So my challenge was terrible. That’s why I have been avoiding writing up a post – I don’t really have anything good to say about it. I’ve been reflecting and thinking. I’ve been trying to look for the lesson in all of this. Here is what I came up with…

I missed my first challenge class mid-month, and I immediately facebooked Gary, hoping for some words of wisdom. His advice? Chill out. After talking to him, and some of my other instructors, I realized that my challenge for the month wasn’t going to be going to every class, my challenge for the month was going to be accepting myself, and knowing I did my best, despite not making it to every class.

I found that I could look at the challenge as one long class. Skipping one class could be akin to skipping one posture in the series. It doesn’t mean the class is a failure, and you can always start fresh. The yoga mat is a place for clean slates, and rebirth, and that isn’t just within a class, it’s within a lifetime. The mat will always be there, and it will always be happy to have me on it. It doesn’t mater how long it’s been.

So that being said, I have a story for you: When I first started practicing yoga, I went to Bikram Yoga Vancouver (just the best place north of the Sweatbox!). During standing head to knee, the instructor would say you should look “like an L like Linda.” Every time they said this, I would glance around the room. Who was this Linda? Why was she always in the same classes as me? It literally took me probably a year to figure out they were referring to the shape my body should be in. My body should be in the shape of an L.

Acceptingly yours,

C

Today’s class was a good class.  It didn’t look pretty but it was good nonetheless.  I definitely worked really hard.

I went places I hadn’t gone before during half moon pose in the back bend.  I can definitely tell that my middle and upper spine are getting more flexible since I’m not letting myself collapse into my lower back flexibility anymore, and along with that my core is getting stronger, which allows me to support a deeper backward bend.  Also having Katie demonstrate the back band in the last class she taught helped because I could really see just how far you had to push your arms back and your stomach, chest, and hips forward.

I spoke last day of wanting to kick out during standing head to knee pose, and I did a little bit, but it is very hard for me to keep my standing knee locked and kick out simultaneously so I may not be completely ready to kick out yet.  I can kick out a tiny bit but remember:  a millimeter today a millimeter tomorrow.  Eventually I’ll get there.  One of the reasons the one leg balancing postures were so difficult for me today was that my ankles were really hurting.  I was talking to Jessica afterward and she was asking about  soreness and if it gets better.  I feel like the soreness for me has been really odd.  It has kind of moved upwards on my spine and down my legs.  So my lower back used to hurt, then my middle back hurt, now my shoulders, neck, and upper back hurt.  Similarly my knees were hurting, and now my calves and ankles hurt!  I’m hoping the soreness will eventually disappear mostly.  I do think most of the pain is good pain, strengthening pain, but today when I was doing one of the sit ups that we do between postures my back tugged a little bit and now my lower back hurts still.  I think I still can’t quite fully do the sit ups.  It’s just too risky for my back still and I think I need to build up some more core strength before doing the sit ups.

So in terms of breathing, I kept forgetting to breathe into the postures for the first part of the class!  It was like when I stopped thinking about breathing and started focusing on other things I forgot to breathe.  Then when I noticed myself having to release a gasp of air as I came out of postures, I realized I wasn’t breathing and I was able to correct it for the remainder of the series.

All in all I am feeling a little sore tonight but I think the class went well.  I came out of some postures a little early, and some of them I fell out of accidentally, but the time I did spend in the postures was very intense.  It was the type of intense where your muscles are shaking because you are working so hard, so I felt that even though I didn’t spend the full minute in a posture, the time I did spend in it was very well spent with 100% effort put in and that makes me feel successful.

I feel amazing right now despite the aches.  I have never felt better in my life.

-Claire

So today was not a good class for me, but I will still start off with a couple positive notes.  In standing bow I saw my toes in the mirror above my head!  I was super excited about that.  I am having to think a lot less about keeping my standing leg locked, and so I can focus more on other parts of the posture which is nice.  In standing head to knee pose I am kind of worried about kicking out because I don’t think I can have the flexibility, but I think I am really ready to try.  My hamstring flexibility has improved so much that I think I should stop worrying about whether or not I can do it perfectly and just try.  Two sayings to think of while trying out this posture:  My teacher today said “this is yoga practice not yoga perfect.”  It doesn’t have to be perfect  just have to try.  And of course Danny’s “one millimeter today one millimeter tomorrow” saying, which helps immensely.

