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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I am discouraged. I am on run three, and I am now certain that every time I run, it gets more difficult. I didn’t expect it to be easy by now, but it didn’t even cross my mind that it would be more difficult on run #3.

I have a few problems in particular. One is that my back hurts a lot. This is lower back pain, like I’ve had for years now, and running seems to be exacerbating it. I’m thinking it could have to do with running form or something? More on that in a moment.

The other thing is, my joints all hurt. I read on one of the websites about training that this is totally normal for new runners, but knowing that it’s normal doesn’t make me any less achy!

The third and final issue I have, is fear. I seem to have a terrible fear of falling. For those of you who know me, this is a totally fair fear, as I am someone who falls down. A lot. The ground is wet now, and the fallen leaves are slippery. It seems treacherous to run down a hill in those conditions.

I rarely get comments on this blog, although I know people are out there reading it (I have site stats, people!), so I am asking if you all would break your silence for me. I need some words of encouragement, running tips, advice on what’s normal, and anecdotes. I’m sure some of you are runners, and can indulge me in my plea for words of wisdom. You can comment anonymously. No one will know who you are!

I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend, and that your week to follow is productive and successful.

With gratitude,

-C

Hello fellow yogis and non-participatory yoga enthusiasts,

I know I haven’t written in a while – it’s because of finals.  I can barely find and hour and a half to go to class and then writing about it afterward?  Forget about it.  But, well, here I am writing about it.

Last night I took the 11:15 class, which I haven’t done before.  Kristine and I came to the conclusion that a person who took the 11:15 class must either have no life (and thus nowhere to wake up and go the next day), or just be kind of dumb.  Actually, as it turns out, the class was amazing.  There were seven people including me in the room, we all got a front row space, Katie was teaching, and it was the best class I have had in a long time.

The past week or so I have really been struggling with a lot of different issues.  I think it started with my back hurting so much and I kind of lost faith in the yoga a bit.  Then I started losing my balance a lot, losing my focus on the class, and not finding the experience quite as rewarding.  Last night, being so close and really being able to connect to myself in the mirror and really see my body, I feel like I kind of found my yoga again.  I felt very focused on myself and on the poses.  I was so in the moment that when we had finished the floor series I was surprised, because I just wasn’t thinking that way last night.

In terms of Katie’s teaching style, I really appreciate it.  I think of all the teachers I have taken classes from, she is the best at reminding me that the yoga is all about me.  I’m not doing it for the teacher, for any of the other students in the class, for anyone but myself.  She said two things last night that I really liked.  The first was “I don’t have to make the class hard, it’s already hard enough.”  This just reminded me to push myself, work hard for myself, and not rely on others to do it for me.  A lot of the instructors will call you out, ask you to do things you haven’t done before, and sometimes I like the encouragement, but especially lately as I have been doing modified postures to reduce my back pain, I don’t like it when they ask me to do things without knowing where I’m coming from, or what’s going on with me.  Sometimes they do know about my back and they have their own opinion about what I can do in the class, how I can do the posture.  I appreciate Katie’s belief in me to pace myself, and her respect for the fact that I know my body better than anyone else.

The other thing she said that I really liked, which also kind of goes along the same lines, is that “yoga is the only activity where the goal is you.”  She explained how in soccer the goal is to get the ball in the net, for example, but in yoga the goal is to improve yourself, which is pretty unique in terms of physical activity.

Speaking of my back, it is feeling so much better.  I have basically stopped putting any pressure on my back during forward bending by keeping my hands on the floor supporting some of my weight (in separate leg stretching pose and in hands to feet pose), and completely avoiding rabbit pose altogether, modifying half tortoise by not pushing my knees together and focusing on keeping my head below my heart.  I think it helps really understanding the goal behind each posture, for example in standing separate leg head to knee pose, it can stretch your legs and back, but the point of it is compression of the neck and abdomen to improve the endocrine and adrenal systems (among other things).  So I can do that pose, and focus on the compression and just bend my knee a lot to take the pressure off my back, as well as helping myself back up into a standing position to take the strain off my lower back.  For rabbit pose, I just generally do a second and third set of camel instead.  Backward bending is good.  I also really work hard in the spine strengthening series.  I’m hoping to increase the flexibility of my hamstrings, without over-stretching my back, and increase my spinal strength a lot, and I think that will heal my back.

