Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reverse

 
War wounds!

Day TWENTY TWO

After months of looking, The Husband and I saw a house with our realtor that showed real promise.  I don't want to talk about it for fear of jinxing things but it was one of those things where we walked into the house and The Husband and I looked at each other and said, "Hmmm...I can see us living here."  One of my co-workers told me that this house hunting experience was going to be similar to shopping for a wedding dress:  you just get a feeling that this is the one.  I guess the only difference is that many women can buy and wear the same wedding dress but only one owner can buy that one house.  :-/

10am with Caroline.  It was a good class and it was generally uneventful -- didn't feel awesome, rock-my-world nor did I feel terrible, awful, etc.  It was just okay.  I found myself slipping in triangle again...and in this studio, we step to the left side of our mat and we do the poses on the carpet.  Hmmm...maybe yesterday wasn't about my slippery mat but about not keeping everything engaged and super tight.  When we got to the first set, right side head to knee with stretching pose, Caroline exclaimed, "ActionJoJo, what are you doing?!"  She corrected me big time when we went to the left.  In an effort to try to get my forehead to my knee and bending my leg as much as I can, she said that I was going into the pose in the reverse.  I have been bending my leg, tucking in my chin, getting forehead to knee, and then reaching around my foot to get into the bikram grip.  Well, I'm to reach down, grab my foot, bend forward and then inf my forhead to my knee doesn't touch, then bend it.  She told me later in the locker room, "All you're doing is tucking your chin in!  You're spine is changing day by day if you get into the posture right." Thanks Caroline for always being immensely helpful!  Namaste!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Even if You're Covered In Lotion

 
Me in my colorful Incan hat!  
Too bad you can't see the little balls attached on a string to the bottom of the ear flaps.
I had no idea the camera timer would take 3 consecutive pictures 
so this is the 2nd one of me talking to The Husband after I thought the camera was done.

DAY TWENTY-ONE
The frigid chill has returned to NYC.  It is 16 degrees outside; with the wind chill, it feels like 1.  That's cold yo!  It was one of those days where thermal underwear is your friend.  And I am especially grateful for Bikram!

5:30 with Kara.  Every time Kara said "lift your chest", I imagined myself with a harness strapped around my torso as George said.  Kara said it in pranayama as we exhaled and I lifted my chest and brought my elbows to touch, I heard her say, "Beautiful ActionJoJo."  It felt so natural and easy and fluid.  Today felt like the deepest backward bend I ever did in half moon.  I lifted my chest and managed to pull my arms further back along the wall and down towards the carpet as I pushed my hips forward.  And in camel.  Yeah, it was a fantastic two sets of camel with my chest lifted.

I found myself slipping in triangle.  At my studio, we go to the top of our mats and then make a quarter turn to the right when we're done with the balancing series.  We do this because there is just no room for all of us to step to the left side of our mats.  If we did that, we would be on another person's mat.  We practice inches apart from each other here at my regular studio.  Anyway, the towel on my mat had shrunken and when I stepped out there I was on my slippery mat.  Good times.  I've heard some of my teachers say that I should be able to do bikram even if I'm covered in lotion...so slippery mat, no problem! In toe stand right side, I am starting to be able to get myself upright with my left foot in the crease of my hip, firmly placed there.

My bikram stigmatas were killing me today.  I noticed them especially in camel as I knelt down.  The ones on the tops of my feet are especially painful in fixed firm.  Finally, I took the care to swivel carefully on my behind because I do not want any more butt burn!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Uplifted

 
"I Do Love You" by Jander Lacerda, my friend.
J - The Husband and I are honored to have this painting hanging in our bedroom.

Day TWENTY

It's official. As described by the Missus and like many of you, I have bikram war wounds too.  There they are on both my knees, the top of my right foot and even the top of my right toes.  Interestingly, nothing on my left foot or toes...hmm...it makes me wonder if I am not pressing down hard enough on my left.  I also have something that I have yet to hear others say they have:  I have butt burn.  Yes.  Butt burn.  Due to the constant swiveling around on a wet towel after each pose to quickly get into savasana, I have rug...errr...towel burn in the fleshy part where the lower glute muscles meet the top of my hamstrings.  It is the part of skin that is just exposed after my shakti shorts ends.  I just put lotion on all these dry parts and owie!  The butt burn stings!!!

The cravings continue.  Last night, I stopped and bought a New York slice of cheese pizza.  I haven't eaten pizza in years!  Today for lunch, I craved Eggs Benedict and looked for a place that made it near my job.  Thankfully, a local diner served it and I inhaled the stuff with such glee that I thought, "Is this what it is like for pregnant women to have cravings?"  I'm not pregnant so I still chalk it up to the yoga. 

It snowed during 7am class with George.  The Husband and I love George.  There's something about the way he teaches that makes us more honest about our practice.  It's too bad that he doesn't regularly teach morning classes.  I'm trying to convince to teach at least one weekday class in the morning but I don't know how successful I'll be.  Perhaps I need to get a group of us from the morning to write comments to the studio owner and ask for George. 

The Husband joined me again today, after just attending yoga yesterday.  I also managed to convince him to practice in the second row.  I moved back, he moved up.  We compromised our usual spots and we literally met in the middle.  It was a physical reflection of our relationship.  :)

George teased The Husband just before we started and said, "Now that you are in the second row, we are going to make you work harder!"  The Husband jokingly acted as if to retreat to the back row but I know for George, he works harder.  Isn't it amazing how some teachers inspire you to work harder?  When I fell out of standing forehead to knee, he looked at The Husband and said, "Now that ActionJoJo fell out, you are going to have to make up for that."  Ha!

Today was a strong class and no signs of nausea from last class.  George adjusted me slightly when we were in the left side of triangle.  I have a tendency to bring my right upstretched arm towards 11 o'clock when it should really be pointing straight up, at midnight.  He fixed that and rotated my head so that my chin closer to my shoulder.  George also watched me like a hawk in standing separate forehead to knee.  I realized today that I am able to get my locked arms behind my ears, which helps me to tuck my chin to my chest and keep it down as I round myself down (like an angry halloween cat or as if there was a bar or a beach ball underneath me...as my teachers like to say).  He advised me to keep rounding my back and as I reach my lowest point, to keep rounding it even more by sucking the stomach in.  If only then, if my forehead still doesn't touch my knee, he said to bend my knee but not too soon or else I'll never teach my back to round itself as much as possible.  I also realize when I bend my knee in this pose, my hips go out of alignment and I've had corrections from several teachers to stick the hip of my bent leg back up but when I do that, I lose the contact between my forehead/bridge of my hose to knee.

Before the balancing series, Alicia always explains the goal of keeping the knee locked and advises not to progress until we've achieved that goal.  "Never build a house on rocky foundation," she would say.  And it seems that I have built a rocky foundation when it comes to forehead to knee.  I've never really forced myself to round my back, making it stretch and open properly.  I realized this especially during separate leg stretching, when I started to kick my right heel out an inch and then another inch while keeping the bikram grip and my forehead to my knee!!  I'm so glad I "started over" in this pose because the progress has been so quick in just a few days.

For camel, George told us to keep lifting our chest up as we inhale and not just let the spine collapse backward.  He asked us to envision a harness attached to our torso and that we were being lifted up into the air.  When I imagined it, I envisioned myself flying with angel wings attached to my back and arms outstretched surrendering to the flight.  It made me smile and lift my chest.  Maybe this is why camel wasn't so bad today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spoke Too Soon


At the office.  I spend all day sitting down in front of a computer.

Day NINETEEN

Did I say that 7am classes weren't that hot?  Did I say that I didn't crave meat and was reaching for grains and beans instead?  Well I take it all back because yesterday and today just made a liar out of me.

