Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Days 68 thru 75: Feeling tired, pushing forward and letting go

Many classes, and many new experiences. Hot 90's, the 2 hour advanced class, Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Yin. Two doubles. All very different. All very wonderful. Range of emotions: elated to frustrated. Energy levels? From excess to non-existent. Little posting action as I still haven't made the call to Comcast to set up my internet. It will come, and all will be back on track. A break from my steady access to the interwebs is wonderful. My time isn't lost in hour-long blocks, starring at anything I move to: what is the chemical formula of a common antidepressant? Who makes the best hammock? How do you grow peyote? Wikipedia is my new teacher of all subjects.

There is much to talk about, much to discuss, but I'll save the depth for when I make it up north this weekend. I'll have enough time to really lay out my ideas and recap all that has happened the last week.

Classes: Hot 90, Hot 90 & Advanced, Hot 90, Ashtanga, Hot Silent Flow, Samana (Vinyasa), Yin & Hot 90
Instructors: Jennifer H., Kate C, Roland, Yvonne, Renee, Claudine and Tiffany
Studios: Open Door and Blue Lotus
Wins: Here & Now.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 63, 64, 65, Sixty Six...and Sixty Seven: Life Is Busy, So Hold On

Five more days of yoga; five more long evenings; five more days of moving; four more shifts at work; two more classes; one more lab and one more beautiful day. Days sixty three to sixty seven were a blur of work, school and tending to a sick sibling. Long nights running around Raleigh, setting up a new apartment, trucking my belongings around town...finding time to write about my Mala took a back seat (the lack of internet at my new abode also contributed to the hiatus).

I'm not really sure what I am moving into with my yoga practice. My days are varied, just as they should be. I find myself a little happier this week; lauging a little more and worrying a little less. I smile for longer. Though I haven't had nearly enough sleep, and my life was filled with hauling and unpacking, I feel better. My brain is taking all the work my body is doing and noticing the effects. My body is telling it to slow down, don't stress. Take it easy. Breathe. I'm asking myself, "what do I really have to worry about?" It's usually a lot less than you imagine.

This week is all about slowing down. Stopping randomly on a walk to notice something new. Lingering at a place to really absorb my surroundings. Forgetting about a schedule as I really talk to someone...and taking the time to listen.

My resolve is just as strong, but my mission is clearer. It's not about showing everyone how tough I am. This Mala is about me. My yoga. My time. My journey. My Life.

Classes: Hot 90, Hot 90, Hot Silent Flow, Samana, and Hot 90
Instructors: Jana, Claudine, Renee and Suzanne
Studio: Open Door
Wins: A new apartment; a calm outlook; a very nice smile.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 61 and 62: Don't Get In The Way Of Yourself

I don't have time. No, not today. Too busy. Work. I'll make it up. Really, it's just too crazy. I have a million things to do...ugh, dammit. All the thoughts that race through my head on a busy day. So many, I barely know how to make enough room to breathe, let alone truck it to class. But I do. And I did. And I will. There have been a few times this challenge where yoga had to take a backseat - school, the flu and some poor timing - and that is to be expected. If it was so easy to finish everything you started, how many more people would be happy and healthy, but utterly bored. It's a Mala, an adventure, some even call it a challenge for a reason. Motivation, continuous motivation. Drive. Get up and go. It's what I look forward to, no matter how much my I-can't-no-not-enough-damn-rush-no-rush-shit-rush-ugh gets in the way. I can do this. Breathe, take a step and go to class. Don't punish yourself for an accidental class "oops, I missed the last one!", but don't quit before you even leave the house. Think of how much you love that feeling post class, that amazing yoga high we all secretly (or openly) crave. That exhilarating rush right after savasana, as we shower off our sweaty bodies and take strong, slow inhales. This is why we do this, day after day. To feel more, to know more, to explore more.

And after that little motivational rant, I want to talk about progression-mainly depth. That last few classes, I have been teetering in and out of the emotional ride from where's-my-razor-blade which included two, yes 2, dos, deux spontaneous tear sessions. As I depart that wonderful, depressing, reach way too deep too fast part of the Mala, I find new depth in my postures. New depth, without sacrificing my alignment. It's true, each day is different...not better or worse (though sometimes those labels come to mind first)  I notice now how strong I can root my lower body to really fall back in that first backbend; my chest inflates first in camel, spreading my ribs; I know the feeling of my ankles pressing together and feet firmly down as I roll my hips up and over in rabbit. Depth, digging deeper and releasing more. I'm getting a grip on it now. All of my other activities are still throwing pot holes at me, but I'm learning how to manage the bumps or gracefully avoid the impact...gracefuly? maybe just effectively...a modicum of grace. But I feel it. The changes are there and growing each day.

Class: Hot 90 & Hot 90
Instructor: Mechelle & Jana
Studio: Open Door
Wins: A new apartment; moving; large balconies; calm spaces; new depth; the most magical lavender towels that Jana never forgets; venting with friends; talking like an adult; talking about adult activities; talking candidly, though remembering the humor.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 60: Do Your Yoga

I went to work. Catie rebalanced my energy with such much needed needles (thank you thank you). I went to the old place to pack. My swift steed carried me to Open Door. I did my yoga. And that is all I have right now.  

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Suzanne
Studio: Open Door
Wins: full, but not too crowded; strong series; almost no H20; learning to relax my tongue from the roof of my mouth...weird; oranges and all citrus fruits; family; new apartments; catharsis.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 59: Officially 3 days behind, including today.

Moving and hauling and trucking and lugging and cursing. Today was about moving.

Tonight will be 45 minutes of yoga at home before bed. This week will be tough, so I'm throwing in all three doubles...just to make it easier? Once the move is settled and this week is over, I need to write about food, camel pose, tears, quality cutlery, a good frying pan, growing herbs, composting in an apartment, loneliness, drive, control, and so many more topics.

Class: 45 minutes of the Magic four + plough, shoulder stand, and some full locust meditation
Studio: One last night in my old apartment
Instructor: Me

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 58: Dear Dude, I'm dropping my letter in the river. I hope it finds you.

Packing up my belongings, sorting through the piles labeled 'summer' and 'lovebug' and 'forgotten,' the heaps of clothing and scattered socks - the ones that never quite match - is filling my mind with memory and foresight. It's opening up a channel, and that channel brought me to the pen and paper of today...the computer. And then I wrote a letter, but I'm not sure who it's to. Maybe my future self, the one of tomorrow or 500 days after tomorrow. The me that finished my Mala odyssey; the calmer me that learned to use the mind and body together. The me of the future. Maybe it's for that me.

Dear Dude,
Life has been a strange ride the last few weeks. It's been a perpetual dive into the deep dark places that we can barely ever venture to, let alone choose to explore. Nervous breakdown? near check. Emotional outpourings? definite check. Spontaneous fits of laughter, tears, anger and utter calm? for real check, check, and check. check. Monica says it's the emotional stages of the yoga. When she was in teacher training, everyone went "nuts" after about 40 days. People would be randomly crying or shouting the nastiest vulgarities at fellow yogis. Monica said the worst day was when everyone lost it and was one breath away from falling into the pit of super nasty anger, when the girl next to her shouted "get the fuck off my mat!" Apparently, her foot grazed it during one set of triangle. I'm sure she responded with a "whoa, dude," probably all she could muster. I love Monica. And her dude comments.
The yoga has been good, though. I guess what I'm trying to explain (in this little flashback) is that yoga shouldn't just make you feel 'great.' Maybe it is supposed to make you feel like shit. or tired. or thirsty. or moody. or sad. Maybe it's just supposed to make you feel something. And I kind of like that. I like that one day, I'll feel like crying. I'm cursing the heat and the people around me who are weak; the yogis falling out of poses and taking long breaks; the ones guzzling water regardless of others and making dramatic sighs. Some days I fixate on them. I wonder why they're here; why are they bringing such awareness to their struggle. It will plague my mind for most of class. I'll obsess over one student, one girl, one early-20 something petite english major as she struggles with each breath. Everything she does becomes a moment to judge her; reduce her to near nothing; to simply watch her fail. Why? Why? Am I there for her? Am I her witness? Am I her reflection, the archetype of a yogi that she holds herself to? Of course not. I'm just lost in a room, allowing anger and distraction to fill me up. And that's alright, too. There's no right way to feel. All I can do is accept that I feel that way, and hopefully understand it. If I can learn from it, then I'm glad for it.
The Mala is changing me. Physically, my body is breaking down, shedding material that I don't need. It's like gutting an old building, ripping out the cheap insulation and really looking at the foundation. I got so thin, I was worried. Now, I'm replacing that crap with positive growth. I'm strengthening my core; rebuilding my house. My mind is clearer. I'm not happier, or more alive. I'm just more aware. And my mind is catching up to my body.
I don't know why am I writing this all to you. I'm not even sure it is for you. Life. It moves. People drift. They start a new part of the novel. I get that. I've always gotten that...maybe a little too well.
I guess I just wanted to write. Put thoughts in a form I could share. And you are the recipient of my conscious stream.
I hope this finds you well. I hope this finds you happy and peaceful and fresh. I hope this finds you.
Most graciously yours, for reviewing such an open letter. If only I could leave the address as open, and maybe it would find the right recipient at the right time. Now that would be magical.

