I remember once in class, Lena said “always come in and expect the class to be hot and hard.  Be surprised when it’s cold and easy.”  I have since tried to bring that to other areas of my life, and boy has it made things more doable.  When I sail a race and I expect it to be long and freezing, I can relax and have fun out there because I got what I expected.  It’s a tiny shift in perspective that has made a huge difference.  It has made me realize that managing expectations is so paramount to the realization of happiness.

Often times for me, managing my expectations has more to do with having no expectations.  I do best on my yoga mat when my mind is clear, and I am able to focus on what is presently happening.  Not bracing for a flailing standing bow if i was failing at standing head to knee.  I just want to enjoy the moments when I am doing well, and work through the moments when I could be doing better.  By doing this, I think I can truly live in my moments of happiness, and I have definitely been having a lot of those lately.

Of course that’s the kicker: you have to be willing to stay present in your moments of sadness as well, and that’s not nearly as simple.  How easy is is to count down the seconds until balancing stick is over, or to try to think about something else when your throat is choked in rabbit pose?  Those are the times when staying mentally engaged in the postures is difficult, and similarly the difficult times in life are when I would rather have a glass of wine (or four) than problem solve.  

More later, I have to run to class.  Day 13!

Presently yours,

C

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

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First of all, thank you so much to The Bliss Project for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award.  I think her blog is just lovely as well so you should run check it out.  

The way this award works is, since I have been nominated, I get to share seven things about myself, and then I’m going to nominate seven other bloggers for the One Lovely Blog Award too!

Since this is a yoga and health blog, I am actually going to tweak the theme of the award a bit, and I’m going to post seven things I have learned about myself and others through my yoga practice.

1. I am really tough. I’ve always known I am a mind over matter person, but yoga had reconfirmed that for me. I know that I can decide to do something and it will happen. It can be skydiving, or it doing the next posture in a Bikram class instead of lying down.

2. I have learned when to say enough is enough. As I said, I know I can force myself to do a lot of things. I used to feel like I had to constantly force myself to do more more more. Harder, faster, better. I’ve begun to be much better at focusing on myself, trying to tune out my ego, and analyzing what is best for me.

3. I love to sweat. I used to be mortified by sweat. I used to be absolutely grossed out by the smell of it, the feeling of it on my skin. I hated what it did to my hair, how my face would get all red. Now I love it. I love how it makes me feel clean and refreshed; it’s like a shower from the inside out.

4. I like my body. I’ve hated my body for more years than I have loved it, and for that I am deeply deeply sorry. One of the first things I learned after I started doing Bikram yoga, was that I had a great appreciation for the things my body could do for me. I still feel so grateful for my body. It carries me inside of it somewhere, and when I practice yoga it is like giving back to myself, and at the same time reminding me to be grateful.

5. Take things one day at a time. When I used to get really overwhelmed with homework or chores or just stuff, my dad used to say “one fish at a time, Claire.” It never really clicked for me what that meant because I’ve never been fishing. I don’t really understand the feeling of being intimidated by all the fish you have to clean. I really feel like I have a better understanding of how to work on something a little at a time, and I have faith that I will reach my goal eventually. That’s the knowledge that led me to run my 8K last year, and to be honest, it’s partly what helps me get through every day and feel successful. “One day at a time, one millimeter at a time, and eventually you’ll get there,” is what Danny at BYV used to say to our Bikram class. I’m still waiting on getting there in standing head to knee…

6. Pedicures and shaved under arms can wait until later. This harkens back to #3 bit, but I think it’s worth reiterating. I am so much less judgmental of myself than I used to be. I have much more reasonable expectations for my looks, and more importantly, I have different priorities. I used to always always ALWAYS have my toes and fingernails perfectly done. I used to sometimes skip yoga because I didn’t have time to go home and shave my legs. I can’t even imagine that now. It might partly come from my work in preschool (where looks mean next to nothing), and it might come from my super busy schedule this year, but my time is important to me. Getting to yoga class, and getting a good nights sleep, and doing the things I love to do with the people I love to be around; those things are my priority. Painted nails can wait.

7. Patience and compassion. Yoga has strengthened these qualities in me. I have become more patient and compassionate both with myself and with other people. It is a gift to me, my students, my friends, and everyone I see. I feel so much less judgmental of others, and so much less judgmental of myself. I think this is one of the greatest things Bikram Yoga has given me.

Now for my seven nominations:

Vegan Sparkles

Bikram Butterflies

Hannah, Just Breathe

Living in Possibility (it’s a super new blog, but I love the theme and the writing in superb)

Woman Eats City

A Bikram Adventure

Safa Shares

Enjoy checking out these seven very lovely blogs!

Appreciatively Yours,

C

806 postures and 62 breathing exercises later, I have completed my challenge.

What I learned this month:
– how to engage my neck during backward bends, especially in bow and cobra.
– how to kick out in standing head to knee.
– how to push through the heel and bring my kicking out leg down and forward from the hip in standing head to knee.
– how to bring my weight forward in standing bow, and just how far down my body needs to be in order to get my leg up. How far forward I have to reach. When they say to reach like you’re going to touch the mirror, they mean it.
– where to place my feet in both triangle and standing separate leg head to knee pose.
– how to not collapse onto my heel in toe stand.
– what angle my hands should be at in cobra.
– where my arms should be in full locust.
– how gosh darn forward I need to roll in bow pose.
– how to keep my heels down during the sit ups.
– how to come out of fixed firm.
– how to tuck my chin to my chest in rabbit.
– how to roll my weight in towards the center in head to knee pose, dropping my inner shoulder down too.
– how to engage my quads in order to stretch my hamstrings.

– how to know when to push myself and when to take a break.
– exactly how much water it takes to stay hydrated.
– that I like morning classes a lot – and that they don’t make me feel tired during the day.

I’ve learned so much this month! I did do the daily double on Friday, but it was hard. I had a rough first class, so for the second class I moved my mat back into a cooler area, and just did as much as I could. As usual, when I stopped thinking about the class as a whole, and began to really go posture by posture, I was much more capable.

I rocked in standing bow, and by the time we got to trikanasana I hit my stride. I finished the class – and the challenge – strong.

In our last savasana, Frani (the teacher) congratulated me and another girl in the class on completing the challenge, and double congratulated me for doing my two classes in a row, and then drew the name for the challenger that would win a month of yoga for free. It was me! I won!

In my previous challenges, I have felt like their culminations have been rather uneventful. This did not. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment. I relished putting that last gold star up on the challenge chart.

It has felt strange not having to go to yoga today. I actually already feel inclined to go back. The amount of progress I have made has been really inspiring. I want to go back and improve. Push my postures farther and deeper, make my body healthy and strong.

I spent a wonderful day today with friends and family and my dog, Lilly, and having so much time to just give to the people I care about has made me feel grateful. I’m grateful for the people I have in my life who support me and make me a better person. I’m grateful that I can support and make myself a better person too. I’m grateful that I have this body that works so well.

Gratefully yours,

-C

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