Today I was really tired and really stressed.  I’m glad Jessica came because I would have had a lot more trouble making myself get there if I didn’t know she was coming.  I had to cook for holiday dinner, I was supposed to go to a soccer game which I skipped, I knew after I would have to finish my sweet potatoes, get dressed, put on my makeup etc., and I also knew that 45 minutes probably wouldn’t be enough.  So basically today it was hard to fit yoga into my schedule.  On top of that I’m feeling a little burned out and just exhausted.  I stayed up way too late last night and I really need to start going to bed earlier.  It is a quarter to nine now and I’m going to bed after I finish writing this.

So anyway I did go and I worked really hard during the standing series, but I decided that during the floor series I was going to focus more on relaxation than taking it to my edge and working it.  I’m glad I did that because I spent most of the series feeling really sick and just so fatigued.  Like it was very difficult to make my muscles do what I wanted them to.  I sweat a lot more again today than the last two days, but that was probably due to the fact that I was in the hottest area of the room.

My knees are still sore but I think they are getting better.  I’m just being careful in one legged postures and I haven’t been doing toe stand I’ve just been staying in tree and working on balance and concentration.

I’m going to write a private post about some other difficulties that are a bit more personal.  If you are dying to see it just let me know!

So all in all I didn’t feel great about today’s class but I think it definitely had some moments of success as well.  I’m hoping that I’ll get a good nights sleep and tomorrow will be better.  I’ll be going with Kristine and Brittany VZ which is super exciting.  I really enjoy taking this class with my sisters.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is the best class ever!  Day 9!

-Claire

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

- FIVE -

- FIVE -

Yesterday was day 5 of my challenge. I was planning to go to the 9:30 with Kristine, but we ended up going to the 7:45 instead, which was tough because I had eaten around 5:30, but I decided to go anyway.

The class went fairly well. In terms of my own motivation there were some postures that I didn’t push myself as hard in, maybe because I was a little tired, also because I was really focusing on balance today as opposed to strength or flexibility for the most part. One thing I am proud of though was that in tringle pose, I very nearly lied down for the posture because I honestly didn’t feel like I could do it. Then I thought to myself that is such a cop out. I knew I could do it and I was not going to let myself cheat. I decided I would do at least one set. So one side at a time, one set at a time, I completed triangle pose without having to take a break.

I was also pretty excited about standing head to knee pose, which I was able to hold for the entire time in both sets (although I did a l m o s t lose my balance at the end both times on the second set. It was kind of funny I was hopping around thinking I am NOT going to come out of this posture no matter what!!) In the pose after, standing bow, I was really excited to find that I was able to hold it for most of the time, only falling out of it once in the second set.

In Locust pose with both legs, I was able to get all of my legs and my hips off the ground, which was pretty awesome because I didn’t think I would be able to do it a second time.

There were a lot of small moments of success in last night’s class. For example during pranayama breathing, the first breathing exercise, there was one breath – just one – where I’m pretty sure it felt exactly how it was supposed to feel. I felt like I could keep breathing in forever; my chest felt so open and cavernous and my throat felt open too, like I big tunnel full of air. Unfortunately, though I tried, I couldn’t repeat it the same way. Hopefully it will happen again and I can figure out how I did it.

Rabbit pose is also coming along really nicely. After Julia helped me a couple classes ago, and showed me how it was supposed to feel, I have been much more successful in that pose, although it is much harder. Two classes ago, the teacher corrected me on the seated head to knee pose and I was disappointed to find that with correct form I wasn’t able to go as deeply as I thought I could. That’s ok though because I’ve been pushing the posture really really hard and I know I’m improving. Not to mention when I began these yoga classes, I never would have been able to even come close to where I am now in that posture, even with the correct form.

