10 December 2017

The First Few Classes

So, now that we are reacquainted, just how is my practice looking after just over a year of inactivity?

Shockingly, not too bad!

However, just as shocking is which postures look better, and which ones look not as good.

For instance, when the studio closed last year, standing poses were extremely difficult. My backbends were slight. I was no where near being able to grab either foot in Standing Head to Knee. Separate Leg Stretching made my hips ache. Triangle Pose had become a nightmare. On the floor, however, I fared much better. Cobra, Fixed-firm, and Camel were relatively easy to get in and out of.

Now, however, these have reversed. I was stunned in my first class back when, in SH2K, I reached down, grabbed each foot easily, and even kicked out (at least a little)! Balancing Stick was easier... I still fell out but my breathing was much better. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to bend down in Standing Separate Leg Stretching... I was nowhere near getting my head to the floor, but the fact that it didn’t hurt as much was shocking. Even Triangle felt different. I didn’t stick it, but it felt easier. I felt lighter... as if divesting myself of all the stress of the past year in my personal life was paying immediate dividends in my practice. On the floor, however, it was harder. Locust was impossible - my elbows ached when pinning them beneath me. Fixed-Firm was rough - I could not go back to the floor. When I tried to get into Camel, the room started to spin and I came out of it immediately.

Thankfully, a couple of postures felt great. I stuck three of four Standing Bows, and Cobra felt fantastic! Overall I was happy with my breathing and my ability to keep still between poses.

As I write I have taken ten classes. It was probably class number seven before I could do Camel and it felt really good. Locust and Rabbit will take some time. My biggest problem is finding time to actually take class. I have worked 68 hours each of the last two weeks between my retail job and working part time at the studio. A couple of the staff and I were going to practice by ourselves between classes today but one couldn’t make it and I... well, I hurt my back this morning... making toast. No joke. I was making breakfast and when the toaster chimed, I leaned over to grab the toast... and started having back spasms... from making toast. Only I can get hurt making toast... We are going to try again next Sunday...

Next time: 90 vs 60


01 December 2017

it’s time to start healing...


My name is Mark.

If you are new to this blog, welcome.
For those of you who have followed in the past, welcome back.

It has been a little over one year that my Bikram studio closed. At the time, my personal practice was in disarray. Every class was a struggle. I felt weak. Exhausted. Empty. Simply to stay in the room seemed impossible. I was in a bad place, in my practice, at home. Everywhere.

In the interim months there were long nights, hard decisions, and so many tears.
My significant other and I reached an impasse in our relationship. The reasons are not important, and there is no value in recounting the events that transpired. Suffice it to say that I had given everything I could, and separating myself from her was as much an act of self preservation as it was desperation.
I was broken, broke, and in despair. So after almost 18 years, we parted ways once and for all. By the final week of September, she had moved away, and I had moved into my new accommodations. It is now just myself and two of my three kitties... my best buddy, Pumpkin, passed away in July. Oh, and just for an extra dose of stress, I turned 50 at the beginning of November. I felt used up... old... worn out.

As far as yoga goes, there were a scant few yin classes at my friend Ali’s studio. There were also a couple of workshops on food and healing, and a discussion of the chakras that was extremely interesting. Ali and her husband, James, are top flight instructors, and just the nicest people you would ever want to know. Ali even led a Fundamentals of Yoga workshop: footwork,  beginning poses, a little theory. All of these were awesome, and I enjoyed being in the studio whenever I could.
But, it is across town and if traffic is bad it is difficult to get there. Plus, no matter how much I enjoyed the classes, I missed the heat. Missed it badly. I despaired of ever getting back into a hot room.

So, there I was... single for the first time in almost two decades. Trying to figure out how I was going to pay for a place to live, a new car (we had one car and it was hers), and how to start healing a damaged heart and soul. My grocery store job would not pay the way. I knew I would need a second job.

About the time that I told my soon to be ex that I was ready to move on (late June), I got a message from the former front desk manager at the studio. He told me that he was working to get the studio up and running again and that he wanted me to come back.

My heart raced... I was so pumped. The idea of being able to use the yoga to help me recover from this broken relationship was too good to be true. As I began the process of ending things, I kept waiting and waiting for more news. Finally, near the end of August, I couldn’t wait any longer. I told him I wanted in and that I had to have a paid position and explained why (in the two previous iterations of the studio, I was a work-study participant). He answered that he needed front desk staff, that I was at the top of the list, and that I would get all the hours I could handle. His target date to open was during the first week of October. I was ecstatic!

