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.