Most affectionately yours (and still most graciously),
Christopher

Class: Hot Silent Flow
Instructor: Claudine
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Flowing Camel and Rabbit; finding myself in a room where I'm always losing myself; breathing; forgetting about my water bottle; coming back to center; allowing the anger, or the calm, or the heat to occupy a brief image in the screen of my mind, then continue on; to know I'm moving, changing, growing; accepting what is; holding on to what matters; leaving behind what doesn't; understanding all three.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 57: It's Alright to be Vulnerable

I have a tough time being vulnerable. I hide behind this exterior of humor; mask myself in a facade of well placed wit. It's easier being funny; the one that is never short on laughs. It's easier to be what people perceive you as; something more or less than what you are. It's easier to detach yourself from a person, group or emotion; something I am far too good at. Every time I leave someone behind, I let them float out of me; they take all feelings and memory and leave a sigh. My yoga practice is reaching into to all the holes, all the bullet wounds, all the memories that I carve out of my body. I can see the space where someone once took up. I can remember how I felt. The holes are there, no matter how many new experiences I layer on top.

Vulnerable. Not weak, but vulnerable. Opening up yourself to the potential. The unknown outcome, which could either harm or heal. Being vulnerable. Accepting vulnerability. Being a person. Being who you are and showing that individual - that unique spark that defines you - to someone. Strength is not in bravado, or how many push-ups I can muster. It's accepting who you are right now and learning who you want to become. It's progression. It's yoga.

Today, I let myself be vulnerable. It was a good day.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jennifer H.
Studio: Open Door
Wins: 3 camels and the best backwards bend ever; mixing up postures; fine tuning and paying attention to the details; making a nicely shaped bow; crying because I was sad; smiling because I was happy; laughing at the silly moments; breathing through the struggles; accepting; moving; growing.

Day 56: Strong Class and a New Book

Today was a very, very strong class. Even though it was full to the fire limit and our mats were turned, the heat never became an issue. And the cap on my water bottle stayed firmly closed all the way until Camel...where I dumped some on my head, not down my throat. It's getting easier and easier to not drink water during class. I'm not sure why, maybe it's the constant hydrating prior to arriving; maybe the consistent practice is changing my perception of 'hot'; maybe I'm just too focused on the yoga to worry about some little bottle of water. Whatever the reason may be, I'm happy to shed a security blanket. It's nice to listen to your body and know that passing on water for 90 minutes won't kill me.

Coming back after my short hiatus is great. I'm strong and my postures reflect that. Though the first class (maybe first two) showed some lost depth, my limberness quickly returned. I fell back, way back, yesterday and started to smile through short breaths and a near-crazy feeling.

I also started a new book as per Catie's recommendation: Meditations from the Mat - Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga. One lesson for every day of the year, to be read one day at a time. I so often rush through things, searching for completeness; whether it's a goal or a simple task, speed and efficiency seem paramount to me. I credit this to the American Standard of here, now, done, fast, immediate, instant. It's nice to wait; to prolong each lesson; to think it over; to digest the wisdom.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: The wondrous Jana
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Lavender towels, of course; 30+ people breathing, moving and working in one room; saying goodbye to insecurities; accepting more of the person I am as I look forward to the person I am becoming; learning that not everything has to do with me, including the ups and downs of friends; separating out my ego and understanding my place.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 54 & 55: Hot 90 and the Advanced Class

I went to both and did my yoga. It felt great and I was very thankful for all the help (corrections, adjustments and support) the teachers gave me.

Now, I will finish this demon of a biology test that I thought would be easy...since it is an online test. Nope. Obscure, ridiculous questions. I'm not cranky. Nope. Not at all. But still sensitive. very. Like boss lady told me today, "It's like you have your period...but for the last 2 weeks." Emotional phase. Hello...and goodbye?

Class: Hot 90 & Advanced
Instructors: Jennifer H and Jennifer F
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Improving my arm balance and finally getting scorpion - thank you Jennifer!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 53: "I did a sit-up and a tiny bit of pee shot out..."

I told Mechelle this after class. We laughed, and then I apologized for leaving the room for a minute to finish what I started on the mat. I was happy it was just a wee bit; it could have ruined a lot of people's yoga. Laughing so hard a little pee comes out? Awesomely funny. Urinating on yourself because you compressed your bladder during a sit-up? Eh...funny hours later in story form over drinks...several drinks.

So class was really good and mostly strong. I didn't even bring a water bottle into the room, but made sure I was well hydrated throughout the day. It helped greatly, though the heat got to me by the end of spine strengthening and I was ready for my usual "pour half the bottle on my face" routine.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Mechelle
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Back in the heat.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 52: A Story of Chutney

After that bout with the flu, I came back full force today. I feel great. Being off for a few days forced me to relax, sleep and recover - something I have not been doing, at all. It was almost nice, if you cut out the part where I was near-vomiting and felt like everything hurt; apart from that, it was awesome...right.

As my friend Tomi told me during my first attempt at making chutney, "everything is a lesson, if you can learn from it." This said as I was frantically looking for a recipe as I was assigned to preserving various fruits and veggies by utilizing equal parts sugar and vinegar, all while making the base of my chutney a local shrub called salt bush...which most animals (people, indigenous creatures and the random passerby) viewed as a weed. Win? In the end, yes. My plea for help was turned into an opportunity to try something on my own, without explicit direction or a safety net. I was tasked with doing this by a coordinator at the reserve i called home summer's past (hippie, sustainable reserve = best most magical best best ever); no instructions were given except for "use salt bush to make a chutney...there are some recipes in the kitchen, somewhere.." I learned from this open assignment, after my initial hesitation and fear: Would I screw this up? 25 people are going to eat it...what if it sucks? I'm going to make 10 jars of it...man, that would be a lot of suck. Lessons are everywhere, if you just look.

I learned that even if my salt bush chutney did suck, I would know "exactly what not to do next time" (Tomi's kind wit). And if a lesson could come from this, then even a negative result could have a positive outcome. Lessons are everywhere, if you open your mind to them. This is a goal for me. Find the lesson; discover an opportunity to grow. I learned from my bout of flu that my body needed sleep. My body needed a fresh start. My body needed me to stop fighting what it was obviously asking for: release. Release from the constant tug of war between the yoga and my resistance to its release; an adamant refusal to feel all that I was feeling.

Lessons. Look for them. They're there.

Class: Samana
Instructor: Renee
Studio: Open Door

Day 51: Back in the Game

Happy to be back and my body feels great. Super win today. Super Big Awesome Win.

Class: Hot Silent Flow (Barkan Method)
Instructor: Claudine
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Strong Series; Clearing out stagnant death left over in my lungs; delightful musical accompaniment

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 49 & 50: The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said...

To get back on the yoga express. After 4 days of recuperating from whatever nastiness plagued my body, I'm going back to the studio tonight. Monica told me to be restorative in the heat. "Wait until the fever passes, then come back with 50% energy, and do what your body says," she instructed. And now, I will follow. It's been a crazy few weeks and everything, quite literally, has rocked my daily life. But discipline is something you work on, every day. Focus, determination, progression. I'm in it to win it and 4 days of battling H1N1 is just part of the Mala.

I'm back, baby. Bring the thunder! Or maybe just the heat.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 48: Swine Flu? Who knew...

I feel like death. Not the cool death from Jose Saramago's book. The bad death with the coughing and the headache and the sore muscles and the flu-like badness. Son of a whore. This sucks.

No yoga today. Plenty of sleep. Doubles on Friday and Sunday, if I feel better. Not sure what happened. I was all alright, but just a little tired the other day. Then I woke up to massive congestion, a fever and the general feelings of my body falling apart. Lame.

If it is the flu, damn you H1N1 or any other variant of the much abhorred influenza, I will not be back at the studio for a few days. I'm all about sharing is caring, but sharing the flu with 30 people is definitely not cool. If so, it will be the most restorative svaroopa classes I have done in quite some time. Hello bed, I will be coming your way soon. And flu? fuck you.

Class: Sleeping, drinking plenty of tea, and recouping
Instructor: Neti pot, a plethora of tea, hopefully an appetite and plenty of Vitamin C.
Studio: My apartment

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day 47: Svaroopa Yoga and a Failed Neti Pot

I tried to use a neti pot and overdid it on the salt content. Do not use enough salt to saturate the solution, leaving undissolved crystals on the bottom...stupid. Also, do not attempt to do anything involving measuring or your brain or focus or well, anything, when you are nearly sleep walking. Really. It's better just to remove the walking out of that phrase and gently rest your body on a comfy bed.