It’s nice to feel like I’m improving, even if it’s only in little ways : )

Last night I did drink some gatorade after class and my head feels better this morning, but it still hurts a little. I think it is part electrolytes (which I hopefully fixed), part dehydration, and part fatigue. Part of the problem is I have been staying up so late lately. This class basically takes up all of my personal time in the day, and so I have been staying up late to read, write in this blog, watch Greys Anatomy, and do other things I would normally due during the class! I need to use a little discipline and make myself go to sleep, because I am getting so tired and I can really feel it. As far as dehydration goes, well I guess I just have to drink even more water, as well as maybe trying to cut salt out of my diet a little more? I’m not sure I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I was planning on going at 9:15 this morning but I was just too tired, so I’m planning to go to the 2:30. That means I can’t tan before semi, but it’ll be ok. I can go home, shower,do my nails/ hair then head to Hil’s for the pre-semi bash! I can’t drink too much tonight because I do not want to experience a hung-over yoga class!

More later if I have time!

-Claire

P.S. Image from http://www.icanhascheezburger.com

Today was day 4 of my yoga challenge. It was challenging.

I really did not want to go to class today. I was sore. I was tired. I had a headache. Oh right! Those aren’t excuses anymore! So off I went to class, albeit a little behind my usual schedule. I didn’t leave the house until 4:00.

I felt like the room had a weird vibe today. It was a bit uncomfortable for me, and I’m not sure why. Was it because I was running a little behind schedule? Was it because I had an instructor I hadn’t had before? Was it because there was a weird lady next to me and I wasn’t in my usual spot in the room? Whatever it was I thought I was going to have a bad class. I was sure of it. I was just doing the poses thinking about how I was going to blog about my various failures and how nothing went right. Then I thought I should probably make sure I have something positive to blog about, and as I focused on positivity, and on aspects of today’s practice that were successful, the class started to turn around for me. I noticed I was holding postures longer, going deeper into them. I truly wanted to be successful and as I started to focus on this, I started to notice I was doing well. We always hear the instructors say that the practice of Bikram’s is mostly mental, but I really found the truth in that during today’s class.

Yoga has helped me in other ways. Bikram says “no drama,” and what he means by this is that if you show no pain on your face, it will not escalate into something bigger. This is true when you are doing the postures – a calm face helps you control your body, and accept your feelings of discomfort without making them worse – as well as in life. I had an upsetting experience this evening, and I found that I was able to control my anger and my frustration with the person in question by simply walking away and coming back to my breath. Relaxed breathing leads to relaxed thinking and relaxed body.

I felt a lot more centered today than I have before. I felt really in control of my body and this displayed itself in a few ways. Locust pose with both legs, a position which has been difficult for me, I was able to bring my legs completely off the floor. It happened really abruptly for me. I just really focused on gripping with my hands, and trying to shift weight into my shoulders and it just sort of fell into place. Another posture which I really felt was indicative of my control was the toe stand, which I was able to fully balance in for about 3 seconds – a big deal for me! On top of that, I was able to rise slowly from toe stand into tree, hold tree, and then with control finish the posture.

Tree for me is a very spiritual posture that makes me feel happy and comfortable and connected to not just my body, but to the entire natural world. Partly it is the imagery I associate with it: strong, tall, leafy and green and natural. Just really a good symbol of the natural world and the cycle of life. That being said, being successful at this posture makes me feel wonderful, connected to myself and the outside world, strong, and comfortable.

My body is reacting very differently to the heat than it has in the past. Yesterday after class I mentioned to Hilary and Kristine that I had just sweat more than I had ever sweat in a Bikram’s class. Funnily enough, the same thing happened today. Maybe it is my body adjusting to the heat. I imagine that it is improving the detoxification process, or because I am drinking so much water my body is able to sweat that much, but I really don’t know what other reason there could be. I can’t really describe to you the amount of sweat my body is producing. I feel it streaming down my body in rivulets. It’s almost disturbing to know that my body can release that much water and still be hydrated. I guess I have to make sure that I am really getting enough water every day. Dehydration could maybe be behind my headaches… which I still have : (

One thing that yoga really does for me, is it makes me so aware of what I am putting into my body. I don’t eat lots of fatty foods because it makes it hard to participate in the class and get the full benefits; I can’t really drink because it dehydrates me and could make me feel sick which could potentially cause me to miss a day; I have to drink a lot of water in order to be comfortable during the class. I think that part of practicing yoga, and this form of yoga in particular, is that it makes you hyper aware of how your body feels, and how it reacts to certain things. I ate a large breakfast this morning with Joe and I really felt it. I especially felt it in camel, which made me really nauseous, and I generally don’t get nauseous any more in that posture (although that is a common feeling to experience).