Yesterday, I craved a juicy cheeseburger for lunch.  It was out of the ordinary but I remembered what many of you said/wrote.  If your body craves it, just eat it.  Usually, I don't order a bun for the burger but yesterday, I wanted the works.  Bring on the bun!  Bring on the mayo, the ketchup, the everything!  It was the best burger I had and if I wasn't in the office, I would've licked my fingers after I was done.  Yummmmm.  Today, I was craving chicken tikki masala so after yoga this morning, I went to Whole Foods and bought some in the prepared food section.

7am with Alicia was hot hot hot!  I went back to my usual spot in the room, front row towards the wall, where it is warmer.  I encouraged The Husband to practice behind me since he usually practices closer to the window where it is cooler.  By half moon, I was drenched.  Whoa!  The Husband went down during the floor series.  As he lay in savasana while we did the poses, I looked over at him and saw that his entire face was beet red. 

It was a mental struggle by triangle but I managed to convince myself to stay strong by saying, "Your mind will quit before your body.  Just do it." And I did.  After triangle, some of my teachers say, "Let's bring the heart rate down," and we go straight in standing separate forehead to knee.  Because I need to be different  (note sarcasm), my heart rate jacks up!  By tree, I'm breathless and I have to really focus on getting my breath under control.  The mental struggle continued through the floor series and at locust, I was really trying to stay strong even though mind said, "Quit, quit, quit!"  My left knee in fixed firm felt a dull stretching pain more so than my right knee, which never happens!  And by the time we were done with the first set of camel, a wave of nausea hit me.  I panicked and no matter how much I tried to calm my mind, it won in the end and I laid out for the second set.  Today, I just couldn't push past the wall of nausea.  Just before head to knee stretching pose, I gulped down my water.  And I did it again before spine twist.  Yes, I must've pushed down whatever was coming up.  A part of me dreads days 30-60 if these are the days that pertain to emotional healing.  I wish I had BYC's resolve.  ::sigh::  I did the best I could today.  No judgments.  No attachments.  Tomorrow is another day.

Brush the Ceiling



Day EIGHTEEN

6pm with Ben, who I've only had once before today.  Lots of students like him and he definitely has an energy about him different from any other teacher I've had.  Today, was a PACKED class.  And I mean PACKED TO THE GILLS.  There must've been 70 people in the studio; it was at maximum capacity.  When we didn't think we could fit any more, a few more stragglers came in and everyone had to readjust their mats.  Ben said, "Is there a sale today that I don't know about?!  Why is everyone here?!"  The podium in the front of the room was removed to accommodate two more students.  When it was removed, Ben said, "This means I don't have any place to sit during class!  Ok, I know.  I don't get anyone's sympathy."  People laughed.  There must've been only an inch between mats.  Towels overlapped with other towels to the point that the carpet was covered.  I couldn't see the dark blue line.  In crowded classes like this, it is hard stand on the dark blue line.  We often hafe to stagger ourselves to not be on top of each other.  Despite the crowd, people were surprisingly upbeat and friendly and accommodating.  In fact, the energy in the room was great!  During pranayama, it was sooooo awesome to hear H-A "ha" sounds being exhaled from 70 mouths.  If 70 mouths and bodies create awesome energy, I can only imagine what 300 must feel like moving together!  I was drenched already after pranayama.  We all were.  It was going to be a juicy class!

I had a strong class:  I was focused, my mind was empty, and I moved fluidly.  And Ben really kept us going.  At half moon pose, before raising our arms up, he said, "Imagine you have paint brushes at the tip of your middle finger.  Reach down and raise your arms as if your brushing the side walls and now up to the ceiling....as you bend your body right and left to warm up, reach up and paint the ceiling and flow from one side to the left."  It was a beautiful image.  By full locust, he instructed us to extend our arms put our hands in inappropriate places.  That got a laugh out of the class.  As we were in the first set, I heard him say to a male student, "Boss.  Keep you hand up there.  Yeah, in her mouth.  That's okay, she likes it."  In savasana, we busted out laughing. 

I think I was a little dehydrated because I cramped up a little at awkward, eagle, and standing forehead to knee.  And since it is winter, I put lotion on my hands and in every evening class, I can't maintain a 10-fingered grip in standing forehead to knee and standing bow.  Something odd is going on in my left (healthy) knee:  it's been feeling sore for the last two days.  It has a dull sensation of having been stretched out.  One time, a few months into my practice, I thought I had pulled something above my left knee.  It hurt to walk and put pressure on it.  I stopped going to bikram and it hung around for a week.  And as quickly as it came, it disappeared after that week.  It's the same area of the left knee where I feel this soreness now and it is the same pain but on a lesser scale.  I think it is working itself out, whatever it is.  After three days of maintaining my integrity and truly getting my forehead to my knee on my right side, I already feel the difference and my body opening in oh so tiny, itsy bitsy increments.  It's not as difficult as it was three days ago to get my forhead to my knee even though my leg is totally bent!  Even in standing separate forhead to knee, it was still an insane struggle but it was a teensy weensy bit easier.

Ben suggested a way to open up our cervical spines:  lay against a stability ball with an 85cm diameter, put our arms above our heads, and hold a light weight (he said he used a pineapple one day and bottle of wine another), and take 100 breathes.  I think I'll try that.  Btw, Ben is the founder of LuxYoga, which does bikram retreats in the South of France with senior teacher Craig Villani.  I hear it is beautiful and decadent and awesome.  There is a chef that cooks your meals, you stay at this beautiful villa overlooking the French Riviera, you do bikram every day with lots of personal attention and posture clinics, and you take day trips to local places.  Who doesn't love that?  If anyone is interested, check out the website.  I think there are several retreats scheduled for this summer.  There are two teachers from my studio who attended a past retreat.  They raved about it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Subtle Changes

Day SEVENTEEN

I did not expect 15 people to be in Alicia's 7am class today.  Usually we have no more than 10 so 15 people is 50% more than what we usually have.  I love morning classes but one thing that I do miss from evening classes is the energy of a room full of people...and the heat.  It doesn't get that hot at 7am class, I guess because it's the first class of the day with less people.  There you go.

Today, it poured and it was 60 degrees.  The Husband worried that he would have a miserable class due to the warm weather.  Apparently, he had a great class.  I reminded him not to have any attachments to past classes.  Yes, easier said than done.

I decided it was time to say good-bye to The Husband and I set myself up in the second row off to his left side.  It was a solid class:  I was strong and I worked hard to push myself a little more.  I am finding my forehead to the floor in separate leg stretching these days for these last 11 days.  It's really amazing.  For months, I couldn't get my forehead to the floor.  The stretching sensation behind the backs of my knees was too painful to bear.  And then boom.  One day.  There's my forehead.  On the floor.  How did that happen?  Now that I can do it, my selective memory kicks in and my brain has forgotten how I couldn't do this for months.  Why do our brains work like that?

Before class, I told Alicia about my commitment to integrity in forehead to knee poses.  She said it was totally normal to have an imbalance on one side, for whatever reason.  Just accept it and work through it.  Maybe one day my forehead to knee will touch and then my selective memory will kick in and I'll wonder how I could never do it before.

What I love about bikram is that the shifts and changes happen so incremental that often you don't notice them.  It's only when you look back that you realize you've progressed from point A to point B and didn't even realize it was happening as it was happening.  This happens in our lives too:  when we work on our relationships, our professional development, our personal growth -- we don't realize we make daily choices that lend to subtle changes until we look back and realize how much we've grown.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Integrity

Day SIXTEEN

I accompanied my mom all day to a wedding of her former colleague and then the reception, which lasted until 11:30pm.  By the time I dropped her off and returned the rental car, I got home at past midnight.  I woke up this morning feeling so tired and kinda crappy because of the food I ate at the reception.  I am pretty specific about what I eat (no wheat, no cow dairy, very little processed sugar from my bygone days of seeing The Healer) and how much I eat so that when I deviate from my routine, my body really feels the difference.

