Friday, January 29, 2010

Got the blue book!

After hearing a little more about this classic from thedancingj, this morning I bought Bikram's older, blue book. Because I got it while on my way to work, I haven't had a chance to do any more than leaf through it, but already it is hilarious and informative, all in one.

Woke up today well before the 6 a.m. alarm, for the third day in a row. The next time I wake up early, I'm going to practice yoga until it's time to buckle down and get ready for work. I figure that—most of the time, anyway—if I'm waking up naturally, my body has had enough sleep. And if it hasn't, well, I can always sleep on the train down to work.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pathetic. Amusing. Painful.

I have tendinitis in my right thumb. Shooting, stabbing, sharp pains that are alleviated neither with Aleve nor ice.

I use my BlackBerry to read news (OK, and Facebook) on my daily hour-each-way train ride. I just signed up for a library card so I can read other things on the train. No more mobile blogging for me.

Time to work the grip even more in my postures! But ouch this hurts!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

waiting game

I'm itching to buy the old blue Bikram book before work today, but can't because I'll spend all day at work flipping through it, resisting (hopefully successfully) urges to blurt out to my coworkers "Can you believe the benefits of x posture?" "Did you know the parathyroid is compressed in y posture?" "So *that's* why I feel dizzy/nauseous/homicidal after z posture; ahhhh..."

So I'll pick it up after work, and geek out on the train home.

In the meantime, I'll have to be satisfied reading the cover story of today's NYT food section, which bears a headline about chocolate and chakras. It could be up my alley, or it could annoy the crap out of me, with incomplete information and gross generalizations. (I'll add the link when I get to work, as I haven't been brave enough to try extensive html coding when posting from my phone.)

Namaste, y'all!

Edit: Here's the link. I think I want to reread this article a few times before I write too much about it. I will say that I appreciate the acknowledgment that "[t]here are many ways to 'do' yoga: the term embraces meditation, worship, study and action, as well as the physical pretzeling that Americans primarily associate with the term." I'm amused that food is the hot controversy among yogis. Bikram is soooo yesterday, I guess.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest."
-Sri Chinmoy

"Speedy Gonzalez, ahh?"

I was a gross combination of sweaty and rain-misted after walking two miles home from the train station last night. Perfect for yoga, right??

B worked late, so I wanted the apartment to be mellow when he and the pup got back. That gave me about an hour for yoga. Soooo... Rather than firing up one of the hourlong YogaToday classes, I quickly compiled a new iTunes playlist with just one set (the first/longer set, of course!!) of each of the Bikram postures. I'm sure it's sacrilege, but I wanted to do the series last night, in a more doable time frame.

When I finished, I felt good, tired, relaxed, like I'd worked every bone, joint, muscle, organ in my body. But maybe even possibly in a time frame that I could do in the morning before catching the train??? Wow. That'd be so amazing.

Notes on my home practice:
• Instead of focusing on one point in the mirror (btw, I'm from California and I say it the normal way. Meer-ur.), I focus on that one little twinkly light among the dozens that border the living room window. After five (on and off) years of practice, I think that's where my eyes are. I think.

• Maybe I am a meer-ur hog when I go to studios because I don't have one at home? I was reading old posts on other Bikram geek blogs and came across someone's thoughts on not being able to see oneself in a mirror, the challenges it presents to proprioception and having to feel the posture from the inside out. The sense that the feedback has to come from the skeletal system itself, and not from any kind of visual feedback. This was so interesting to me! I feel like I am finally getting my hips square (Is that a dancer-specific term? I have no idea, but it just occurred to me that other people might not know what that means in the immediate way that I know what it means... Hmm.) in Balancing Stick, especially on the left/second side. And I've only felt that in the two most recent classes... at home, sans mirror.

• It's not hot enough. Enough said. (Well, actually, not enough said. I guess I could practice in my bathroom, all steamed up and with the home heat and a space heater on. But I really cannot foot a higher bill for oil or electricity. And I'm terrified of having to pay my own water bill in the house-to-be. So a good warmup, a space heater and warm clothes will suffice for now.)

• I hate that when I look up in Pranayama and Half-Moon, the overhead light burns out my retinas. Got to remember to do something about that.

