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!!!