Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Starting from Scratch

"It's never too bad, never too late, and you're never too old or too sick to start from scratch and be born once again."  - Bikram, after Bishnu Ghosh

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."  - Carl Sagan

In Bikram yoga, we are reminded that it is always possible to start from scratch, to go back to the beginning and have a new, better life.  But what does it really mean to start from scratch?  How many layers do we need to peel away from our bodies and our minds, and how deep does the rabbit hole go?

On the surface, we have the layers of our habits.  An everyday yoga class gives good example.  Our habits become so natural to us that we don't even notice them; we think that this is "just the way we are."  Out of pure habit, our minds tell us so many things.  I need to stand in the cool part of the room.  I'm not good at standing head to knee.  That teacher doesn't like me.  I could never wear a sports bra with my stomach.  I can't get through triangle pose.  I can't do more than one class a week.  I really need some extra water.  I need to leave.  I'm too stiff, I'm too old, my back doesn't bend, my elbows don't lock, my knees don't straighten, I'm not strong enough, it's too hot, and I could never wear those short shorts!  These thoughts are all habits!  "Just the way it is" is a lie that holds us back.  Patiently, one by one, we need to peel these ideas away, release them, and let them float away into nothing.

On our bodies, we wear the layers of the years.  Like rings on a tree, our bodies tell the stories of our lives.  In a very real and physical sense, the body has a memory.  Look at the set of your shoulders, and you'll find the years that you spent hunched over at your desk job.  Look in your joints, and you'll find the marathon that you ran a few years ago.  Look at the weakness in your heart and lung muscles, and you'll see the year that you stopped exercising.  Look at the tension stored in the fascia, the deepest layer of tissue that runs through your whole body, and you'll see the stress and unhappiness left behind by your years in an unhappy relationship.  It's all in there.  But through yoga practice, these things can all be cleared away, until eventually the slate is wiped clean.

And we can go deeper.  Think about how subjective all of your experiences really are.  Imagine that you're in a yoga class with 30 other people.  You all are in the same room, listening to the same teacher, hearing the same dialogue.  At the end, have you had 30 identical experiences?  Of course not!  Thirty completely different events have just taken place in those 90 minutes.  (Thirty-one if you count the teacher.)  So why do we all hear the same words so differently?  Because the world we experience today is colored by everything we've done and thought in the past.  If we've been harsh and critical toward ourselves in the past, then even the most gentle correction can sound like a harsh reprimand.  If we've struggled with our own self-worth, then the simplest helpful reminder can feel like yet another blow.  In a way, these mental patterns are simply the deepest layer of habit.  But they are very sneaky.  They are hard to observe and difficult to break.  In order to truly "start from scratch," these are the thought patterns that we eventually need to dig up.  Don't worry; the yoga helps.

Now let's have some fun and look at the body again.  How far can we really break it down?  The body is made up of about 50 trillion cells (give or take a few), and each cell contains so many atoms that it'll give you a headache to think about it.  And when you get down to it (and remember your high school physics class), each atom is about 99% empty space.  So where does that leave us?  Roughly speaking, we are 1% sub-atomic matter and 99% energy.  Another good word for "energy" is "light."  You only thought that you were solid.

Carl Sagan says, "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."  The same can be said of the human body.  Just think of where you came from; think of all the cosmic events that led to the creation of you.  Through divine energy or an accident of physics (depending on your viewpoint), the universe was created.  The big bang is dated at about 14 billion years ago.  The universe begins, and then expands.  Our sun is born, and our planet.  After a few billion years, single-celled life emerges.  Two or three billion years later, multi-celled life finally forms.  Fast-forward through another couple billion years of evolution, and here we are, walking, breathing, talking, and thinking.  Fifty trillion cells, capable of perceiving, hurting, giving, understanding, and loving.  Just think of it!

We are constantly in a state of renewal, and it's always possible to start from scratch.  As we turn over the calendar, to a new year and a new decade, now seems like perfectly good time to get started!  Sure, the calendar is arbitrary.  But don't underestimate the power of the collective.  When the bulk of the world's population wakes up on January 1st and thinks, "Okay, this is a good time for renewal," there's got to be some power in that.  Take advantage of it!

Happy New Year!!

