My hamstrings have finally finally been getting more flexible.  Mostly I’m super stoked about this.  In the not-so-distant past I thought I would literally never be able to lock my knees in any of the stretching postures, and now I may not be locking my knees, but my legs are straight in the seated stretching pose at the end, and even in the stretching part of half moon with stretching, there is a glimmer of hope that one day I’ll get my knees locked and magically morph into a japanese ham sandwich.

What I didn’t realize, was that this added flexibility would really effect the amount of strength I need in my legs to sustain a locked knee posture.  Standing Head to Knee, for example.  Wow.  My knee does not want to stay locked in this one!  And standing bow… again.  Seriously knees? I am trying to see it as progress.  Two steps forward one step back and all that jazz.

What I’m realizing is that this yoga is really truly an exercise in patience. It isn’t about how far I’m going in class each day.  It is about taking each day, each moment, each posture as it comes.  Danny, at my old studio in Vancouver, used to say: “a millimeter today, a millimeter tomorrow, and eventually you’ll get there.”  When I really think about it, my long term goals in fact have nothing at all to do with depth of posture.  They have to do with mental well being, physical well being, self esteem, letting go of ego, and developing patience, compassion, and respect.  For myself and for everyone else.

I have been having a terrible time at work with my little kiddos.  I don’t know if it’s me or them… maybe we all have spring fever and are super wonky due to the Super Moon astrological phenomena currently taking place.  I have really been trying to take the time in my classes, especially in my morning classes before the day begins, to meditate on patience, respect, and compassion.  That is really the key combination that can make all of our lives easier.  It is amazing how focusing on those three components in the morning can help my day go more smoothly.

I still have days where I come home and cry a little bit though.  I am going to try tomorrow to leave my expectations outside on the way to get the babies off the school bus.  I am going to try to stay present.  I am going to try to stay comfortable in uncomfortable situations.  I am going to try – very very very hard – to bring my yoga with me to work. Because the kids, my coworkers, and I all deserve that effort.

Sullenly (but hopefully) yours,

C

I’ve been reading Bikram’s book, Bikram Yoga: The Guru Behind Hot Yoga Shows the Way to Radiant Health and Personal Fulfillment this week.  I have learned so much reading it, and it has definitely given me a second wind in terms of amping up my practice.

One of the things Bikram says to his students when they feel the can’t go on, is “just try to kill yourself honey.”  He doesn’t mean it literally, but is rather speaking to that voice in the inside saying “stop! Lie down! Take a break! You can’t do this!”  This phrase was my mantra in class yesterday.  Every time I wanted to take a breather, and sit out a posture, I repeated the words over and over to myself.  I totally killed myself.  Even better, I was able to push myself really far.  I was especially tough on myself in standing separate leg stretching pose,  and in head to knee pose and stretching pose.  I’m feeling such an increase in hamstring flexibility, and it’s really rewarding to finally be gaining in the postures the utilize that.

I think I’ve talked before about how Shavon (one of my all time favorite yoga teachers) kind of has magical powers.  I always feel like in her class, there are absolutely no limits to what I’m capable of.  I don’t know if she is just a uniquely skilled observer or what, but she has a way of always saying exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it.  This mind reading power was taken to a completely new level today.

For the past two weeks, I have been seriously considering going to teacher training at some point.  I have been reading so much about it, and I’m following another blogger who is currently at teacher training (go, Amy B, go!) and it is getting me so excited about maybe one day getting to have that experience.  I get this niggling feeling when I have to do something.  It comes on with small things, like “I need to unload the dishwasher or fold this laundry because it’s the right thing to do… even though I don’t want to.”  It comes on more strongly for bigger things, like doing my 30-day challenges,  and it comes on in full force when I think about going to teacher training.  

On Saturday in class, everything started out totally normal.  Shavon welcomed the newcomers, and said we would start with pranayama breathing deep breathing, then she looked at me and said “Claire, will you demonstrate?”  I totally panicked. I have no idea how I did or what it looked like, but it felt really good! It also was the key to having a great class, because the scariest thing that could have happened already did.  After that, the back bends were a piece of (cheese)cake. 

After class I asked Shavon why she called on me, and she said it was because she didn’t feel like doing it herself that day, but regardless of the reason, it was exactly what needed to happen for me on that day, in that class, in a number of ways.  It gave me the teeniest tiniest morsel of an idea of what it would be like to teach a class.  Can you imagine?

I’m a ways off from being ready to make teacher training actually happen for me.  But I think know someday it will.

