Hi Yogis,

I have some exciting news to report: Sometime in the last 6-8 weeks, my back stopped hurting.

I have been babying my back for many years now. I have been careful about forward bending and posture and lifting heavy things. I have been afraid to fall down, afraid to sleep without a pillow under my knees, and afraid to even sit for too long because I never knew what might start it hurting again, and when it decides to start hurting, it can be pretty debilitating.

That all changed one day recently, as I was talking to a physical therapist friend of mine. I mentioned to her that my back hurt all the time and that I was frustrated by my tight hamstrings. I was sure that stretching them made my back hurt worse. “No!,” she exclaimed, “tight hamstrings are probably making your back hurt!” Wow. So all this time I have been treating my back like an acute injury, and never moving into a phase of rehabilitation.

A lot of times in class, we are reminded to just listen to the words of the dialogue and follow them exactly. As students of yoga, we are encouraged to have faith in the practice, trust it, and the more I do that, the better my practice becomes. I decided to do exactly that, especially for the postures, such as rabbit and hands to feet pose. My hamstring flexibility has increased tremendously (although they are still pretty tight!) and I think that is the number one thing that has lead to my decrease in pain.

I will admit, that at first my back hurt much worse. I used a little ibuprofen at work, and some heat and ice, but I continued to really push myself in class, especially in these postures that are so challenging to me. I simultaneously tried to work extremely hard in the spine strengthening series, and consistently keep my core engaged throughout class.

My back pain, miraculously, began to subside. I can’t pinpoint the exact day it went away, and there are still days when I have some pain, but I realized recently while I was at work that I felt fine. In fact, I felt great.

I am beginning to feel more balanced and more comfortable. I am slowly losing that off-kilter in my body feeling that I really think was contributing to my back pain. My posture has also improved quite a lot since early November, and I’m sure that helps too! I guess this is just another lesson in learning to trust the practice.

Bikram’s really does heal all!

-C

Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a doctor. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on 30dayyogi.wordpress.com.

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Hi Yogis and others,

Yoga and writing to me have been inextricably linked from day one. Bikram’s teaches me so many things, and I get excited about them and feel like I need to share my insights. Blogging is my way to document my mental growth.

Yoga is most certainly a form of exercise (especially Bikram’s) but, what I’m sure is already abundantly clear to you all, is that yoga is also an exercise for the mind. Learning how to overcome pain, and push through drama and difficulty to attain success; to build up your sense of self efficacy, boosting your confidence and driving you to become mentally healthier. Yoga helps you practice being in the moment, not getting caught up in the transitive phenomena we are confronted with daily, and hourly. Yoga is an incredible workout for the brain. But I don’t have to tell you that.

Do you know who I have to tell that to? The teachers at Bikram Yoga Seattle in Fremont. I’m not linking to their page, I’m not trying to slander them. I know I have discussed before the reasons why I dislike that studio (and the reasons why some people might prefer it!), but that is where Kaleesha and I ended up doing our 30-day challenge. Just to recap: there was a groupon sale that got us an incredible deal on unlimited yoga for a month at the Fremont studio. I decided to go for it, even though I knew I hadn’t particularly liked that studio in the past, and that was a huge mistake. I didn’t particularly enjoy the classes there, I didn’t get that same incredible spirit lift there that I do going to the Sweat Box. I didn’t know why that was for a while, but I soon realized that it is because the Fremont studio completely ignores the mental aspect of the practice.

I will admit I did an awful job of documenting my most recent 30-day challenge, but it’s because a massive part of my practice was missing. I didn’t have anything to say, because my landscape of epiphanies was stark. My hopes for that strength of mind, and greater wisdom that comes with a challenge like that were sadly unfulfilled.

Right after I finished my month at Bikram Yoga Seattle, I went directly to the Sweat Box and began taking classes there. I finished my challenge at the sweat box in October, and since then I have been attending classes at the sweat box about 3-4 times a week. I feel so grounded, and so comfortable in my own body right now, and I am definitely in better shape than I was in over the summer. Most importantly, despite the fact that I have been working in a preschool, my back is in wonderful shape (that’ll be a topic for another post!).

I am so happy to report that unlike my 30-day challenge three years ago, I have been able to continue to work my yoga into my life post-challenge.

Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful holiday, filled with friends and family and love.

Namaste!

-C

It all started when Kaleesha and I were looking at pictures on Facebook. “You look so good in these pictures!” She said. “That was right after my Bikram Yoga Challenge,” I explained. “We have to do a yoga challenge,” she decided. That was that.

We set a tentative date of september 15th to start our challenge. My boyfriend left for Washington DC for a few months on the 7th, so I figured I’d have one week to cry on the couch and eat ice cream, and then be forced to actually do something. What ended up happening, though, was quite fateful. Kaleesha and I get e-mails from Groupon, and one morning, the daily deal happened to be one month of unlimited Bikrams yoga at Bikram Yoga Seattle for $30. We had to do it.