P.S.  Be sure to visit Bikram 101, on blogger and on facebook, for the worldwide 101-day Bikram Yoga Challenge that begins in just a couple days, on January 1st, 2010.  It's a good way to kick off the decade.

P.P.S.  I am a shameless nerd, and I share a house with a future astronomy professor.  Here is the weird, funny, and beautiful video that inspired the Carl Sagan line of thought.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

I really love being around my New England families.  I've got my "real" family at home in western Mass., and my yoga family just a couple hours away in Boston.

We keep each other so warm inside, I don't even notice the snow.  There is more than one double meaning in that sentence!

I really can't give a blow-by-blow recap of this week, partly because there is just so much, and partly because some of the best moments and details are mine alone, and I need to honor them by holding them close.  But here are some of the things I've loved since I've been here:

Being reunited with one of my best friends in the world for an evening and seeing her dance on stage.  I hadn't seen her in maybe a year, and it's crazy how when we're together, it seems like no time has passed and we've never been apart.  Are some friendships just like that forever?

Seeing one of my first teachers again and practicing side by side like sisters, sharing stories, technique, ideas and laughter.

Walking into class in Bikram Yoga Boston after almost a year away and being greeted by half a dozen familiar faces.  I finally feel like I've been gone for a while, because there have been two cycles of teacher training since the last time I spent time here and there are all these teacher who I don't really know, but plenty of the regular students who I used to see every week are still around!

Hearing the dialogue EVERYWHERE!  New England rocks.

Having long meals and even longer conversations some of my favorite people, the New England yoga teachers and studio owners who got me started and filled me up with love before I went out to make my own way in the world.  Brad and Tomo, Jill, Diane, Charlie, and of course ALL the members, new and old, of the Tuesday afternoon West Roxbury lunch brigade.

Staying with the oh-so-lovely hannahjustbreathe (and her cute cat!!) for a few nights, sharing ideas, and finally getting her into Diane's class!  (Muahaha.)  We took Diane's class side by side, and it was fantastic to share that with her.


Bookending my trip with a couple of totally killer and delicious classes in the little BYB studio on Lincoln Street.  (I actually started and finished my east coast visit in exactly the same way: class at Lincoln Street followed by soup at Pho Pasteur!)  The word for that room is "cozy" if you love it and "small" if you don't.  I absolutely love it.  Plenty of bigger and better practice spaces have since been built , but this one is the original Boston studio and my original Bikram home.  Call me sentimental if you like, but DAMN the humidity in that little room feels good on my body!

And of course, it was wonderful to see my FAMILY again!  I only had four days in my hometown (Northampton, in western Mass), and it wasn't long enough, but they were a good four days.  I finally had the chance to tell both my parents about my new life plans in person, which was great.  (Sometimes email and phone just aren't enough!)  Family gatherings are extra fun when you have some big news about your life that you're actually excited to share!  My sister and I spent one whole day baking Christmas cookies, we watched Love Actually for the 256th time (approxmiately) on Christmas Eve, and we did ALL the cooking for the Christmas dinner with no mess or stress.  We are a pretty rocking team in the kitchen.  The star of Christmas Day was definitely my cousin's 9-month-old baby, Spencer.  He's the first baby we've had in the family since my sister was born 22 years ago; it's the start of the next generation!!  And of course I'm biased, but he is absolutely adorable.  Another highlight was when Christmas carol singing evolved into Broadway show tune singing, with my step-sister's fiancee on the piano.  I know the words to a LOT of Broadway music.  And it turns out that my cousin's husband does a killer job on Pumba's songs from The Lion King - I could barely get Timon's part out because I was laughing so hard.  My family has expanded a lot this year and I really like it!

I'm flying back west at 6am tomorrow, and we will then return you to your regularly scheduled programming.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all, and enjoy the last days of the DECADE!  The next one is gonna be a really good one.  I can already feel it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

LA Headquarters, Olympic Spa, and Boston!

I am writing happily from snowy Boston right now!  We got some snow in Boston today and I was totally delighted to be here for the year's first big snow.  (The news kept calling it a "blizzard" but it is definitely not that bad, and it seems a bit warmer than it was a couple days ago.)

