That’s the question, right?  When do you stop feeling like you might die?  Some of you may remember this post from a whole ago.  It refers to one of the things Bikram reportedly tells his students when he is teaching.  “Just try to kill yourself, honey,” he says.  The point is to encourage them: work as hard as you can, push yourself until you can’t push yourself any further, take a deep breath, push a little more, and then emerge from your practice stronger for it.  

Feeling like you’re going to die is a huge part of the reason why the heat is important in Bikram yoga.  The mental practice of pushing past those barriers we all have is one of the reasons why yoga is important to me, and it’s one of the main ways that my yoga practice carries over into my life outside of the studio.   Every time you work through a class where you think you might die, you are learning to silence the voice inside of you telling you you’re not tough enough, or strong enough, or good enough.  Learning how to silence those voices, helps place you on a path towards being the confident, strong, inspiring person that you are.

So keep going to class, keep feeling like you might die.  Just try to kill yourself, honey!

Pep talk over.

C

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March is Sailing season.  There is literally a race to sail in every weekend in March, so when I started my 30-day challenge I thought I would go in knowing I would be missing a couple classes.  I thought “ok so this won’t be a *true* challenge by the rules, but it’s a good for me.”  A few days into my challenge, however; I started feeling like I really didn’t want to miss a day.   wasn’t ready to skip a day!  I was enjoying my practice, my progress, and the momentum I was feeling.  After talking to some of my teachers, Katie and Gary, I decided I would do yoga on the days I was sailing, and I would do it at my home.  

Originally I was planning to just do the series to the best of my ability by memory and time the postures in my head, but Gary suggested I try using the Bikram audio recording.  I bought it and I would really recommend it to anyone who wants to try doing the series at home. Bikram is funny, and encouraging, and it was actually really cool to be able to listen to him delivering his own series and dolling out his own tips and feedback (yes I even said “mama give me money” when I did standing bow… what?  He told me to.)  Listening to the recording, as with any experience with a new teacher, did change some of my postures.  I especially improved my half-moon pose by bringing my chin up more and my upper body back more.  

I found it especially surprising that I didn’t miss the heat the way I thought I would.  I love the heat.  I know some people think of the heat as something they have to suffer through as a part of their practice, but I really love the humidity and the temperature.  I love the way it makes my skin feel, I love how the sweat can make some postures more challenging, and can help in others.  The way you can kind of just slide the top of your foot right down your sweaty calf into a perfect eagle pose never ceases to please me.  I love it.  So I did miss the heat in that way.  I realized, though, that it doesn’t affect my flexibility the way I imagined it did.  In fact I didn’t notice that the depth of my postures significantly changed at all.  In standing head to knee pose last night,  I almost locked my kicked out knee, and I really believe I could have, but I stopped myself because I didn’t want that monumental achievement to happen when I was by myself in my room.  That brings me to my next point…

I missed the energy of taking class with lots of people.  Until this month I thought crowded classes were satan’s gift to yogis, and that if someone smacked my hand again in full locust, or brushed my leg when we were going into standing separate leg stretching pose one more time, I would flip out and have to lie down and have a tantrum on my mat.  I realized how much I enjoy and how much I depend on other peoples’ energy in class.  There are times when I almost want to go up to people and tell them that it was a joy practicing near them.  I love the unspoken support that the yoga room provides.  I like struggling alongside other people who are facing their own challenges.

The last difference I experienced – and this is a big one – I was completely un self-conscious.  I did things that I haven’t done in the studio, but I don’t think I realized that I was limiting myself that way.  It’s actually really funny because one of the poses this most affected me in was standing separate leg stretching pose.

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As you can see in the photo, the goal is to touch your forehead to the floor, and you do this by grabbing your heels and pulling your body down, while simultaneously rolling your weight forward into the balls of your feet.  Now the teachers always say that if you can’t touch your forehead to the floor, open your legs wider and wider until you can.  I will open my legs wider to a point, but I always stop when I guess feels good enough.  I have rather inflexible hamstrings, but alone, in the privacy of my own bedroom, I decided to go for it.  Do you know what happened?  I nearly somersaulted into my mirror.  Really I did!  I actually fell forward and had to catch myself!  