I forced myself to get to 10am yoga at my neighborhood studio.  It was taught by Corina and even in the two or three weeks I had her from the last time, she's grown in her teaching.  I took a different spot in the room and got in the second room with an unobstructed view of the mirror.  I got corrections today with standing bow pulling pose, the third part of head to knee pose, and standing separate leg stretching and a lovely compliment on triangle.

It was a strong class today, made only stronger by my commitment to really getting my forehead to my knee in standing separate head to knee and especially in head to knee pose, no matter how much I bend my knee.  Again, I see that putting my forehead to knee is far far easier on the left side.  The right side.  It almost doesn't happen.  In head to knee pose, I again put my heel on the floor almost close to my right glute because my leg was completely bent, flexed my toes back and really tried to put my forhead to my knee with 10 fingers grasped below my toes.  It was such a struggle...I felt stretching in my back and I could barely keep my breathing normal as I try try try to get my forehead to the knee.  It barely touched and I couldn't hold it.  I couldn't even keep the bikram grip underneath my feet!  Oh, I felt like a beginner.  This pose will teach me humility indeed!  I showed my dilemma to The Husband when I got home and he observed that I can bend forward to touch my knee to my forhead on the left side but on the right side, he noticed that I don't bend forward but rather I keep trying to tuck my chin in.  I tried it again and yes, I noticed that I can't seem to roll forward on the right side.  Oh the painful stretching in my back! 

This is all good stuff.  Patience and surrender and breath is all I need.  I will keep trying.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Forehead to Knee


Day FIFTEEN

10am with Caroline had only four other people and me in class.  We got lots of personal attention from her today!  I love attention...must be the only child in me.  I love getting corrections so that I can improve my yoga.  Except when it comes to getting my forehead to my knee.  Don't look at me because I can't do it!

Oh, the corrections I got today!  So many, it was awesome!

"Sit back, sit back Johanna," she instructed during first part of awkward.  I stumbled backward.  She said, "Yes, good!"  I guess I learned my edge.

And then the next correction came at my favorite pose, standing seperate leg head to knee.  In the same way that The Missus feels she has not progressed at all in half tortoise in all the time she's been practicing, I feel the same exact way about this pose.  No matter how much I bend my knee, I cannot frakkin' get my forehead to it especially on my right side.  It.  Drives.  Me.  Bananas.  I don't have normal breathing in this pose no matter how hard I try to calm it down.  I feel the heat exploding in my body and the flood gates of sweat open the most in this pose.  And then here comes Caroline's correction, "Bend your knee as much as you have to.  No eskimo kiss, no forehead to shin.  Touch your knee."  Oh honey!  If you only knew how many teachers have told me this.

I got a little correction on toe stand:  put my foot up higher on my thigh to open up my pelvis.

No correction from her today on cobra.  I have been practicing on really stretching my heart up and forward after I come up and my lower back kills in the posture!  I really must've just been hanging out in cobra this whole time.  It's a whole new posture for me now thanks to Caroline's help.  She said today, "Over time, you will distinguish the pain you get from stretching and the pain you get that tells you to back off."

In half tortoise, she told me to stretch my arms more towards the mirror.  When I did, she said, "Good!  Now you are working!"

By rabbit, she told me not to move my forehead as I move my legs up to close the gap between foread and knee.  I don't intend to move my head but I can't seem to keep it still!

I was a bit frustrated with my inability to get my forehead to my knee today that in head to knee pose, I decided I was finally going to scrap all I've done in the past and start from scratch.  I committed to having integrity in this pose no matter how high my knee had to bend.  I bent my right knee so far up that it looked like an upside down V and I focused on getting my forehead to it.  I struggled so much to keep my chin tucked in, stomach sucked in, breathing normal, and holding it there.  THIS ONLY HAPPENS ON MY RIGHT SIDE.  Left side, my knee is practically straight so I've deduced that simple anatomy is not my sole issue.  All the injuries I've had pre-Bikram have been on my right side:  knee, shoulder, wrist, ankle, back, glute.  When Jim Kallet taught a class, he observed I had a tight right side during triangle after he asked me to keep twisting my head so that the right-side profile of my face was to the mirror.  Could this be another factor?  Whatever it is, I'm going to commit to having integrity in this particular forehead to knee pose since there is no balancing involved. I hope with integrity, hard work, and determination I will progress in this posture.  If not in this 101 day challenge, I trust someday, one day, I will get my forehead to my knee.

Btw, happy belated birthday Caroline!!!  Thank you for all your help today!  You are a great teacher!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cornered



Day FOURTEEN

I always love taking the 5:30pm on Fridays because I feel bikram is a perfect way to segue from the work week to the weekend.  It forces me to leave the office promptly at 5pm on a Friday but sometimes when the subway is running slow due to train traffic, getting to the 5:30 class can be nerve wracking.  Today, I got to the studio with just 4 minutes to throw my stuff in a locker full of women getting out of the earlier class, change, gulp down my ZICO, set my mat and towel down, and run to the bathroom.  I could've asked people to move to make a spot for me but since I was pressed for time, I took the only spot that was wide open, in the hottest part of the room, front room, in a corner.  I still had to run to the bathroom and I thankfully came back in time that Kara allowed me in just as she was about to start pranayama (people already had their hands glued to their chin).

This morning, I had a one hour conversation with my colleague to finish hashing out what we didn't discuss yesterday.  I simply wanted to discuss the facts, clear the air, and be done with it.  That didn't happen.  She is a colleague and a friend and in some ways, I felt like this conversation was akin to a therapy session.  Ugh!  I understood better where she was coming from and I hope to learn to be more aware and sensitive to her next time.  I tried to explain my perspective and tried to reassure her that what I did was not personal and that she was taking it a little to the extreme.  I don't know if I got through.

My little corner was hot hot hot and I was losing focus by the floor series.  The class was packed, at least 50-60 people.  There were 2 inches between my neighbor on my right and on my left, I was directly next to the wall.  I had to move over to the right for half moon bend to the left and for full locust, forget it.  I couldn't stretch my left arm out at all.  I had to skip the first set and move to the left and slide down my mat so I could get some space.  It was totally annoying.  My right knee pain showed up again in both sets of awkward so I had to put my hands to the floor again.  It was painful but thankfully not as painful as Wednesday when it spasmed.  By head to knee pose, close to the end, I just wanted the class to be over.  My hair was all over my face and trying to be still/not push the hair away was driving me bananas.

I got home and for the first time ever in my entire time I've done bikram yoga, I didn't feel rejuvenated or refreshed.  In fact, I was a cranky biatch as if I was PMS-ing (I'm lucky because I don't have PMS so I can only imagine this is what PMS-ing is like?) for a good two hours.  And my lower back is killing me!!!!!!!  It is so incredibly sore, I am walking around bent over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame with my hands on my lower back the whole time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brought the Office with Me



Day THIRTEEN

My day was going well until 4:55pm when a colleague decided to confront me, very upset at something that I had done. The act that I did made her feel very threatened while I thought I was just doing my job. By 6pm yoga with Danielle, I couldn't shake off what happened an hour before. I felt unsettled and as a result, my mind replayed the conversation, asked questions, got defensive, and a whole range of emotions. I had trouble balancing on one leg and kept falling out of standing forehead to knee and standing bow. Although my mind settled a bit more by cobra, the aftertaste of the bad experience lingered. By spinal twist, I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I was so tired that I didn't even have the energy to be upset with myself for letting this get in the way of my practice. After class, this unsettled feeling had dulled greatly although it did not completely disappear.

After talking about my day with The Husband over a sushi dinner (I felt I needed to treat myself), I wasn't bothered by it anymore. I'm not going to own someone else's insecurity and anxiety. I will have a very matter-of-fact discussion with my colleague tomorrow to clarify my side of the story and I will try to be compassionate about where she's coming from. That's it. I'm not giving this any more time because I've already let it bother me more than necessary!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Whole New Person


A must see!
Day TWELVE

I went out to a pub last night with some colleagues for drinks.  Had two glasses of wine and food that I don't normally have:  nachos with cheese and ground beef, chicken wings, sweet potato fries, and fried calamari.  I was coughing in the pub and by the time I got home at 10:30, I felt like I was hacking away like I did pre-antibiotics.  I had a hard time getting to sleep.