This time around I am structuring my challenge a little differently. Reading over my blog posts about my previous 30 day challenge, I gave myself some advice for if I did this again, and I’m going to follow it. First of all, I am going 5 days a week. This extends the challenge by 2 weeks, making it more of a 6-week challenge than a 30-day challenge, I guess. I’m doing this to decrease burn out, and to give my body time to rest and reap the benefits of the practice. The next thing I am doing, is I have photographed myself in several postures (camel, standing bow, standing head to knee pose), and I am going to photograph myself again in 6 weeks to gauge my improvement, and to see if my body has changed. I am excited to find out, because it is something I was really curious about during my last challenge.

It’s always interesting starting back into Bikram’s. I haven’t practiced regularly for about a year, but my body fell pretty naturally back into it. I did start to feel pretty nauseous when it was time to get into camel pose, and I could hardly bend back at all the first day, but by the second day, my intense nausea was quite diminished, so I was able to participate more. I feel like the first day was kind of a “get through the class” kind of day, but by the second day, I was getting used to making those minor mental and physical adjustments, and improving my postures. I kept thinking about Katie’s advice, (she is one of my favourite teachers from Vancouver BC) “it’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect,” and it made me unafraid to try things. I’ll never forget the class I took from her during my last 30 day challenges. It was me and five other students, and it was far and wide the best yoga experience I have ever had. Katie was an amazing teacher, and I miss learning from her. I am lucky to have her voice in my head when I do yoga elsewhere.

As my readers know, I don’t love Bikram Yoga Seattle. I prefer The Sweatbox, and unfortunately, that has been very much confirmed for me over the past two classes, and I have also figured out why. Bikram Yoga Seattle is completely missing the mind part of the mind-body aspect of yoga. I prefer teachers that share Bikram’s knowledge and words of wisdom, are encouraging, and help take their students to a mental place where our physical boundaries can be challenged. Since I have done a lot of this kind of yoga, I have certain things that teachers have told me that I can keep in my mind as I practice. Things like “one millimeter today, one millimeter tomorrow, and eventually you’ll get there.” or “move with the class, don’t think, let the teacher be the mind and you be the body.” These words, among others, float around in my mind and guide my practice, but I imagine for someone who has never done Bikram’s anywhere else, it must be less fulfilling. The sad part is, those students don’t even know how much their practice could be improved with better teaching.

Anyway, since I am doing 30 days, 5 days a week, I have six weeks of yoga to do, and Kaleesha and I decided that for our last ten classes we will go to The Sweat Box. I can’t wait to take more classes from Gary!!

I am kind of sore this weekend, but I think I will be ready to go on monday again (I almost wish I was going today!). I am relaxing, icing my back to prevent injury, and going to the baseball game tonight.

Motivationally yours,

-C

I can’t believe I’m back here. After moving to Vancouver for UBC, finishing UBC last year, and moving back to Seattle (I thought it was for good – but only lasted for a month or so), and getting a job in Vancouver and moving back there, and working in 3 different positions, I have arrived back, full circle, in Seattle. With a job.

I’m not sure how I feel about this… I haven’t been to a yoga class here yet. It’s been over a week since I’ve been in the studio, but I’m looking for something different. I went to a metal show and loved how loud it was, it drowned everything else inside out. I want a workout that drowns everything else out. I know at some point I will go back to Bikram, but right now I don’t want to deal with the introspection yoga has to offer.

I know this is so unlike me. I’ve been accused of being in a yoga cult, I am a yoga devotee, I am a yoga enthusiast of the greatest extreme. Maybe I should head back and follow my own advice. Yoga can fix everything, it allows me room to experience my emotions within the safety of my practice. As Bikram says, the hardest poses are the ones you need most. Maybe the hardest time to go to a class is when you need it the most too.

I think I’ll go to spin class instead. They play loud music there, right?

-C

It has occurred to me recently how quickly things can change. I experienced something I have not experienced before in a yoga class today, and that was anger.

As I went through my postures, I felt exasperated by the repetition of the practice. I have always believed in two things regarding Bikrams: 1. that it really can in some way cure all ills, and 2. that it is important to let all feelings flow freely through you, but anger is not a feeling I ever expected to feel.

I was angry because I feel helpless in so many ways. I feel like life can change in an instant, and the monotony of Bikrams, the meditative repetition, did not prepare me for that. Things life brings at us — death, a new job, a move, a break up — don’t come in repetitive waves. These things come at you suddenly, leaving you to handle them however you can; leaving you to struggle to make the best of them, or just live through them.