I’m almost done with my thirty days, and I have seen such a huge change in myself, not just in my body, which has changed a lot, but also in my lifestyle and  in my outlook on things in life.  Last night Katie said to take some pictures of ourselves doing poses now (camel, standing bow, standing head to knee), and then take more in a year and see what a huge improvement you’ve made and how much your body has changed.  I think that if I had done that at the beginning of the month and now I would already see an incredible difference.  I know my postures have improved a lot, and my body shape is changing.  I’m so much healthier than I was 4 weeks ago.

Happy holidays everyone!  I am so excited to go home and spend Christmas with my family.   Katie recommended The Sweat Box in Seattle, so I’m planning on giving that one a try.  She said there’s also a good one in fremont, so we’ll see!

here is some adorable-ness before I go.  Have a great end of the week!  I’m done with my challenge on Monday!

Lily

Lily

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

The short answer is yes.

I was inspired to write this after looking at the stats on my blog, and finding that a lot of the search terms people were using to find this blog were things like:

“yoga too hard on lower back”

“Triangle pose with hip pain”

“Can you do yoga with sore knees?”

etc.

The truth is, that yoga will fix all of these things.  One of the wonderful things about this practice is that you can completely tailor it to your own personal needs.  One of the things the instructors like to remind us is that yoga is non-competitive.  A person who is coming on their first day is getting the same amount of benefit as a person coming on their 400th day.  It is all about how much effort you put into it.  In the midst of the pain and the struggle is where you get the benefit, and whether that struggle happens just trying to lock your standing knee in standing head to knee pose, or in actually touching your forehead to your knee, you’re getting the same amount of benefit.

Yoga’s job is to reform your body.  Sometimes in yoga my lower back does still hurt, but I can work around the pain by working really hard in the spine strengthening series, and skipping the sit ups.  Eventually that pain will heal, and I will be stronger for it.  I know I write about pain that I am struggling with a lot, but please don’t let that scare you away.  My favourite instructor, Julia, told me that when you begin practicing yoga sometimes old injuries you thought had healed flare up again.  Not because what you are doing is bad, but because they are finally after all this time getting healed.  It does hurt sometimes, but you have to trust your body.  Working through the difficulties is part of the discipline you learn practicing yoga.  And keep in mind, that while I may be a little bit obsessed with Bikrams, I am only a beginner really.  I am two weeks in to my 30 day challenge so of course I am going through the worst part right now.  My body is struggling to relearn and rediscover itself.  I am reopening old wounds, and finally allowing them to heal.  My body and my mind are learning to reinterpret each other.  So when I talk about experiencing pain or discomfort, I think it is a good thing.  It’s part of the process.

We live in an over medicated society.   If you have lower back pain, hip pain, knee pain, headaches… whatever, ignoring it will not make it better, taking an ibuprofen does not cure anything.  The only way to fix anything (your health or anything else) is to work really really hard at it.

Bikram says better to be in pain for 90 minutes than 90 years.

Use yoga as a tool to strengthen your body and reform those areas which are causing you pain.  Mental areas, physical areas, they will be fixed.  The hardest, most uncomfortable postures are the most important to work 120% harder at because that is where you need it most.  So just do it already.  I promise you will thank me when you are 90 and still fit as a fiddle and, as Katie said, you die of old age while skiing down a mountain.  Doing what you love forever.

Class today:

went really well.  I have been having balancing problems lately.  I just can’t seem to stay upright in the standing series, but in other areas I feel like I’m making lots of improvement.  I’m definitely feeling like I have more endurance, I’ve been breathing really well, and keeping my stomach contracted.  I feel like I am getting much stronger.  I do need to start focusing on my balance more though, I think learning how to balance is part of the meditation part of yoga, and it really teaches you to communicate with your body.  I have experienced this every day in toe stand.  This has been a very difficult posture for me to be able to balance in.  I can’t remember which teacher said this, but she said while we were in toe stand to just focus on our bodies and figure out what needed to change in order for us to get our balance.  Since then, I have just really focused on my body during that posture.  Trying to tease out what needs to be contracted, where my weight needs to shift.  I haven’t been able to be perfect in this posture, but I have made a lot of improvement in it and I can balance a bit now.

I think now that my body knows the series so well, it is time to focus on my mind, because I know (and I’ve written it before) that is where the practice really starts.  I know that any improvement I make from here until day 30 and beyond, will be because of my mental endurance.  If I really work on that the rest of the practice will follow.  I have the series totally memorized, and I have to stop counting down the postures to the end of class.  It just takes me out of it.  One thing that seems to help me do this, is making myself stay in the room and relax and meditate for a while before I leave.  If I know I will be doing that it helps me stay more focused.  I guess because it makes me feel in less of a rush to run out and do the next thing on my agenda.