Dreaded the alarm this morning because I had to get to 7am yoga with Alicia because of our South Pacific tickets tonight.  If I missed it, no yoga today.  I felt awful.  It was as if the antibiotics never took effect and I regretted everything I did last night - the drinking, the eating crap, and the staying out late!  10:30 = late.  Ha!

Set myself up at the back of the room again and I just did not want to be in class.  At the top of the inhale in pranayama, to take in that last sip of air, was hard.  Exhaling made me want to cough.  I took it easy getting into half moon but my breath took me where I needed to go.  And then came awkward.  Oh awkward.  Second part, I couldn't balance on my toes much less sit down.  And then third part, by the time I got half way down - ouch!  Hello right knee!  I had to stand up.  Second set, I couldn't go down without putting my hands on the floor and keeping them there.  It took every effort to pitch my knees forward and down and there it was:  the air bubble/incredible uncomfortable stretching in the back of my right knee.  I got up with my hands on the floor.  And then my right knee decided to spasm.  I just couldn't straighten my right leg, much less lock my right knee.  I kept massaging the back of my right knee to help it relax.  "Ok knee.  I'm just going to wait till you decide you want to chill out," I said to myself.  I balanced only on the left leg today and kept my right knee bent, never kicking out because I knew I couldn't lock it.  I just stood there while everyone balanced on the right leg.  I felt like a fool.  With downcast eyes and heavy breathing, Alicia reminded me to look up and keep my head up.  By standing bow, the right knee relaxed and for the rest of class it was okay.  I managed to do my best in toe stand right side.  In fixed firm, I asked my knees for forgiveness and for them to relax while I breathed.  It seemed like my knee moved on from the episode even though my mind was still stuck in the past, trying to figure out why it happened.  In final savasana, I fell asleep...for at least 20 minutes!  I woke up when Alicia came back in the room to turn on the heaters for the 9:30 class.  I know she does this at 9am, like clock work.  When I woke up, I felt like a whole new person, totally rejuvenated.

Some minor adjustments I noticed these last few classes:  I need to tuck my pelvis in/under so that I'm not leaning forward so much in the 2nd part of awkward.  In triangle, I notice when the teacher says right hip (when we are bending the left leg) / left hip (when bending the right leg) forward, I find that I am rotating my hips easier.  Finally, in head to knee pose, I can get my forehead to my knee on the left side with a little bit of a bend but on the right side, I can't do it no matter how much I bend my knee.  My right knee always ends up on the bridge of my nose.  I can't blame it on the long torso anymore.  Is there some other issue?  A tight right side?  Tight hamstrings?  A right leg slightly longer than the left leg?  I don't know!  Any thoughts?

As I walked out, I explained to Alicia what happened.  She said that stuff like this will definitely come up in the challenge.  Injury teaches me humility and reminds me to be grateful.  I should also take a lesson from my knee.  After the spasm, it moved on acting as if it never happened.  I wish I could say the same for my mind.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Distractions

Day ELEVEN

7am with Alicia and stood next to The Husband.  I think this is the last time I'll be standing next to him for a while!  He went to see a foot doctor for pain in the top of his left foot and the podiatrist said that he may have a strained ligament and to take it easy.  As a result, he's had trouble balancing on his left foot and decided today to back off on those poses. 

That's all fine and good but when he took breaks from some of the poses, he decided to turn his head and look at me while I'm balancing.  It's really hard to focus when your husband is just hanging out and staring at you!  I did fine in standing head to knee but I got totally distracted as I looked in the mirror for standing bow and all I could see was the profile of his face.  Uhhh...hello!!!  Face the mirror, look at yourself, don't look at me!  With no focus, I couldn't set up for standing bow with a straight face and much less stay in it.  As we set up for full locust, his arm was under mine and when we lifted off in the second set, I felt his hand half nudging, half tickling me underneath my bicep/tricep.  I started laughing and had to come out early.  Crazy man!  Stop distracting me!!!!

Felt solid today although can I take a moment to sound like an old person for a minute and complain about my aches and pains?!  My left knee has been sore sore sore all day from class and omigosh!  The front of my left shoulder - ouch!  This morning, every time I crossed my arms across my face to pull a shirt over my head I felt a dull pain sensation.  I think I opened it up during last night's eagle as I tried to pull my shoulders/arms down, attempting to get my fingertips below my nose.  Doing today's eagle was not fun and Alicia saw me grimace and said, "Hello shoulder Johanna!" but after class, the shoulder is all better.  The pinch in my right lower back is getting better too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pampering



Day TEN

Hooray, I'm in the double digits of this challenge and I echo ahappyyogi's recent sentiment about 9 more batches of 10 classes and the challenge will be complete!  I am celebrating!

I've been feeling a little down lately and so I decided to cheer myself up by getting a manicure and a pedicure.  When you get a pedicure at Pema Nails, they do a salt scrub for your legs (up to your knees), pumice (or use a blade if you prefer) your feet, massage in lotion for your legs, and finish the process with a hotel towel on your legs.  It's lovely especially since the ladies here don't rush you and my legs have been massaged for a good 10 minutes sometimes.  I guess there are benefits to being a regular customer.  Btw, did I mention a manicure and a pedicure is $17!!!!  I love living in NYC.  :)

That was at noon.  I had to really drag my a$$ to bikram today.  I just didn't have the desire and that's when the doubts came rushing in.   

You're only at day 9 and you feel totally unmotivated.  
You're never going to complete this challenge.  
You?  Do bikram every day for the next 92 days?  
These last few days have felt like forever.  There's no way you are going to do 92 straight more days.

I tried to push these doubts away and said to myself, "Just get to the hot room.  Just get to the hot room."  Several minutes before I left the house, I remembered to wash the lotion off my legs from my pedicure and arms from my manicure or else suffer a supper slippery class especially at standing bow pulling pose.  You know you do bikram when...

I took the 4:30pm with Caroline at my neighborhood studio and set my mat up to the left side of the room, next to a pillar.  Today, I just needed a little separation from most of the students and this sport was perfect.  It also happened that I was standing in front of an exit door and by the time we got to the floor series, I felt the draft on my face seeping in from underneath the door.  It was nice in the beginning but after a while, I wished it wasn't there, which must mean I am feeling closer to regaining 100% of my health (I usually like it juicy!!!).  Didn't cough as much and didn't need to blow my nose during class -- all good signs that I am on the mend.

I am feeling a soreness in my right quad and there is a pinch that I feel in my lower back, on the right side that I just noticed today.  The pinch became more acute during backbends.  I have also noticed that every time I take a class with Caroline and we are in cobra pose, she always calls me out to lift my chest and go higher.  And every time I try, I feel an incredible stretching in the front of my neck to the point that it is uncomfortable.  And the pinch in my lower back today did not help my cobra.  I wonder.  Have I just been hanging out in cobra?!?!???!!!!  I didn't think so but maybe I was wrong.

I am making great improvements in awkward, toe stand right side, and fixed firm thanks to the healing I feel in my right knee.  My sit ups are stronger and I am working on trying to keep my chin to my chest, my arms by my ears, and get my elbows to the floor when we exhale twice.  And slowly but surely, I feel my upper back opening up in rabbit.  I struggle with all the compression postures, never being able to get my forehead exactly to my knee thanks to my long torso.  I am really working on keeping my chin to my chest and sucking sucking sucking in the belly.  Oh, the joys of a super flat upper back!