This week has felt long and PACKED, and it's been awesome.  I guess the last time I wrote was late on Tuesday night when Mei and I had just returned to my house after our road trip to San Francisco.  We got up early on Wednesday, packed up our things, and drove down to LA for a couple of classes at Headquarters.  We took the 10:30am as a "warm-up" for the advanced class, and it turned out to be FANTASTIC.  A woman named Francesca (spelling?! no idea) taught, and she was incredible.  I'd seen her in classes in LA before, and had no idea she was such a powerhouse.  She had this beautiful, strong, melodic voice with a British-sounding accent (I'm really bad at identifying accents), and her class was a just a treat.  She was powerful when she needed to be and comforting when she needed to be, and she definitely carried me through.

We went straight into advanced class after that, which started at about 12:15 with Emmy.  It was a pretty full class, with lots of familiar faces and strong yogis - both of this year's SoCal champions were there, along with Esak Garcia and his wife Stephanie (who is also a champion and was spell-binding to watch).  There were probably about 30 of us, and the guys were proud that they NEARLY outnumbered the girls this time.  Not sure if they were counting Emmy.  Girls - ahem - I know there are some of you from LA who read this - you'd better come and represent next time before they take over!!

My advanced practice was, uhh, passable.  I've barely done it at all this fall!  So sad.  One of my goals for next year is to do advanced series once a week again, preferably with Emmy!  But it felt good to take my body through that range of motion again.  Some parts were predictably uncomfortable (like the super deep backbends that I hadn't done in ages), and others were unexpectedly great.  (I did the best "short man" of my life, totally out of the blue, balancing without a problem until I felt ready to come out.  Weirdly enough, so did Mei.)  But even when my personal practice is not at its peak, I always really enjoy being in the room with Emmy and sharing the great energy with all the other dedicated yogis.  And I accidentally set myself up directly in Emmy's line of vision, so that earned me a couple of corrections, which was good, too!

After class, we made an ill-fated attempt to get lunch at Govinda's buffet (which was closed by the time we got there!), had some cheap Indian food, then turned around and went to THE SPA.  Olympic Spa in Koreatown is one of my favorite spots in LA.  It's a traditional all-female Korean style bathhouse.  The day pass is $15 and gives you access to all the pools and saunas.  So we recovered from our many hours of yoga and 900 miles of driving (!!) by soaking in the REALLY COLD and REALLY HOT tubs, sweating a little in the saunas and steam rooms (I didn't steam for very long, but they have the best steam room EVER there), drinking lots of water and free tea, lounging on the couches, and napping in savasana on the warmed floors.  It was lovely.  By the time we had dinner and headed to my friend's house to sleep for the night, we were ridiculously wiped out, but feeling goooooood.

I woke up late on Thursday and made my flight out of LAX by the skin of my teeth (so to speak).  Spent the flight from LA to Denver chatting with a sweet guy next to me from El Salvador who was heading to Arkansas to see his sister.  Planned to spend the flight from Denver to Boston reading a book; I got three pages in and then passed out asleep, woke up on the descent with a crick in my neck.  Whoops!!  Here's the highlight of the day: I was taking the subway into the city after I left the airport, and at 7:30pm I was passing through South Station, right around the corner from my original yoga studio, and I thought: "Hey, what time is the last yoga class today?  Isn't it... 7:45?"  So I hopped off the train, with backpack, bag, and suitcase in tow, and rolled down the block to Bikram Yoga Boston in Chinatown, where a good friend of mine was getting ready to teach the 7:45 class!  Hooray!!  I took her class and it felt amazing.  Incidentally, this gave me a great idea: yoga studios in airports!  Travel would be infinitely improved!!  Anyway, we went out for Pho in Chinatown after class and had a great time catching up.  It was such great luck to catch her like that.  Couldn't have been better if I'd planned it!

Much more on Boston later, but I'll leave it here for now...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Santa Cruz, Global Yoga, and Hearst Castle

Yoga road trip = GREAT SUCCESS, and it ain't over yet!

Let's see, where was I?  Last time I wrote, Mei and I were getting packed for our trip up to San Francisco.  After 700+ miles of driving and a few hours of quality sweating, we are right back on my couch where we started, doing some laundry and getting ready for the next (and sadly, last!) leg of the trip.

