29 April 2015

From Thirty to Sixty

That day off I spoke of at the end of the last post turned into two days off. Although it has been one year since I quit smoking, the asthma associated with it flares up every so often. Sunday was one of those days. After cleaning house in the morning I started wheezing badly, so it was off to bed with my inhaler. I didn't sleep well, and was exhausted on Monday. My class on Monday was a wreck. No strength. No balance. No will. No confidence. I hit the floor after Standing Bow and stayed there. Thought a lot about abandoning the challenge. Thought (again) about giving up my practice. Thought about how I do not belong in a yoga studio and how fat and flabby I am. Thought about emotional eating (since I had left my wallet at home that morning I was starving and slammed down a HUGE fast food burrito when I got home). Very negative evening. The best part came after class: I had a work study partner and I didn't have to work alone. That was a blessing. 

Tuesday dawned with much improved breathing but my lungs hurt a lot. I didn't get a lot of sleep and I was really out of it. However, as the day wore on I started to feel stronger and breathing was easier. By the time I got home from work I was thinking that it was going to be a good night. The class started out great, but by Triangle I sitting down again. I did attempt the Spine Strengthening poses but there wasn't much oomph behind them. Once again I was gassed. This time, though, I took it in stride. I didn't beat myself up. I accepted it and moved on. 

The next couple of classes were pretty much the same until this past Sunday (26th). After two poses, back spasms popped up and I left the room and went home. Monday's class was much better, and last night I did a double to make up for Sunday's class. The heat was lower but the humidity was higher. I was drenched five minutes into each class but felt pretty strong. 

So, with the halfway point coming up (oh, did I not mention? I decided to stretch this challenge to SIXTY days!), I have a single class tonight, then a double again tomorrow to make 30 classes in 30 days. Feeling good, but from past experience I know the next 15-20 days will be a grind. I'm ready. I think. 


17 April 2015

April Challenge: In a Daze

(On April 1st, I started a 30 day Bikram Yoga Challenge. Here is the latest update.)

As the title suggests, this week has been a blur. After a day off last Saturday, I was back in the chamber for a Sunday morning class. In addition to the normal stiffness and difficulty, the heat wasn't working well for the first half of class. To counter the cooler than normal conditions, the instructor advised us to not attempt to go as deep into the postures as usual. In addition, she moved us through the standing series at a faster pace to help get us as warm as possible. This meant little to no rest between postures; it was a sprint through the standing set. It worked pretty well -- I was sweating almost as much as normal. Somewhere around halfway, the heat kicked in, and all was as it should be. It was really not that bad a class. If nothing else, it reinforced the idea of being mindful: staying present and focusing on entering and exiting the postures properly and safely. 

The classes on Monday and Tuesday were strong for me. What I am most pleased about was that a) I did every Triangle, and b) my Locust Pose continues to improve. That really is huge for me! Triangle has seemed to get a little easier with each class. I believe it is because my hips are trying to open. I think my hips are trying to open because I am getting closer and closer to a proper Hands-to-Feet pose (my hips scream at me as I try to get my hands to hook under my heels). Locust still scares me at times because my lower back is still not strong enough but its getting better.

So, we come to Wednesday. 


It was just horrid. Earlier in the day, I let someone steal my peace. I became angry and upset. The reason is not important. In fact, in retrospect it really wasn't that big a deal. Anyhow, I had zero desire to do yoga. The fact that I was doing a challenge and that it was one of my nights to clean the studio were the only reasons I was there. I could not focus, I had no balance, and I just kept staring at my gut in the mirror. Result: I was down for the count at Triangle. I just laid down and checked out. My work-study partner was concerned enough to ask if I was ok, which was really sweet. I went home, went to bed, and tried to just let it go. 

Yesterday (Thursday), I decided I needed to atone for that horrible class the previous night, so I made sure to get to the studio for the 4:30 and 6:30 classes. Best decision I've made this week! I always go into a double thinking that I will just take it easy in the first class, then go all out in the second. The energy in the room (and the instructors) usually dictate otherwise. The energy in the first class was awesome. Everyone was doing their best, and it made for a great experience! Instead of taking it easy, I poured myself out on the mat, did every posture, and felt really great at the end. A quick change and some coconut water later, the 6:30 began. The class had a few more people, and the row in front of me was populated by an instuctor and two very strong students. Result? Excellent! I simply tried to be as deliberate and calm as they were and almost forgot that this was my second class of the day. Now, my muscles began to talk to me in the last half hour, but I was able to make it through. That may have been the best double I've ever done. I'm writing this post on Friday morning and I feel better than normal!

One other thing I've really been working in this week: conserving energy by economizing my movements during the floor series. Example: when getting into Camel Pose, I turn and roll over from my mat, push myself up to a kneeling position, and then walk on my knees back onto the mat. When the pose is over, I flop around to get onto my back for Savasana. At times I must look like a wildebeest that just took a tranquilizer dart, all stumbling and twitching. Now, the idea is to stay within the confines of the mat at all times. Instead of rolling around, I press my hands into the mat, kick my legs out, turn over, and lay down. Not only am I making smoother transitions (and saving precious energy), I'm making less of a spectacle and making things a bit more peaceful for those near me. 

