My goal during my last 30-day-challenge was to “stop being afraid.”  I have recognized for a while now how much fear can hold me back from doing the things I want to and need to do in my life.  Fear of unknown, fear of consequences, fear of vulnerability, fear of getting hurt.  By recognizing that fear was holding me back, I have been able to make strides by forcing myself to push through my fear.  “Don’t be afraid” is what I told myself this while buying my first car recently, while signing the lease to a new apartment, and while I severed a long term partnership last month.  What I have come to learn, is that fear, while totally normal and acceptable, is not a reason to stop moving forward.  It is not a reason to say no when the answer should be yes.

Fear of pain is a fear that comes up for me often both in and out of the yoga studio.  I am terrified of hurting myself.  I don’t want to push too hard in some stretching postures because I’m afraid of what might happen to my body, and I am afraid of looking at emotional situations head on because I am afraid of what it will do to my heart.

In yoga recently, it has been very hard for me to dive into the practice mentally, because I am afraid of the pain that is inside my heart.  I feel very sad during so much of class, and today I found myself repeating over and over “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid,” because I needed to push through that fear, and feel that pain, in order to release it. 

At some point during the floor series, I did allow my emotions to come to the surface, and I had a very interesting experience.  I felt that my grief was tangible.  I thought I was able to truly take it out of my body and look at it head on, and in doing that I decided (however ugly it was) my grief was manageable.  I am not a believer in God in the religious sense, but I do like the saying that “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  When we are given these challenges in life, it does truly force us to become better, stronger, more compassionate individuals.

I stopped being afraid of my grief.  I confronted my feelings face to face, and I feel I will be able to begin moving through them now.

Bravely yours,

C

 

“You’re never too old, you’re never too sick, it’s never too late to start from scratch once again.”

This is something Bikram tells his students, and this is something Shavon reminded us as we lay in savasana yesterday morning.  “If you’re struggling right now, if your mind is racing, it’s ok.  Just take a deep breath and start again.”  Take a deep breath.  This is something that many of us at times struggle to do, or take for granted, and it’s something we all need to do all the time.  When we practice yoga, we are reminded how important breathing is.  It can make the difference between a great class and one you’re barely able to complete.

 Yoga has a way of reducing us to our most raw and basic functions: drink water, breathe, move, sweat.  We are muscle and tissue, a working system, a well-tuned machine. The practice can be so beautiful when these things work together, but take one away and it wouldn’t work at all.  So much of what is true in yoga, is true in life.

 I have a friend who got her chance to take a deep breath and start again last night.  She has cystic fibrosis, and she received her new set of lungs.  Thanks to the sacrifice of an organ donor, this beautiful, smart, inspiring woman will be able to continue to laugh, smile, make an enormous impact on everyone she touches, and all because she is most importantly able to breathe.

 If you are not already an organ donor, please register here (in the U.S.).  You could potentially give someone the chance to start from scratch once again.

 Don’t take your breath for granted. 

 Sincerely,

 Claire

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First of all, thank you so much to The Bliss Project for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award.  I think her blog is just lovely as well so you should run check it out.  

The way this award works is, since I have been nominated, I get to share seven things about myself, and then I’m going to nominate seven other bloggers for the One Lovely Blog Award too!

Since this is a yoga and health blog, I am actually going to tweak the theme of the award a bit, and I’m going to post seven things I have learned about myself and others through my yoga practice.

1. I am really tough. I’ve always known I am a mind over matter person, but yoga had reconfirmed that for me. I know that I can decide to do something and it will happen. It can be skydiving, or it doing the next posture in a Bikram class instead of lying down.

2. I have learned when to say enough is enough. As I said, I know I can force myself to do a lot of things. I used to feel like I had to constantly force myself to do more more more. Harder, faster, better. I’ve begun to be much better at focusing on myself, trying to tune out my ego, and analyzing what is best for me.

3. I love to sweat. I used to be mortified by sweat. I used to be absolutely grossed out by the smell of it, the feeling of it on my skin. I hated what it did to my hair, how my face would get all red. Now I love it. I love how it makes me feel clean and refreshed; it’s like a shower from the inside out.

4. I like my body. I’ve hated my body for more years than I have loved it, and for that I am deeply deeply sorry. One of the first things I learned after I started doing Bikram yoga, was that I had a great appreciation for the things my body could do for me. I still feel so grateful for my body. It carries me inside of it somewhere, and when I practice yoga it is like giving back to myself, and at the same time reminding me to be grateful.