I also did 30 minutes of svaroopa yoga tonight to release some of the tension in my spinal column. It was intense. I could feel heat building in the areas that I was focusing my attention on; my sacrum felt like a small fire had started in the second part of the Magic Four. Everyone should give this style of yoga a go. It's really restorative.

Today (Day 48) will be a double: Hot 90 followed by the advanced class. Drinking. Lots. Of. Water. Hydrating is on my mind.

Class: 30 minute self-guided svaroopa yoga
Instructor: Me
Studio: Living room

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 46: Pathetic Fallacy

No footing. Zero footing. I completely lack my footing. And it's really fucking me up. I keep slipping as I attempt to plant my feet firmly on the ground, any ground, to feel grounded. I'm not floating, more like perpetually slipping. My feet are wobbly; spastically flailing for a stable surface. groping. longing. hoping. The ground is just the idea of the ground. it lacks physical substance and real depth. the image of ground. and my feet are lost upon it. unable to grip. slipping quickly from one false notion to another hopeful image.

Yup. That's still how I feel. My life is just full of questions, too many unknowns, causing this intense feeling of uncertainty. Unsure of what to do, how to act, where to go, I cope with things I can grasp. Things that are physical, real, tangible. Simple levels of control. Yoga (movement). Food (comfort). Reading (distraction). Anything to keep my mind away from the ominous fog of uncertainty that fills the in-between times.

Pathetic Fallacy. Giving human traits to inanimate objects. When nature reflects the emotions in human interactions. A powerful thunderstorm booming in the background during a lover's quarrel. Or today, when I went to work and my chaotic emotions and uncertainty became the driving factors in all the equipment changing at random. Or chance occurrences stacking to produce a far worse outcome: ice machine lid dislodged, scissors breaking as I try to wedge it back onto its tracks, ice coffee overflowing in the sink and spilling into open ice machine...chaos. random actions that are unconnected, but in certain circumstances, create moments which build on each other. Machine breaks, coffee overflows, ice machine becomes ice coffee machine...fuck.

Breathing. again. back to breath. And choice. Remembering that I choose what I do each day, and how to react to situations I didn't choose. Choice. My breath and my choice. Calm, clear, fluid. That's what I need.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jana
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Lavender towels.
Not Wins: Feeling bile rise in my throat during spine strengthening; feeling out of control; feeling irritated.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 45: Falling off and Getting on

Tomorrow, I will be transitioning back to vegan (nearly), gluten-free, super health mode style and pursuing a healthy body, focused mind and peaceful soul. The tower of terror emotional drop I had this past week was enough to push me into a mega-coping pattern that would rival NFL plays (though I'm not sure such a reference is good, since I know all of zero patterns in football). But really, I hit the crazy emotional "anything will make me cry" phase, and I'm not too much of a crier...screamer? sure. rageful? when confronted with douche monkeys...yes. I'm a fan of emotions, and like that I can express a range. However, nervous breakdowns in the "my full life is now onion shaped and yoga is a massive, hairy, orangutan hand peeling each painful, repressed feeling with powerful tears" style prompted some serious coping...in the form of espresso, sugar, cheese, jon stewart, laziness and any other emotional pitfall of doom (minus jon stewart, cause the daily show is just funny).

Hello healthy, I'll be coming your way soon. Sorry for the detour. I guess crying in public wasn't my scene, so instead, I opted for false-happiness and borrowed energy. Next time I feel like crying, I'll dress in all black, put on some of my old emo music from high school and look forlornly off into the weird space between people. Hello sad little teenage me...looks like I need to see what hurt back then. Strap up...or down. Just pull out the straps and hold on. *deep breath*

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jana
Studio: Open Door
Wins: lavender towels, lavender towels and cold, magical, unicorn-hair-750-thread-count-dipped-in-relaxation-and-all-that-is-good lavender towels.

Day 44: Hot Silent Flow and Zely & Ritz

I love Zely & Ritz. They have the most amazingly delicious food. And, it's mostly organic, local fare. Awesome.

Appetizers: House marinated olive with assorted nuts; Local pickled vegetables (from their CSA partner farm, Coon Rock).
Entrees: Roasted Beet salad with organic mixed greens + walnut vinaigrette; Bottles of wine (love on some cotes du rhone); Roasted vegetables from Coon Rock; many, many more delectable dishes.
Dessert: More wine, of the dessert variety.

If you come to Raleigh, go here. It will seriously love on you so very much. And you will love on Zely & Ritz, too. Advertisement over? sure.

Yeasayer - Odd Blood. Download it and get your 80's psychedelic-esque party on. I Remember and Ambling Alps - awesome.

Class: Hot Silent Flow
Instructor: Claudine
Wins: Change-ups; uncovering deeply buried feelings in class; moving with my breath; Delicious food; Yeasayer.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 43: When your body says no

My body said "no" today, mainly with the feeling of lunch in the upper regions of my esophagus. From the onset of class, I had nausea to the point of tasting partially digested vegan energy bar swimming in coffee. I barely got through 3 breaths in the first set of pranayama and struggled to fully exhale for 6 seconds. This was the first time in over a month that I struggled with breathing. But this is also the first time in a month that everything has been completely different-my diet, my sleep pattern, my stress levels, my emotions, my whole life. My inability to control my breath and my body reacting so poorly was a reflection of my intense feelings of being out of control. Now, sitting down to my new favorite dessert (kefir and frozen blackberries), I'm breathing easily; calming down my chaotic day and evaluating all that caused such a stir.

When I'm stressed-physically, emotionally-my body has interesting ways of telling me to stop, drop and roll...or just to stop and think (but fire safety is for real, too). Like breathing shallowly, or feeling like I'm about to revisit lunch in a most unpleasant way. My body is saying "yo dude, what the fuck are you doing? chill out. it's fine. really. stop screwing me up with all this bullshit food; stressing me out with all this anxious energy." And it's right. All the stress is creating a terrible environment inside of me, which is reflected in all of my choices. This last week has been a series of band-aids on real problems. Instead of coming to terms with them, I've been masking them up; using the convenient, American "there's-a-pill-for-that" style of handling a problem. But a pill won't work. Nor will ignoring it. It's time to figure all this emotional junk out...and what better time then the emotional stage of a yoga adventure: Day 30 through 60 (Pulled from the 101 blog, which pulled it from Mary Jarvis' writing):

Day 31-60, we start to get into the emotional "stuff". As in the first 30 days, where we re-adjust the entire physical body, the next 30 days we re-adjust the entire emotional body while simultaneously regenerating and rebuilding every single cell in the body. We also begin to get into some serious realignment of the spine and the entire central nervous system. These next 30 days, you really begin to feel mentally fatigued, even in spite of the fact that you physically feel better than you ever have in your entire life!!!! This is the emotional readjustment.

And yes, there it is. Hello opportunity to handle some of the big, putrid, emotional gunk buried in the "I'll save you for later" section of my psyche's library. 
 
Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jennifer
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Um...about this term "wins." Yeah, I'm going to need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday. And while you're at it, Sunday too. Yeah, um, it looks like I'll need a double on sunday, as well. Yeah, um, thanks. Have a good weekend. bye. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day 42: No Mirror For You!

Yup. I came in a few minutes before class and wedged myself into a space, which unfortunately put my in line with another person. So, gazing forward, I saw another yogi's derrière instead of my reflection. And man, did I say the nastiest things in my head. Hello 5 year old me...what a nice temper tantrum you just had! Oh no, she's not an "inconsiderate bitch" for failing to move to one side. Nor is she that distracting to my series. Really, she's not...even though her foot kicked me in each set of balancing stick. Not distracting. I am distracting myself by allowing a change in my routine, or a clear view of the mirror, to drastically affect the way I do my yoga. Lessons! Oh so many lessons...

So, yogic lessons from this: be on time; accept what you cannot change; learn to be calm when you're uncomfortable; focus on your practice; move in a new way; revel in the unknown; feel alive.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jana
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Jana and her lavender towels; spine strengthening flow; Jana kicking our ass because someone mentioned her classes are easier (definitely not true today!); really great shots that CMP Boss Lady pulled for me the other day; accepting flaws; drowning my rearing narcissism; finding balance internally instead of relying on the externals.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 41: Skip, and Why It's Okay.

Work was long and sleep was short. After 8 hours at the shop, my friend Catie spent an hour talking to me about my yoga practice and re-balancing my body with some much needed acupuncture (she even brought me slowly back to myself with tuning forks - awesome). Post needles, I went home and started working on a chem lab report, homework, reading and prep-work for a new lab assignment; all of which needs to be done by tomorrow except for my homework, which is due in 2 hours. 5:30 sneaked up on me and I had to postpone my yoga until the 7:30 class. It's now 7:25 and I am still in my house, finishing up work. Today will have to be a skip. And that's alright.