So that's where I stand, except now it's Friday afternoon and I'm on the bus home. Then I grab my gear and head for the bus to the studio. Tomorrow is another off day, then back for more on Sunday.


10 April 2015

April Challenge: Days 6-10

Note: On April 1st, I began a 30 day Bikram Challenge. Here is the latest update. 

Days 6 & 7

For the first time in quite a while I am feeling good about my practice. That's part of what this challenge is about for me: falling back in love with the yoga. More importantly, it's about self care: stopping the self-loathing that I have been subjecting myself to. My food choices are improving as well. While the donut shop is still a player, I have not made those covert trips for fast food. More veggies, fewer processed foods, LOADS more water. Result? There is less stomach to suck in and forward bends are getting (slightly) easier. The one cup of coffee per day rule has been a bit tough -- I have cheated twice this week. 

Monday's class was ok. Just a quiet, solid effort. The most memorable item was a quote from our instructor:

"Always do backbends. Consider: you bend over backwards for a lot of other people. Do your backbends for yourself. Your spine equals your life."

Tuesday's class was the first one where I really started to sense improvement. For as long as I've practiced, getting my hands behind my heels in Hands-to-Feet pose has been impossible. I could get my hands underneath from the sides of my feet but never ever from behind. Now, if you've taken a Bikram class, you've heard the mantra, "Try the right way and you will get the full benefit". So, now, I tuck my elbows behind my legs and slide my hands down towards my heels. I'm not there yet but I finally get a sense of what the posture is truly supposed to feel like. 
                             Hands-to-Feet Pose -- The Goal

Day 8

With a couple of days coming up where yoga will be impossible, it was time for another double. With Wednesday being one of my work-study nights, I didn't want to take back to back classes. So, there I was at 5:30AM to take class from the studio owner. With only nine of us there, the class became a posture clinic. She went from person to person giving detailed instruction to each. For me, that moment came in Cobra, where she moved my heels together, then moved my elbows to touch my sides. Totally changed the pose for me. Cobra has always been a favorite of mine, and now 
it's even better.  That said, it was a difficult class. Morning classes mean no flexibility (couldn't reach my toes when doing sit-ups). I sat out Triangle. During the floor series, there were a couple of times when I started to feel anxious and shed a tear. It was ok. Yoga is not just for the body, it heals the mind as well. The night class was a vintage Bikram class. Very warm. Humid. Pretty full, too -- over 30 people all working together. Great energy in the room! It was the kind of class where you are soaking wet ten minutes in. It was a strong class for me. I attempted every posture and only fell out a few times. 

Day 9 

Worked hard to incorporate the lessons learned from the previous day. Found that forward bends are beginning to get easier because my gut is starting to shrink!! Long way to go, though. The big news, however, came on the floor. Since resuming my practice, Locust pose has always been tough. Raising one leg at a time is hard, and raising both legs up has just not been in the cards. I'm not sure how, but there I was on Thursday, doing all three segments of the pose. My back hurt like hell but I got it done! 

                          Locust Pose -- Third Part -- The Goal
Day 10

Friday found me tired and sore. I told myself that, with Saturday being a no-yoga day, I needed to work as hard as possible. To help with this I set my mat up on the front row (it's been a while since that happened -- I ended up being the only one on my side of the room to go up front). It also helped to have a senior instructor who gives no quarter (Try the right way..."). Felt like a rusty gate for the first 20 minutes, then I found my stride a bit. Standing Head-to-Knee was better: almost stayed on one leg for the duration. Standing Bow (another favorite) was really good: damn near got through all four without falling. My Triangle Pose was the best. Ever. Got deeper and held all four without falling. For the second straight class I did Locust with no issues. I felt so much better after class than I did when I walked in!!

As I said, today is a no-yoga day. Off to work, then one of the best events of the year: the Main St. Arts Festival. Have a great weekend!!


Photos via BY Comox Valley and BY Bethesda

05 April 2015

April Challenge: Days 1-5

As I wrote last time, I started a 30 day Bikram challenge on April 1st. From time to time during the month, I'll bring you up to speed. 

Days 1 & 2

Wednesday evening marked class number one. Sadly, the class was much the same as they have been these past two months. I felt like the dialogue was in an unknown language; that body and mind were both still weak and not communicating with each other. I faded in and out during the floor series, seemingly exhausted. Thursday's class wasn't much better: I simply felt (as I have for a while) that I just didn't belong there anymore. That yoga was turning into a sick torture I was imposing on myself. I wished I hadn't declared this challenge. I wanted to go home. The only reason I stayed was that I had been asked to work an extra cleaning shift so I really had no choice. I got through it, did my cleaning, and went home. I was soooo NOT into this challenge. 

