I am blind as a bat.

Ok so maybe that is an exaggeration, but I am certainly blind enough that I cannot see people more than 6-8 feet away from me. I can recognize them, I know they aren’t a statue, but really see them? Not a chance. To be honest, this usually doesn’t bother me. I go through life waving at strangers like it’s my job.

In the yoga studio, the teacher often tells us to make eye contact with our reflections in the mirror, or focus deeply on a certain area of our bodies and, without my glasses on, I can’t do that. So today I decided to wear my glasses to class. I know this doesn’t seem like some monumental thing to those of you who haven’t experienced Bikram’s, but there are a few things which have stopped me from doing this in the past.

1. My glasses fog up: This both obscures my vision and makes me feel like a huge nerd. The nerdiness I can handle, but constantly having to take off and wipe down my frames… so inconvenient. Not to mention distracting.

2. Sweaty noses = glasses slippage: This is once again just inconvenient. I don’t want to come out of standing separate leg stretching pose or balancing stick only have to put my glasses back on.

3. Discomfort: The bottom line is, my glasses are incredibly distracting. One of the most annoying things in yoga is having to make adjustments physically, whether that is pulling my shirt up or down, fixing my hair, or adjusting my glasses so they aren’t hanging from one ear.

I will do a lot to avoid having to make adjustments in class, because it distracts me from the meditation of my practice. Unfortunately, without my glasses, I am left out of another aspect of class, and one that could potentially help me with my balance, form, and focus (ironically).

So wearing my glasses in class did everything I expected it to do for me.

Pros: It helped my balance and my form. In standing head to knee pose, I could actually see the dimples that formed above my standing leg, assuring me that my knee was locked. It gave me the confidence and ability to start really kicking out my other leg in the posture. In some other postures, eagle pose, tree pose, and standing bow (to name a few), being able to make eye contact with my reflection in the mirror really improved my focus and balance.

Cons: My glasses did slip down my nose a lot, but guess what? They didn’t fog up once, and they never ended up hanging from one ear. I guess I would put them in the same category of inconvenience as I do my bangs. My bangs get sweaty and I have to brush them out of my eyes occasionally, but am I growing them out? No. (well actually I am… but not because of yoga).

So in conclusion: Why in the world was I so opposed to even trying to wear my glasses in class? It was a better experience for me with them on. I guess I’ll be a glasses wearing yogini from now on.

Coming soon: Guest post from Travis, who was tough enough to brave the heat and come to his first Bikram’s Yoga class ever!!

-C

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I am going back to yoga. If peace is the baseline of the spirit, the measuring stick that we can use to assess where we are emotionally, then both pain and happiness are impermanent.

Things, people, places, all can inject us with emotion. Being around someone makes you happy, being away from someone makes you sad, being in a certain location makes you sad, buying shoes makes you happy. Me happy anyway. These items are band aids. These items aren’t good for the spirit if peace is the goal.

The person who said this to me said that he strives to live by this mantra, and that the material items he does invest himself in, are vessels through which he can reach permanence. Of course I immediately am trying to define for myself what permanence is, and all I can come up with is that it could be a personal sense of peace.

I’m going back to yoga, because it gives me peace. It allows me to reach out to something greater than myself. I have talked before about the energy of a class, the seemingly ironic sense of intense introspection coupled with the distinct feeling of being a part of a greater, moving, entity. The class moving together, sweating together, experiencing sensation together, yet each person having a deeply personal experience at the same time.

I need this feeling that I am not alone. I need this feeling that I am part of something bigger, and I need something that brings me peace in the midst of uncertainty. I have forced myself back into a place of deep thinking, and it has brought with it sadness, but also a sense of hope that is flickering but bright.

-C

Hello!

So a few things have been going on the last few days (apart from finals… why I haven’t been posting daily).  First of all, my back became a problem.  I started to wonder why it seemed to be getting worse and not better, so I decided to ask Katie about it.  She suggested that I do only the back ward bends and spinal twists and skip the forward bending all together.  I decided to go for it, since that is what my doctors told me so many years ago when I first became injured:  no forward bending!  The good news is, it has completely worked after a total of two classes with no forward bending, I am back pain free.  The bad news is, it is really disappointing not to be able to completely participate.  I am trying so hard to get over myself, not let myself be competitive, stay humble about my practice, but it is really hard.  Do you remember before how I wrote about part of the discipline is knowing when to stop or not do something?  This is definitely testing my will in this aspect.  Bikram says part of the practice is learning to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and it was definitely an uncomfortable situation tonight when everyone was bending forward, and I was standing there upright like a tree in a field.  I treated that uncomfortable feeling as part of my practice though, and tried to work through those uncomfortable feelings by focusing only on myself and not fidgeting, trying to just breathe and stay calm.

I have been able to modify some of the postures so I can do them.  For example, in standing head to knee pose, I am locking my standing leg and bringing my other leg up so that my knee is at a 90 degree angle, but just not bending forward to hold onto my foot.  I am just going to try to focus a lot on my abdominal strength,  and keeping those muscles contracted, and also really try to work on y backward bending and  really really work my ass off in the spinal strengthening series, and then after 5 or maybe even more classes, I will try some of the forward bending again.  Knowing that I can fix the pain with just one or two classes of no forward bending increases my confidence about trying again, because I know I can fix it.  Especially if I really take it easy.

