Friday, October 12, 2012

Yoga Lesson

I went to class last night at 6 and it was great.  James led us through a wonderful 90 minute moving meditation and I realized how unfair I had been to go into a yoga class with expectations of anyone other than myself.  I still hold that perhaps he shouldn't have positioned himself as close as he did, but I should never have expected anything of his practice.  That's not how yoga works.

The reason last night's class was so good, I believe, is that James really kept us focused on our breath.  He was patient, encouraging, and focused.  And no, I don't think he ever opened the door, but I didn't notice the heat as much as usual and I didn't drink as much water throughout the class as usual, nor did I douse my towel with water to cool myself (both are habits we are encouraged to let go of).  So there it is, I learned one of the lessons of yoga.  Let go of your expectations -- even expectations of yourself... the only goal you should have when you practice yoga is to be present and do your best.  Not a bad goal for every minute of each day, whether practicing yoga or not, wouldn't you say?

And yes, I completed my 100 push-ups yesterday.  Two days down, 98  to go.

Since I have no yoga-related images, I'll show you a pic of the kitty we adopted about a year and a half ago to torment Hans and Tinka (ok, not the goal, but he's awfully good at it!).  Here he is... our little Gatsby when we first brought him home in May of 2011!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

No Yo

I didn't go to yoga last night.  I know.  I'm a little disappointed, too, even though it was my decision.  It's just that I am SO tired at work because I don't get home from yoga until 8 PM or later, then I have to change clothes, eat, take care of laundry or whatever, prep my meals for hte next day, wind down and hopefully get to sleep at a decent hour.  Which I don't.  Especially on nights (like Tuesday) when my husband works until after 11 PM.

SO instead I got on the treadmill.  I had to do SOMETHING, but I just didn’t want it to eat up my whole night from 5:15 PM until 8 PM, like yoga does.  And I accepted a 100 push-ups for 100 days challenge by Commit and Conquer in Pueblo, CO.  I used to go to C&C for Boot Camp classes, so when I saw them issue this challenge, I was excited to sign on for it.  Now every day (starting yesterday), I will do 100 pushups.  By the time January 17 rolls around, I will have done 10,000 pushups! Pretty cool, huh?  Let me know if you want to join me!

Unfortunately, while doing my second set of 25 push-ups, I sneezed and tweaked something in my neck.  Between yoga tonight and the massage I have scheduled for tomorrow night, I figure it’ll be feeling much better soon, and it didn't keep me from finishing my 100 push-ups.  Tonight’s 6 PM yoga class is with the guy I was talking about yesterday, so maybe I’ll go to the 8PM class since I can sleep in tomorrow if I want. 

Hmmmm… What to do? What to do?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

He sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star…
and I couldn’t stop laughing.  Seriously.  During our first Savasana (dead-body pose where you lie on your back, very still, for about two minutes after the end of the standing series before the start of the floor series of postures), Reggie, the instructor I would have previously characterized as stoic, sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  He was a totally different guy last night, cracking an occasional joke about how much water some of us were guzzling, the temperature, etc.  So there had been laughter in the room (a first for me during a Bikram Yoga class), so when he started singing… well, I couldn’t stop giggling.
No one else seemed to be laughing.  Too bad.   It was funny.
Okay, something else.  I get there early and put down my mat in a place where I will have clear view of myself in the mirror (totally necessary for Bikram Yoga).  Invariably, someone will come in and put their mat right. in. frontofme.  So, I have gotten more strategic and now I only place my mat when there is a spot back a row from where 2 mats are already placed so I can slip in the gap.  Sometimes that means I am looking into a seam in the mirrors… Last night, I put my mat down in a spot where I was a row back from the mirrors between two others AND no seam in the mirror.  I thought I was GOLDEN.  But instead, another of the instructors situated himself  thisclose to me on my left side.  Annoying.  He could have shifted, but I guess he didn’t because he didn’t want to be on a mirror seam, but seriously… kinda rude.  Especially for an instructor.
Here’s the thing, though, I thought, hey, this guy is an instructor!  I will be able to see precisely how to do these poses correctly, because, if I haven’t mentioned it before, the instructor leading the class doesn’t actually do the poses – he/she just guides you through them orally.  Guess what?  This guy totally doesn’t do the poses right.  Now I admit, he is older and maybe be has some limiting conditions, but he didn’t even do the pranayama breathing right – his head hardly tilted back and his mouth was barely open AND he closed his eyes!  He didn’t keep his arms by his ears in half-moon pose, or balancing stick pose.  And then, when it was time for Head to knee pose with intense stretching posture (Janushirasana with Paschimottanasana), he was so close that I had to move to the front of my mat so my leg could extend.  Now, as I was set up first AND he is and instructor, shouldn’t he have been the one to shift?  I know… why does this bother me?  Who knows… but it did.  And I guess it still does a bit.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect that just because a person is an instructor that they can do every pose perfectly, or even do ANY pose perfectly.  BUT, Bikram Choudhury stresses that you do it right if not completely… that is, you attempt it in the right sequence getting each element right before you try the next part.  That is, if you are doing Standing head to knee pose (Dandayamana Janushirasana), then you don’t even attempt to pull your “up” leg in front of you until your standing leg is “locked, lamp-post, you have no knee.”  It just bothers me a little… makes me want to not go to his classes.  Which is fine, except, I want to go every night and invariably, he will be teaching some of the 6 PM classes.  I am just going to have to let it go… because honestly, when I’m in there, I’m the only one I should be focused on anyway, right?