So things I have taken away from this experience?  

1.  I love the crowds.

2. I miss the heat, but I don’t need the heat.  That means I might like other kinds of yoga!

3. I limit myself, and I shouldn’t.  If I’m somersaulting out of postures I think that means I’m trying hard enough.

FInally, although I would rather head to the Sweatbox any day, this experience gave me the confidence to practice in my own home at times when I just can’t make it to class, and that provides a lot of freedom.

Oh and the final thing I learned?  How to use my new version of itunes.  

Domestically yours,

C

 

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The problem with my yoga clothes is: I keep forgetting them.

On Tuesday I woke up ready to sweat, but due to poor planning and un-forseen dog walking time delays, I arrived at the 6:00 a.m. class only to find the door locked.  Luckily, I was able to get out of babysitting around 8:00 that night, leaving me plenty of time to get to the 8:45 class.  When I got there, however, I realized that all of my clothes for yoga were actually freshly laundered in a pile on my bed.  Not in my yoga bag.  Once again I had some luck because I was already wearing a pair of Lulus that I could french roll and make work, but what about a shirt?? With five minutes to Pranayama and only the long sleeve shirt I had on, I turned to Gary and Frani for some advice.  Borrow an old sweaty one from the lost and found, wear the long sleeve cozy cotton shirt I had, or buy one of the Onzie Bandeau tops.  Yikes.  I went for the purchase, thinking it would probably be ok.  The top is adorable and I’m sure I will wear it again for something, but I found myself self-conciously tugging it up after most of the standing postures.  Truth be told I’m not sure that I was actually about to have a wardrobe malfunction, but I figured that a class full of people was not the place to test the limits of my new garment.  To make matters worse, I hadn’t brought my contacts, forcing me into the front row, right below the podium – a terrible spot for a very tired and very poorly dressed yogini.

Today I was determined to go to my 4:30 class at Shoreline (does anything feel better than lying on my mat in that warm room after a long day of work?) but once again I seemed to have forgotten my clothes.  So I guess I’m headed to the 7:00 p.m. at the Capitol Hill studio – shorts and top are in my bag ready to go.  These outfit snafus are not something I wish to repeat, but after 20 days of yoga, I guess something’s got to give.  

Nakedly yours,

C

P.S: 2/3 of the way through!  Also – that photo is not me.  

I remember once in class, Lena said “always come in and expect the class to be hot and hard.  Be surprised when it’s cold and easy.”  I have since tried to bring that to other areas of my life, and boy has it made things more doable.  When I sail a race and I expect it to be long and freezing, I can relax and have fun out there because I got what I expected.  It’s a tiny shift in perspective that has made a huge difference.  It has made me realize that managing expectations is so paramount to the realization of happiness.

Often times for me, managing my expectations has more to do with having no expectations.  I do best on my yoga mat when my mind is clear, and I am able to focus on what is presently happening.  Not bracing for a flailing standing bow if i was failing at standing head to knee.  I just want to enjoy the moments when I am doing well, and work through the moments when I could be doing better.  By doing this, I think I can truly live in my moments of happiness, and I have definitely been having a lot of those lately.

Of course that’s the kicker: you have to be willing to stay present in your moments of sadness as well, and that’s not nearly as simple.  How easy is is to count down the seconds until balancing stick is over, or to try to think about something else when your throat is choked in rabbit pose?  Those are the times when staying mentally engaged in the postures is difficult, and similarly the difficult times in life are when I would rather have a glass of wine (or four) than problem solve.  

More later, I have to run to class.  Day 13!

Presently yours,

C

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Today in class, Laura asked us “Who is going to be doing the challenge in March?” two of us raised our hands.  “It’s important to start planning for it now, because it’s a time commitment.  It takes dedication to yourself.  You need to start looking at your calendar now so you can say ‘I need a babysitter here’ or ‘I’ll need a sub that day.'”