We drove up Highway 1 to Santa Cruz in the rain on Friday and met up with the fabulous Mckinley (aka ilovesweat) at his place.  He's got some awesome real estate there; fruit trees everywhere!  He was ridiculously sweet and generous, loading us up with fresh fruit, locally baked cookies, Kombucha, and some great Mexican food for dinner.  The three of us practiced together at Village Yoga in Santa Cruz, and I give huge props to that studio, because I was totally impressed with my experience there!  The teacher was great - encouraging,  technically accurate, experienced, and funny - and the room was packed with enthusiastic students.  It feels so good to be in a room full of rocking yogis.  (And I had McK right behind me keeping me honest!)  Between the rain outside and the sweaty bodies inside, I think I produced more sweat in that class than I have since August.  (My regular studio has been so dry lately!  Darn weather.)  It felt fabulous.  After class, we ended up hanging around with a couple of the instructors, and one of them (Shawn) did some Synergy with me and Mei.  Synergy is a fun partner-yoga thing that complements the Bikram series really well and feels absolutely fantastic.  Natural human traction with a partner.  Mckinley grabbed some cool pictures - HERE.

We continued up to San Francisco to spend the night, since a friend of mine had offered us the use of her temporarily vacant apartment right in the middle of the city.  I am still happy that we managed to NOT DIE driving up Highway 17 at night in the rain and mist, which was honestly one of the scariest driving experiences I have ever had.  I mean, the conditions were so terrible, it was like a joke.  It looked like a Stephen King book.  The one fabulous part was that when we got up to Los Gatos (i.e. return to civilization), I stopped in at a gas station to buy a coffee, and the sweet Hindi (?) guy who was working there saw my Bikram Yoga sweatshirt and asked if I do yoga.  I said "Yes, I love it," and went to pay for my coffee.  He said "Don't worry about it" and wouldn't charge me.  I thought that was a nice karmic moment, and what a nice guy!

So that was Saturday.  On Sunday morning, we called Global Yoga and found out that Mary Jarvis was teaching that day at 5pm, so we slept late, got lunch at a great 50's style diner down the street, and then basically just bummed around my friend's apartment for the afternoon, listening to the rain. (I actually had a paper due on Monday for school that I was still finishing up!)  Getting to the yoga studio was another fun driving adventure.  I had never been to San Francisco before.  Let me tell you, for those of you who have never been there either - when they say that San Francisco has hills, they mean that San Francisco has HILLS!!!!  Holy guacamole. We went up and over Divisadero St, which is apparently one of the more steep hills.  I swear to god, those streets go up at more than a 45 degree angle.  So for about 7 blocks, each block goes UP and I go "oh crap oh crap oh crap" as I power my car up to the next intersection.  (My car actually did great.  I love my Toyota.)  Then we get to the TOP and OH SHIT - I had not realized that what goes UP must come DOWN.  I mean, maybe the yoga studio could have been on TOP of the hill?  But nope!  We get to go back DOWN at, I swear to god, like a 60 degree angle.  So for the next 7 blocks, I'm going "oooooooooh Jesus lord!!" every time I inch over another crest.  I think Mei was entertained by my dramatics.

After somehow surviving the hills, and finding street parking in only 15 minutes (go me!), we made it to Global Yoga and met up with our blogger friend and hostess Lucille.  The 5pm class was PACKED, largely with teachers.  The teachers at Global Yoga all practice in the back of the room, with no water, so I set up camp near the back of the room too so I wouldn't feel left out!  Haha.  I think the back two rows were all teachers except for me, and one new guy.  Seriously, there was fantastic energy in that room, ALL over the room, but especially in the back part of the room!

Mary's classes were fantastic.  I have to give her credit right away for knowing who is in her room at all times, because she was on the ball!  I'd thought about introducing myself before class, but didn't see her when I came in, so I thought, "Oh well, that's cool, I'll just be anonymous right now and then go say hello after class."  Hah.  We get as far as the set-up for half moon before she goes, "Where's Juliana?"  I give her a smile and a wave.  She says, "Hi, I just saw your message on facebook, sorry I didn't respond earlier..."  (I had written just to say that I was going to be in the area.)  I am impressed.  I hope I am that good with names when I am a teacher!  Then about half a posture later she goes, "Where's Mei?  Congratulations on finishing teacher training!" so we are both totally busted.  So much for anonymity.  Heehee.