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
Author Unknown


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

There was a crooked man, and he went a crooked mile,
he found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
Here’s the thing:  I have scoliosis.  My scoliosis was diagnosed as a mid-back C-curve caught as a part of a Girl Scout Camp physical when I was 10 years old.  Within 6 months, my spinal curve progressed from about 12 degrees to ~ 32 degrees.  I wore a back brace starting at age 11 which helped with the mid-back curve, but as I was out of the brace by age 15, it may not have been enough. 

In my early/mid-twenties, I started having back pain… sometimes so severe that I would lie down nearly in tears, pressing my low back into the floor to relieve the pain.  I had spasms that would make me suddenly bow forward, unable to stand up straight with pain so sharp it made me wonder at times if I was having a heart attack.  At age 24, my primary care physician put me on Celebrex which he told me I would be taking for the rest of my life.  I wasn’t really cool with that though, as there are a lot of issues with taking that kind of medication long-term.  At one point, when even the prescription wasn’t working, a friend at church gave me a gift certificate to see a chiropractor.  Since then, chiropractors and physical therapists have helped me significantly over the years and allowed me to quit taking prescription pain-killers altogether and only occasionally take a mild muscle-relaxer and over the counter pain relievers instead. 
My adult spine:  I still have a mild curve in my cervical spine (neck area) with mild osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis.  I also have a curve in my lumbar-sacral (very low back) region, with spinal stenosis which is all compounded by the fact that I have a naturally-fused vertebra in my sacrum.  AND that particular section of my spine is also twisted, which means it pulls on one side and pinches on the other. 
The icing on the cake is that in February of 2010, I was in a car accident where the car did a ¾ barrel roll landing on the passenger side of the vehicle where I was seated.  That served to increase my back and neck issues and seemed to cause me to start getting migraines, too.
Now to the topic of yoga…
I have now taken 14 classes in 21 days… not bad considering I was out of town for three of those days.  I had been seeing my chiropractor and physical therapist on a weekly (and sometimes twice-weekly) basis, but, having attended Bikram Yoga classes for these past three weeks, I have not been back to the chiropractor or physical therapist since September 20th because I simply haven’t needed to.  I did feel quite tight Sunday after the drive from NC to VA, but I went to yoga Sunday night and last night and I am feeling good again.  My hips are better aligned than they have been, I haven’t had any migraines, I have more range of motion than I’ve had in years, and my body is shaping up, too. 
So, am I now addicted to Bikram Yoga like I had been accused of being addicted to my chiropractor?  Perhaps… but the benefits have been extraordinary so far and I just don’t see any down-side.  I’m even going back for another Reggie class tonight…
So, despite the heat and the sweat and the discomfort of being in a room that hot and that humid for 90 minutes with a bunch of other drippy people all contorting their bodies this way and that, I think I’ll be visiting my studio as much as possible for as long as possible.
As Bikram Choudhury says, “Give me 30 days and I’ll change your body.  Give me 60 days and I’ll change your life.” 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

So last night was day 2 of Bikram Yoga for me.  For those who read my last post, the best thing I could say was that I survived.  Last night was different -- last night I felt GREAT!  Not that it wasn't still super hot and super hard, but it was different for three main reasons:

1.  I knew what to expect.

2.  A sweet girl stayed after class Tuesday to give me some pointers:  Breathe in and out through the nose ONLY except during the opening and closing series of breathing exercises (esp. when you feel dizzy).  And, keep your eyes open until the final savasana -- esp. if you feel dizzy.  (This helped SO much!  I did every pose at least once -- only 3 times did I not complete all the poses in a series!)