5. Take things one day at a time. When I used to get really overwhelmed with homework or chores or just stuff, my dad used to say “one fish at a time, Claire.” It never really clicked for me what that meant because I’ve never been fishing. I don’t really understand the feeling of being intimidated by all the fish you have to clean. I really feel like I have a better understanding of how to work on something a little at a time, and I have faith that I will reach my goal eventually. That’s the knowledge that led me to run my 8K last year, and to be honest, it’s partly what helps me get through every day and feel successful. “One day at a time, one millimeter at a time, and eventually you’ll get there,” is what Danny at BYV used to say to our Bikram class. I’m still waiting on getting there in standing head to knee…

6. Pedicures and shaved under arms can wait until later. This harkens back to #3 bit, but I think it’s worth reiterating. I am so much less judgmental of myself than I used to be. I have much more reasonable expectations for my looks, and more importantly, I have different priorities. I used to always always ALWAYS have my toes and fingernails perfectly done. I used to sometimes skip yoga because I didn’t have time to go home and shave my legs. I can’t even imagine that now. It might partly come from my work in preschool (where looks mean next to nothing), and it might come from my super busy schedule this year, but my time is important to me. Getting to yoga class, and getting a good nights sleep, and doing the things I love to do with the people I love to be around; those things are my priority. Painted nails can wait.

7. Patience and compassion. Yoga has strengthened these qualities in me. I have become more patient and compassionate both with myself and with other people. It is a gift to me, my students, my friends, and everyone I see. I feel so much less judgmental of others, and so much less judgmental of myself. I think this is one of the greatest things Bikram Yoga has given me.

Now for my seven nominations:

Vegan Sparkles

Bikram Butterflies

Hannah, Just Breathe

Living in Possibility (it’s a super new blog, but I love the theme and the writing in superb)

Woman Eats City

A Bikram Adventure

Safa Shares

Enjoy checking out these seven very lovely blogs!

Appreciatively 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

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

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

Hi Readers,

As I embark on this new 30-day Bikram challenge, I enter into new challenge territory: the group challenge.  Doing a 30-day challenge with a group of people will be very different for me, because (as you know) I always do challenges by myself.  Kaleesha and I did my last 30-day yoga challenge together, and it definitely changed things a bit, but we were still doing it kind of individually together.

At The Sweat Box, the rules of their challenge are as follows: do Bikram yoga at The Sweatbox for 30 days in a row.  2-a-days don’t count.  If you’re out of town, you can practice at a different studio.  The rules are basic, and black and white.  Just like in my first ever 30-day challenge, I will succeed or I wont.  This time, however; my name is on a wall in the studio and I will mark off the days of the challenge with a little shiny star sticker.  If there’s a sticker missing, I’m not just accountable to myself, I’m accountable to everyone who is working towards that 30-day goal.

When I started this blog, one of my reasons was to keep myself accountable for the goals I set.  I think it has been a strong source of motivation for me, but my readers, you, the people who I feel hold me to my word are all remote.  I don’t really know who reads this blog, so I do feel accountable but I don’t have to look you in the face if I fail.  My teachers and fellow students are people that I am familiar with in person.  In this challenge there will be a very different kind of accountability.

On a more positive note, I am anticipating that there will be a comfortable sense of community, and I hope that people will help each other stay motivated and stay positive.  I’m looking forward to experiencing this with my fellow yogis and yoginis.  It’s really nice to shake things up sometimes.

Communally yours,

-C

I was thinking the other day about my mental trajectory during a 90 minute Bikram’s yoga class. In the beginning, I am usually feeling a bit distracted, my mind wanders; this is the time when it is most difficult to focus on myself and my practice. It is hard to stay completely present. Inevitably though, as I continue to physically struggle in the postures, pushing myself to put forth my best effort, I get tired. As I get physically tired, my mind gets into gear, and I am able to really stay in a state of moving meditation.

Some days (especially Mondays) when I am really tired, I choose to skip my yoga class. In discovering this phenomenon, I may have to change that bad habit. Clearly being tired can improve my practice in some ways.

I have mentioned before that a major thing I have learned through practicing Bikram’s is how and when to push myself. One of my favorite Bikramisms is “if you can, you must.” I need to remind myself that even when I’m tired, I can make it through a class. I think this is another place where I can learn to push myself a little harder, and receive a lot of benefit in return.

Exhaustedly yours,
-C