So we took Mary's class two days in a row, Sunday and Monday, and I'm so glad that we did.  She is great, and it's easy to see why she has such a strong following!  She's been doing this yoga stuff, and doing it really well, for a really long time.  She definitely does her own thing to some extent, having been trained by Bikram way before the dialogue was invented.  If you've taken her class, you know that it ain't dialogue, but the technical content is good and true.  It was very interesting.  I'm kind of hitting a wall here when I try to describe her style - I think I am still "processing."  Maybe I will try to write about this again later!!  But I got a lot out of it.  Mary definitely zeroed in on my technical problems pretty much instantaneously, so I got some very clear instructions and corrections that I am excited to work on.  So thank you, Mary!!  And I'll tell you, I did camel pose like I've never done it before.  It made my whole body tingle.  It might as well have been the first backbend of my life - it felt that strange and freaky and interesting.  (That was the word of the weekend - interesting.  "Be interested, not interesting.")

Some of you folks may not be aware that any politics exist between yoga studios.  Good for you, ignorance is nice, enjoy it!  Those of you who have been around the block a few more times have probably noticed that - gasp! - not all Bikram yoga teachers and studio owners agree with each other on everything!  Well, what do you know, that's life.  There are some things that are definitely different at Global Yoga, and it was great for me to actually practice there and get a feel for how things are done there and why.  Food for thought!  There were a lot of things Mary said that were totally 100% consistent with the things I've learned from my favorite dialogue purists, so that was lovely.  I feel like all the best teachers really are saying the same things, just in their own ways.  And I will borrow from Lucille, and I hope she doesn't mind, because I think she's got her head on straight and I was inspired by her.  She says - paraphrasing just a little - Fuck the camps!  Just be in your own camp and learn everything you can, from everyone you can.  Bingo.

And for the record, Mary is not "scary"!  Good lord.  I mean, I'm sure you could piss her off if you did something totally asshole-ish.  (Then I'd be pissed off, too!  Be scared of me!!  Just kidding.)  But she has a great way of saying, "It's not that you're an asshole, but your actions are those of an asshole," hypothetically speaking.  And the famous "no water" thing at her studio is only a "rule" for teachers and is not really a big deal.  We all ditched our water bottles and were fine.  And she's nice!  Like super nice.  She's not there to bust your balls, she's there to help you out.  I really liked her.

In between classes, we stayed at Lucille's cabin up north of the Golden Gate bridge, which was a gorgeous, cozy spot with a killer view.  Lucille is a seriously great hostess and a fabulous cook.  And her dog is adorable - a labradoodle named Higby.  (Labrador + Poodle = Labradoodle!)  There's nothing better than enjoying a homemade dinner with a couple of awesome yoginis, while talking about yoga and life to your heart's content, after working through your whole spine in a yoga class.  Mmm, mmm, mmm, that is the life.  I could get used to this traveling yogi thing. 

This is taking me too long to write!!  Damn "second wind."  I'd better go finish packing for Boston.  The last thing that I wanted to write about was Hearst Castle, which has nothing to do with yoga but is COOL.  I expected to be totally underwhelmed by it - I mean, it's just a castle, right?  Wrong!  It's like a museum combined with a scavenger hunt, and it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.  I couldn't stop taking pictures.  Will post a couple later.  And we got to see the wild zebra herds of California.  I did NOT know that this existed, but Mei spotted them!  "Those horses... they look like they have stripes... OH IT'S THE ZEBRAS!"  We were so excited.

Off to fold laundry and sleep.  More later!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Here, there, and everywhere!

I am sleepy and have packing left to do, so this will be short and sweet.

This week has been very long and bittersweet, as I've felt my grad school career finally coming to an end.  (It is MOSTLY done now, by the way - I got a reprieve on the thesis paper until Jan 4th, so I will go off and enjoy my Christmas, and then bring that to a close when I get back from vacation.)  I get very sad around endings, even when they are good endings that are leading to better things.

But on the bright side, I had two fabulous visitors yesterday afternoon - Michelle and Mei came to stay with me!!  It was so fantastic to see them.  Right now Michelle's journeyed on to see another friend, but Mei is sitting next to me re-packing her suitcase for our weekend travels and trying to get Spice Girls songs stuck in my head.  (Now we're listening to the Beatles.)