What about one day when you can’t do Bikram’s anymore? What about one day when you can’t get out of bed anymore? Do you struggle on? Find new things to live for, new people to count on? Someone once told me that I was so strong, but when things changed around me, or happened suddenly, I became paralyzed. “I don’t know why you do this,” he told me, “but it scares me.” Bikrams has taught me how to move through a series of steps, how to follow along a path when I already know the way. I don’t know how to make a new one.

-C

I was reading a post on lifestooshortforlowfatcheese’s blog (wow that’s a mouthful!), and one of the things she talks about in this post is craving junk food. As a response to that, I was thinking about how stopping eating junk food isn’t really what makes me stop craving it, but doing yoga every day (and I would like to emphasize that: every day not every other day, not three times a week) does.

One of the results of doing my 30 day challenge way back when, was that I lost weight. Bikram says that practicing his yoga will bring people to their optimum body weight, whether that means gaining weight or losing it, and I think that the reasons for this are both physical and psychological.

Physically, some of the poses in Bikrams are designed to effect the metabolism, by either speeding it up or slowing it down. Other postures are designed to optimize digestion. Overall the Bikram’s series is a purifying ritual, and when you come out feeling so clean and pure, it doesn’t make sense to run for a hamburger. Psychologically speaking, when I leave my Bikram’s class, I feel strong and light and clean, and I like to hold on to that feeling for as long as possible.

Foods like bread, cheese, and chocolate stimulate the release of serotonin and endorphins that produce feelings of euphoria. When a person is feeling drowsy or depressed she might crave something high in carbohydrates or sugar, as they provide a quick source of energy (but of course lead to a blood sugar crash soon after). When you are doing Bikram’s, a lot of those types of cravings are taken away, because you are producing those chemicals organically. You are regulating your sleep cycles, improving your energy levels, and increasing your mental alertness. You stop needing those foods as much.

How can you increase the possibility of this happening? For one thing do yoga as much as possible. More importantly, when you are in class, really listen to what the teacher is saying. It is important to know the goal of the posture, and the target body part (hint: going deeper into the posture is often not the goal). For example in standing separate leg head to knee pose the goal is compression of the abdomen.

This doesn’t mean you will definitely stop craving junk foods, or wanting them, but you may find that instead of wanting to hoover a bag of chocolate chips, a small handful will satisfy you.

Happy Yoga-ing!

-C

Happy Monday Yogis and Yoginis!

I have been broke lately. The recession and blah blah blah I suppose, but to put it straight, I have had a hard time affording Bikrams. It’s pricey to begin with, so it doesn’t make too much sense to pay the disgustingly high drop in rate, nor is it feasible for me, being broke as I am, to buy a package of classes for the rate of $400+. Lucky for me, I was working with Lulu Lemon over the christmas holidays, and one of the gifts this company gives its employees, is the gift of free athletic classes. They have partnerships with fitness centers all over the city, and while Bikrams is not one of them, they do work with a lovely studio called Flow Yoga.

Flow Yoga is, simply put, awesome. They make the practice truly accessible to everyone. They have classes like “ESL yoga,” and “Yoga for stiff boys.” They have Karma Yoga on sundays (pay for the class by donation… amazing) and they even have a class that combines spinning and yoga! Of course they also have hot yoga… and that is where my heart led me. I Went with Hilary again (she is so good at getting me off my couch), and she warned me as we filed in to the super busy class, that this was going to be very different than what I was used to.

It was.

I found the class to be extremely relaxing. That is not to say it was easy, but the stretching was more leisurely, it was geared toward what the class wanted (it seemed we all had stiff hips that day), and the teacher was amazing. She was warm, silly, and energetic, in short, the type of teacher you always hope to get when trying a new thing.

I think I was lucky in experiencing the class that I did. I liked that it was very different from Bikrams, instead of a wanna-be Bikrams class, as apparently some at flow-yoga are. One of the reasons I realize I haven’t loved hot yoga in the past, was that it was trying to be Bikrams, and not measuring up. I have discussed the lengthy Bikrams teacher training process that takes place each year in earlier entries. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it is 9 weeks, 2 classes per day, as well as posture training, dialogue training, and a lecture by Bikram himself which often will last until 11:30 or 12:00 PM. It is exhausting and a true test of strength and character. What I’m trying to say is, you can’t just fake that kind of training.

Before you get all huffy, you hot yoga enthusiasts and anti-Bikrams readers, this is not meant to be a value judgement on the skill of teachers who have not been trained in the Bikrams method. I value variety, and I value the idea that there are different styles of yoga that are better for different people. I just don’t want to go to a hot yoga class and have it turn out to be a mediocre Bikrams imitation. If I go to hot yoga, I am choosing that over Bikrams because I am in the mood for something different.

I would go back to flow for certain, however I am not with Lulu lemon anymore and will have to pay the high price for a hot yoga class. In the meantime however, maybe I will go to the Karma yoga. Something is better than nothing after all. Anyone want to join me?

-Claire