During my talk with Catie (and numerous other yogis - especially Jill from wandering yoga), we discussed the importance of yoga as an honored time for yourself, not an obligation to further stress over. When you try to squeeze in 2 hours for yoga and class suddenly becomes an obstacle in your day, it's alright to skip. You can make up the time. Right now, finishing all my class work for tomorrow is more important than going to a yoga class that I would view as time consuming, instead of liberating. So instead of fretting over one missed day, I'm going to do 30 minutes of svaroopa yoga before bed. I'm going to finish all of my work in the next 2 hours and get to sleep by 10. I'm going to get 8 hours of restful, restorative sleep. I'm going to listen to my body; it's telling me to take a breath and take a break.

Class: Svaroopa yoga: The Magic 4
Instructor: Me
Studio: My living room with a chair, my mat and a stack of books serving as yoga blocks.
Wins: Breathing; Finishing all of my work; 8 hours of much needed sleep.

Day 40: Emotions and Wheel

My emotions are going fucking crazy. crazy. I'm on the verge of a breakdown in the morning, with little things like wind in my face or discovering new policies at work pushing me to the point of crying. crying. Shedding tears like I just found out my penis is going to fall off on the same day I'm destined to meet the most perfect disney-prince-charming lad...all while the the storm of the century wipes away most of the Northeast...and California breaks off into the ocean. That's how I feel. What? What!? Hello, emotional roller-coaster, I'll have all 54 seats; one for each of the insanely singular emotions that will consume a hyper-intense period of time throughout my 17 waking hours...each day. Thank you. Oh? This ride has a 580...thousand...gillion foot drop? Awesome. 33 loops? Super. 48 story climb? Win. And then it goes all the way back in reverse? Fuck me. Breathe. Breathe. Catch your breath. *Deep, slow exhale* pause *Insanely loud scream*

Wheel, from flat to curved:
Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Monica
Studio: Open Door

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 39: Rut-ut-ut-ut...putt-putt-putt

Stuck in a rut. Stuck. Oh so stuck. Looking up, maybe over. Seeing the rut. Staring at it. Rut. There you are.

Procrastinating. Putt-putt-putt. Moving so slowly. Distraction is my motivation. Everything is shiny, bright. Attention. Attention. Here. Have it.

Yoga. 90 minutes of shutting all of that out. Not being consumed by the rut your in, or fixating on how you got there. The rut disappears and you are just there. Present. Motivation becomes release. Internal dialogue of scattered thoughts is trumped by one clear, strong voice guiding you through a posture.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Mechelle
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Listening to the teacher; a disappearing rut; focus replacing "everything is so shiny."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 38: Scorpion, The Mechanics of Awesome

Class: Samana
Instructor: Renee
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Everything.

Samana. We lacked the usual pleasantry of musical accompaniment today. The class was stacked in two full rows, 12 in each. We twisted, folded, stretched, bent, lifted, lengthened for the first 50 minutes. Oh, and we toned...for real. We contracted abs in isometric holds, saluted the sun many times and became intimate with our hamstrings...very intimate. Wheels were made toward the end and 24 ploughs took position in a class that reached a humidity level of 100%...we made it rain. rain. That beautiful H20 condensed on pipes and streamed down the mirror, walls and each of our bodies. The mechanics of awesome: Samana.

After class, Renee demonstrated a beautiful scorpion:


 -Start with your forearms extended out and with your elbows under your shoulders.

 - Push up (as in the first photo) into dolphin pose with Scorpion arms.

 - Kick up your feet one at a time, moving into an arm balance.

 - Hold here to establish balance.

- Begin to sink your heart down, pushing your head/neck forward.

 - Your shoulders will drop down and exaggerate the curve in your lower back.

 - Let your feet come forward and down as a natural counter balance.
- You are not sinking your feet down, but pushing through. This is the hardest part to get (I still have trouble with this).

My attempt at Scorpion, from arm balance:

 
Final Part of Scorpion (For now):



 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 37: Hot Silent Flow and Tim's Magical Push

Hot Silent Flow happens every Saturday. Claudine studied the Barkan Method in Florida and teaches his flow-style hot yoga in a candle lit room. Awesome. It's a smooth, steady flow based on Bikram's 26 postures, but with added variation. At the start you do two sets of pranayama breathing, and then move into a sun salutation series to warm-up the body. After several of the intro poses, you move into Bikram's series, but alternate second sets with different postures. The variation is great, and adds an additional layer of focus as you try out new poses. Just as practice makes perfect, incorporating new postures opens up your body to different stretches (and therapeutic effects).

I enjoy the idea of muscle confusion and the added challenge of trying something new. And the following Monday, when I go back to the straight 26 (with maybe some added pigeon-great stretch for the piriformis...butt muscle!), I am seriously in it to win it. The class is usually always one of my strongest series; my alignment stays true as I explore new depths. And Claudine's voice is perfect for this class: strong, calm and sincere. You just do what she says and the light music in the background shuts out all the other crap floating in your head. What's that you say? Oh, why yes...it is awesome.

Speaking of all things awesome, Tim, the sweet man of the Morning Times, helped me stretch out my back at work during a short respite from the onslaught of patrons. Though it looked  borderline pornographic (on a scale from 1 to having sex on the counter), it was the best push I've received in quite some time. I did a quick forward bend, wrapped my hands around my ankles and flattened my back separate-leg-stretching style. From there, Tim pushed on my lower back, which quickly brought my head to rest on the crumb-covered floor. It was amazing...my back cracked and popped, and then just melted down. I felt immediately better as I reversed the pose and thanked Tim repeatedly for being awesome. Super awesome. So thank you, Tim, for being the sweetest man around.

Class: Hot Silent Flow
Instructor: Claudine
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Claudine and her clear voice; flow; Tim's magical push.

Day 36: Corrections

Today was a fairly good day. Work was long and even though a monsoon moved over Raleigh, it was still a pleasant afternoon. I even managed to make it to the studio without skidding into a ditch. And dying. So that marks a great day.

As for class, it was awesome. Awesomely full of corrections. I really appreciate a "hands-on" approach when it comes to yoga. It's so easy to be turned off by teachers constantly correcting you, adjusting your stance and calling out your name just as you feel the pose is perfect...when it's not. I really don't mind. Honestly, I enjoy it. In this class, I found several new alignment changes that completely shifted poses, allowing greater depth and an overall stronger series. Poses like separate leg head to knee, where I could never figure out how to shift weight back. Jennifer came by, rotated my hips and changed my stance. Boom. Weight in the back leg, and it felt completely different.

Corrections. Teachers give them because they want to help you get everything you can out of the yoga. So love them...teachers and corrections.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jennifer
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Strong and flexible class; many helpful corrections

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 35: Half Ass

Today was a half-ass day. I tried just enough on my first chemistry exam to probably walk away with a high B, maybe low A. No extra cramming for it. Not even a last minute "I need to remember this" sweat. I daydreamed for the full hour and 20 minutes of Biology. I ran through my lab assignment just so I could leave an hour early, hoping to catch some extra mid-day-break reading time (which I covet so much). I lazily walked to the coffee shop, grabbed my bike and pedaled home...even this was half-assed. Not leisurely, just lazy. A real ehhh pace.

Half ass. And this was also the way I did my yoga. There was no sitting, nor any breaks. No reconnecting with my breath or pushing my body into new depths while maintaining proper alignment. I would be fine, maybe, with sitting out; knowing that my body had reached a point where I needed an impromptu savasana. But that wasn't the case. I just kept going at a meager 30%. And that's lame. Only the poses. Only 90 minutes of a fairly mediocre series. The instructions were clear and fluid. Heat was definitely at an appropriate level. All the other students brought energy, either new "i've never done hot yoga" vibes or that calm, driven veteran energy. My energy...ehhh.

This happens. I'm not happy about it, nor am I proud. I'm just accepting it. Tomorrow (today) will be different. The end.


Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jana
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Jana and her sweet demeanor; lavender towels.
Not Wins: Being a bum to the extreme.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 34: Indulgence

Today was a coconut brownie sort of day. This day doesn't come around too often for me. Maybe once every 2 months (okay, sure...sometimes a little sooner). But I knew it today. Everything pointed me in the direction of sweet toasted coconut atop rich chocolaty goodness complete with toasted walnuts. The infamous coconut brownie at the Morning Times. I didn't even look at the fruit bowl. My concentration was not swayed by the vegan Heart Thrive bars. Even the marginally healthier Raleigh Times Bars (complete with peanut butter, homemade granola, honey and chocolate chips-fucking awesome) held no power over me. It was brownie, coconut brownie, all the way.

