The alternate title for this post is: "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the (Balancing) Stick"
So I had a GREAT time up in Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park with my sister this week. We were up there for 3 days and 2 nights, which was the longest break I've had from yoga and teaching since before teacher training. Did NOT teach Bikram yoga to any of the squirrels or bears or deer, but thanks for the thought, guys, love ya lots. (We DID see a bear, by the way, but only from the car. Saw plenty of deer, though!)
The first couple days ended up being kind of low key because my sister got kinda carsick/heatsick and was down for a bit. Important note to fellow yogis: for people who are not Bikram yoga freaks, 95 degrees is considered pretty hot. When you do activities outside with normal folks, it's a good idea to check on them and make sure they are not dying. Lesson learned!!
Happily, she made a good recovery, and on the last day we went on a great 9 mile hike in King's Canyon, along the river, up to a huge waterfall. It was SO beautiful there. Absolutely ridiculous. Every time I visit one of those parks, I end up making crazy plans for how I'm going to become a park ranger when I retire from my job someday. (Because, like, there's such a high demand for retired yoga teachers as park rangers.) My other crazy dream is that I will sell my house (assuming I ever buy one), buy an RV, and go spend a few weeks in like EVERY national park. Because I love them all.
But seriously, here is the ridiculous thing: after I spent all day hiking, I still didn't feel like I'd had a real workout. I used my legs, I used my lungs, I moved my body... but it was so EASY. Everything was in such good working order that running up a mountainside was no big deal. I had to almost run up the rocks just to get my heart rate going, and it still didn't feel as intense as that dizzy heart-pounding feeling that happens right around balancing stick pose in Bikram class. At the end of the hike, I was thinking, "That was a great walk! But boy, I could sure go for a good workout right now."
I got back into yoga class yesterday morning, and it felt so fantastic to move my spine again. (Did I mention that I must have spent at least 20 hours driving over those 3 days?) From the very beginning, half moon pose, my body was going "ouch ouch ouch" but also "yes yes yes"!
And balancing stick... this one is my most hated posture. I don't know why, but 9 times out of 10, I am totally miserable about being in the posture and I can't wait for it to be over. My arms hurt, my shoulders hurt, my heart is pounding like crazy after standing bow, and I feel like I'm having a fricking heart attack. Which is actually the POINT of the posture - flush out the horseshoe artery of the heart, give yourself a mini heart attack in 10 seconds so you don't have the big one later. However. I have never enjoyed this experience.
Until yesterday! Because as it turns out, there is NOTHING else I can do that has the same effect on my heart and lungs. I kept trying to get a similar feeling when I was out hiking, and I couldn't get even close. So yesterday morning, when I felt like my heart was attempting to make a kamikaze leap out of my chest after standing bow, I just thought, "yessss, here it is, here we go," and then I KILLED it in balancing stick. It's not like I got any BETTER at the posture. My posture is exactly the same. But I was actually HAPPY about doing it, for once! After a few days without it, my body was totally craving that heart-pounding feeling, and I enjoyed ever second of it. (All "ten seconds" - hah - that is such a lie.) At the end of the posture, I just thought "phew... now THAT is real exercise!" It felt soooo good.
I just think it's so awesome, that feeling that comes at the end of a good Bikram yoga class. It's the feeling of a TOTAL body workout - the feeling of using EVERY part of your body, inside out, from the bones to the skin, coccyx to the neck, fingertips to the toes. (Yes, I do still talk in dialogue. All. The. Time.) Five years of practice down so far, and I'm still amazed by the completeness of that 90 minute class. It's nice to get away from it for a few days, because it makes you appreciate it even more when you get back.
Having fun at King's Canyon...