• Being alone (most of the time) in a not-hot-enough living room makes me crave a studio!!! So while my goal is to do three home practices a week, maybe I could shoot for a weekend class in a studio, or one weekday night at a studio in the city. But whyyyyyy do classes have to be so expensive?? Gahhh. I miss work-study so much.

• Bikram says the funniest things on the CD dialogue. If a post's title is in quotes, it's probably from the CD. This one seemed appropriate for today.

Namaste! Hope you're having a beautiful day! :)

Monday, January 25, 2010


Walking home from the train station now. Loving this weather - 55 and rain. Feels like winter at home in san diego. Looking forward to a nice juicy practice when I get home. I was sweating after 10 minutes of walking!!

Some pics

B is a really good photographer, and has been having fun blending yoga with natural habitats... Here are a few pics from the past coupla years:

Mohonk Preserve, near New Paltz, N.Y. November 2007

Minnewaska Preserve (I think?), near New Paltz, N.Y. May 2008

Joshua Tree, Calif. February 2009

Hudson Highlands State Park, near Cold Spring, N.Y. January 2010

And a total goofing-off one from Joshua Tree, for good measure, because it makes me laugh:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"If you feel dizzy, nauseous, you must be happy!"

I did my one-day challenge! Yippee!!!

After hiking this morning for a long time, then errands in the afternoon, I was wiped out. Nerve pain from the fibro was kicking in, ughhh... Took a nap, sort of reluctantly, and had the whole mess of negative, self-loathing thoughts:

All I wanted to do today was yoga. Why did I get talked into hiking? I should have just stuck to my guns. Why do I even try to do a challenge? Why do I keep telling myself that yoga is so important, when clearly, it's not that important to me - otherwise I'd be more disciplined and act like it?? I'm so effing exhausted and in pain now, and I won't be able to practice. Why am I taking a nap, anyway? I should be downstairs on my mat.

I *did* make a good choice earlier today, though. The boyfriend was going bouldering, and although my ankle felt strong enough and some of the rock was warm, I decided to not climb, and save my energy for yoga practice. I just hiked and entertained a barking dog, and took pictures. It was *gorgeous* out today, and so nice to be in the sun (even if it was only 30 degrees).

I was grumpy then, but can say that all warm and smiley now, because after the nap, the boyfriend took the dog for a long walk and I fired up the Bikram CD and the space heater. I have been avoiding it, subconsciously I guess. It had always annoyed me, rubbed me the wrong way.

Or so I thought. Tonight, the non-dialogue was just funny. I did every posture, both sets, both sides. Even though my stomach felt gross. Even though I was tired. Even though I had the same excuses I always do. Bikram's notes, like "if you feel dizzy, nauseous, you must be happy!" make me smile, because yep, once again I was dizzy and nauseous. But here I was, practicing anyway. For most people blogging their 101-day challenge, and for myself for years, practicing despite feeling subpar is really no big deal.

But with where I'm at right now, it felt good to have the mental discipline as much as (OK, even more than) the physical discipline.

And when I was done and my boys got home, I was all happy and cuddly with the crazy dog. We walked down to the Thai place and I got spring rolls and amazing tom kha gai soup and mind-blowing jasmine tea. Even now, hours later, my body is tingly all over from the yoga, like I opened up some channels and my chi or prana or all of the above are flowing.

The other Bikram blogs out there are amazing to read... so inspiring, and with tons of insight (both physical and metaphysical) and support. Love this community, even when (especially when?) it's just me, the heater, and the CD.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Hey, I've done pranayama deep breathing in the shower, three days in a row!

Yeah, I didn't actually think that counted...

Now I'm considering doing a double tomorrow morning at the Danbury, CT, studio.

I have said this eleventy billion times already, but:

Maybe I could just find a doable middle ground, and stick with doing it?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

About that challenge (with lots of parentheticals).

Yesterday was day three of this yoga challenge that I wanted to do, and I've done one class. One class that totally, thoroughly, completely kicked my ass (my quads are still sore), but that's irrelevant. I want to be three for three. In my head, anyway, this yoga isn't like baseball, where a .333 batting average is good.