Indulgence. Every now and then, your body says eat a brownie. Your mind agrees. Your spirit says, "fuck yeah!" And then you do. You really enjoy it. It tastes great. No guilt. No bad feelings. No "Ugh, I have so so so much running to do." Screw that. An indulgence, better yet a treat, is something you have once and a while (like once a month, not once a day) that makes you happy in so many ways. Next month, it might be a full day of watching old buffy episodes. Maybe even breaking out the Xena. Hell, I might bike to lilly's and get a pizza. Treats. Things you occasionally indulge in for celebrations or random moments of happy. Try it.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Monica
Studio: Open Door
Wins: coconut brownie treat; productive meetings; worrying more about my alignment then how high my leg gets; PELVIS!
Not wins: feeling exhausted all day; dreaming all night that I was in a house that was suddenly massive and under attack by nazi-esque invaders who wanted to easy-bake-oven me as I attempted to escape through the woods and took rest under a rock on the ledge of a cliff post securing edibles at a convenience store....which I had to steal from since I had no money, only fear...what the fuck; another flat tire!

Day 33: I'm Just Going to Grab Your Butt

Stretching pose. The one that follows head to knee pose. You set up by grabbing your big toes and inching your butt back...resting on your sits bones. Okay. I got this. I'm not rounding too much. Look how low I am getting! wow...this is..."Chris, pretend I'm grabbing your butt and pulling it back," Monica says, interrupting my feelings of awesomeness within this posture. Okay, my butt is back. "Push it back," she reiterates while pressing on my lower back and helping it to straighten out. "Okay, here, I'm going to grab your butt...okay? I'm going to pull it back for you so you can feel the difference." Um, sure. I'm completely waterlogged, but you're cool. And no one has touched my butt in a while, so hell...grab on! She, quite literally, pulls my butt out and forces me to lift up higher. Extending up with my ribs, flattening out my back and stretching properly. "Do you feel the difference?" Yup. Yes, yes I do.

My hips don't usually tilt that way. My pelvis is a firm believer in "no, I don't want to." I would welcome the discomfort if I could even figure out how to tilt my pelvis. Pelvis is an awesome word. Pel-vis. Okay, yes, so tilting that awesome anatomical structure. I just spent 5 minutes not feeling awkward about massaging my own tookus as I attempted to find the tilt I had in class. It was insane to move my pelvis with my hands, feeling my bones rotating around. Bizarre. Really, there's a lot going on down there. You should make an excuse to feel it out, too.

What I learned? Hamstrings. Has to be my hamstrings. As I stretched up, lengthened my back and tilted forward-BOOM-my hamstrings said, "oh fuck you." So, yes, I think it's my hamstrings, which are so very very tight (still).

Thank you for the very hands-on class, Monica. It was quite memorable, and brought out a few laughs.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: The very pregnant Monica
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Butt massage; having fun with my pelvis; Key lime pie Larabars! (free at Open Door...best most amazing yes yes moment).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 32: What heat? Stop fighting it.

The heat is less and less and less...oh, and less of a distraction. Even when it's thick in the room, I just do the inhales that help me. The long, slow and deliberate ones. I don't yell at myself when I fall out of bow, or when I get a bend in my "it's supposed to be locked solid" knee; I just lower my leg and start over with a fresh breath.  I am amazed with the amount of energy and focus I can give to my practice when I'm not wasting energy fighting myself.

Fighting myself. What an awesome expression. Think about how much you fight yourself. The dagger eyes of concentration tensing your whole body; a tight jaw as you muscle your way into a certain depth. All that energy spent on tensing, straining, grinding is energy you could put towards productive movement: steady, calm breathing; fluid extension; a solid foundation.

We are constantly battered with the idea of who we should be that we end up fighting, nearly constantly, who we are. I'm far from the idea of who I should be and still fight myself all the time. "I should look this way. I should be able to do this. I should be stronger. smarter. better." All of these should statements are bullshit. Bullshit that is so stupid hard to let go. I'll most likely work on this for the rest of my life, but that's alright. It's a progression. I'm not waiting for the train to stop at perfect-ville. I'm just happy to be on the train and moving forward. The only thing I really value is growth. Not the capitalist "bigger, more more more more" sort of growth. Growing more into the person I am by losing all the imposed ideas of the person I should be. Growth in the positive, enriching and magical way.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Monica
Studio: Open Door
Wins: No problems with my breath; fully (maybe?) adapted to a hot, hot room; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros make me happy with the large smiles and bright eyes; Not worrying about anyone else in the room.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 31: Doubled Up, Bike Riding on Ice and Intense Stretching Pose

Doubles! First double since I started my 108 Day Mala. Back to back double, too. Boom. Though I drank way too much water between class and felt one esophagus muscle away from returning the water...all over the mirror. Spine strengthening almost became how-to-deal-with-someone-who-vomits-in-the-room strengthening. That's strong enough. No one wanted a class in that. So, my third and fourth set of the spine series was a little stunted, but I had a fairly strong standing series. Partial win?

New rule: though riding your bike in the snow/ice is fun and may produce many a "ha ha ha," even a more high pitched scream of "ahHHH-awesome!," it should not be done...often. I nearly rode my face down one street and who really wants to stain that beautiful white, red? Not me. Yellow, maybe if I can't find a bathroom. But not red. Nope. No fun.

Class: Hot 90, and then Hot 90!
Instructor: Jennifer F and Kate S
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Feeling really energized after the first class; Doing something productive after a most lazy snow day; learning to keep my inner thigh rotated up in standing bow; Jennifer F keeping my half moon in check.

Intense Stretching Pose:
(Look at those crazy eyes in the mirror! Red like the devil, ya' hear!)

Day 30: Snowed In

Raleigh shut down due to some inclement weather. And I mean Shut Down. What to do when you can't make it to class? Do yoga at home! Think of your favorite poses, or mimic the series the best you can. Better yet, explore other styles or try out new poses. This is a great moment to push out of the normal series, whatever style you may do, and try something new. Awesome.

Class: Hot (enough) 90
Studio: My living room
Instructor: Memory and the all the teachers from open door whispering corrections and motivation...in my brain.
Wins: Doubled-up sweat pants and thermals to lock in the heat.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 29: Rabbit Pose and all the Benefits

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Kate S.
Studio: Open Door
Wins: A long day off; watching hours of the Daily Show; indulging my cravings (curry, peanut butter and coconut hot chocolate (Just like the hot chocolate of childhood winters, but sub rich and delicious coconut milk for that cow milk).
Rabbit Pose:

Benefits of Rabbit:
  •  Stretches and elongates the spine
  • Promotes mobility and optimal function of the nervous system
  • Improves digestion and sinus problems (congestion)
  • Excellent for improving posture and realigning the spinal column
  • Helps regulate hormones by stimulating the endocrine system (glandular network that produces and regulate hormones throughout the body

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 28: Bring the heat, Slow the breath

Hot like a jungle. Or razor burn. Not so much itchy...or anything you would need ointment to take care of. More like thick, hot soup. Heavy soup. Cream based. That was class, and I liked it.
The heat is the biggest challenge for many people in the room. It's hard to breathe and you can feel claustrophobic. My breath has been so stifled in there, I was sure all the oxygen had been sucked out. It's hard to focus on anything else when you feel dizzy, even nauseous, from the humidity. How can I breathe if I can barely stand? 
Then it shifts. You suddenly mind the heat a little less. The standing series wipes you out, but you aren't caught up by the floating thermometers around your fogged up head. This transition, from cursing the heat to counting my breaths, was amazing. I realized that there's always oxygen in the room...even if it feels like there's none.
Your breath is a reflection of your physical state and your mental state. Of course your body is stressed in a hot yoga class; it's like practicing in the jungle. The class is physically exhausting and your body is coping with all the stress, just like it would if you go for a long run or swim 50 laps in a pool. It's hard to realize that the physical component is not the only influence on our breathing. Mentally, we can shift our heart rate or shorten our inhales. Think of times when you were nervous or heard bad news. What happens? You stop breathing. Your heartbeat quickens and your body tenses up. Physically, in terms of effort, you are merely standing still, but your breathing says otherwise. The same thing happens in class. We are so caught up in the physical components and all our mental space is relegated to the "shit, it is so hot in here" thought pattern that we forget to forget all of those distractions.
So what do you do? How do you make room for a quieter practice? When does the shift happen? For me, it was simply going to class every day (can I call that a simple thing?). Being in the room each day changed my feelings toward it. I focus less and less on the heat (though it still floods my brain quite a bit) and use that new space - just like in the poses - to expand, lengthen and calm my breathing.  And you know what, it has expanded. I feel the strength in my resolve to take long, slow inhales. I feel the calm that comes with my control. Now I can focus more on my real yoga practice and less on my complaints.

