Thursday, February 25, 2010

"The right way is the hard way."

Last night, I walked out of the train and into a soggy, dirty, mess of a town. Despite some workday text messages with the boyfriend about practicing yoga, I was thinking the whole ride home that it'd be so much easier to just to heat up some leftovers, make a fire, and sink into the couch to watch that "Say Anything" Netflix that's been sitting around for a few days too many.

His enthusiasm, however, hadn't flagged. He'd turned on the space heater an hour before I even got home. Then he built a fire while I tried to make a treat bomb (fill this with peanut butter, banana and various treats) for our dog, who is slightly hyper and needy.

The fireplace and space heater were blazing, so in sweatpants, long-sleeve shirts and hoodies, we began CD "class." Just like in the studio, he did really well. I saw him kicking out in standing head to knee, and wondered if his standing leg was locked (I know I've seen a lot of beginners, especially guys with tight hamstrings, kick out despite a bent standing knee). It was locked! I was so proud.

Half-moon has been a "comfortable" posture, at least mentally, for a long time. That first bend to the right feels so, so good. The particular twists and turns of my scoliosis (which has returned only after lacking a regular practice for nearly two years) make the right side "easy." Even at home, when it's not "studio-hot," I can get some good depth...

But the left side, oh man. It's so hard. Those same twists and turns conspire to keep the left side stiff. Recently I even identified "fear" as a sensation as I start that bend. I am not sure what it is I am scared of. The word has popped into my head a few times as I start to bend to the left, when I feel the first twinge that my shoulder blade and spine are shifting... Because of my spine's rotation, it is extra hard to pull my left shoulder and ribcage forward and my right side back. Sure, it would be easy to plop down, and have nearly the same silhouette as the right side, but it would be wrong.

Bikram says in the orange book, among other places, that there is only one way [to do things], and that is the right way. And the right way is the hard way.

In the not-studio-hot room at home, I have no choice (after typing that, I hear in my head Bikram's voice from the CD: "is like Indian marriage, no choice") but to focus on my postures' form, and not worry about depth. I had no idea until I sat down to write this how much I relied on the heat to help me attain "depth" in the postures. Stretching has become harder, but I am focusing more on correct alignment, and I'm feeling new muscles.

So although maintaining a practice can be hard, both mentally (motivationally? is that even a word?) and physically, I know it's the right way to do things. Today I feel lighter. It actually feels like my spine is longer, like my ribs are further from my hips (three-quarters of an inch instead of a half-inch, maybe). The walk in to work today was pleasant, despite the rain. My neck is a little sore, my abs are a little sore, and my back is a little sore. I'm happy to feel my body like that, because those are all little reminders that I was doing things the right way. At least for one night. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Practicing with dizziness?

I've had a head/chest cold for about a week now. As of yesterday (Monday) morning, I'm dizzy more often than I'm not. Weird, huh?

Sunday night, I was anxious and irritated and even while I was trying to take a nice, relaxing bath, I could feel my muscles tensing up and my attitude becoming more and more unpleasant. I'd had the heater on in the bathroom and my face was sweating in the bath (I do realize this sounds like it could be going in an unsavory direction...).

It was strange. I started feeling nauseous. I tried to stand up to take a shower and was really dizzy, seeing stars and ringing ears and all of that. I *know* I didn't get any water deep in my ears.

Maybe it was some kind of detoxing? That's kind of what it felt like. Ew.

Anyway - I want to practice, but I'm worried about practicing while I'm still a little dizzy. Any suggestions/ideas?

Friday, February 19, 2010

3 days, 2 classes, 1 studio...

... and 0 clean, dry towels left at home.
And I couldn't be happier. :)

Has it really been almost a week since I went back to a studio? Amazing. The boyfriend mentioned wanting to do some yoga last weekend, so I checked the websites of the two closest studios. Dingdingding!!! We had a winner. The studio 40 minutes southeast of us had a $10 donation-based class scheduled at just the right time on Saturday.

We went, the owner taught, the heat was perfect, I loved it, B loved it. I'd been to this studio only twice before: on Thanksgiving 2008, and some random day last year. Always good experiences, it's just kinda far away, and at 20 bucks a pop for regular classes, kinda expensive, too. It's especially hard to consider joining when we're about to buy a house and money will be even tighter than before. I love this job, and I can't put a price tag on contentment, but taking a 15% cut has some practical consequences...

I got two interesting corrections in class, that directly contradict what I've been taught before and have read in Bikram's books. I did the postures "her way" after the corrections, out of respect for her teacherness, but I still wonder.

First, for the third part of locust, she told us to put our foreheads on the towel. Not just kiss the towel, but tuck the chin all the way to get the forehead down. I was like, But if I do that, I won't get my callus back under my chin!!! Just kidding. I was really thinking, My nose! It's broken!!! The boyfriend actually has quite a large nose. I don't really know how/if he did it the way she said. But damned if I didn't get my legs way higher in the second set. Have any other yogis/yoginis heard this?