Determinedly Yours,

C

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I finished my yoga class at 7:30 AM, showered, and hopped in the car to drive to work.  From my yoga studio, I get on I-5 and take it all the way to work.  It has become one of my favourite parts of going to morning yoga classes.

When I do yoga in the morning, even when it is a hard class, I am left with this sense of calm happiness.  It starts as a little bounce in my step as I walk out of the studio into the calm crisp mornings of this early spring.  It spreads to my face when I can’t help but grin at everyone I see.  It leaks into my voice when I’m working with my students, magically helping them to be calm too.  Every now and then, when I’m really lucky, it strikes with full force.  A shot of joy to the chest.  This morning I happened to be so lucky.

I was driving in my car, listening to this amazing song by Daughter.  I looked out my window at the gorgeous view of Puget Sound, I cracked the window and breathed the fresh air.  The light was that soft, lovely kind of morning light – very slightly purplish, blue sky, wisps of cloud, and shimmering water.

It was a perfect moment.  I had a moment of perfect joy.  It was made even more special in the knowledge that I created that joy.  I worked to create this space of peacefulness that I now possess.  No matter what is happening around me, I have the ability to create for myself a moment of joy.

Can I get a namaste?

C

806 postures and 62 breathing exercises later, I have completed my challenge.

What I learned this month:
– how to engage my neck during backward bends, especially in bow and cobra.
– how to kick out in standing head to knee.
– how to push through the heel and bring my kicking out leg down and forward from the hip in standing head to knee.
– how to bring my weight forward in standing bow, and just how far down my body needs to be in order to get my leg up. How far forward I have to reach. When they say to reach like you’re going to touch the mirror, they mean it.
– where to place my feet in both triangle and standing separate leg head to knee pose.
– how to not collapse onto my heel in toe stand.
– what angle my hands should be at in cobra.
– where my arms should be in full locust.
– how gosh darn forward I need to roll in bow pose.
– how to keep my heels down during the sit ups.
– how to come out of fixed firm.
– how to tuck my chin to my chest in rabbit.
– how to roll my weight in towards the center in head to knee pose, dropping my inner shoulder down too.
– how to engage my quads in order to stretch my hamstrings.

– how to know when to push myself and when to take a break.
– exactly how much water it takes to stay hydrated.
– that I like morning classes a lot – and that they don’t make me feel tired during the day.

I’ve learned so much this month! I did do the daily double on Friday, but it was hard. I had a rough first class, so for the second class I moved my mat back into a cooler area, and just did as much as I could. As usual, when I stopped thinking about the class as a whole, and began to really go posture by posture, I was much more capable.

I rocked in standing bow, and by the time we got to trikanasana I hit my stride. I finished the class – and the challenge – strong.

In our last savasana, Frani (the teacher) congratulated me and another girl in the class on completing the challenge, and double congratulated me for doing my two classes in a row, and then drew the name for the challenger that would win a month of yoga for free. It was me! I won!

In my previous challenges, I have felt like their culminations have been rather uneventful. This did not. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment. I relished putting that last gold star up on the challenge chart.

It has felt strange not having to go to yoga today. I actually already feel inclined to go back. The amount of progress I have made has been really inspiring. I want to go back and improve. Push my postures farther and deeper, make my body healthy and strong.

I spent a wonderful day today with friends and family and my dog, Lilly, and having so much time to just give to the people I care about has made me feel grateful. I’m grateful for the people I have in my life who support me and make me a better person. I’m grateful that I can support and make myself a better person too. I’m grateful that I have this body that works so well.

Gratefully yours,

-C

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It’s hard to believe that in exactly 24 hours I’ll be starting pranayama and the 26 postures of the Bikram yoga series. It’s pretty amazing actually that I’ve made it this far in the challenge avoiding the 6AM class, but sleeping in as late as I can is definitely a priority. I’ll rearrange my schedule into such a blur of activity in the afternoon that it practically requires an event planner to execute before I will take an AM class. Tomorrow, though, my hands are tied. I have no choice. I also have no doubt in my ability to do it.

A friend recently published a little gif on her Facebook wall. It said “stop for a second and consider this: you can literally do whatever the fuck you want.” after doing my first ever Bikram challenge a few years ago, I began to understand what this meant. Now I understand it on a deep, personal, visceral level. I understand that it means I can go to a 6AM yoga class if i decide to, but I also understand it applies to a whole lifetime of decisions I can and will make for myself.

Last night as I fell asleep, I was thinking about my karma yoga, what I am here in this life to do. I was palpating my feelings about things in my life, choices I’ve made, people I spend my time with. It occurred to me that discovering my karma yoga has everything to do with the original intent I set for myself when I started his challenge. I read it every day on the poster we wrote all over in the change room, in my awkward scrawl: I will stop being afraid.