Wow.  Spring challenge already coming up.  This year, The Sweatbox is doing both a thirty day and a sixty day challenge, and I immediately started thinking about doing the sixty day.  On the one hand, I’m hesitant to go for a whole sixty days, because my last thirty day challenge was such a devastating experience for me in many ways.  I don’t want to set myself up for failure.  On the other hand, maybe Laura’s right.  Maybe I can really start planning for the challenge now.  Maybe I can give myself a substitute on an especially difficult day.  Maybe I can start cooking and freezing meals for March and April.  Maybe I can schedule a massage for the halfway point, and set up a twitter account to make writing about my challenge a more streamlined process.

There are so many things I can start doing now, so that in a month I can focus on myself, and not on all the nitty gritty details of life. I said it before: there is never a good time to start a challenge.  That’s true, but I guess I’m learning that you can plan for success in more ways than I’ve allowed myself to in the past.

Forethoughtfully yours,

C

So my challenge was terrible. That’s why I have been avoiding writing up a post – I don’t really have anything good to say about it. I’ve been reflecting and thinking. I’ve been trying to look for the lesson in all of this. Here is what I came up with…

I missed my first challenge class mid-month, and I immediately facebooked Gary, hoping for some words of wisdom. His advice? Chill out. After talking to him, and some of my other instructors, I realized that my challenge for the month wasn’t going to be going to every class, my challenge for the month was going to be accepting myself, and knowing I did my best, despite not making it to every class.

I found that I could look at the challenge as one long class. Skipping one class could be akin to skipping one posture in the series. It doesn’t mean the class is a failure, and you can always start fresh. The yoga mat is a place for clean slates, and rebirth, and that isn’t just within a class, it’s within a lifetime. The mat will always be there, and it will always be happy to have me on it. It doesn’t mater how long it’s been.

So that being said, I have a story for you: When I first started practicing yoga, I went to Bikram Yoga Vancouver (just the best place north of the Sweatbox!). During standing head to knee, the instructor would say you should look “like an L like Linda.” Every time they said this, I would glance around the room. Who was this Linda? Why was she always in the same classes as me? It literally took me probably a year to figure out they were referring to the shape my body should be in. My body should be in the shape of an L.

Acceptingly yours,

C

I’ve always judged the girls that go braless in yoga class.  This isn’t just any yoga, ladies, we sweat here.  You may as well be entering a wet t-shirt contest, because I can see your everything.  Bellybutton, top of the shorts, and nipples to boot.  How embarrassing for you!  How hard is it to wear a bra?  

I learned a tough lesson this week.  Rushing out the door one morning, I neglected to grab a sports bra off the clothesline.  I figured that since I was wearing a pretty thick, brightly colored yoga shirt, it probably wouldn’t matter.  I imagined I might be a little more exposed than usual, but I never thought that I would soon be bearing my body to the world (or at least the sweat box).

Just a few postures in, I realized what was happening to my shirt.  I panicked at first.  “I have to leave!” I thought.  But then I reconsidered (“fuck it.”)  Because you know what?  So much of yoga for me is blocking out distractions.  Maintaining my focus, and being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Yes, this was very uncomfortable for me.  I was sure I was being judged, stared at, and probably whispered about after class.  Now I’m sure I wasn’t.  Everyone has their own thing going on.  That might be a see-through shirt, or it might be a break up, or it might be a party they’re going to rock later.  Who knows.

Yoga requires you to maintain a funny balance between staying in and out of your own head at the same time.  For me, with my shirt betraying me like it did, I had to pick other things to focus on.  Even though in every posture I desperately wanted to check out my rack to see what everyone else could see, I knew I had to think about other things: locking my knee, twisting my upper body back at the end, coming out of this or that posture with a straight spine.  I had to shift my focus from the big picture to the small details.

I will never judge another no-bra girl again… and I’ll never be one again either.  I put an emergency sports bra in my trunk.

Nakedly yours,

C