So try it. Go for a week straight. Forget about the physical component and focus on the mind. See what changes. Maybe you'll end up with a new appreciation for that hot, hot room.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Jana
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Lavender towels; calm breathing; calm breathing; calm breathing; inhales; exhales.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 27: One Foggy Half Tortoise

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Kate S.
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Calm, smooth breathing; steady focus; setting up next to Mechelle; recognizing distraction and accepting it in the moment, then letting it go; more Mountain Goats; looking forward to the sweaty room as my daily escape.

One sweaty, foggy half tortoise:

Day 26: A 'Thank You Note' and My Strongest Class

Hi Monica,
Class was really, really swell today. I've never been in a session that turned the mats. What a unique perspective (usually a neighbor's bum) and interesting moment to let go of all that social constraint! People! We are all people! "We all have butts. Say hello to your neighbor's as you swan dive forward," you joked. I laughed into my neighbor's butt as I swan dived forward. This brought some humor into a very humid class. And that was just what I needed. Laughter took the strain out of my face and allowed me to melt some tension in my shoulders. My heart started opening to the floor and my bum rolled straight up into the air (or maybe my neighbor's personal space bubble). It was great to push those boundaries; use the energy that was pumping through the room to fuel my practice. Hopefully my energy fueled another yogi's series. I certainly was pumping out enough heat to warm up the air; the pool of sweat at my feet during standing bow was enough to dive into.
So thank you, again. I really enjoyed class. Thank you.
Christopher

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Monica
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Everything (even the milkshake-thick air).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 25: Choices and Voices

How many choices do you make throughout the day? Beyond just food, or the shirt you put on in the morning; more than the time you walk out the door or whether you stop for breakfast; bigger than the dollar you give to the sad-faced man sitting with all of his belongings. Choice. Choices. We make countless decisions each day. We decide to do one thing or another. Choices can be simple, like picking up a stray piece of trash, or monumental. All choices lead to one of two outcomes; it's either yes or no. "Maybe" eventually tilts to either side. And though you can have 50 choices for a given situation, you still say yes to some and no to others. Why is it that some choices are so hard to make? How can a choice cause so much strain? When do certain choices become easier?

I've been struggling with the idea of choice for some time. Simple things like sharing stories or news can become huge decisions. All the voices that push to be heard make any decision so layered. I seem to always have 5 different voices weighing in on my choices. The voice that thinks about what I need is in a thunder-dome-style battle with the erratic "I want" voice. There are all the social voices, too. The ones that tell you one thing is better than another because it is more popular or less awkward. Maybe the choice is just less confrontational, less radical or less problematic. We have the voices that weigh in for our friends and families, all the voices that have shaped our thought patterns and our social interactions. We have the insecure voices that whisper timidly, but seem to carve out the most space. It's a surprise there's any room left in our mind for stillness. peace. quiet. calm. Not emptiness, but clarity. That's what I'm searching for.

The more I practice yoga, the more peaceful I am. I can find longer moments of stillness; clarity in thought isn't a struggle. All the voices that compete for my attention and lead to so much stress are quieting down. I'm becoming more in tune with my real needs, hearing my body's requests and acting on each in turn. And it is terribly refreshing. Magical, even. So much introspection - an hour and a half each day - is changing my perspective; I'm focusing more on my true desires; what will really make me happy; what I really need at each moment.

"You work on it; it's a practice. It's yoga, so have fun with it," Mechelle says to all the new students. It's calming, the voice she uses. It's light, yet focused. Not intimidating, but inviting. This is the type of voice we should carry with us. The voice that reminds us that yoga, work, school, and life are all just long practice sessions.  We are moving, growing, progressing. And that's beautiful.

So quiet down all those competing voices. Try listening to your own body, your own spirit; the one that truly belongs to you. It can be surprising, and wonderfully freeing, to follow that voice. Your true voice. Voice. Choice. Rhyming. Fun.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 24: Samana and Snacking

Snacks. I love them. You love them. We all love them. Yummy morsels of bite-sized goodness. Fried, baked, popped, in ziplocks or plastic wrapped, covered in chocolate or mixed with nuts. I. love. snacks. And they serve a purpose. Snacks are your in-between-time treats. But all snacks are not created equal. America loves snacks like sliced and fried potatoes, double-mega-chunk chocolate cookies and diabetes-wrapped-in-artificial-flavor candy. These snacks don't love you, they just want yo' money. And years of your life. Maybe a tooth or two.
Healthy snacks exist and are as easy as a milky way. When you walk into that lovely coffee shop for your daily fix, instead of setting your sights on a sugar-bomb (eg: cookie), glance around. What? What's this!? Fruit! No way. Fruit is delicious. And, wait...wait...it's full of vitamins and plenty of fiber. And it's all natural in the no processing, crazy heating, chemical solvents and weird ingredients sort of natural. Let's compare.


 Milk Way Ingredients: Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Cocoa butter, Skim Milk, Chocolate, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor), Corn Syrup, Sugar, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Skim Milk, Less than 2%-Milkfat, Cocoa Powder Processed with Alkali, Malted Barley, Lactose, Salt, Egg Whites, Chocolate, Artificial Flavor.
 - Bad News: Ingredients are listed in order of concentration, so the first ingredient is Milk Chocolate, which is mostly just sugar. Then comes corn syrup, or more sugar. Surprise! Third most prevalent ingredient is sugar. This is a diabetic nightmare.

Apple Ingredients: Apple.
 - Good News: Plenty of fiber to regulate the sugar within the fruit and a good serving of vitamin C. Get an organic apple and you have a perfect sweet treat.

Other options are mixed nuts (preferably not roasted or full of common table salt). Lightly salted with sea salt is a great option. You can buy bulk nuts at your local health food store. I love cashews and pecans. Walnuts are great, though can have a slight bitter aftertaste. You can also stock up on some mixed dried fruits, like raisins or apricots. Though higher in sugar, they are still a great alternative. And then you can make those ordinary nuts into something awesome...like trail mix. And there are always Lara Bars, which are delicious. Pecan Pie, Cashew Cookie and Key Lime Pie make me ridiculously happy. Ingredients(Key Lime Pie): Dates, Cashews, Almonds, Unsweetened Coconut and Lime Juice Concentrate. Awesome.

Yoga
Class: Samana
Instructor: Renee
Studio: Open Door
Wins: realizing that my body is stronger, leaner and that my focus can stay on my breathing...instead of my "What the fuck do you want me to do with my legs? Standing...splits? Grab my ankle and, wait..."; accepting what my body needs, instead of what my brain craves; understanding the fluid nature of life and finding a hint of peace (Thanks, timbo); Accepting my decisions; Not fighting my feelings, but living in the space they create.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 23: The Mountain Goats, Hot Flow and a floor twist

I really like The Mountain Goats right now. Heretic Pride is really good...and I just went on a serious downloading binge on e-music. You can listen to a sample of some of their songs on lala. I like Sax Rohmer #1 and Michael Myers Resplendent, both in the left hand column. So good.

Class: Hot Silent Flow
Instructor: Claudine
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Muscle confusion; music.
Not Wins: nasal congestion killing my inhales...snot inhales; overly introspective and self critical; lack of focus.

Modified Floor twist for extra torque and stretch:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 22: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, 3 hours of yoga and Savasana

So it's been just over three weeks. Actually, today is the start of my fourth consecutive week of yoga -  mostly hot, all beneficial. Today I opted for a rejuvenating simple class with Jill. The best part about this class is the opening meditation, where we all focus on our intention. What is it that we want to do? Why are we in the room? How can we take that motivation and share it with others, for the benefit of us all? These are the questions Jill raises as we sit in traditional postures of lotus or hero, hands taking up various mudras. We settle into the experience of yoga, guided by our motivation.

After this grounding start, Jill asks each of us what physical areas we would like to work on-hips, shoulders, hamstrings (my choice). The class then follows a series of poses tailored to the individual concerns of each student. Even though the class is called Simple Yoga, it's far from a sit-there-and-relax practice; the sweat drenching my t-shirt is testament to it's physical demands...as are the 50 dolphin push ups.

Right after Jill's class ended, I re-hydrated with a large bottle of water and prepared myself for the next class: 90 minutes of Ashtanga in a mildly heated room. Kate is the only instructor that teaches Ashtanga at Open Door, and she's a lovely lady. Her personality is warm and refreshing, which makes the continuous flow style of asanas much more doable.

Ashtanga is a vigorous workout for the whole body. The primary series includes 51 postures and starts with Surya Namaskar A & B. It's for real. For Real, Real. You build internal heat as you progress through the series by engaging your bandhas (various muscles groups that lock energy) and following your breath (the same ujjayi breathing in the opening breathing in Bikram). Believe me, it gets hot. Building that heat internally is an interesting feeling, as it radiates out of you, from you; you're not heated from external sources; you are the heat. Ashtanga is a definite win.