Seeing the improvement in my circulation has really make me motivated to begin another challenge.  I’ve decided to take eight blood sugars a day for the last 15 days of my challenge.  Partly because I’m curious what the yoga is doing to my body.  Mostly because I feel so good right now, that I want to know how much better it can get.  I’m being greedy now I know… but I want this so badly.  I have come to realize in the past two weeks how precious my body is, and how important it is to take care of it.  When I take care of my body, it takes care of me.  I want to be taken care of.

Amazing that two weeks straight of yoga did what two years of therapy never could.

Go to a class today.  Do it for yourself… don’t even wait just go.  You will be so happy.

Hi Yogis!

So today is day 15 which means after my 4:15 class today I will be half done with my yoga challenge. I feel that today it would be a appropriate to make some reflections on my progress over the last two weeks, but I’m not really sure it is that interesting. I could make a million teeny tiny observations about little bits of progress I’ve made – ultimately they will add up to big progress – but I think the best change I have seen has been in my mental health.

Never have I felt so level headed, happy, and content. I was taking anti-depressants before I started this challenge, and something I noticed (even just doing yoga sporadically), is that after class I always felt super happy (endorphins, blood circulation? I don’t know…), and one of the things I was hoping is that through this challenge I would get more of that feeling. I slowly weaned myself off of the medication, and now I’m taking none. I know it’s only been a week off of them, but so far I feel better than I ever felt with them. I feel so much less manic; just super stable and happy. I’m not having awful mood swings, I’m not wanting to stay in bed all day. I’m really truly happy.

I think some of this is chemical. My body is producing endorphins, fresh blood high in oxygen and nutrients is flushing to my brain and reactivating my neurons, etc etc., but some of it comes from other things. You can get an incredible sense of self esteem, for example, knowing that you’re body is capable of doing things you didn’t know were possible. It gives you such an appreciation for your entire system. It puts much more of an emphasis on what your body can do than what it looks like, and while making your body look better too! I can’t wear my belt anymore because I have lost weight. That isn’t the point of this challenge at all for me, and I didn’t really want to even go into it, but I do think it is all a part of my body functioning more effectively, and my health improving overall.

In addition to this, yoga encourages me to make healthy choices in my diet, bedtime, everything I do contributes to the type of class I have. Ultimately, yoga trickles down to effect everything in my life in a positive way.

I can honestly say that I feel better than I ever have. I feel kind of like I did the first time I got glasses. Like before I started this challenge I was just ok. I was well enough to function, and I didn’t really realize I was missing anything. When I first put on my glasses I was amazed at what I had been missing. Street lamps, people, trees, my body, my dog… it all looked different. I was living in this crisp, clear world and it was incredible! Similarly, I didn’t know how my body was supposed to feel. I was functioning… but I was only just functioning. Now I feel so much more alert, so clear and comfortable with myself and my surroundings. I’m way happier in my relationships and I’m much more confident in myself.

Who here is familiar with Albert Banduras concept of self efficacy? It is different than just self esteem because it isn’t about measuring yourself up against others, or deciding if you are good enough, it is about believing in yourself and knowing that you have the ability to do whatever it is that you want to do. Bandura’s therapy that he provided was designed to improve a person’s self efficacy beliefs, and this combated anxiety, depression, and other cognitive disorders. Yoga for me has done that. It has improved my self efficacy, it has improved every area of my life.

I owe Kristine a pretty big thank you for dragging me to Bikrams six and a half months ago.

-Claire

P.S. Just a quick note before I forget to tell you this! So I was sitting in class on Friday, and I noticed that on the palms of my hands, my wrists, and my fingers, I could see all of my veins. Not in a gross sticking out way, just that I could see them under the skin full of richly oxygenated blue-black blood. This is so awesome because the thing I have been most worried about with diabetes is my circulation, and I’ve noticed so much that my hands and feet aren’t as cold all the time. It is so amazing!

P.P.S: On Joe’s birthday I chipped in with his brother and mom and sister in law to get him Guitar Hero World Tour. He got so excited that he ran over to kiss me, and in his drunkenness, he bent my back over the side of our couch and it cracked in like 5 places and it was soooo painful. I was pretty sure I was going to be paralyzed and I started crying, but of course I ended up being fine. The funny part of all this is that after that incident, my lower back pain has decreased by about 80%. It’s still there but wow do I feel better!

xoxo

Remember to always look on the bright side of life…