Today, as we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, I always take a moment to remember those who work for social justice especially for the vast majority of people who don't make it to the news but are recognized by the people who benefit from their tireless commitment.  I especially remember the people of Haiti and the relief workers who are trying to help all those who are suffering in the country.  I remember our practice and how we learn compassion for ourselves and in turn, we learn compassion for others.  We take the energy we get in that hot room and we spread it to those around us, making our lives and the lives of others just a little better.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

We're All In This Together


Watching the Golden Globes

Day NINE

The antibiotics kicked in just hours after taking them last night.  Instead of coughing for four hours in bed before falling asleep, it took me about an hour last night.  Today, my lungs felt better and I coughed far less.  As a result, I was stronger in today's 5pm class with Danielle than I was in the last two classes.  I managed to do all the poses and didn't feel wiped by eagle or by standing bow.  I had the effort to pull and stretch to touch my forehead in standing separate leg stretching pose.  I drank more water than I normally would and by head to knee pose, I was done.  I didn't have any more energy to stretch in the third part to try and reach my forehead to my toes.

The energy we create is so important in class, which is why we strive as students to move with the words and together.  All the things we do and refrain from doing during our practice contributes to that energy so that we can become a collective whole for 90 minutes.  When one of my teachers wants us to move together, she might say, "Let's ride this wave together!"  Some days the group energy in the room is fantastic and other days we belly flop.  

Tonight, I realized that the teacher also contributes greatly to the energy in the room; together the students and teacher create a synergy. Danielle wasn't her usually playful self.  As she set up her towel on the podium, there was something in the way that she did it that just felt different.  When no one responded to her query if anyone had any injuries, she said, "Great!  It makes my job easier!"  All these things may sound normal to you but if you've practiced with a teacher long enough, you can feel when they have their off days and their on days.  I could tell when one teacher didn't get enough sleep by her frenetic energy which reflected in how she delivered the dialogue.  I could tell when one teacher was nervous and later realized it was because her boss was in the back of the room, practicing and observing her.  Today, Danielle was quieter in her instruction during pranayama breathing.  Just before she gave instruction for balancing stick, she introduced the pose as triangle pose.  And right after locust, she went straight to full bow and it took several students to say to her that we didn't do full locust yet.  These are not criticms but rather an observation that nobody is exempt from bringing into the sweat box the life that happens outside.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sometimes You Just Need Help


Day EIGHT

For the last two nights, I laid in bed coughing so much so that I would only find relief at 4am when I would finally fall asleep.  My cough didn't improve and I could feel my lungs, discomfort in my shoulder blades, ever time I took a breath.  I decided to see a doctor, who told me that I had a bacterial infection with a slight case of bronchitis.  She prescribed 5 days of antibiotics.  Drugs!  Hooray!  Relief is in sight.  I'm not one to reach for medication easily.  My preferred route of healing remedies is the "natural" way but when my body can't kick a bug after a prolonged period, I call in the big guns.  The last thing I need is full blown bronchitis or worse, pneumonia!

I got to the Doctor's office at 11:30 and didn't see her until 1:30!  Despite the immense frustration of waiting, I was grateful that she could squeeze me in without an appointment.  While waiting, I started getting anxious about getting to yoga.  The last class at my neighborhood studio was 4:30 and my regular studio at 5:00.  And even if I was done with the doctor, I was with my mom who helped me, and we were starving and had to eat.  As I was about to resign myself to skipping yoga, I realized, "Wait.  I live in New York City for goodness sakes.  There MUST be another studio that has evening classes on a Saturday night." 

Thankfully, BikramYogaNYC (the first to open a bikram studio in the city in 1999) with its 4 locations, had a 7 and 8pm class at its Upper East Side Location!  (I just checked:  there are 13 studios in Manhattan alone with another 8 studios in the other boroughs).  What a relief but man, it took effort and extra cash to get in this day of yoga!  I missed the 7pm class by minutes.  Argh!!!!  Annoyed but thankful that I wouldn't miss a day, I plopped down at a nearby Barnes & Noble to kill time.  

8pm with Connie had only 10 people.  I originally set up in the second row but I was wearing my eyeglasses and without them, I'm blind as a bat so I moved up to the first row.  Tonight's class was similar to last night's.  I couldn't get myself to inhale and exhale strongly in pranayama, which did not bode well for me.  By awkward, I was starting to feel weak and by eagle, I was spent.  I talked myself into staying strong and in standing forehead to knee, I nailed it on both sides but it took everything I had.  By standing bow, I had no more fight and no more stamina.  I sat out for the first set of triangle and a set of standing separate forehead to knee.  By this time, Connie handed me an Emergen C packet and I took some, almost chocking on the bubbling concoction in my mouth.  She encouraged me to get up for tree and I did it and toe stand by reaching deep within.  By the gas station, I was couldn't be still because I was coughing.  I managed to get through the floor series doing the best I could for today.  I felt soooo hot that my back tingled as I realized an egg could fry on it.  I was so grateful when Connie opened the window and the door.  My lungs felt clogged and my body and mind just felt drained and tired.  Despite the struggle, I am grateful I got to class.  I am grateful to be alive.  I am grateful that my body can heal itself.  Life is still and always will be beautiful.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Brick Wall


Day SEVEN

Yogis and yoginis, my heart breaks for Haiti and its people.  Looking at the images and watching the news makes me cry inconsolably.  The devastation, the loss, and the suffering is so overwhelming that it almost mutes the few miracles that occur.  It is hard to find hope when signs of death are all around.  There is so much I want to say but I can't find the words.

These last few days, I have thought about how natural disasters have even graver consequences for people living in poverty.  There is a connection between poverty and vulnerability and as we've seen with Hurricane Katrina, the same effect is is seen in Haiti with more dire consequences.  The combination of lack of infrastructure and a weak government have created road blocks to aid, food, water, medicine, equipment, and communication, etc.

How did the once richest and most prosperous country become the poorest in the Western hemisphere today?  I don't know about you, but I've never learned about Haitian history in school and it was only until I got to graduate school and took a course in African-American studies did I learn a little about this country that was once the pearl of the Antilles.  The following pithy summary of the country's political economic history may give you insight into how vulnerable Haiti is today to natural disasters.  

Once a colony France, slaves taken from West Africa worked the sugar and coffee plantations for trade. The French Revolution that began in 1789, which was highly influenced by the American Revolution decades earlier, had a great impact on the people.  Through the military leadership of General Toussaint L'ouverture, African slaves and Afro-Haitians successfully revolted against the French, freeing themselves from their colonizers and abolishing slavery by 1804.  Haiti would become the oldest black republic in the world and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, only after the US.  Think about it folks.  1804.  Imperialism and colonialism abounded.  But in Haiti, black people were free while the institution of slavery flourished worldwide including our very own United States. Despite gaining freedom,  Haiti had to pay the equivalent of billions of dollars of reparations to France for successfully revolting.  Nations refused to recognize this new black republic and therefore, refused to trade with it.  In essence, Haiti lived in total isolation despite its ability to produce sugar and coffee.  With no source of income and shouldered with debt, it laid the foundation for the country's poverty over the next 200+ years. Decades and decades of political instability culminated in an American invasion in 1915, occupying the country militarily for 25 years.  Our country backed up Haiti's dictators in an effort to support our own interests.  By the mid 20th century, the country accelerated its deforestation as a source of income yet the environmental effects are detrimental.  Soil erosion decreases land productivity and increases droughts and damages infrastructure projects as well as coastal marine life.  Here's a great article I read recently on Haiti. 

As Port au Prince lays in ruins, I am forever reminded that life is precious and every day is blessing.  Hug those you love.  Tell someone you love them.I do believe that only out of nothing can everything become possible.  So my hope and prayer for Haiti is that this devestating tragedy will bring forth opportunities that may one day elevate it to regaining its title of the pearl of the Antilles once again.  

Support Haiti by making a donation to the following reputable organizations: American Red Cross, UNICEF, and Partners in Health.