We had a great time.  I put up the Christmas lights in my house 5 minutes before they pulled into the driveway.  We had lunch, walked around the neighborhood (though no beach since it was RAINING, which is bizarre for this location), practiced yoga class all together at my studio, made soup and pasta for dinner, read Mei's teacher training yearbook, told jokes and a little gossip, talked a little about yoga...  We all slept late this morning and then took Mei's class at noon.  Let me tell you - don't listen to anything Mei says - she is a freaking AWESOME teacher, and I don't say that lightly!  She had TONS of energy, tons of great dialogue, no bad habits, great presence and HUMOR, and she was watching her room the whole time, knew all the new and new-ish people by name and took care of them.  She pushed hard when it was time to push hard, but was gentle and soothing when it was time for that.  I was sooooo impressed with her class. And practicing with Michelle was great, too.  She is exactly how you would expect in class, just strong and humble and focused.  It was so strange that I was meeting these two girls for the first time, because right away I felt like we'd been friends for years - we already knew each other's faces, each other's voices, each other's stories.  Very cool and lovely.

So as I mentioned in the blog title, we (Mei and I) will be here, there, and everywhere for the next week or so!  We're driving up to Santa Cruz in the morning, meeting up with our friend M of ilovesweat, and practicing at his studio in the evening.  Then we're spending the next few nights in San Francisco, accepting the hospitality of the fabulous Lucille, and hopefully studio hopping a bit.  Then back down through Big Sur on Tuesday (hoping that the sun comes out!), back to my place on Tuesday night, and then on the road again to L.A. first thing on Wednesday morning, to take (and in Mei's case, teach!) at Headquarters.  Will hang around L.A., hopefully hit the SPA, and then we're both flying out of LAX on Thursday morning - me back east to Boston, and her back home to Malaysia!  And of course, in Boston I will get to practice at my old studio downtown, have lunch with my first studio owner Jill, take class and have dinner with Diane D., hang out and plot with hannahjustbreathe (who is lending me her couch for a couple nights), hopefully see Danielle in advanced class at Diane's, and then head over to western Mass with Charlie and take class back in my hometown on Christmas Day.  And then back to Cali the next night.  Phew!!  Blog posts may be few and far between for a bit, but I will be storing up plenty of pictures and stories for those of you who I WON'T get to see this month, don't worry...

For the moment, happy holidays to all, and I hope that you are surrounded by friends and family at some point during the month!!  I feel so lucky.  I have a wonderful family at home, with parents who've learned to take my strange life in stride and have been nothing but supportive lately.  And I have this incredible yoga family stretching from coast to coast, and it's so precious to be able to spend time with so much of that family.  As they say in my favorite post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas feel-good movie - "... love actually is all around."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Whine, whine, whine!


Ow.  Ow.

Freaking OW!!

My body hurts!  And I feel a little bit sick.  And I still have 2 long papers to finish writing before Friday.  SIGH!  At least I managed to do my yoga this morning and now I am curled up with a fuzzy blanket, in my big ridiculous pink Bikram yoga fleece (I look like a yoga marshmallow), drinking some kind of awesome ginger drink from Whole Foods before diving back into work.  And at the end of the week, all the craziness will be over, so life ain't too bad.  But still... at the moment... UGH!

In a disgustingly predictable turn of events, I hid in my office at my computer and just didn't practice all week.  (At the same time, I kept periodically hopping on facebook and fixing up the Bikram 101 fan page for the 101 consecutive days of yoga that we're doing in January.  That irony was not lost on me.)  At the end of this week, I have an observation to make.  NOT doing yoga hurts WAY MORE than doing lots of yoga!  Holy.  Crap.  It is ridiculous.  I spent the week just sitting at a desk in a cold room, getting zero exercise and being stressed out - which seems to be how a lot of people are forced to spend their lives on a regular basis - and my body freaking KILLS!!  Legs, neck, and whole spine - lower back, middle back, upper back - just completely shot.

So my last couple classes - last night and this morning - have been interesting exercises, to say the least.  They haven't been fun, but they've definitely been instructional.  I definitely had some new experiences.  (Be careful what you wish for... )  Like um, not being able to lock my knees in freaking padahastasana (which I could do in my first class in 2004 - I was a ballet dancer at the time.)  Like not being able to do a backbend.  You know how the first part of the backbend is "drop your head back, look at the floor behind you"?  I think this was the first time I ever dropped my head back and couldn't see the floor.  (At this point you're all thinking, Yeah, yeah, yeah, cry me a fucking river!  Hah.)  Holy hell!  I didn't know what that felt like!  I've gotta say... it really SUCKS.  If that's what "normal people's" spines are like, then yes, everyone definitely needs to start doing yoga.  I barely even went back in the first set - leaned back a little, got dizzy, and stood back up.  Second set was okay, as I remember "don't be scared!" and just got my arms back and went for it, but it was pretty uncomfortable!!