So changes. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, to be more lyrical. A lot, to be specific. A lot of changes. Physical. Mental. Emotional. So many. It is important to remember the changes as they come in various waves. The point of this blog is to chronicle one student's progression through a yoga practice. I want to document my evolution, show my progression. It's important as a student to remember how the lessons went, what I learned along the way; this blog facilitates that process, giving me an outlet to share my experience all while recording it for my personal reflection.

Changes:
 - Physical
   - I've lost weight.
   - My butt has shrunk (saddens my wee-heart).
   - My waist is tiny (er).
   - I'm taller (win to the extreme).
   - My breathing is strong and fluid (I notice this most on my bike, as I don't get winded so easily).
   - My skin erupted the first two weeks in a gross high-school-hormonal-bomb sort of way with more blackheads than a stack of cards...3 stacks of cards. They're nearly gone. Now my skin is getting softer, smoother. A lady came up to me at work and gave me the pregnant compliment: "you're skin is glowing!" Well, it's definitely not a baby's doing...or pre-natal vitamins. Bye bye toxins, hello healthy skin.
   - I'm shedding fat stores.
   - My eating patterns are simpler-lots of greens, beans and fresh edibles. No more bread, or any glutenous matter, refined sugar or other bullshit food. Fuck that Standard American Diet.
 - Mental
   - My thoughts are clearer with less fog, though the first 2-3 weeks had periods of heavy fog. heavy, heavy fog. I needed serious flood lights to find anything that resembled a coherent thought. Hello detox, how are you?
   - My mind rests easier and longs less for aimless distraction. I struggle with this still, shutting out the chaotic rants and disconnected patterns, but it's getting better. See: Fog.
 - Emotional
   - I have less bipolar-style ups and downs. My mood is more even, as I'm learning to accept the many variables that affect my day (all of our days).
   - I struggle less with satisfying my emotional distress with fillers - mindless entertainment, sweet treats or boozy libations. Instead, I go to yoga and let the physical practice calm my outbursts so I can deal with each one in a clear state. 

For the most part, I'm happy with the changes. The weight loss wasn't a goal. And my disappearing derrière is a sad, sad change. But I know this is part of the process. I'm shedding the bullshit fat, which holds so many locked up toxins. In it's place, I will build a new and better rump. Yes. I will. Maybe? No, yes. Yes. *Does 25 squats and selfishly admits that reclaiming ze' butt is a real goal*

Savasana (I got this chill-out-and-breathe thing down. Kind of): 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 21: Hot 90 with Jana and her amazing lavender towels. And some Camel Pose.


Class: Hot 90
Instructor: The beautiful and funny (in that silly, youthful way) Jana.
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Strong breathing-my exhale is powerful and long; buck wild standing series, including bow and standing head to knee; my steady, intense gaze; forgetting, just for a moment, everyone around me and finding my own eyes, my own space, my own body; movement; delicious dinner of butternut squash, sweet potatoes and chickpeas in a homemade curry (adapted from this Tempeh Curry Recipe); long conversations about love, life and the transitory relationships that define our time; my CSA share with Coon Rock Farm; ice cold lavender towels at the end of a humid class.

Camel Pose:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 20: Find Strength in Inhaling, Find Solace in Exhaling, Find Focus in Your Gaze.

My sleep pattern is really crazy. Just all over the place. Some nights, I crawl into bed and hug my comforter, cozying up to imminent sleep; slowing my breath, just as I would in class; focusing on long, smooth exhales; blurring my gaze; holding onto nothing; accepting memories as they pass; clips on a motion picture recap of my day, week, year, my past loves and summer-long excursions. My life, in the order my brain reveals it to the screen of my drooping eyelids. These nights are great. It's a nice send off to dreams-ville. Party of 1...and the infinite people that inhabit whatever world I end up on. Win.

Then there are the nights where my eyes are heavy, but my brain is inundated with thoughts. Perplexed. Or just unwilling to admit that sleep is what I need, not distraction. I aimlessly wander from website to website, looking up various recipes or some new-age health phenomenon. My brain welcomes the preoccupation with anything that can fill space. I refuse, fully, to surrender to what I need: sleep. Why? I'm still pondering that one. It seems illogical to refuse such a natural cycle; a ritual of restoration. But I do. I fight the urge. Refuse. Say no, I'm staying up. I'm not ready yet. I have time. More time. There's time. I'll stare up, focusing on the various imperfections in the painted ceiling. I notice the bubbles, cracks. My feet spread on the bed as my body lies in a faux-savasana like state. These are the nights that I need to reconnect to my breath. Breathing. Slow and steady. It's mine; I own it, control it, regulate it; can always come back to it. Breath. Just breathe. I'm starting to understand this more. It's a progression. Yes, yes, yes. Just like yoga practice. No end goal, just movement - forward, back. All leads to growth, as long as I can remember to breathe.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Brandon, who directs with a sexy, raspy, porno voice. awesome.
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Continuous breathing-long, strong inhale leading straight into a controlled and full exhale; hands-to-feet pose; half-tortoise; Good times at the Morning Times; Vega meal replacement shake an hour or so before practicing; Warm weather in Raleigh; Rob Brezny's horoscopes (I'm apparently a sex machine this week...and the next few. boom); sesame tofu with steamed broccoli, daikon, shitake mushrooms and a coconut-tamari sauce; my parents.

Fixed Firm: 

Day 19: Giving up, giving in and going on. Floor Bow and Calm Breath.

Death. "Yoga Dead," Monica said, as she glanced at our corpse-like bodies and broken faces. Class just ended and I drunkenly stumbled around the lobby. Nearly fell twice. Dripped enough water to fill every student's bottle for the next class. Everything came out of me. My energy, my spirit. Months of backlogged toxic crap. My pores secreted this foul scent, something my body (especially my nostrils) was not accustomed to dealing with. Detoxing. I hear this word all the time. It's funny that in pursuit of health, we can end up feeling worse. The whole process of health, the ongoing process, takes time and persistence. Detoxing, something we all go through as our bodies slough off old garbage- from liver to intestines. And the body often uses the skin - our largest organ - as the outlet for toxins to escape. This would explain my funk in class. All that sweating...months of accumulated junk. But I'm moving forward. It will get better. Every day is different. Letting go of the bad and not looking for the good; simply showing up each day, ready to do yoga. That's the plan.

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Monica
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Strong standing series; post-yoga sesame tofu and broccoli; Black and Blue coconut sorbet; detoxing; calm breathing.
Not Wins: Lack of sleep; detoxing; mild lethargy; sinus congestion.

Floor Bow (no flash, so I upped the exposure...and now I sparkle like a vampire from twilight):

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 18: Full Locust, Fund Raising and Books

Class: Hot 90
Instructor: Suzanne
Studio: Open Door
Wins: All proceeds from today went to the Haiti Relief Fund!; New heaters=103 degrees and 50% humidity...instead of 95 degrees and 90% humidity-Yes, yes and yes; Strong standing series, followed by a nice floor series; Volunteer Appreciation Party for Toxic Free NC; Conversation with the esteemed Casey Porn about my disappearing butt...and manorexia; Pico de Gallo.

Books I'm reading:
Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (I have been reading this for months...and months. I cannot finish it, though I'm compelled to make it to the final page.)
Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan Schreiber (A friend gave this to me. The shiny pictures in the middle are nice. Message: Veggies, fruit, yoga and real food are Wins. Sugar, fake "processed" junk, couch monkeys and stress are Not Wins. Thank you, Sir. A most interesting read).

Full Locust:
Benefits:
  • Firms the abdominal wall and upper thighs
  • Tightens upper arms, hips, and buttocks 
  • Increases the size and elasticity of the rib cage and the lungs
  • Improves the flexibility and strength of the lower spine and of most of the body's muscles. 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 17: Black and Blue Coconut Sorbet and a full Samana

Class: Samana
Teacher: Renee
Studio: Open Door
Wins: Dolphin push ups; standing splits; mountain climbers; isometric holds; awesome sorbet treat; long, rejuvenating shower; warm and beautiful day

Black and Blue Coconut Sorbet Recipe:
 
1 can of full fat coconut milk
1 bag of frozen blackberries
1 bag of frozen blueberries
Agave Syrup (optional, to taste)
Sprinkle of awesome. to taste.

 Magic:
  • Pour 1/3 of the coconut milk into food processor.
  • Add 1/3 of the berries to the milk and hit on. This starts out the blending process and makes it easier to add the remaining ingredients for a nice, smooth texture
  • Add remaining berries and turn on the processor again. 
  • Slowly pour in remaining coconut milk and process until velvety consistency is a sweet reality.
  • Taste your magical dessert and add agave syrup if you prefer a more decadent treat. Pulse in dat' syrup!
Enjoy a rich dessert and don't even think about how wonderful all those berries are for you. Or do, and read this 7 Berries you should eat by the global healing center. I. Love. Berries.



