26 February 2016

It's That Time Again

It was a couple of weeks ago, after another disastrous class. I was in the room cleaning mats when my friend 'A' walks in. A is an extremely dedicated yogi. He routinely takes 300 classes every year. Last month he competed in the Texas USA Yoga Regionals for the first time and placed 10th. 

Anyway, 'A' comes in the room and asks how I'm doing. He knows I haven't practiced much. He knows I've been bailing on classes. 

"Mark, where have you been? We miss you. You ARE 6:30 class."

I tell him I've been busy and ill and haven't felt well. He nods and says nothing for moments. Then he smiles and looks me in the eye:

"We need to do a challenge. You and me."

In my mind I'm thinking, "What? You already take 300 classes a year. You don't have an ounce of fat on you. You can practically bend yourself in knots. Why are you asking me?"

I cough and catch my breath. I'm trying to find a reason to say no. "I don't know..."

"It will be good, my friend. Thirty days."

My brain was saying, "We need to think about this. Just say you'll think about it." But I actually heard myself say: 

"OK. Sixty days."

"OK, we start March 1st!". He smiles and leaves. 

My brain is pissed: "What in the HELL were you thinking??!!??"

For the next few days, I go back and forth. Yes I will. No I won't. I can't do this right now. Sure I can. Finally, this past Wednesday, he comes in to set up his mat for class. I walk over and say, "Monday?"

"OK! Monday!"

So here we go. Again. 

For those new to this blog, I completed a 100-day challenge last year. My longest challenge ever. Learned a lot. Worked very hard. At the end I could get into almost every posture. Then I slacked off big time. Took fewer and fewer classes each week. Got caught up in the holidays, ate very poorly, got depressed and stressed, and regressed in my practice. So, I'm starting yet again. It seems that the only way I can improve and maintain is to keep going to class. Every. Single. Day. The idea of going 4-6 days a week just never seems to work. 

Of course, the other important advantage to a challenge is that I will lose my appetite for processed food, junk food, and soda. Today's menu would make most of my fellow yogis ill: fast food breakfast sandwich, coffee, soda, fried fish, canned prepared tuna salad, more soda, and caramel sundae. (There was a salad in there, drowned in Ranch dressing.) The first order of business? Hydrate. Two liters of water tonight. Three tomorrow. Four on Sunday. Gotta wait for the next paycheck to get all the groceries I need but I'll do the best I can in the interim. There will definitely be more vegetation and no McDonalds in the diet. (My Lenten vows to eliminate fast food and caffeine failed miserably.) The wild card? I now own a juicer! I've been experimenting with it and I LOVE IT!!! So I'm hoping to incorporate fresh juice into my diet as much as possible during this challenge. It will definitely help with the first goal: reducing my gut. It's really difficult to bend forward these days because there is so much belly fat. That will change. Soon. 

I've said this before and I'll say it again: If you have never attempted a challenge before, try one! Try 30 days. Try 15 days. Even seven straight days will be very beneficial for you. Just try. It doesn't have to be a yoga challenge. Ride your bike. Walk a mile. Find something you can do every day. If you don't make the goal it's ok. Good on you just for making the effort! Rest, recoup, and try again. 

So, it's déjà vu all over again. 

Sixty days in the chamber. 

Or maybe just thirty. 

Or maybe....

21 February 2016

Blessings In Distraction

Wednesday night. 6:30 class. I'm in a familiar spot in the third row. No one in front of me except two experienced students on the first row. They always choose the hot side of the room. 

Class starts and all is well until Triangle. The instructor moved to turn up the fans to give us a quick blast of cooler air. She turns the fans on full blast. The instructor moves to guide a newer student and forgets the fans. Even I start to feel a chill. The ladies in front are trying to get her attention and get a little exasperated, frantically trying to get the instructor's attention. I become distracted as well and had two poor Triangle sets. Now we are into Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and the fans are still blowing full and I'm actually shivering a bit. 

Here's the kicker: while I'm trying to process the ladies' exasperation as well as my own discomfort, I completely missed the fact that I actually touched my forehead to my knee for the first time in months. By the time I realized, "Holy Crap my knee and forehead are touching!", it was time to switch sides. I didn't touch my knee on the left, though. I was still shocked by the success on the right side. In second set I didn't come close on either side because I was actively thinking about the posture instead of just letting go and letting the posture happen. 

So now the instructor realizes the issue but overcompensates by turning the fans OFF. In minutes I go from being cold to being in the fifth circle of Hell. I'm sweating so much so fast and now it's getting harder to move through the floor series. Next to me was a young woman who was starting to have trouble. When I inquired she said she was feeling ill. I asked her to lie down and breathe slowly. During Half Tortoise I get the instructor's attention, point at the fan and hold up three fingers for the fan setting. Finally, the inferno is broken and a gentle breeze drifts down. My neighbor and I feel immediate relief and are both able to finish class. The final revelation came in Spine Twist, where I was once again able to get my knee, hand, and heel in the correct position, again for the first time in months. 