If you want to read more about Haiti, check out:

The Black Jacobins:  Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by CLR James

Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution by Laurent Dubois

Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940 by Mary A. Renda

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder


Friends, today I hit my wall in the torture chamber.  Attended 5:30pm with Kara, one of my faves.  The room was incredibly hot so much so that our towels and our mats were hot to the touch.  I could sense it too from Kara who moved around the room, playing with the heaters and opening the windows, and inspiring us with her energy by asking us to reach deep within ourselves to find our strength.  But today, I had no mental strength.  I knew I was in trouble at pranayama breathing when I struggled with the heat in the second set.  By standing bow, I really just wanted to sit down.  I struggled through it but lost the battle for the first set of triangle.  My second set of triangle was strong so I knew it was mind that was fatigued, not my body even though it is sore.  I just couldn't fight for it any more.  I sat out again for the second set of standing separate leg forehead to knee pose.  After this pose, I had to find a way to get through class.  So I decided to dedicate the rest of my practice to Haiti and the people of Haiti.  It helped.  I found the strength I needed to get through tree pose and toe stand and the entire floor series.  

People were dropping like flies, even those of us who have a regular practice in the front row.  By the second set of camel, 90% of the back row didn't bother sitting up for a second set.  Kara even commented, "Whoa, back row!  What happened to you?  Ka boom boom boom and boom!"  By the time we were done with that second set of camel, there were only 10 of us in a room of 60 still in the pose.

Today, my studio offered a huge bowl of grapes and I hungrily partook of them and downed a second liter of water as I sat outside of the locker room for another 15 minutes just trying to recover.  I could sense the wall was coming and today, I crashed into it at such a high velocity.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Your Mind is Like a Wild Dog


Day SIX

Attended 4:30pm class at the neighborhood studio, taught by Victoria who is visiting from San Diego.  Victoria had great energy and my taking a class with her made me realize that I really like teachers whose voices change throughout the class:  they start calm yet energetic as we go through the warm up and by the time we get to the peak of the standing series, their voices ring.  By balancing stick, their voices have so much energy that I can't help but be like a "T as in 'Texas' ya'll" (a little variation from my favorite teacher who is a Texan).  There were a few times when the cadence of Victoria's dialogue, coupled with what I think is a Mexican accent, reminded me of an auctioneer.  I couldn't help but smile when she said "Change!" in the same way an auctioneer said, "SOLD!"  She helped people in class correcting them in both English and Spanish.  I thought it was cool to hear some of the dialogue in Spanish.  It certainly refreshed my memory of body parts in Spanish:  la rodilla = knee; las piernas = legs; los manos = hands.  :)

I was cramping in the beginning of class -- perhaps I wasn't hydrated enough?  In the second and third parts of awkward (my favorite:  note the sarcasm), my arches were killing me.  It took every ounce of energy to get in, stay in, and come out of the posture.  By standing forehead to knee, my standing leg cramped up so much so that I had to fall out after pulling my elbows down to the calf, both sides.  I struggled in triangle but stuck with it and by the time I got to standing separate leg head to knee pose (my second favorite pose:  again note the hint of sarcasm) I really had to focus on calming my breath down.

I reached for water today more than I usually do.  I drank right before fixed firm, which made for a little queasy camel, and again right after rabbit.  In the first set of rabbit, I mentally disconnected for a moment before I told myself to snap back into it...and Victoria felt it.  She said, "Stay with the words.  I see some of you are disconnecting.  I've been doing this long enough to know and because I've done it myself."  In the savasana immediately following that first set of rabbit she said, "Your mind is like a wild dog and like a dog, you have to teach your mind to 'sit' and it shouldn't move until you give it another command.  That takes practice."

She let people leave the room when they couldn't stand the heat or couldn't catch their breath.  Guess what happened when one person left the room?  Yup, a second immediately followed and Victoria exclaimed, "Noo.  Where are you going?  Don't leave!  If you go, it will spread like an infection!!!"  I almost laughed out loud when she said that.  But it's totally true.  When one goes down, others want to follow.  We are each responsible for the energy in that room.

Yogis and yoginis, I've never sweated like I sweated tonight.  My towel was doubly drenched and my yoga mat had puddles of perspiration on it even after I removed the towel.  I had to sit down in the locker room for 10 minutes without moving.  It was just one of those classes.  I am still proud that I managed to do both sets of every posture and I noticed that in the last few classes I've been able to touch my forehead to the floor in standing separate leg stretching pose.  I could never touch my forehead to the floor in the last 9 months of practicing.  Boo yah!!  Hooray for small victories.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grumpy


Day FIVE

7am with Alicia and practiced side-by-side with The Husband today.  Had it not been for The Husband getting up this morning, I don't think I could've done it on my own, challenge or no challenge.  You see, worked from home today so if I didn't go to 7am, I would catch the later class.  Sometimes having too many options is not a good thing!

Today's class made me very aware of my hamstrings perhaps because they are a bit sore.  Several days before today, the soreness was in my back.  I think my most recent practices of such mental determination left me mentally spent for today.  By cobra, I was not that into class and wished it was over.  By forehead to knee separate leg stretching, I didn't want to be there anymore.  I had had it and I couldn't breathe because of my head congestion so I half-a$$ed the last several postures.  I could tell The Husband wasn't having such a great class either.  I felt his energy indeed.

Got home and slept for several hours only to wake up to a fit of coughing that lasted for an hour.  I've been grumpy all day thanks to the tightness I feel in my chest that just won't go away.  Bah!  Humbug!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Focus Focus Focus


Team Conan!!!!  
Good for you for standing up to those inept NBC execs!

Day FOUR

Took the 6:30 evening class at my neighborhood studio with a teacher whose name I can't remember but I know it starts with a "C".  I think she is newbie teacher because I used to see her practicing at my regular studio and then I didn't see her for weeks, and now here she is at my neighborhood studio.

What I love about practicing in NYC is that my bikram teachers hail from all over the country and the world.  I've got teachers from Dallas, Seattle, the Philippines, Japan, Ecuador, India, and Eastern Europe.  It is so cool to hear the bikram dialogue spoken in English with accents from all over the world and even from near by (Jewish, Long Island, Bronx, and Brooklyn accents abound in one particular studio).  Yes, think Fran Drescher delivering dialogue).  Admittedly, there are some teachers who are difficult to understand like one teacher who said, "poin-yee-toe" during locust.  By the second set, I finally figured out that she was saying, "point your toe."  We do our best to listen because they do their best to teach.

Today, I stood in the juicy part of the room but close to the door.  I don't think I'll pick that spot again since I like to take a loooooong final savasana.  It is hard to bliss out in final savasana when people are walking by my head and feet to exit and the door is opening and closing, letting cold air in.

I am still getting used to the rules and vibe of this new studio.  It seems that people are allowed to leave the room and come back at any time.  People are allowed to drink water at any time, in between sets and even before "party time".  If the following scenario happened at my regular studio, the teacher would tell the student to sit down and stay in the room.  If a student absolutely had to leave the room, the teacher would signal them back but only between sets.  And absolutely no water during party time, no water between sets, no dousing yourself with water to cool off (One teacher told a student, "You can do that afterward when you shower.") and absolutely no hand towel.

It took TREMENDOUS concentration and focus to set up and stay in standing forehead to knee as a woman walked behind me to leave the room.  When she came back, another woman decided to leave the room!  Whaaaaa?????  She left during the first set of standing bow.  When the door opened, she casually walked back to her spot while many of us were trying to balance on one leg.  But she doesn't know better because the the teacher didn't say anything.  My mantra during those two postures was, "FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS."  If I didn't say that, I would've been saying, "F-you, F-you, F-you," at the woman and the teacher instead.  I chose to hang on to the positive energy even though it was not easy.  I entered the hot room after a hard day at the office.  Something came up and I got angry and frustrated with the situation.  I was moody on the way home and on the way to the studio but the heat and the moving meditation melted the day away.  I wish I could say that after yoga, I maintained my peace but unfortunately, when I recounted the day's events to The Husband over dinner, I got angry all over again. 

