Yeah.  I said it.  This blog has been about…. the physical and mental challenge of yoga so far.  I have avoided talking about personal things.  I have avoided discussion of the emotional impact of yoga.  Now it’s time to get personal, because that is a big part of how this class tonight went for me.

I knew it was going to be a tough class from the start.  We began with the breathing exercises and 6 breaths in I was gasping for air already.  Partly I think it’s that I’m a little bit under the weather (with a cold no less and only allowed to nose breathe? ugh…), but partly it’s that yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body.  Yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body, but in order for that to happen, they have to flow through your body, which means you have to experience them and that can often be painful.  Bikram always says that the poses that are the most challenging, the ones that hurt the most are the ones that you need the most.  I have always kind of thought of this as being purely physical, but tonight it got very emotional.

Maybe I have been holding on to a lot more than I thought I was.  I actually made it through the standing series, but right after tree pose, lying in my savasana (dead body pose), it was all I could do to not burst out crying.  I am not a person who cries a lot, or who cries easily.  I am a person who distracts herself, moves forward, dislocates herself from her problems, but I found myself lying in my yoga class with tears in my eyes and I didn’t know why.  Then I started thinking.  I started accepting that this pain that I was feeling (and it was a deep, emotional pain) was just like the physical pain I was in during certain postures.  I thought to myself that in order to get stronger, I was going to have to be present and feel this pain… and do you know what?  I started realizing (really really realizing) that it was ok to be sad… because I have done a lot the past few months.  I am coming off of a broken engagement, moving away from everything I know and love, missing all of my best friends in the world, jobless (and other things but let’s not wallow too much)… and aside from all that, even if none of that was there, it would still be ok to cry.

So this class, tonight, for me, was about realizing the appropriateness of being sad sometimes, and crying sometimes.  I thought a lot about the importance of being present, and allowing one’s self to feel whatever is there.  My very first yoga instructor ever once told us to stop  categorizing our feelings.  She said there are feelings.  There are no bad or good feelings, just feelings.  She said if you are feeling pain, allow yourself to experience those sensations without categorizing them, and you will be suprised how much you can handle.  I’m allowing myself to be present now, and I think that will do a lot for my psyche.  I didn’t just expel physical toxins tonight, I expelled emotional toxins as well.

So why get personal now?  Why expose my innermost feelings to the world wide web?  I guess I hope that other yoga practitioners, and anyone else who is reading this, might realize that it’s ok to expel some toxins of their own.  Maybe I am looking to see whether or not I am alone in feeling this way.  Maybe I am running out of people who will listen and I am throwing my thoughts out into the ether in hopes that someone will catch them and say “I get it.”  Either way, it feels like the right thing to do tonight.

Sincerely,

-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

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.