I was disappointed to find that in standing head to knee pose I did fall out of it a few times. During the second set, I was able to hold it the whole time, and that made me feel better. In standing bow I had a hard time finding the strength and endurance to both lock my standing leg and push my other leg into my hand. I find that this pose is difficult to do following standing head to knee pose, because my ankles hurt so badly! Fortunately, I have discovered that pain will not kill me, and it is just a feeling. That is not the end of the world.

This is, however, the end of this post.

See you tomorrow for day 5! I get a reward at day 7!

-Claire

So Hi,

I’m Claire.

I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t start writing this in the first place. I wrote, but only on the computer in a private journal. Why do that when it is so much more fun sharing my personal business with the world? Well anyway, as you may already know from reading the info about this blog, I have decided to do Bikram’s yoga for 30 days in a row. Bikram’s yoga, for those of you that are unfamiliar, is a form of yoga that includes 26 postures and two breathing exercises in a period of 90 minutes. It works every muscle in the body from the inside, to the outside, and is organized in such a way that every posture warms you up and prepares your body for the following posture. This form of yoga is done in a room heated to about 37 degrees celcius, which mimics the temperature and the conditions of the human body. For more information about this practice you can watch the short video below or go to http://www.bikramyogavancouver.com, which is the website of the school where I practice.

How it has been going so far:

Today will be day 4 of my 30 day challenge, and already I am noticing some changes in my body, both in the yoga room and outside of it.

I am used to being easy on myself. If I am sore, have a headache, am tired, or am in a grumpy mood I will usually skip class, but the teachers always say half the battle of Bikram’s is just making yourself go to class. I try to remind myself of this, and I try to remember that even if I just go and lie there for 90 minutes, at least I will have made it to class. Hopefully it wont come to that! But as long as I’m going to class I feel that I am successful in my challenge.

The more I go, the more in tune I am becoming with my body. I have noticed how important breathing is. For example, one posture I have always struggled with is Triangle pose. I really focused n my breathing in class yesterday and was impressed at how deep I could go and how much easier it was to sustain the posture for the full 60 seconds. It is still a challenge, but something as simple as breathing can help me get through it. The same goes for other postures, focusing on the breath throughout the entire series makes a huge impact on how deep into something I can go, my balance, and my ability to sustain the posture for the full amount of time.

As far as balance goes, I feel like my balance has been worse on certain postures that are especially difficult for me. For example with standing head to knee pose I tend to fall out of it when my standing ankle starts to ache. I want to try to not have this happen, because I feel like it could be a subconscious excuse to come out of the posture when it is getting too difficult, as opposed to a genuine loss of balance, because I actually feel that balance could be one of my strengths. Again, focusing on my breath does help, as does certain kinds of imagery, such as imagining my leg is attached to a pole, imagining I don’t have a knee. The teachers always say that before you even start a posture you have to make up your mind to hold it no matter what. This helps too.

One really fantastic thing I have noticed, is that my flexibility is really improving. I had a back injury from a snowboarding accident years ago that was severely aggravated by forward bending. As a result I never did any, and the flexibility in my hamstrings basically disappeared. I think this in the long run really messed up the balance of my body and made my back pain worse, but I never knew what to do about it. Since I’ve been practicing yoga, I have made vast improvements in my hamstring flexibility in particular, and my back pain has mostly disappeared. in the floor postures meant to stretch that area of the body, I am able to hold them, and go fairly deep into them. I can straiten my legs and I can grab underneath my heels in forward bending poses. I am so proud of myself, and it is exciting because this is such a measurable improvement.

I am pretty sore today and I have quite a headache. This could be due to the amount of sweating I have been doing, so I should definitely try to get some electrolytes. My teacher has mentioned that headaches are a sign of electrolyte imbalance, so I will try drinking a little gatorade and see if that helps. I am going today at 4:15.

That is all for today as I am sure you have already stopped reading my boring observations. I am really excited to continue this thirty day challenge, and to see where this practice takes me. I am so lucky to have found an exercise that is so fulfilling.

More updates later! Thanks for reading!

-Claire