Second, in janushirasana, the head-to-knee pose toward the end of class, she told me to grab my foot and stretch toward my foot, with a flat back, before tucking my chin and touching my head to my knee. More like the setup for standing head to knee than, say, rabbit. I had always been taught to grab my foot, then curl down. "This is a compression posture first, and a stretching posture second." Right? No? Thoughts?

B had taken a Bikram class five-plus years ago in a studio in southern San Diego, and he liked it. A few nights before the Saturday class, we ran through a single set of the series at home. So maybe those two things helped him on Saturday: At the end of class, the teacher/studio owner congratulated him on his first class, and said that maybe he was really a spy student from headquarters sent by Bikram to check on the studio. (That sounds almost creepy now, but it was just sweet and funny when she said it.)

Saturday night and Sunday we peeked in at to watch the asana championship. I didn't see any of my old Utah friends, including Marc, compete, but an old teacher of mine was representing Nevada. I was so excited when she won the national competition, with the most beautiful smile on her face the entire time! My computer/the live feed was screwing up on Sunday, so I didn't get the "streaming" experience, but I saw choppy pieces of another incredible performance by Brandy. She was always such a great teacher, and I had the privilege of practicing next to her several times.

Did that alone inspire me to get to class on Monday, when dead presidents got me a day off from work? I don't know. But I went back. The teacher (not the same one) had me move my mat to a weird, awkward place (I think because we were starting class while waiting for a couple people, and she wanted to save them spots in the middle row? I think? But they never showed.), then she was rapid-fire with the dialogue. Nothing but. There was no room for light or air in her delivery. Most teachers, if not all the ones I've had, will chill out for at least one or two of the pranayama breaths and just count to six on the inhale and exhale a few times. Not this lady. I was so aggravated and rubbed the wrong way! I don't think I've ever left class before, but I was thisclose on Monday.

In the setup for triangle, she was speaking so fast that I literally couldn't understand her. She was like a drill sergeant auctioneer. Unbelieveable. But by this point I was having a decent class, strong enough/flexible enough, but also one where it's just enough that you got to the studio. You know? After class I was thanking her for teaching, and out came these words: "I came in here today with really low energy and you were just 'boom, boom, boom' (snapping my fingers) and I didn't have a choice but to go with it." Whaddya know. My subconscious came through. It's not you, it's me.

I ended up talking with her for about 20 minutes, and she's great. Her daughter is a teacher, too. The daughter's first class taught after returning from training? My Thanksgiving class in ’08. I remember that she knew Utah friend Marc at training. Another guy from that training teaches at the studio and was in Monday's class. Amazing how this little yoga world of ours works.

She encouraged me to come back often. I mentioned sucky finances and that I'd done work-study in Utah. She said I should talk to the owner about work-study there. I was like, Ummmm, I've come here four times in three years. Usually it doesn't work like that? But I guess with them knowing I've been practicing at home, they are less inclined to think that I'm just a wannabe moocher. The owner is headed to Barcelona for the Bikram seminar (with bloggers aHappyYogi and Johan, too!) in less than two weeks, and I don't know whether to email her before or after. Sooner's probably better, huh? How do I ask? Sheesh. I think my old studio owners would give me a good reference.

It was soooo nice to get back into a studio, not just for the heat, but for the community, too. Sometimes we talk about how we can feed off of one another's energy during class, and lift one another up during some postures, especially triangle and full locust. Well, I think the concept applies to the whole studio experience, too. I get more stoked on yoga in general when I'm around other people who are excited about it. Isn't there some physics/chemistry concept about attraction that addresses this? (Gonna have to look that up... Ninth-grade chemistry was 14 years ago. Shit - half a lifetime. Moving on...)

So now I have this itching, burning feeling in my belly. I find myself daydreaming and conniving about how and when I can get back to practicing in a studio.

Congratulations to the Bikram 101 Challengers!!! I probably wouldn't be going through any of this if I hadn't seen the group on Facebook last December and gotten intrigued. Thanks to the organizers — here, here, and here. :) You guys are halfway done (Action JoJo, you're not far behind!), and you inspire me every day! Keep rocking it, worldwide yogis!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stalling (and a funny book)

I was just walking down the hall at work, and an urge to do triangle struck me. It almost felt like my hip sockets were itchy.

So I took a detour to the ladies' room, where the extra-large disabled stall awaited. No one was in there, so I proceeded to bust out some half-moon ("rightandleftandrightandleft, 10, 15 times," echoing in my brain). Then I angled, awkwardly, diagonally across the stall for a little workplace trikonasana. It felt good to get into my hips! Couldn't get them down as far as I wanted to, to really get into those sockets, but it was better than nothing! Definitely the strangest place I've ever "practiced."

So readers, I want to know: What is the most unusual place you've ever struck a pose?

I found this funny book at the library last week:

This picture, on the back, made me wonder if these ladies know the awesomeness that is the second part of awkward pose?