"Let no one steal your peace," Bikram says. In the hot room, I was successful.  Outside the hot room, not so much.  I need more practice.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Holding Hands During Take Off



And when I touch you, I feel happy inside
It's such a feeling that my love
I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide

Yeah you, got that something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
- The Beatles

DAY THREE

Back to work and back to my routine.  Mondays usually start with The Husband and I going to 7am class with Alicia at our regular studio.

I regularly practice in the morning before heading to work in order to ensure I get a class in.  Getting up early for the first time in more than two weeks was brutal.  The first five minutes after the alarm clock rings at 5:45 are always the worst and today was no different.  I did not want to get up and I even tried to get out of it by entertaining the idea of canceling an evening appointment so I could sleep in and take class later.  I determined there was just no way I could get out of the appointment so I had no choice.  I got up.  Believe me, if I wasn't doing this challenge, I would've slept in.  It also really helps to get up with The Husband who practices three times a week

When picking my spot, I usually choose the hotter part of the room and the front row.  Today, I decided to change things up a bit and I practiced right next to The Husband, in the third row and next to the windows,  the cooler part of the room.  I never practiced side-by-side The Husband before.  When he first started, I stood a row in front of him so he could watch me if he got confused or needed clarification.  But I worried about him in the beginning (my proclivity to want to help others to a fault) and I always found myself peeking at him, distracting me from my own practice.  When he got the hang of the postures, I moved to the other side of the room so he was out of my range of vision!

But today was different.  After the class I had yesterday, I wanted to test my focus and concentration again.  I was also curious to see how it would feel to practice in the third row again, like I did when I was a newbie.  Would it give me a new perspective?  Would it teach me humility as Mary Jarvis believes, who makes her teachers practice in the back row at her studio?

I had another solid day today.  Although I generally concentrate more on form and alignment in the morning due usually to less flexibility, I found myself going deeper today than I usually do at 7am.  Again, I was grateful for my body opening.  I took whatever it offered.  Standing in the back was definitely different.  I felt further away from myself. - not good, not bad, just different.  It certainly was harder to look "into" my eyes since I saw just a speck of them.  Instead, I focused gaze on my belly button.  As for humility, I suppose it's easier to learn it when you are behind several rows of people.  Today, we had 9 people in class so I had an unobstructed view of myself.  Jury's still out - will have to get back to you on that one.  And guess what?  I focused completely on me despite standing next to The Husband.  There were times when I felt his frustration and in return, I offered him my energy.

My favorite part of today's class was full locust.  With our arms outstretched, my fingers touched The Husband's. I held on to them as we ascended up, like 747s taking off.  At some point, our fingers untangled but somehow, it made me happy!  Later at dinner, we recounted our day's practice and laughed as we remembered our locust encounter.

When we take plane trips, I always reach for The Husband's hand when the plan accelerates to take off and on the descent.  After 2 years of marriage and 3 years of dating, I am always grateful to have my husband's hand to hold.  I still reach for it when we walk or have dinner or sit in church.  In early December, I went to the Philippines without The Husband.  With no one to reach out to as the plane accelerated on the runway, I looked around at my fellow passengers.  To my immediate right, a wife reached for her husband's hand.  To my left, on the far side of the plane, a husband reached for his wife's hand.  I smiled because I understood the reassuring comfort of holding a loved one's hand in that moment.  Many of us who practice bikram often say that what happens in the sweat box is a metaphor for what happens in our lives.  I felt the beautiful, powerful, reassuring love that I have for my husband today in my practice just by standing next to him.  I surrendered to it and for that, I received a rock-solid practice that provided me such peace and contentment.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tremendous Focus


Day TWO

Attended the 4:30 class at my local studio and I purposely moved to the hotter part of the room so that I could try a new spot and have a juicy class.  I took the front row again and there were at least 3 newbies.  The teacher, Greg, was a newbie too, who just got back from teacher training.

My body remained opened and it yielded to going deeper and I was grateful despite the various, crumpled Kleenex that lay at the top of my mat by the end of class.

Today took tremendous focus and concentration.

The student directly behind me drank water just after awkward and Greg didn't say anything.  Students were drinking while people were in the postures and in between sets. 

Two rows behind me was a newbie.  The poor thing had had it by the time we finished the first set of balancing stick.  By the time we got to the floor series, she was sitting up and facing away from the class.  And by the time we got to head to knee with stretching pose, she was on her belly and with her arms up as if in surrender.

And there were a lot of fidgeters.

I found myself in the beginning questioning the newbie teacher.  "Why doesn't Greg say something to the girl when she drank water after awkward?  Why doesn't Greg tell the newbie to keep her head above her heart?  Why doesn't Greg do this?  Why doesn't he do that?"  After a million other questions, my mind yelled back at me, "Who the hell is the teacher here, YOU or GREG?  Greg.  Good.  Glad we got that straight.  LET. IT. GO." 

In general, I've always been the kind of person who wants to help, who wants to solve things for others, who wants to carry other people's crosses.  My heart breaks when I watch people suffer.  I've had to learn many times in the hardest of ways that people often need to figure it out for themselves.  A wise friend once advised me about a guy I fell in love with for all the wrong reasons, "You can't save him.  You can only support him."  It took me a year to figure out what she meant, as I walked away from that relationship with a broken heart and shattered self-esteem.

As I learned in life, I could only support the newbie and the drinkers and the fidgeters.  I could only share with them my energy, my focus, and my lightheartedness.  I smiled at myself right before I tucked in my chin in standing forehead to knee.  When I fell backwards out of toe stand, I laughed.  Yeah.  They just had to figure it out for themselves.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

There's No Place to Hide


Day 8 ONE

Yay yay yay YAY yogis and yoginis!  Today was the first day my body didn't feel achy and out of sorts.  Despite the complete head congestion, I attended the 4:30pm class.

I was initally confused of the class time.  Originally, I thought class was at 4:00 pm and was geared up and ready to go when I realized I had another 30 minutes, I suddenly lost all my motivation.  I worked myself up all day because I had trouble breathing through my nose.  For ten minutes, I rationalized why I should skip class:  "I can't breathe.  This must be a sign that I should push this off tomorrow.  I'll do better if I go tomorrow anyway.  I don't feel well.  I'm going to totally suck today"  I almost gave in but thought of The Missus' advice from a few days ago.  My goal was to "just get to the studio" and it made me move my tush.  I parked myself in the back corner of the room, which also happened to be next to the heating vent (mental note to self:  this is the hottest part of the room - love it!).  I planned to take it easy especially if hot wind was going to blowing on my body!  "There's now way this class is gonna be easy.  I can't breathe!  And breath is key!  I'm gonna have to sit some postures out, for sure," I thought to myself.

Caroline came in and introduced myself and identified all the students in the class.  When she finished, she looked straight at me and said, "JoJo, I know you are recovering from being sick but would you mind coming to the front row?  You've got a regular practice and it would be good for other students to see what's going on.  If you need to take it easy and sit down, you go ahead.  It's good for them to learn that that's okay too."

Well, so much for taking it easy!  There's something about being in the front row that makes me feel a responsibility to my fellow classmates.  I'm a huge believer of leading by example and being in the front row means you are the example.  It certainly keeps me honest:  I'm more focused, less likely to fidget, fix my hair/costume, wipe sweat off my face.  I remember when I first started bikram and when I got lost, I looked to the front row and was inspired by their focus, their poses, and their peace that was stolen by no one.  I was always inspired by them and I hope the beginners today took that from me today.  In return, I received their energy and determination.  As a result, I had a great class!  I did both sets of every posture although I stumbled off to the left as I pushed my hips to the left and bent to the right in the warm up for half moon.  I had to laugh.  I wasn't used to moving in 8 days!  