I've thought about this class a lot. In the midst of distractions, I was able to, well, do the postures. Not sure if it was because my regular thought process and negative self-talk were interrupted or that it was pure luck or I'm back in a cycle of progression and growth. 

Time (and regular practice) will tell. 

Last thing: after class one of my yoga buddies asked if I would join him in starting a new challenge. He wanted to go thirty days but I upped the ante to sixty. If we decide to do this, it will start March 1st. 

Stay tuned. 


15 February 2016

Getting The Poison Out

Hello, all! 

No yoga posts since Nov 30. I think this past holiday season was the most difficult in my life so far. There simply seemed no end of trials, stresses, and illnesses. As December progressed, it seemed each day was harder than the last. The only celebrations we had were Christmas lunch with my Dad and sisters, then hosting a small lunch a couple days later. On New Years Eve the house was dark by 10:00. The entire month I felt more listless, sick, and depressed. January was much the same. Go to work, come home, sleep (or try to sleep-- insomnia was a major player. The ONLY thing I looked forward to each morning was my stop for donuts, burrito, and coffee. Every morning I plunked down $7.72 for a few minutes of joy. Lunch consisted of MickeyD's or tacos. It caught up with me quickly. I've no idea what I weigh now and frankly, I don't want to know.

Over those two months, I made it to a grand total of 16 classes. I think I completed two of them. Most often I left at or before Savasana, usually just before or after Standing Bow. Three or four times I left after Eagle. 


Basically, I had gotten so tight I could barely lift my arms. In Half Moon even the slightest bend in either direction brought pain. Awkward Pose was a complete failure: no strength or balance at all. I would simply take a knee and gasp for air. Eagle is usually a pose I take great pride in as I have come so far in that pose. Now I couldn't even come close to getting one arm under the other. It was as though my shoulders were being pinned while trying to get my arms in position. Some nights I couldn't even clasp my hands together, let alone try to get them into prayer position. That would be about the time I would give in and leave. I felt it was better for me to depart rather than be a distraction to those around me. 

So for two months, that was the drill. Go to class infrequently, fail miserably, become intimidated by the beautiful, happy men and women around me, lament my place in the room (and the world), and run away. I had accumulated so much poison from bad food, bad mood, bad everything that I was shutting down. 

The nadir came a week ago Sunday. Super Bowl Sunday. I had to work but I would be home in time for the game. Put the pork roast in the oven to slow cook for pulled pork that night. I was already fighting a head cold but I felt ok. Stopped at the donut shop for the requisite hit of fat, sugar, and caffeine, and rolled into work. About 30 minutes in, I started to feel really bad. Dizzy, headache, stomachache, the works. Left work after two hours, came home and was sick all day, all night, and most of Monday. Slept intermittently. If I wasn't coughing up crap from my lungs, I was... you know. 
I've never felt so bad or had both respiratory and digestive issues at once. It felt like my body had finally said, "That's it. We need urgent repairs. Too much poison. Time to purge. We are shutting down. Deal with it."

So I did. By Tuesday I could eat again but I knew it was time to correct some of these issues. With Lent beginning last week, I decided to try and do without fast food or caffeine for the 40 days. So far the fast food part (including the donut shop) has been easy, but the caffeine part has been more difficult. I've broken down two of the last three days for coffee. 

After ten days away from the room, I got back in last Wednesday. To say I was apprehensive would be an understatement. 

It was good. Shockingly good. 

First, I could actually breathe deeply! I mean a FULL, six second inhale. My lungs felt so much better. I think my lungs have entered another phase of recovery (May will mark two years without a smoke!) and I had to get rid of more junk from the lower part of my lungs. 

Second, side bends did not hurt. My Half Moon felt so good again! Plus, I wasn't gasping for air in the back bend portion of the pose. I was slightly shocked at how good it felt. I still fell out of Awkward but it still felt easier. In Eagle, not only did I clasp my hands (and attempt prayer position) bit I was able to hook my foot on both sides! Yeah, me!

Third, I made it all the way through class. My floor poses are in a world of hurt right now. Long way to go but it felt much better. 

After class, the instructor stopped me while I was cleaning mats. I think it was her first time to teach at our studio but she and her beau have been practicing at the studio for a while and she had seen me abandon class more than once. 

"That is the best class I have seen you take since I've been here. Great job!" She gave me a high five. 

"Thank you.", I said. "It's been rough. I think I just had to get the poison out."

She smiled. "No better place to do it."

No, indeed. 

Two nights later I was back in the room. This time I attempted every posture. I have so far to return to the form I had, but that's ok. There is still some more poison to purge. It just takes time. 
I lost my faith in myself and my life. I'm reclaiming myself. I can do this.