I come up with excuses: My sciatic is killing me. My throat/chest/maybe-ulcer hurts. I really need the sleep. If I stay up late and practice, I'll miss time with the boyfriend. It goes on and on. Maybe it's a case of knowing a little bit about too many things, but I also see this excuse-making/lethargy as a symptom of depression. Am I depressed? I dunno. I don't think so. I am crazy stressed out about buying a house and finances and the political climate and blah blah blah, but HELLO: It's all kind of just more excuses.

Tracking back to find the original post about the 40 Days to Yoga Freedom, I saw a link to another blog by a woman named Carissa. She's friends with Lindsay, of *shanti*love*yoga*. She has this to say:

you have to decide what matters. well, i have to decide what matters.

the truth is, we all live different lives and have our own challenges. we have weather, we have stresses, we have no money, we have no studio nearby, we have children and families and chores and community commitments and crazy bosses and nosey neighbors and bills to pay and traffic to sit in and a MILLION reasons not to do anything. but, this is not something i want to excuse anymore. time for some new commitments.

So here are my new commitments.

Practice a half-hour, three times a week, at home. (Ooh! I could totally do at least an hour on weekend days. But I'm getting ahead of myself.) Doesn't have to be Bikram stuff. Even though restorative yoga usually annoys me, it might be good for this chaotic time. Feel so much better, remember why you love yoga in the first place. If all goes according to plan (big, hearty laugh at "plan")), get more addicted and practice more.

B and I are planning (there I go again, using the p word) on fasting tonight, so I have "dinnertime" to do my yoga. I am so lucky that he is into it too. It's nice to have that support and enthusiasm...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day one, part two

So I set up in the front row, and kind of felt lame doing so. I didn't want to be "that girl," that person who waltzes into a studio like she owns the place without paying any kind of dues. I asked the woman who was already set up a little back and to my right if my mat was OK, and said I didn't want to be rude, to which she replied, "It's just yoga." I like being in the front because I can work on my wonky alignment, and I like the extra little bit of pressure to not slack when there are new students behind me.

But by awkward pose, I was having a hard time. Head pounding, difficulty keeping my breathing calm and under control. So I backed off a bit in both sets of each posture. Diane, who is warm and funny and makes you kick your own ass while you have no idea what's going on, gave me a great correction in Standing Head to Knee pose about standing up straighter before I begin to kick out. I'm fortunate to have something to remember, some nugget to take away from this class. Hell, I'm lucky I remember anything from this class.

I wanted to do a strong Standing Bow Pulling Pose — it's one of my favorite postures and on most days, I can do it pretty well. :) I thought that if I could do that strongly, it'd give me confidence, energy and momentum to keep going and head into the spine-strengthening series feeling good. By the time the second set of the posture was over, I was happy to count 10 seconds standing on one foot. Diane did mention something about me having a stronger Standing Bow after the correction in the previous posture — gonna have to revisit that connection soon.

A few more postures of barely hanging in there; I think I only managed one set of everything through Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee (including a Triangle that I was very proud of). Then Tree. I met my eyes in the mirror and tried to concentrate on them as everything else just fuzzed out. Come on, Catherine, you can stand up. Just breathe... Breathe, you can do this, I kept telling myself. But I couldn't. I couldn't even just stand there. I've fainted a couple times in my life, and this was really close to that. So I knelt down, for both Tree and Toe Stand, and the tears came. Were they because of the pain in my chest? Head? Frustration at not being a yoga rock star? Embarrassment for setting up in the first row, then sucking? Probably (e), all of the above.

I had had these grand intentions of dedicating my practice. To victims of the earthquake in Haiti. To people everywhere who fight for human rights. To healing for my cousin, who is recovering from getting hit by an SUV last month in L.A.

But nothing could have been further from my mind. I felt like I just had to survive the class, which is, of course, totally ridiculous in hindsight. But that opened the gateway to letting go, and that led to compassion. One post in this Bikram 101 blogging ring talks about this, with direction from a quote by Rolf Gates. "When we let go of something, our hand opens and we are able to receive." This could apply to so many things in the last three years of my life, but right now, it can just be about the yoga.