With half-moon pose and hands-to-feet pose being a total and utter train wreck, it was surprising that a few postures didn't give me ANY trouble.  Awkward pose.  Eagle pose.  Freaking STANDING HEAD TO KNEE, which I absolutely NAILED - did all 4 steps, put forehead on knee, hung out there for a bit, then backed it out step by step.  Totally bizarre.  That's actually, finally, become a good posture for me lately.

I feel like having a messed up body is a test of technique, more than anything else, right?  If you know the right techniques, you should be able to apply them to your body no matter what condition it's in.  You just have to think about it a bit more when your body is not in its usual condition, which can be a good thing!

Oh, and I think I broke my butt!  Sigh.  Not really.  But my left glute (or maybe very top of the hamstring) was bugging me a bit a week or two ago, and then I guess I pushed it a bit too much yesterday, cause now it kinda hurts.  I DID completely baby it today (hence the bent knees in padahastasana and my forehead being nowhere near my feet in paschimo), but too little too late.  Oops.  What can I say - I've never done that before!  I didn't realize what was going to happen!  Any thoughts?  I'm hoping it's just a mild strain that'll get better FAST, as I have a lot of yoga plans coming up!  I tried a heating pad last night and that made it worse.  Maybe ice?  It's so cold, I just can't bring myself to sit on an icepack!  Maybe Arnica and Aleve...

So to sum up:

1.  Whine whine whine.

2.  You always have your technique.

and 3.  Just don't stop going to yoga!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Micro blog post

"Lock your knee," he says.  It's too hot, too hard, and everything's a mess. There's no way this shit will work. She's back tomorrow anyway.

(140 characters including spaces.)

This post was inspired by The Times Twitter microfiction competition - loved the winning entries - because "Anyone who cannot handle 140 characters should not be trusted with a whole paragraph."  It's harder than it looks!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bikram 101 starts Jan 1st!

This is a quick update with a plug for a fun new project that's been started by a bunch of people you may know... :-)

We are doing a 101 day Bikram challenge starting on January 1st, 2010. That's 101 classes in 101 days. We are trying to get a whole worldwide group of people to do it with us! We've made a blog page for it already, along with a twitter account and an email address, and we will have a facebook page shortly. Everything is still being set up this month, so if you have any suggestions for something you'd like to see, please make yourself heard! And most of all... please join in!!

It'll be great for your practice, and also, if you like, you can be involved in an active online support community. You'll get a link to your blog, a group page where you can share your tough times and your victories with fellow challengers, and of course you get a snazzy little logo to put on your personal page. (See top right corner of screen.)

I'm actually really excited for this one, more so than I have been for a challenge in a while. Those of you who know me know that I've never exactly been a slacker when it comes to going to class. I did my first 30 day challenge back in September 2007, and I honestly don't know HOW many challenges I've finished since then. I did well over 365 classes in my first full year of regular Bikram practice. It was great! But lately, my personal practice has really been on the back-burner. I still get into class at least 5 or 6 days a week, but it hasn't been the same! I think it's been more than a year since I really zeroed in on my personal practice for longer than a few weeks and said, "okay, self, let's see what we can do here." So New Year's Day is now the date when I am coming back to where I started and really giving my own practice some time and attention.

Also, this challenge is scheduled to end about a week before I go to teacher training! Perfect timing. Sort of. Conventional wisdom says that you should seriously take it easy right before going to TT, so that you're not burned out when you get there. So I'm planning on doing tons of doubles (or triples, or...?) in January and February so I can finish by March and take a mini-break in April. Basically: balls to the wall for 2 months, normal daily practice for 1 month, total laziness for a couple weeks, and then I will be perfectly set up for 9 weeks of daily doubles at teacher training! (But this is a special situation - if you're not about to go to training, it's probably best to just do one class a day, every day!)

Everyone will have their own reasons for signing onto this challenge, but those are mine!

Who's in?! Visit the Bikram 101 homepage, drop us a note, tell your friends, and get involved...