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?


13 May 2015

The Grinder

It hurts.


Knees. Hips. Shoulders. Back. Front. Teeth. Hair.

It. All. Hurts.

I could go back and recount each class but that would bore you. And me.

Let's just say that I'm in the grinder, and I'm being chewed up.

There is no rhyme or reason to it. One class is OK, the next I'm flat on my back and questioning my sanity.
Questioning my practice.
Questioning my life.
Questioning everything.

Add to that the fact that I was unable to take class for two days in a row. Now I've got 17 days to do the last 20 classes.

Some highlights:

Class 33: No water, no lunch. Yet, I walk in with the feeling I'm going to kick ass. Instead, I'm down for the count at Triangle.

Class 34: Took the 5:30AM. Somehow I manage to get my hands behind my feet in H2K!

Class 35: Bad night all around. Instructor sets up in front of me and warms up by doing perfect handstands one after another. Surrounded by really good students who outclass me. I was the flabby, pale guy surrounded by toned, fit, healthy yogis. No confidence or will power. I was toast before Triangle. Yes, I know I'm only supposed to focus on myself but sometimes it is impossible -- especially when everyone is doing a perfect Balancing Stick and I'm standing there with hands on hips, gasping for air.

Balancing Stick Pose
(That is NOT me.)
That's really all you need to read. Lots of laying on my back. One decent class followed by a terrible one.
The cycle has kept up this week. A good double on Sunday, tough nights Monday, and Tuesday, then a surprisingly good class this morning! Since I'm taking class again tonight, it must mean that tonight's class is going to be a bitch. 
And so it goes...

03 May 2015

Thoughts at Halfway

Saturday, May 2

No yoga today, and if I'm honest, I'm thankful for that. 

I have made it halfway through my sixty day challenge -- actually I'm on 31 classes. Wednesday's single class was followed by a double on Thursday to reach 30 classes in 30 days. That was followed by a 5:30AM class on Friday morning (necessary because I was on assignment and had a 64 mile commute that day). That meant that I had completed three classes in 14.5 hours. All three classes were actually pretty good. The surprising part was how flexible I was in the morning class where I am usually not very bendy... Needless to say, however, by the time I got home last night I was toast. I slept very well (almost too well -- I overslept by a few minutes but made it to work on time this morning).

So, I thought about sharing a few tidbits at the halfway point. 

1) This is more difficult than I remember

Of course it's been almost six years since my first go round with this yoga, and that first year I did two challenges that summer. At 47 things progress just a tad more slowly than at 41. 

2) I am more mindful of form. 

In the past, I would alter a pose or alter the entrance into a pose just to "look right". I didn't want to be the fat guy or the old guy who couldn't perform a pose. I was a "poser" of sorts (pardon the pun). Now, I'm far more interested in entering and exiting the postures correctly and safely. Thirty classes in and I'm seeing true results. 
Example: In Hands-to-Feet, I almost got my hands behind my heels on Friday morning. Actually I did get my hands in the right place for just half a second (just long enough to have one of those 'I am a yogi!' moments. Now, I don't sit out Triangle nearly as often, and if I fall out, I try to get back in a lot more often. My practice has become more meaningful to me. 


Somewhere around class 15 or 16, I had one of those "Oh No" moments. We had just finished Standing Head-to-Knee and I was adjusting my shorts (simple drawstring gym/basketball shorts) when I heard a worrying "SNAP" and felt my shorts go slack. 
"Uh-oh. Please, God, no."
I tugged at the waist and surprisingly, the was resistance. I figured that if I kept REALLY STILL and could get through Standing Bow without incident, I would continue.  I did, and I did, and once we got to the floor, I had no worries. Turns out that the string had held by one single strand. Now, there is always a backup pair of shorts in my bag!

4) You find support where you did not expect. 

As more of my fellow students and instructors have learned of my challenge, the response has been so positive I just can't believe it. When I walk in the studio or the locker room, people say:
"What day are you on?"
"You doing OK?"
"That is great! Keep going!"
The support really helps. 
Your challenge can, in turn, inspire others. For example, my work study partner showed up unexpectedly on Thursday for my 30th class. She had previously said she couldn't make it. When I asked her what changed, she replied simply:

"You encouraged me."

By the way, if you recall, she had to start her challenge eight days after me because of illness. She is somewhere in the mid20s and catching up. More inspiration!!

So there we are. A quiet Saturday evening has passed into a brilliant Sunday morning. Back at it today, then another tough stretch from Monday to Wednesday: three work shifts, two cleaning shifts, and another 5:30AM class on Tuesday as I'm on assignment again with another long commute. In addition, there will be three, maybe four more doubles before this challenge concludes because of my work schedule. As I recall from my previous challenges, classes 30 through 50 were really tough. You're deep into this thing, and there seems to be no end; no light at the end of the tunnel.


Just need to focus on the next class.
The next posture.
The next breath. 

Have a great week!!!