The congestion I felt these last three days (and for that matter, any other time I've felt congestion due to seasonal allergies), pranayama breathing cleared it right up.  It must be the powerful inhalation and exhalation.  Whatever the reason, my nasal passages always clear or at least loosens things up so that I could clear my nose.  It felt SO AWESOME to finally move and stretch my muscles.  My body opened up and said, "aaaaahhhhh."  It was so nice.  I was sweat soaked by the end of pranayama.  It was a juicy class indeed!  Every pose that required a locked knee, I felt and saw in the mirror the muscle just above my right knee (the old injury) twitching every time I came out of the pose and let it go slack.  My muscle hadn't done that since I started my bikram practice.  It was a reminder to keep that knee locked since the muscle must've weakened in the last week.  It was also great to just let my mind rest.  For 90 minutes, I wasn't living in my head.  It was such a relief!!!!!  I walked home with a spring in my step and a smile on my face.  I arrived home and when The Husband greeted me, he instantly recognized a different person.  "It's the old you," he exclaimed.  I was so happy!  I still am!!!

So here's a poll for you yogis and yoginis.  I'm not sure what I should do.  My intention for this challenge was to make this yoga my priority and truly go 101 days straight and only do a double if absolutely necessary.  With 7 missed classes, I could catch up with doubles so that I could finish with you all but only go a little over 90 days straight instead of 101.  The other option would be to reset my clock and treat today as day 1 of my challenge.  I suppose the final option would be a compromise and do 3 doubles and push back my end-date by four days.  What to do?  My teacher Caroline said that I should push my end-date back to April 19.  "Don't kill yourself.  That's not the point," she said.  I don't know.  I'm curious to hear what you all think.  Please leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you!!!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Breath is Key



After two days of propping up my sorry self in bed in order to sleep, it never fails to amaze me how much we take our breath for granted until, well, we can't breathe.

Ok, here's another cool etymology lesson!

In Latin, the word anima has several meanings.  It can mean air or breeze.  It means breath.  It also means soul, spirit, life. From anima, we have in English the word "animate", which means to breath life into, to encourage, to give vigor.  In Spanish,  the verb "animar" means to enliven, to cheer up, to brighten up, to encourage, and my favorite, to inspire.

I looked up the word inspire and here's what the online Miriam-Webster dictionary said: 

1 a : to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration b : to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on inspired by the Romanticists> c : to spur on : impel, motivate d : affect inspired him with nostalgia>
2 a archaic : to breathe or blow into or upon b archaic : to infuse (as life) by breathing
3 a : to communicate to an agent supernaturally b : to draw forth or bring out inspired by a visit to the cathedral>
4 : inhale 1
5 a : bring about, occasion inspired by his travels in the Far East> b : incite
6 : to spread (rumor) by indirect means or through the agency of anotherintransitive verb : inhale

Isn't it amazing that so many of the modern languages ties the breath to life to our soul to the divine in one word?  The ancients understood this connection and when language developed, one word was used to define what today may seem like disparate things.  Sure, we all accept that if we stop breathing, we die.  But do we all accept that our breath is our connection to the truest part of ourselves and to that which surrounds all of us, the divine?  Not necessarily.

I was amazed once when I stumbled upon a story of a few yoginis take 8 classes in one day.  They took it Global Yoga studio in San Francisco, owned by senior bikram instructor Mary Jarvis.  I was struck by her passionate opinion about the importance of breath (and the equal importance of not drinking water during class).  She writes:

They do not drink water ever in class. It is a demonstration of the fact that in yoga...the most important thing you need in our yoga is our BODY,our MIND,and our infinite stream of SOUL. And the BRIDGE to this is the BREATH...

Apparently, she learned this from Bikram himself.

I've noticed in this first winter of practicing, I have decreased my intake of water.  I still can't help myself from taking a sip at party time.  My throat gets so dry or sometimes, I get the worst bile-taste in my mouth after eagle, that I desperately want a sip.  I think at some point during this challenge, I would love to take one class without every having to drink.  I'm just curious how that would feel like.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Dad, This One is For You



Day 7


Whenever my father felt the first signs of illness, he always used to whip out the vaporizer.  I used to watch him as a child as he filled the brown vaporizer with water, drop some Vicks liquid, wait for the steam to rise, and stick his face in for 15 minutes.  I was mesmerized at the vapors.  Over the years, if I ever complained to my dad that I was getting sick, he always advised the vaporizer.  Guaranteed.  I never did listen to him until today, my third day of suffering terrible congestion.

As I walked to our nearby pharmacy (thankfully, we live within a 2 block radius of every kind of possible store we could need), I thought of my dad.  A dentist by trade, my father is the epitome of health.  He gets up at 4:30am daily and does his morning routine:  he walks briskly for 45 minutes with two pound dumb bells, returns home for breakfast, and then heads out to the market to buy the day's food.  His family has a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.  While his siblings take insulin and other medications, my father has managed to avoid the pills through strict diet and exercise.  I asked him on my recent trip to the Philippines if he felt any sorts of pain associated with aging that his peers often complain about.  "Nope," he answered.  Arthritis?  No.  Muscle stiffness?  No.  Indigestion, gas, acid reflux?  No.  I was impressed.  I'm half his age and suffer from chronic knee pain and various other joint issues.

I hope by the end of this challenge, I hope to feel the same way my dad feels.  I believe I get my discipline and determination from him.  So I dedicate my practice to my dad*, who is such an example to me of good health.  When I start to waver or have my down days, I'll ask myself, "What would dad do?"


*I can't dedicate a practice to one parent while leaving the other out.  So I also dedicate my practice to my mom, who is on her own health journey. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Defeated



Day 6

When the mind says "no", you can often rationalize to make it think differently.  But when the body says "no", it means it.

I got up at 5:45am, intent on going to yoga but when I got up, my head felt like a boulder, clogged like a drain, I knew it wasn't going to happen.  I went back to bed and got up 3 hours later to go to work.  It took a while to get myself ready and get to work.  I should've taken it as a sign.  I arrived at 10:30 and then went to lunch with my colleagues courtesy of my boss, and then left at 4:30.  By the time I got home, I felt miserable.  Drained and totally congested with a slight fever.  I slept for a few hours until The Husband came home, bearing my requests of orange juice, lemons, hot and sour soup from the Chinese restaurant, and Vicks vapor rub.

This whole illness is teaching me patience.  I'm not learning it well, believe me.  In my mind, I'm thinking of all the work that is piling up and all the doubles I'll need to do to catch up in the challenge.  Despite all the lying down I've done these past few days, my mind is quite anxious.

Relax your mind.  Realx your mind.  RELAX. YOUR. MIND.  Open your heart. 

That's what Alicia as she ends her bikram class as we lie in final savasana.  Right now, opeing my heart seems a lot easier than relaxing my mind. I know one thing.  My body has raised a white flag.  It has to rest and refuses to have it any other way.  No ifs, ands, or buts, about it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Food & Travel, My Other Loves



Day 5

Had to stay home again today although by the afternoon, I felt like a semi-human being even though my head was totally clogged.  All hopes of doing yoga in the evening were dashed since there was just no hope breathing through my nose.

Why is it that really long, hot showers always makes you feel better even when you mostly don't?  The hot steam really loosened things up and I took the opportunity to clean out my nasal passages using my neti pot.  It definitely provided some relief. 

I watched alot of TV today, considering I rarely watch TV at all.  I zeroed in on one of my favorite channel  and watched my favorite cooks Giada De Laurentiis, Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa), and Tyler Florence whip up delectable dishes.  Now, if I could only have Giada's kitchen with Ina's garden, and Tyler cooking nightly for The Husband and I, well, that would be a dream come true!  Ok, fine.  I'll settle for Giada's kitchen and Ina's garden.  And btw, how ADORABLE are the Neelys?  I interspersed some of the food episodes were some travel shows, particularly Globe Trekker.  It reminded me of how much I really love love to cook and how I would love to host my own travel show.

Heading back to work tomorrow and determined to get back to the sweat box.  With that, I leave you with one of the four Hong Kong video that I made last year for TripFilms, which focused on food.


Watch more of my videos at Tripfilms.com