I took it easy through the rest of class, doing every posture, despite my growing sense that at any moment a hole would surely open up right in the middle of my chest, and some monster would crawl out of the base of my esophagus and join us for Half-Tortoise pose.

I was parched, but thought water would only worsen my digestive discomfort. It took about 15 minutes to normalize my heart rate after class. Judy came back into the studio, all cool skin and chill energy, and wrapped herself around me before rubbing my back. Luckily for me, Audrey dumped electrolytes into my water bottle as I staggered around the lobby.

I knew the ladies and their respective companions and I were going out, but a few more people joined us for dinner at Local Burger, a cool little spot. Turns out that of eight people, I was one of two nonteachers there. Diane went, and even though I wasn't sitting near her, she just bubbled with enthusiasm and positive energy. I'm dying to take more classes from her.

The studio's former owner, Charlie, was there too, and was fun to talk with over sweet potato fries. Stephanie, the woman I'd set up in front of, owns a studio near Las Vegas, Bikram Yoga Summerlin. At least two of the blogs I read have mentioned these teachers or studios, so I felt even more tied in to this amazing community.

Despite feeling like I had a horrible class and I didn't do anything physical, I'm still sore 48 hours later. And my guts are feeling a little better. There are so many reasons to do this yoga. Monday night reminded me of them. Can't wait to practice tonight.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day One, part one

Date: Jan. 18, 2010, 5:30 p.m.
Studio: Bikram Yoga Northampton
Teacher: Diane Ducharme

At least I got to go to Trader Joe's.

That was my initial thought a few minutes after class ended last night. I'm pretty sure it was the worst class of my yoga life. I tried to do at least one set of every posture, but I was swaying like a sapling in a hurricane as tree pose began, and I had to just sit down and stay down. I DID have a strong second set of triangle (after sitting out the first set), and didn't slide out into the splits, so I'll count that as one of many tiny victories.

The overwhelming feeling as I drove away from the studio at 9:30 was one of pure gratitude: for this yoga, for this amazing community both online and "in real life," for old friends who somehow stay close, and for new friends and sources of wisdom.

Audrey, a friend from Salt Lake, and her man bought the Bikram studio in Northampton (which, I believe, is missing an "h," but maybe that's just me), Massachusetts, effective Jan. 1. Another SLC friend, Judy, who teaches in Saratoga Springs, is even closer with Audrey. So when Judy took this weekend off to go to the Rajashree (Bikram's wife) seminar at Kripalu, and I had the day off for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, we decided we'd go take class together. I don't drive to work anymore; what's a couple hours in the car? Plus, I could go to Trader Joe's. And meet Judy's new friend from the seminar.

Monday dawned, and with it, a migraine (barking dog does not help). Oh yeah, and I think I might be developing an ulcer. This weird feeling of pressure where my esophagus meets my stomach hasn't gone away in a week. I'm not prone to digestive ailments. It feels better, briefly, when I burp. And it turned out that lovely-I've-never-taken-her-class-but-at-least-she's-my-friend-Audrey wouldn't be teaching Monday night. Instead, legendary teacher Diane Ducharme would. Eeeeeek!!

So I was a little tentative. Decided to wear waterproof mascara and pretty dangling earrings, trying to keep in mind that if I looked good, I'd feel good (well, better). I ate a couple pieces of toast with butter and jam, then took off on my three-hour (I had to run some errands first) jaunt.

It was really lovely out, warmish and sunny skies. Unfortunately, sun+driving concentration+crappy Connecticut drivers=worse migraine. Ugh. About 3, I took an Aleve. Didn't help. An hour and a half before class, I ate four pieces of sushi from Trader Joe's, where I was sooooo happy to go and stock up on stuff, as there isn't one very close to where I live. It was good to get something in my belly — it stopped the gnawing, roiling feeling I had going on. Still had a migraine. Lame!

At the studio, saw my friends and their friends. It was sooo great to see Audrey, and pass along words of encouragement and a big hug from one of my friends who had been her biggest fan/student in Sandy (Utah). Met the superintimidating and scary senior Bikram teacher, Diane. Just kidding! She wasn't any of that at all. She was warm, and totally put all the new students at ease. "All you have to do is breathe," she said. "Everything else is optional."