I wanted to quickly address the issue of Bikram’s Yoga being a mean practice.  I was talking to my mom on the phone tonight, and she said that my aunt had tried Bikram’s and thought that the instructors were mean.  She said they yelled at her, they were harsh on other students, and they made the class unenjoyable.

When people hear “yoga,” they think relaxation, calmness, soothing, and resting.  Bikram’s yoga is not that kind of yoga.  I can imagine it would be difficult going into a class if you didn’t know what to expect, because it is really unlike anything else I have ever done.  (I guess the closest thing I can think of to it was doing Mrs. Han’s pointe class in high school:  she yelled at us a lot).   In the class, the instructors are loud, the lights are bright, and it is fast paced.  It is not a time to relax, it is a time to work.  The relaxation comes from the fact that you are working so so  so hard that you can’t think about anything – not your problems, not your job, not your name.

The teachers do try to make you work harder, so that you are stronger, so that you get more out of the class.  Some people don’t like them yelling “lock your knees lock your knees last chance to lock the knees!”  but I find it motivational.  Part of the meditation is letting the teacher be your mind, and letting your body just follow what they say.  If the teachers weren’t telling you what to do constantly how would your body know what to do?

Yoga to me is like a 90 minute pep talk.  I like hearing the teacher remind me I can do anything.  I like hearing a reminder of how strong I am, how much this is benefiting me.  I think it’s great.

My mom also said she couldn’t imagine how this yoga could possibly be burning so many calories, it’s just yoga.  She wondered how someone could work that hard if they aren’t running on a treadmill or lifting weights.  She is going to come to a class with me this month… and she’s in for a wake up call!  This is not your stereotypical yoga: get ready for the work out of your life!

exercise

Today will be day 7 of my 30 day challenge- I’ll be a quarter of the way through already! Unfortunately the alcohol was a bit too tempting last night and I’m slightly hungover today. I just have headache, am a little dehydrated. I’m slightly nauseous at the moment. I really hope that part goes away because I can get hydrated and I can handle a headache but nausea I’m not so sure how that’s going to sit in the yoga room.

I’m going to the 7:45 class so hopefully by then I will be feeling good. I was hoping there was a 9:30 today but no luck there.

I will let you know how it goes afterwards!

-Claire

EDIT:

I’m just going to write a bit more before class. Luckily, with some food in my stomach and a couple of litres of water, I am feeling much better and I think this class will go well. Plus also Jessica is coming with me today and it is always really fun to bring someone new and share the experience with her. I really feed off of other peoples energy in the room and I think it helps to have some new energy. When you go to your first class there is so much excitement and I can really feed off of that energy.

Speaking of using other people’s energy in the class, I have noticed a little funny thing that happens. If someone falls out of a posture, then other people around her often do. It’s kind of a chain reaction and it makes you realize how connected the class becomes. I have been guilty of coming out of a posture with someone as well. I don’t really know why it happens, but I think it is because we really do use each other’s energy in the class and if there is a break in that energy then everyone feels it.

I am feeling really frustrated because of my lack of flexibility in my hamstrings. I know I talked about it before and said my flexibility was improving, and it is a lot, but it is still bad enough that it is preventing me from going fully into certain postures where hamstring flexibility is necessary. for example, in standing head to knee pose, I can’t kick out because of my lack of flexibility; in balancing stick I can’t tilt forward for the same reason. I know that I just have to keep trying. One of the teachers, Danny, says “a millimeter today a millimeter tomorrow and eventually you’ll get there.” When I get frustrated I just try to focus on those words, because he’s right: a millimeter of progress each day will eventually get you to where you want to be. I hope I make a millimeter of progress today in everything.

The last two classes I have had a lot of trouble with my concentration. Today I really want to be able to just leave the world behind me and be successful in centering my thoughts, because the actions and abilities of my body are definitely led by my mind. I get much more out of the practice when I am not distracted. In the last class I found myself actually making a grocery list in my head during savasana. wtf. That just totally takes away from my ability to participate and if I am going to put myself through such a strenuous experience, I want to get the most out of it possible.

So that being said, my goal for today is to stay focused.

Finally I wanted to show you some pictures of some of the postures I talk about a lot, just so you non-yogis can know what I’m always blabbering on about.

Staning head to knee pose

Standing head to knee pose

In this posture I do it so the knee that he kicked out is actually just at a 90 degree angle.

Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose

This is from http://www.bikramorlando.com.

Locust pose with two legs

Locust pose with two legs

We also do this with just left and just right legs. full locust is below…

Full Locust

Full Locust

from http://www.tracis.info.com

Standing Bow

Standing Bow

from http://www.bikramyogabozeman.org

I can’t do it quite this well!

Tree pose

Tree pose

From http://www.bikramyoga.com

In Toe Stand, you hold this posture then bend your standing leg until you are balancing with your hip just above your heel, and you bring both hands in to prayer.

Hope this helps you understand what I’m talking about!

Who knows when I’m going now… Joe wants me to go to go see Twilight with him and some of his buddies and you know I can’t resist a good vampire tale. 6:00 yoga maybe?

P.S. If you read this and want to see a picture of a pose I am talking about, leave a comment and I will post a picture.  Sometimes in the different forms of yoga poses are different, like triangle for example sometimes can look like this:

triangle pose

triangle pose

which isn’t how I do it. So if you want to know what a pose is for Bikram’s specifically let me know!

-Claire