When you realize that you are singularly responsible for the path your life takes, and furthermore that you have control over that life, it is scary. That seems like a lot of responsibility for a gal like me. Yoga also teaches us, however, to take things one teeny tiny step at a time. To forgive ourselves when we’re not ready for something yet, and that if you go to your maximum, and continue to apply pressure to that point every day, one day, without fail, you will blossom.

Buddingly yours,

-C

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Last night Sweatbox Yoga got new floors.  I definitely wanted to be one of the first students to grace the not-carpet with my sweat, so I got up early and headed to the 10 AM.  I wasn’t the only one who felt like devirginizing the flotex this morning, the class was one of the busiest I have been to yet.  

A quick plug for the capeting: I did a little research, and it is pretty amazing stuff.  It’s waterproof, and according to the website, “cleans like vinyl but has the warmth of carpet.”  It is totally antimicrobial and anti-fungal, which is amazing in a place where people show up just to sweat. In actual use, it definitely lends a hand with foot slippage during some of the separate leg poses – especially trikanasana.  Yay for studio improvements!  I already think Sweatbox Yoga is the best, but the flotex carpet certainly doesn’t hurt!

The other day Bikram Butterflies liked my post, here, and I surfed on over to her blog to check it out.  Wow.  I have literally spent about an hour just devouring everything she has to say.  I can relate to almost every single experience she describes.  Bikram yoga, and yoga in general, is a really personal experience, and yet there are commonalities in the struggle.  It’s nice to know that other people have similar experiences, pains, triumphs, and both bad and good days.

Today I had quite a good class.  I felt very strong throughout the series, but I also had some unique sensations come over me that made me feel frightened and overwhelmed.   One in particular stands out, and that is something I felt in sasangasana (rabbit pose).  As I bent forward and pulled on my feet, I felt  my entire spine, from lower back to base of skull, surge in temperature.  It was like someone had inserted a heater right into my spinal cord and turned it on high.  I stayed with the posture, because for the first time ever, I could actually feel every single vertebra stretching along the entire length of my spine.  I wondered to myself if this is what it felt like to actually stretch the spinal cord?  As I returned to a seated position, and subsequently into savasana, the heat slowly slowly subsided.  I sat out the second set of the posture, because  I could still feel the heat up and down my back like a hot water bottle, and I was afraid that I had hurt myself.  The last of the warm sensation slowly drifted away though, and by about half and hour after class was over, there was nothing left.

I wonder what that was… and if it will come back tomorrow?

Warmly yours,

-C

Finally!  I had a successful yoga class.

For a whole week I have been feeling like every class has been a failure.  I suppose I have been successful in the most basic sense; successful as defined by the continuation of my 30 day challenge, but I haven’t had a class where I looked back and thought my performance was something to be proud of.

Today (technically yesterday) was different.  I went into the class with an open mind.  I thought to myself, “I will do my best.  I will struggle, and I will take the class one pose at a time, one breath at a time, and I will get through it and do everything to the best of my ability in each moment.” My mantra was literally “breathe in, breathe out.”  

Somehow, I ended up in one of those magical places where everyone around me blurs, and the room becomes me, and the heat, and the teacher’s voice, and I can do anything.  

I had a distinct moment of clarity during one of my very difficult classes last week.  There were three people who hadn’t done the class before, and they were all right around me.  I was lying in savasana during tuladandasana (balancing stick), and one of the beginning students kind of stumbled into my line of sight, but he didn’t fall.  I usually try very hard to tune out the other students, but his struggle was so palpable to me in that moment that I couldn’t ignore it.  I was struck by the idea that there are students who have been practicing for less than an hour, and there are those that have been coming for 3 years, and there are those that have been practicing for 10, 0r 15, or even 20 years, and nothing has changed about the class but the student.  In the 90 minutes of class, you work and you struggle.  You hear the same dialogue every time, and you use it to make tiny little changes in yourself.  You lift your chin one day, you arch your back a little higher, or lock your knee a little tighter, and bit by bit you begin to master the postures.  To hold your balance and to stretch your muscles and joints and ligaments.  To strengthen your mind and your body.  In that moment during class, it was like I was seeing the past and the future.  I had this incredibly clear vision of a pathway to personal greatness, beginning with the decision to come to a yoga class.  Ending with the decision to come to a yoga class.  All you have to do is show up and try.

