every Warrior of the Light has trodden a path that was not his own.

Every Warrior of the Light has suffered because of unimportant things.

Every Warrior of the Light has doubted that he is a Warrior of the Light.

Every Warrior of the Light has failed in his spiritual obligations.

Every Warrior of the Light has said yes when he meant no.

Every Warrior of the Light has hurt someone he loved.

That is why he is a Warrior of the Light:

He has endured all of this, and not lost the hope to improve.”

14 May 2015

Voices Inside My Head

Note: My 60 day Bikram Yoga Challenge rolls on. The events in this post relate to class 41 on Wed May 13. 

At the end of my last post, I said that last night's class was probably going to be difficult. 

"Difficult" does not even begin to describe it. 

Instead of describing each posture in gruesome detail (at least, the postures I actually attempted), I wanted to relate some of what was going on in my head during class.

Pranayama: My right elbow never seems to get quite as high. Man, do my shoulders hurt. 

Awkward: Wow, I actually stood on my tiptoes and held it... Why am I now falling out of the third part?

Eagle: Not too bad (first set)...
           What the hell happened in 45 seconds that I can't do this? (second set)

Standing Head to Knee: OK, so what if EVERYONE else is kicking out... It's ok. So what if you can't even grab a foot or lock a knee tonight. It's ok...

Standing Bow: This is not going to end well. (I am having trouble with balance and I can't really even START the posture.) Oh, great EVERYONE is in the posture. They look awesome. And here I am standing up, head down, hoping a hole opens up in the floor and swallows me. 

Balancing Stick (my knee buckles as I step forward): Please don't give up. PLEASE DONT GIVE UP! I give up. 

Standing Separate Leg: Don't give in!! Don't! DO NOT GIVE IN!!! I crumple to the floor. MOTHERFUCKER I SAID DON'T DO THAT!!! I hit the floor and there I stay. 

Triangle: Don't even bother trying. The instructor tries to coax those of us not doing the posture into trying the second set. I ignore her. 

The monkey mind has won. Yoga has become secondary. My brain and my body are arguing with each other and nothing is getting done. I sit out until Savasana then give a half-hearted effort in Wind Removing that the instructor calls me out by name: "I know you can do this, Mark. Pull harder." I do not. 

I am pretty much done from then on. I spend the remainder of class on my back wondering why the rest of the class has the fortitude and strength to press on while I simply quit time after time. I then think about how this same issue presents itself outside the room: while others advance or move on to bigger and hopefully better things, I have stayed in the same place doing the same things for almost three full decades


In both cases, fear.

Fear of falling out of postures. Fear that I will never be able to grab my heels or kick my leg out or hold a posture. Fear of how I look. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of ridicule. Fear of losing what little I have. Fear of dying.

Fear of living. 

I settle. 
I give up too easily -- sometimes without any fight at all. 
Instead of practicing acceptance and mindfulness and compassion for oneself, I berate, chastise, and loathe myself. 

I keep trying to convince myself that I belong in that room. That I can change my body, my mind, and my life. 
I keep trying to convince myself that I matter. That I've actually got the cojones to make this happen. 

As I complete this post it is 4AM on Sunday morning. Storms are rolling through. Rain pours down as lightning races through the clouds and I wonder what today will bring. 

Will I accept and embrace what comes, or push it away?

Exactly what would happen if I let go of the fear -- just for a moment?