Day 3

When you commit to a challenge, you realize that there will always be a day or two when getting to the studio will be impossible. For me, that means most Saturdays because of my job. This means that you will have to double up on classes on certain days.

Good Friday was one such day for me. I headed to the studio for the 4:30pm class hoping that it would be a large class. This way, I could set up near the back and just ease my way through -- kind of like a 90 minute stretching session. Then I could really give it a go in the 6:30 class.

Of course, no such luck. There were only nine of us in class so the instructor has us all line up on the second row so he can walk around and get a 360 degree view of the postures. I thought, "This will not go well."

How wrong could I be?

Because it was a small class, the instructor was able to be more one-on-one with each of us. He helped us with the finer points of alignment, even moving us physically (after asking permission to touch) to get us into better form. The result was I had the BEST class in weeks! I actually felt strong again. The dialogue made sense again. I felt calm again. It was beautiful. The tip he gave me was that really helped came in Floor Bow. He moved my hands down closer to my ankles in order to keep my wrists straight during the entire posture. It made a huge difference!

The 6:30 had a few more people but the next instructor just let us set up where we wanted. I started to feel wobbly as we got close to the end of the Standing Series, but had another (for me) strong class. I even allowed myself a smile as class ended. I'm most proud of the fact that in three hours of yoga, I attempted every posture, did every sit-up and very breathing exercise. The post-yoga shower was bliss.

Day 4

Saturday was a bonus. Having to go to work earlier than normal meant I could make the 3:00 class. Dashing straight to the studio from work meant little time to calm down and let the workday go. Started off a bit shaky but got my breathing under control. Balance was more of an issue, probably because I was taking my third class in exactly 24 hours. Felt really good but it was a tough class. Again, a very technical class with lots of corrections for everyone.

Day 5

Easter Sunday. Early morning rain made me want to stay in bed but I needed to get in and get done before I lost the will to go. I generally loathe morning classes because I am just not flexible. Plus, when you take the first class of the day, the room is hot but dry. No one has been sweating and the carpet is really dry which means I slip a lot when we are straddling the mat for three postures. I went in this morning with the word "gentle" in my mind. I was very careful to go easy because my body was so tight -- I didn't go as deep into postures because I was inflexible. I took breaks. How tight was I? When doing the situps, I could not reach or grab my toes. I wasn't even close. That's OK. I went. I tried my best. That is what counts.

So, six classes in five days. Not a bad start, but far to go. The next five to ten classes will show just what I am capable of -- if I stay present and focused and try the right way.

A friend reminded me this morning that Easter is about death and rebirth. Hoping to be reborn a stronger, wiser, better human being.


02 April 2015


So it's been over a month since a proper post. A difficult time. Last time I wrote about being overwhelmed by nearly every aspect of life. My practice was, to be kind, in disrepair. Insomnia reigned, and emotional eating was the norm. 

Now, one month on, things have at least settled a bit. One major stressor has been dealt with, but much healing remains to be done. Things that were strained or broken are being worked on, though there is no guarantee they can be properly fixed. My body still hurts. My emotions are still jumbled. Concentration and discipline are out there, somewhere. 

Over the last two weeks , I seriously considered putting my yoga practice on hiatus, if not quitting altogether. It wasn't fun anymore. Everything hurt. My body refused to work with me. I would leave class with my nerves shot, fighting off tears and emotions. I would dash across the street and comfort myself with a double cheeseburger. Or two. When riding the bus to work, I would indulge in donuts, breakfast croissants, and sausage rolls from a bakery on the bus route. When driving, there was always an extra stop for a burger or a soda. 

The result? Pounds packed on. No hydration. Muscles that refused to stretch or relax. An expanded belly that prohibits any forward fold (the fat pushes up against my lungs and I freak out because I cannot breath).

So, there I was last night at the studio, asking for a 30 day challenge chart. 

Would you run that by me again, please?

That's right. Instead of quitting, I committed to thirty straight days of yoga. 


First, I need the discipline. When you know that you will be going to class EVERY day, you will treat your body better. Loads more water. Less coffee. Veggies. No illicit trips for junk food. 

Second, I need the peace and quiet of the room. When the door closes, no one can hurt me. No one can get in my brain and put their feet up on the furniture, so to speak. I can work on quieting the voices in my head. I can try to FOCUS again. 

Finally, I am doing this simply to see if I CAN still do this. When I started my practice six years ago, I was so enamored of this yoga and its benefits that I did two 60 day challeges back to back. Lost 45 pounds but gained so much more in happiness, pride, and health. 

I want those feelings back. And more. 

Last night was class number one. It wasn't much better than any class in the past two months. That's ok. It doesn't happen overnight. A little better each day. The best part about last night's class came afterwards. When I told my work-study partner about the challenge, her eyes lit up and she asked, "Want me to do it with you? I will have to take mostly morning classes but we can text each other every day. Keep each other honest.  Cheer each other on."

And that is why I keep coming back to yoga. Even when you think you are alone on the path, you're really not. Whether your mat is next to mine or thousands of miles away, we truly are all in this together.