Monday, January 11, 2010

2 days, 2 classes!

B and I (and Leo) hiked Saturday around the quarry and took some pictures. I even did yoga in a couple of them. If they don't look ridiculous, maybe I'll put one up here! It was chilly and my left hamstring started bugging me (but my ankle did not! woohoo!). When we got home B took a nap. I was tired, but the yoga bug hit me and I did this YogaToday class with Neesha. It was fun, but I couldn't believe how hard it was to lift even an inch or two off the floor in the last bridge/backbend poses. I was swearing, but in a happy, cosmic, playful way... you'll have to do a few classes "with" her and you'll know what I mean...

Yesterday was full of cooking and errands and general catching up. After dinner, I was looking forward to watching a movie while waiting for bread to rise, then figured I'd do a yoga class during the bread's second rise, then clean up while the bread was in the oven (multitasker much?). And my feet hurt really, really badly from being barefoot (in the kitchen, natch) all afternoon/evening.

But B didn't want to watch a movie. While he was shaving, he had some sort of crisis about turning 34 this year, and getting out of shape. So he wanted to do yoga. We did this YogaToday class with Adi, the gentle asskicker. B must not be in too bad shape, because he could sit with his legs crossed, with his hands next to his hips, then lift his whole body off the ground. Maybe he wanted to show off? Jerkface.

The video was moving along great, until it wasn't. It crashed Firefox, then the same spot in the video crashed Safari. Bummer! But rather than throw in the (totally dry as this is not Bikram yoga) towel, we fired up iTunes and did the last 15 minutes of Adi's "Yoga for Rock Climbers (and Their Wannabe Climber Girlfriends)" class. She kills, KILLS the abs in every one of her classes, whether it's a full hourlong one, or a half-hour blog one, or this 10-minute one. I suppose that's what it takes to get abs like hers. That, and being a yoga teacher (and probably a climber, too).

So. Can I make it three in a row and practice tonight? We will see! Dinner is mostly prepped, so I can't use that as an excuse. Hamstring still hurts, and so does left forearm, so I need the yoga. Am loving reading the blogs at (and linked to from) Bikram 101. Been finding so many gems, insights, and other words of wisdom among those practicing in this little cybersangha...

Namaste, y'all!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Not sure how to do this

There is a 101 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge that started January 1.

I would love nothing more than to do this the official way - take at least one class daily at an affiliated studio. I loved going to Sandy for my 30-day challenge in August 2007... a 5-minute drive and free classes, as I was on a work-study agreement at the time.

I haven't figured out how to make up for the hours I lose on my new (well, 4-month-old) commute: 70-minute train ride followed by a 15- to 25-minute walk (depending on the route). There weren't any seats on the train last night so I stood on the platform between cars the whole way home. I spent a good 20 minutes wondering if there's a way to turn that into yoga time.

There's are a couple of studios fairly close to work. One of them even offers $7 classes! But they're earliest after-work class isn't until 6:30. The one time I took it, I didn't get home until after 10. I just don't know if that is sustainable...

So I practiced on the 1st with a full, real class. The 2nd filled up unexpectedly with real estate dealings (?!?! seriously). Then the 3rd did too, and it got all weird and I was aggro after a day around a realtor and my boyfriend's parents and him. Just a lot more people than I am used to talking loudly in close quarters, in a situation fraught with a lot of emotion. When we got home, boyfriend went to take a nap with the dog. I needed to do some yoga just to chill the heck out.

I was ridiculously sore from Friday still, but needed to do something. I did the dishes and straightened up the apartment, so at least my monkey mind wouldn't be worried about tidying. I settled in a little, not even rolling out a mat, and did the Bikram standing series. Pranayama (deep breathing) and one set of each posture (but both tree and an attempt at toe stand). 10 deep breaths in each position. It took about 30 minutes. (I have the CD and could have gone with that, but I felt like I needed something a little mellower.)

I was so much calmer afterward, and felt better for having done something.