It's gorgeously clear and cold out now, but we're expecting up to a foot of snow through Thursday morning... It's not much compared to my southerly neighbors, and I lived in Utah for eight years, so I know a good storm, but man... I guess you can take the girl out of San Diego, but you can't take San Diego out of the girl. It would be awful nice to stay home tomorrow, curling up with a good book, the dog, and some tea in front of my fireplace while it dumps snow outside. I don't mind snow, as long as I don't have to do anything in it.

I hope everyone is having a beautiful day!

Monday, February 8, 2010



"I would not exchange the laughter of my heart for the fortunes of the multitudes; nor would I be content with converting my tears, invited by my agonized self, into calm. It is my fervent hope that my whole life on this earth will ever be tears and laughter".
~Kahlil Gibran

Have been feeling so much better since writing that last post. I've always had the hardest time with calming my mind in savasana; the whole "acknowledge each thought and let it pass, as a cloud," kinda thing. It's just rarely worked for me. Well, I acknowledged many of my difficult thoughts in that last post, and they have passed... Just like those clouds.

Many thanks to everyone who commented. I was so surprised and humbled by the reflectiveness, honesty, and compassion that came though. :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Peeling the onion

Last night I just about went crazy looking for a very important piece of paperwork. Who knew I needed a copy of my divorce decree to apply for a mortgage? I've only done each of these things once; I don't know what kind of paperwork you need to have on hand. The divorce was so basic and simple that it never occurred to me that I'd need documentation of a settlement — there wasn't one.

I was so, so, soooo frustrated in searching for this piece of paper (which, not coincidentally, arrived in the mail on my birthday in 2008) that at one point I was ready to scream! The file that I thought it was in, it wasn't. B and I searched high and low (he's a good sport) through stacks of bills and statements and various paperwork, but it was nowhere to be found. Somewhere, there are several boxes that I haven't opened since we moved 15 months ago, and I know that some of my favorite yoga clothes are in one. I'd bet that effing paper is in there, too.

At first, it seemed like the stress of homebuying was at the root of my frustration. Then, I thought it was the chaos and overwhelmed feeling I got from having so many papers in so many piles all over the apartment (oh, I have grand visions of organization at the new place, believe you me).

But really, the downright anguish I felt came from guilt and shame erupting, once again. Looking through the filing paperwork made me feel like the biggest asshole. It took me right back to May 2008 when I looked someone in the eye and told him for the last time, "It's not you, it's me," and meant it, and watched his whole world fall apart, again. I know with every piece of my being that it was the right decision. But knowing that doesn't make me feel like a good person. It just makes me feel callous and selfish...

At that time, yoga, day in and day out, was the only road to peace and solace I had. I don't know if I was simply drinking the Kool-Aid that Bikram teaches, that if you can stay calm and collected upside-down in a hot room, then you can stay calm and collected under any circumstances. Did the yoga help me become a cold, callous bitch? I don't think so, because in every other arena of my life (at the time) I was incredibly feeling... But where's the balance between strength and compassion? Nonharming nonviolence, anyone?

I don't know how to deal with feeling these, all over again. It feels like the several-month period when I'd go in the yoga room for class and once we hit the floor, I'd just cry, those huge, quaking, silent sobs. Eventually, the sobs passed.

How do I work through this guilt for good, when I thought I already had? Is it even possible to resolve it completely? When do I stop feeling like a shitty person whenever the D word comes up?

Ughhh. Somehow, writing this all out has calmed me. I've been avoiding the mat this week, afraid that the demons will creep out again. I don't want to scare anyone.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"Long way from home, to kill yourself..."

So I've been keeping up on my little challenge so far. For two weeks in a row, I've practiced three times each week. The first week, it was three full-length Bikram classes! The second week, it was one single-set class and two regular classes. Only the first class of all six was in a studio, but that's OK. I can bundle with the best of 'em.

I was sweating almost immediately yesterday! I wonder if, after the past few years of classes, there's some kind of muscle/body memory that tells my pores to open wide as soon as I start the Pranayama breathing? My iTunes crashed after Fixed Firm pose yesterday, so I did the remaining postures in silence... It was nice.

I got to hold Camel as long as I wanted (yes, I'm one of those sickos who really enjoys it), so I stayed upside-down for ten long, deep, slow breaths. But I made a deal with myself: I have to stay in Rabbit posture for the same length of time that I hold Camel. My upper and middle back are so stiff (e.g. 90-degree backbends from my lower back, wonkily wrapped arms in Eagle, miserable floor bow, among others) that I really have to constantly think about rounding "360 degree angle," and lifting my hips to stretch my back. A teacher once said going into this posture should be like "curling in on yourself like a cinnamon roll." I like that visual, even though it makes me just a little bit hungry sometimes. Increasing flexibility in my upper back is a big goal of mine.

After practicing yesterday, I went on a reeeeeaaaally cold hike with B and the dog along the face of Mount Beacon (an old fallback that takes an hour flat. We call it Leo's Loop). It was so nice to see the sun set over the river. Between the yoga and the hike, I'm sore today. It feels good! :)