As I waited for word to report to the studio. I got on with the business of living in this brave new world of being a single man again. Unpacking and organizing my tiny little duplex apartment (500 sq ft), getting the cats used to the new digs, and learning to be alone again. There were a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of anger and tears, and a good bit of beer and whiskey. Then there was my diet. Many days my breakfast was Starbucks, lunch was McDonalds or Church’s Fried Chicken, and dinner was a large Domino’s Pizza and 3-4 beers. I generally ate the entire pizza in one sitting. I went to my doctor for my annual blood work and she immediately asked if I knew why my cholesterol levels had spiked. When I told her what was going on she said, “Ok. I get it. But you need to get that under control now. I don’t want to put you on meds... You have to get this under control. You know what to do. So do it.” For the most part, I have been good, but I still have a beer every so often and fast food has crept in from time to time. I am learning how to prep meals for 4-5 days at a time. Lots of soups, roasted vegetables, lean proteins, and salads. Lots of salads. It’s a work in progress.

Meanwhile back at the studio, there were delays. October slipped away, taking with it the last of my savings. I had to borrow from family to stay afloat, and I was ready to give in and take a job elsewhere. Finally I got word that we would open on November 6. During the final week of October I helped assemble furniture for the guest quarters and began to learn the software we use at the studio.

Then, it happened. The door was unlocked and we were off and running. So many yoga friends. Friends, fellow students, instructors... it was a reunion. That first evening behind the desk was head spinning but so much fun. My job is simple. Check in clients. Sign up new clients. Provide mats and towels. We have a small selections of mats, towels, and women’s yoga gear on sale. When class begins I lock the doors, catch up paperwork, and then freshen up the changing rooms and do laundry. After the final class of the day, I clean the studio if I have no work-study students that night. It might seem like a lot but it isn’t. I work four nights a week plus all day Sunday at the studio. This means 14-15 hour days when I work at the store then clock out and hustle to the studio for the two evening classes (this is where the meal prep pays off). The days are long, but I have found that I feel so good when I leave the studio at night because I’m helping people resume (or discover) their yoga practice. That feels good.

November seems to have flown by. Little by little our yoga family is reuniting. We have had three classes Mon-Fri and two classes on the weekends... all 90 minute Bikram classes. Next week we roll out 60 minute classes in the early mornings and at lunchtime. It’s about to get busy... fingers crossed!

I did not get to practice until the second week the studio was open. When I finally walked in that room and set up my mat just so, I took a long look around. New owners. New role for myself. New chapter in my life. Even a brand new floor beneath my feet. I took a deep breath and whispered to myself:

“I’m home. It’s time to start healing.”


17 May 2017

Great Strides

What did you do first thing this morning?

Think about it. I'll wait.

I'm going to bet that one of the first thing you did was to take a deep breath. Nice and long. Get a good blast of O2, feeling life start to flow once more.

Felt good, right?

Now imagine waking up wheezing and coughing as you begin the two or three hours of breathing treatments. Pills on top of pills. Just to be able to get through your morning. Then doing the same in the afternoon. Then again before you turn in for the night. Imagine that a good day is having 65% of your normal lung function. Imagine being underweight for your age. Imagine that your skin is salty not just after a hard workout but all of the time. Imagine having a port implanted to receive continual IV medication and a feeding tube placed just to make sure you do not suffer from malnutrition.

That, and so much more, is the lot of those who fight Cystic Fibrosis.

Why am I telling you this?

 On Sunday, May 21st, I will be participating in the Great Strides Walk benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. CF is a cruel disease that attacks the lungs and digestive system. Thick mucus builds up in the lungs, clogging airways and trapping harmful bacteria. The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is impeded, to the point of respiratory failure. Mucus also builds up in the small intestine and pancreas, so that nutrients cannot be fully absorbed. So, despite having a proper appetite, those with CF do not gain or maintain weight easily. The mucus in the lungs leads to chronic respiratory disease, weakening the lungs to the point that they simply will not function anymore.

Why am I walking?

I walk for two people, neither of whom I have ever met in person, but hold places in my heart.

The first is Abigail Dunning. I never knew Abigail but her sister, Shanna, is a friend of mine. Abigail was a bright light: camp counselor, youth group leader in her church, and educator of autistic and special needs children. She passed in 2014 but the spirit of #TeamWebbygail lives on.

The second is Cheriz Kunkel. Cheriz wears many hats: wife, realtor, advocate, and fundraiser. Oh, and soon to be foster parent! All while completing her daily treatment protocols and taking part in a research study to help find a cure. On top of all of that, she somehow finds time to write about it. You can follow along at cheriz.org.

I walk for Abigail. For Cheriz. For their friends and their families.
I walk in the hope that soon Cystic Fibrosis will be a thing of the past.

If you feel so inclined, I have set up a fundraising page.

To donate, CLICK HERE

Thank you.