Black and Blue Coconut Sorbet!

Day 16: Hot Silent Flow, Recipe for Green Soup! and Locust.

Class: Hot Silent Flow
Instructor: Claudine
Studio: Open Door
Wins: New Heater; Nice humidity level-no more milkshake air!; Lots of extra poses incorporated into the flow.

Recipe: Green Soup from Yoga Journal. It is so tasty, and a great way to up your greens in a warm, delicious way during the cold months!
Ingredients:
2 tbls. olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
sea salt (to taste)
1 1/4 lbs. sweet potatoes (a few, otherwise)
3 1/2 cups water
2-3 tbls. chopped sage
1 bunch of kale
1 bunch of chard (you can substitute other greens, too. I used tatsoi and mixed braising greens as that's what my CSA gave me. Win? definitely)
8 cloves garlic
3 cups veggie broth
black pepper (to taste)
lemon juice
Magic:
  • Heat oil over low (medium-low) heat. Add onions and slow cook for a while (25-35 minutes).
  • Cook sweet potatoes (3 1/2 cups h20, pinch of sea salt and sage. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes).
  • Chop kale/chard, or greens of your choice. Add to sweet potatoes with garlic and veggie broth. Cover and simmer for ~20 minutes. 
  • Add onions.
  • Mix thoroughly and turn off heat.
  • Let cool enough before transferring to a blender (or using an immersion blender) to purée. Season with salt and pepper, add lemon juice just prior to serving. Enjoy!
Next recipe will come with pictures, as they make it all the more tempting. And it'll even be one of my own. 

Locust Pose, Part 1:
 
Locust Pose, Part 2:
 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 15: Cobra, Glorious Acupuncture and a Change of Scenery

Open Door, my yoga home, installed a new heater this past Friday. All of us will benefit from a more regulated temperature, though a vacation from swamp-like heat was nice. Since the installation was a near all day process, Open Door shut down as to make sure the process was smooth and that everything was working properly post new warmth maker. As to stay on top of my practice, I ventured to a new studio. Located about 25 minutes north of downtown Raleigh lies Bikram Yoga of Raleigh, a certified Bikram Hot Yoga studio. The layout is complete with the usual mirrors, but this was my first encounter with a podium, an instructor using a microphone and the direct Bikram dialogue. Open Door is a hot yoga studio that offers several different classes, with the Hot 90 based on Bikram's series, but they add additional poses (like pigeon, a most wondrous glute stretch). The dialogue is similar, but each teacher owns their own style; each class is an extension of their personality as they deliver the sequence in an order that they decide based on the day, the people or from their personal experience with the practice. Bikram Yoga of Raleigh is the straight, authentic series; true to Bikram's patented series of 26 asanas.

I was a little hesitant in the beginning, but that soon disappeared. The asanas have become so second nature, that the dialogue faded out. I was left with just my eyes; the mirror; my grip, determination and follow through. And I had one of the best classes since the start of my Mala. Sometimes all it takes is moving to a new place, outside of the familiar; somewhere no one knows your history, your name, your limitations. With no expectations forced upon you, who knows where you'll land. I entered new territory, new depth. And I said hello, I'll be back.

Acupuncture! It's amazing. And so is Catie Webster, a licensed acupuncturist who recently set up shop in downtown Raleigh. The Acupuncture Studio is a quaint little treatment center on Person Street near the intersection of Edenton. Her studio is a zen-rich room of peace, joy and complete comfort. I kid you not, 5 minutes on that table during my first appointment and my back started melting into a puddle of pure happy...with a dash of yes, oh yes. As she finished placing the final needle, I felt giddy. great. damn near stoned! Stoned, I say, from holistic health care and zero smoke inhalation! I glanced toward her and shared my most-elevated state. She smiled serenely, content with her placements and the ensuing feeling of elation. 20 minutes of melting was followed by some back work, where Catie released tension and trapped heat from my shoulders to my gluteus maximus (all of which have been in a tense state of "argh-super-gripped-tight!" for years). I left that day in a most jubilant state; smiling at strangers and laughing as angry looking men shouted at me to "get off my bike and into a car!"

Weeks went by as all the winter holidays rolled through and soon it was the first week of January and my Mala. Catie stopped in at the Morning Times, excited by the news of my yoga adventure and her decision to commit to daily practice as well. We chatted briefly and then Catie gave me the best present. Ever. She started a new program at the Acupuncture Studio called Karma Appointments, one free appointment every week, and said that she wanted to have me be the first recipient...and the recipient for the next 12 weeks. What!? No way. Really? I...wait. Seriously. Wow. Shit. Um...wait, what do yo want to drink? *face contorted in a mixture of joy, confusion and coffee orders* She headed back to her sanctuary of magical healing and I stood there, hands holding a tamp and a portafilter...smiling...thankful...ecstatic...covered in espresso and the promise of the most restorative, healing time of my life. I had my first karma appointment yesterday and it was a wonderful extension of the first. She incorporated cupping into the treatment (see some cray-cray photos!) and released some seriously stubborn tension right near my gluteus max...well, more minimus (the yoga is making my butt rounder, albeit tinier. partial win.). I. Love. Acupuncture. You. Should. Try. It.

   Crazy Cupping!              

Those gnarly red blobs are muscle tissue being released.

Class: Hot 90
Studio: Bikram Yoga of Raleigh
Wins: Great heating system; some of my best poses so far; no need for that often longed for bottle of H20; tingling all over my body after Camel; Nearly flat back in separate leg stretching (Thank you thank you thank you Catie!); Immense stretch and release; veggie burger over spring mix at the Raleigh Times; solitude.
Cobra Pose:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 14: Toe Stand and Control

It was a hot class. The room holds 32 people and we were pushing that limit with 30. After the first set of breathing, the room was at least 10 degrees hotter. My internal senses alerted me to the heat as beads of sweat slid down my back. Hot. It was hot already. And the air was thick, like a milk shake. Control. This was the moment, in the early part of class and again during spine strengthening that I  thought about control. Who has it? Why does it matter? Why do I want it so badly? Am I ever really out of control?


Control means choice. Ability to choose a desired outcome; to influence the situation; exert your preference. In a class setting, you (hopefully) accept the role of student and relinquish some of your control to the teacher-a person who knows more than you. We do this to learn; to grow into the person we're striving to be. Why does this matter? Because we're never really out of control. We chose to be there, to attend a class. By choosing yoga, or studying any material, we're making the decision to follow someone, something, some desire that is greater than we are alone. We're choosing to be open. So why do we want it so badly, this control, especially during a hard series? Because we are following someone's commands instead of our inner desire to shift out of something uncomfortable. We are being guided by their words, moving in their time. You release when they say release. It's this forced discomfort that drives us to think "Why am I here? I'm so tired. Just say let go. I'm going to lay down." But that's why we're there. I trust my teachers to move me to new places, out of my current state; to push me out of the familiar zone; to tell me what to do so I can show them what I can do.

Control. Give a little to grow. Accept your choices that have positive actions. Don't fight your feelings, simply breathe through them. Control. You never give it up completely. Control.

Class: Hot 90 with Jana
Wins: Lavender towels; breathing calmly; H20 sipping instead of guzzling; embracing both what I can control and what I choose to relinquish.

Toe Stand:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 13: Tree, Perception and the sniffles!

After a hard class yesterday, I was a bit worried about how I would cope with a full day of work and yoga. Plus I'm sick, or getting sick, or I'm detoxing and all the crap that I've ingested over the last 8 months (since my last mega-juice-fast) is causing my nose-head-ear-throat region to feel like a mucus filled bag of death. Bleh. I need to invest in a neti pot so I can flush this gunk out. Whine!

It's funny how my body is adjusting to daily practice. The first week was great with each day building off the general improvements in my mood, diet and perception. I was gaining some real momentum. But now I feel sick. I'm tired...a bit cranky. Classwork is starting to mount up and my free time is virtually non existent. As always, options exist. I could bitch about how I'm overloaded (which is totally fine...in moderation) and stop going to Yoga. Or, I could find innovative ways to free up time. I could pick out my real priorities and focus on them. The main thing to realize is how important perception is to our lives. Instead of looking at all the negatives, everything that's pinning me down, I can choose to emphasize and nurture the positives. What's helping me right now? What am I looking forward to? I can also realize that feeling poopy is temporary; it's even a good thing! It's natural to get sick as you clean out your body, and this will remind me how nice (and important) it is to be healthy when I feel better.

Class: Hot 90 with Monica
Wins: Toe stand; Half moon; Delicious green soup from yoga journal! (Posting recipe soon)
Not Wins: Standing head to knee; damn headache!; refined (aka: bullshit) sugar in nearly everything; 3 hours labs

Tree Stand (and nearly see-through shorts. hello butt).