After having that moment of appreciation for my fellow students, I had a different experience in class today.  Often I am distracted and slightly annoyed by the noises of struggle that people sometimes make during class.  Loud breathing, groaning, grunting.  Today I welcomed it.  I kept thinking “listen to that, we’re all struggling together.”  I felt admiration for my fellow students.  When we did our kapalbhati breathing (blowing in fixed firm) I felt very proud.  I was not just proud of myself, but I felt proud of every single person in the whole class.

Namaste,

-C

 

Readers,

I am officially finished with day 12 as of 6:30 pm this evening. I feel really great! There were a few days in there around seven and eight that I was just really feeling exhausted, but over the weekend things kind of started to turn around for me.

Overall I have found that since I have been doing so much yoga this year, I am noticing fewer monumental physical changes and breakthroughs, and instead this challenge has been much more of a mental journey for me. I have been having these moments of intense, all consuming clarity, especially after camel. It’s like I can almost see all these doors opening up in front of me, showing me which path to take in my life. In those moments the choices I should make are so obvious. Having the wherewithal to carry them out in real life, however, is a different thing.

In terms of where I am physically: I’m pretty tender. I especially am feeling soreness in the base of my neck, and in my shoulders. It doesn’t feel like a dangerous pain though, more like stiffness from working out. My lower back is hurting again. I’m struggling a little bit to know when to push through it and when to ease off. Last time it hurt like this I pushed through it and it was better than ever for some time.

I’ll leave you now with an a few bullet points:

1. I did toe stand!!!!!

2. Did you know there is a formula for how much water to drink? Divide you body weight in kilograms in half, and that is the number of ounces of water per day you should be drinking. I learned that at the Eating for Beginners lecture that I went to through The Sweatbox. It was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to the next one, Detox: how and why?

Purely yours,

-C

Hi readers!

Today in school we had a professional development day, which in half day preschool means we didn’t have any students. My coworker and I went to observe another general education preschool in the district this morning.

As we arrived in the classroom, we heard a tiny bell chime, and then absolute silence. When we entered the classroom, the students noticed us, but none of them said anything, and we all sat in silence for exactly 3 minutes. Another tiny chime, and the teacher calmly directed the class’s attention to the board as the day began. Every student in the school had just begun his day with 3 minutes of silent meditation.

It is amazing to see a group of 4-5 year olds attending so perfectly to themselves. This is something that I know I and many other students of yoga struggle with when we are practicing savasana.

Savasana is one of the poses I am focusing on throughout this challenge. Focus, in general has been something I have tried to work on lately, and I have found it has effected my whole practice in a very positive way. When my internal monologue is limited to “breathe in, breathe out, don’t be afraid,” the teacher dialogue still has a way of seeping through my brain and into my body. I am finding my postures are improving, and that I am able to go much deeper into them than before. Most importantly, I am learning how to stay more present, that makes me happier in class, and happier in my life.

Practicing these mental skills in savasana makes them easier to access in the rest of the postures. Practicing this meditation in the other postures, helps me to use it in my life. At work, at home, with my friends. As thoughts and feelings come to me, I am more easily able to feel them and then move on without getting caught up in the meaning or the drama of a situation.

Watching those preschoolers practice meditation this morning, I was struck by the notion of how much it could improve their ability to think, learn, problem solve, make friends. There was an element of calm that was very pervasive throughout the school. It was beautiful to see these children and adults using the practice of meditation to improve their lives. It made me realize how important it is to practice being calm, centered, and relaxed.

Mindfully yours,

-C

Wow what a whirlwind!

This morning I got up bright and early to head to an 8 AM class.  For those of you who know me, I don’t have to tell you how amazing it is that I got up in the morning on a weekend.  I’m more of a 13 hour sleep kind of gal most of the time, so being out last night and then still getting up in the morning felt great to me.  I was already proud!  What could go wrong?  I tested my blood sugar and it was low low low.  I looked at the clock… already 7:25.  I took some glucose tabs and waited.  I tested my blood sugar again.  Still low!  Darn it.  I missed the 8 AM class.  That was ok though because I could just eat something, feel a bit better, and get to the 10 AM class.  No big deal.

When 9:15 rolled around, I decided to leave really early.  I was determined to make it to that 10 AM class.  At about 9:20, I headed out to my car, only to realize that the seatbelt buckle was broken!  I like to live life on the edge sometimes, but I just could not justify driving all the way to Capitol Hill without a seatbelt on.  It’s the kind of thing where I would probably be totally fine…. but…. I could also die.

Luckily for me, I was able to find myself a ride at the last minute (thanks, Mom!) and I ran into the studio at 9:56 AM.

It was crowded.  The only space I could fit in was the very front row… more on that later!

1/10th of the way!  Yippee! 

-C