3.  The instructor -- her energy was so positive and encouraging!  I was able to "hear" her instructions better since I wasn't focused on not passing out, and frankly, she was just amazing.

So, I will give my first instructor another try in a week or so when I feel stronger.... but in the meantime, I'm going to check out a few more classes with female instructors -- I have been told that, in general, the female instructors are more encouraging and nurturing (esp for new students), and frankly, that's just what I need right now.

No Bikram tonight as I have chiropractic and physical therapy appointments, but I'll be heading back to class tomorrow!

I tried Bikram Yoga and survived!

I know, I know, it's been 4 1/2 years.  I'm giving this a teensy little shot.  If anyone out there checks this out, there is no telling how long it will last.  But as I have recently tried something new and my husband is working too late to listen to me yammer on about it, well.... here's my other option.

And here's what I'd like to share (not to worry, most posts won't be this long):

Tuesday, September 18:
I first heard about Bikram Yoga (or Hot yoga) some time ago.  It sounded interesting, but I didn’t think it was for me.  Well, I decided after we moved from Colorado to Maryland this past April (and then 4 months later, Virginia) that I needed to DO some things.  We lived in Colorado for 5 years and only went skiing one day, whereas we used to go for a week at a time.  In Colorado, we never went on a single hike, though we used to do that, too.  We spent most of our vacation time flying back East to visit family for weddings, births, funerals, and general holidays (we love visiting family!).  And I let that be an excuse for not joining a gym (we’re already going to be out of town a lot), or planning weekend getaways (at some point we have to clean the house, do the laundry, work on projects).  Enough!

I went last night and tried Bikram Yoga.  For those unfamiliar, this is a 90 minute yoga class held in a room that is maintained at 105 – 108 degrees F with relative humidity of 78-82% (or so said the instructor, Reggie).  The heat of the room is to really warm up your body and muscles to increase your flexibility and range of motion (something my body could really use). 
The website said that newcomers should get there about a half an hour early to get signed in, etc.  So I did.  That took about 5 minutes.  And then I was told to go change if needed, and get set up in the yoga room (where, once you enter, you must maintain complete silence).  I was already changed, so I headed in.  I think I should have just set my stuff up and left until closer to class time as, whoa, nearly 2 hours in a room with 105 degrees and outrageous humidity was a bit much!
The class itself:  I repeat the most important part; I survived.  Yes, I got light-headed a few times.  Yes, I felt like throwing up a few times.  But I made it through. 
(Okay, I confess, I tried to leave at one point when I thought I would pass out and I was chastised a bit – the instructor had failed to mention at the beginning of the class that the biggest goal any newcomer should have is just to STAY in the room the whole time.  So, upon being told to go sit back down on my mat, I did.  And I just breathed and tried not to die.  I was successful.)
Every Bikram yoga class apparently takes you through the exact same series of breathing exercises and poses.  The poses early on were not terribly difficult, although I wasn’t as steady as most who have achieved better balance.  I was okay with that.  I really started struggling about mid-way through.  After my failed attempt to leave, I sat and just tried to breathe until I wasn’t so lightheaded and then I’d try whatever pose they were on.  For a while, I did at least one of each cycle or series.  Then, towards the end, the lightheadedness was hanging on a bit more, so I missed a couple poses altogether.  At the very, very end I joined in and gave it my all.  And then a lovely gal came around with towels soaked in cool water and lavender or something totally refreshing and I just lay there and didn’t die. 
I am really proud of myself for getting up the gumption and going.  I am more proud of myself that I made it through the class.  I am relieved I had enough left to hold on to the steering wheel to make it home.  And I am planning to go back tonight.  Crazy?  Perhaps.  But I am determined. 
Thoughts?  Recommendations? Cheers are welcome, too! (Encouragement goes a long way!)