This morning I did a few sun salutations (which sounds so silly to a Bikram fiend) (and in the dark, too!), just to loosen up. After two nights of the boyfriend having nightmares, we've resolved to do at least a half-hour of yoga tonight. Hoping that it settles his mind. That's so much more important than me dropping the pounds or stretching my hips.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

I took class on New Year's Day up at Hot Yoga Saratoga, about two hours north of where I live. my old, dear friend Judy teaches several classes a week there, and the stars and our schedules aligned last week to let me take her class. Yippee!!

It was my first class back in the hot room in over a month, since Nov. 29 when I went to a studio in San Diego. I'd done a couple of Ashtanga and one or two Anusara classes since with the lovely ladies at YogaToday, but there really is nothing like being in front of a mirror, body and ego bared, and ready to sweat out the issues in my tissues.

It was strange; Judy mentioned to one or two people that I was her friend, and one of them asked me if I was a teacher, too. My response surprised me: "Not yet." Where did that come from? Yoga in general, and teacher training in particular, have been so far from my mind lately...

Class was good. Packed, but good. I think I had a bit of an attitude when I went in, as I was upset about how snugly my top was fitting. When I weighed myself at my parents' house in San D at Thanksgiving, I was about about 15 pounds over my healthy weight, and about 20 from where I would really love to be (the same number as when I last wore that top). I kept repeating two words in my head: compassion, action. Respect where you are right now, and any limitations that might entail. Love your body for what it does for you, while actively making it healthier. I guess that's my New Year's mantra? (Are mantras allowed to be that long? That doesn't exactly flow in a chant-y, mantra-y way...)

As far as postures go... Everything was a challenge. StandingAttempting to stand on one leg for 60 seconds is the best rehab I can do for the ankle. For the first time possibly ever, I touched my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee Pose (Dandayamana - JanuShirasana) without falling backward. Maybe the rehab has helped me learn to keep my weight more in the ball of my foot at all times? More likely—I was really lucky and in the zone...

Got a bit of an attitude adjustment in the spine-strengthening series. :) With students' mats so close together, there's bound to be some overlapping of appendages in Full Locust Pose, when we start laying on our stomachs (legs together, arms outstretched like a "T"), then lift everything up. (One girl mentioned before class that she'd been whacked in the face once before during this pose.) Judy had joked that we'd get really friendly with our neighbors in this class; well, she didn't know the half of it... the woman next to me, who'd been kidding around all class (which you just don't do, especially in the front row) rested her hand on my butt. Several times. Now, if that wasn't a message that I needed to chill out and not take everything so seriously, I don't know what was. I mean, it wasn't appropriate, but it certainly wasn't going to cause the apocalypse. Who knows—maybe the energy exchange helped? I felt pretty strong flying "like a 747, jumbo jet liftoff."

Also during the spine-strengthening series: Floor Bow. This pose has always irritated me, as I feel that because backbends are easy, my back should just take the hint and fold up in this posture, too. It's always been a struggle to get my weight off of my hips and onto my belly. Also, I think I haven't figured out how to hold onto my feet and relax my shoulders at the same time, which (I think) would let my chest lift up and back. There was that one time, though, in summer 2007 (I think) when my old teacher Alex lifted me up from my ankles to illustrate the pose's potential teardrop shape. Hoping to get back to that...

Judy helped me in the second set of Half-Tortoise by pushing down on my back and holding my hips down as I came up at the end. I don't know if my back muscles are crazy tight, but it has always been really hard to keep my butt on my heels in this posture. I think my back muscles are really shortened, which is why backbends are easier than forward bends.

No other postures are standing out in my mind challenge-wise, 72 hours after the class... but I'm still sore. Toward the end of class, Judy mentioned something about people going home and eating leftovers and I almost threw up on the spot, so I must have done a fair amount of detoxing. It felt good to be in there again, even if I hated looking at my body. (It wasn't so bad once class started; it's hard to worry about fat rolls when refrains of "one knee, lamppost, unbroken" are buzzing in my ears.)

So that's where I'm at. Rededicated? I don't know. I really want to be. I know that to practice every day, I have to commit to practicing every day and stop thinking of it as optional. "But it's so hard," she whines, "when there are a million other things that need to get done. Like sleep." We'll see how it goes. Something is better than nothing. Getting out of bed is the hardest part.