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 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.

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,'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 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.

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 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.

 - 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:
  • 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.

  • 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!
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
  • 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 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).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 12: Drunk! Laughing, sitting, laughing, unable to find shoes...and separate leg stretching

Eating is important. We know this. Eating well is very important. We know this, too. Not eating all day because your school's idea of food is a Subway? Shit. Shit on a 12" roll. Poopy roll. Lame.  Today was not a day for eating, healthy or not.

So after a full onslaught of classes, including a 3 hour lab, I bussed it home, hopped on my langster stallion and road off into the already-darkened sunset towards Open Door. I pulled my usual-coast in at 3 minutes before class-and quickly settled right near Monica. Ouf. Ouf is french slang for fou, which means crazy. It's the hip thing to say, or so my frenchies told me. And crazy it was. Monica already mentioned that she was going to focus on my postures, keeping my alignment in check. After class, she looked at me with a tender face and said, "man, I really picked on you today." I looked back at her and said, "I feel drunk." Then we laughed.

Many of my postures need fine tuning. Hell, all of them do. It's a process. a continual process. movement. breath. flow. It's all the same. You have peaks and dips throughout your week in all areas and this includes yoga. Monica helped me throughout class by correcting my alignment and lending some ankle-weight to rabbit pose. Some students shy away from the attention. It can be reminiscent of high school; a teacher calling on you when you are unprepared, singling you out in front of class. My face always turned a little red and my throat would rise, but this isn't high school. I'm here every day because I want to do yoga. I chose this. So when Monica or any teacher is "picking on me," I'm stoked. Yoga isn't about frustration, or feeling like someone is picking on you. The teachers are there to motivate, correct and instruct; they're there to help you with your yoga. So let them.

Oh, drunk. Yes. Since I didn't ingest enough calories today (due in part to the severe lack of edible options at school), yoga was insane. Insane in the dizzy and disoriented sense. Even though I was on a food low, I did manage to have some strong poses. And my bottle of H20 sat at the end of my mat, neglected, until the standing series was over. H20 control. Working on it. Class ended and I stumbled out into the hallway. I started giggling as I attempted to locate my belongings. 5 minutes later, I was sitting on the bench when Monica said the aforementioned comment. After my admission of feeling drunk, and the following laughter, she told me to pack a lunch for my long school days. Daily practice is great, but you really need to make sure you are adequately fed and hydrated...or you feel ape-shit wasted when you leave. Faux-drunk is fun. The giggles are so strong, it's like my freshman year in college...where I'd wake up baked because my roommate thought pre-class reading was a gravity bong. In our 10x12 room. Sometimes a win.

Separate Leg Stretching:

This is my running-really-screwed-my-hams-and-lower-back pose. That's the sanskrit name, right?

Wins: Beautiful lady taking my photo (whom you can see in the mirror!); Eating!; ginger in my tea; more and more and more new people at the studio; Yoga drunk; laughing; Biology class.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 11: Forget the Bullshit, Do the yoga (dew).

From early on in day 10 up until the very end of day 11, my schedule was packed. I worked early both mornings, squeezed in some reading and homework, dashed to two awesome yoga classes and supported the wondrous Beehive Collective's ashtray auction at the Borough (which raised $1,900!). The Beehive is a community giving circle in Raleigh and straight up great. Check out the website to see how you can join!

I love having a really full schedule, especially when all the pieces are helping me grow, supporting community endeavors and keeping me focused on my goals. The downside to having a packed schedule is lack of sleep, which completely screws my day. For a long time, I could operate on a meek 5 (sometimes 4) hours of sleep. I would stay up well into the night, drinking and socializing, and retire around 12 or 1...maybe 2. My alarm would violently beep around 5:30 am and with bleary eyes, I would rouse myself enough to put on some clothes and bike to work. This sucked. It was hard for me the realize how large of a component sleep is for health; to understand that 5 hours is not enough rest.

Day 11, I found that out. I pulled a summertime sleep move and rode to work on barely 5 hours of shuteye. The whole day was a struggle and I relied on coffee, sugar and any other legal stimulants to carry me through the shift. I felt like poop. It was around 3 when I realized that unhealthy choices, at least for me, were a coping mechanism. When I am sleep deprived, I look to other sources to help energize me. And these sources are usually the ones you have to pay for, like sugar. The diabetes-inducing sweet stuff brings you up, temporarily, than slams you hulk hogan style into a sugar coma. Coffee? In moderation, as in a nice americano every now and again, is fine. 4 shots and a cup of drip? This overexcites your adrenal glands and gives you that longed-for buzz, then drops you off right next to hogan...crashville. Read more about the cycle in this article: Hidden dangers of coffee and sugar. Though I am a shouldn't talk about this. Well, like we all know, moderation is what we need. So, come in for coffee...just not 12 cups.

So with renewed vigor and clear view of what helps and hurts my body, I'm ramping up the Mala. I've been slowly phasing out the bullshit: muliple boozy nights during the week, sugary treats, reasons to not make sweet love to my comforter (or sleep) and all the other choices that lead to negative consequences. Ramping it up does not mean that I am anti-fun. I am quite pro-fun. Fun? Me? Close friends. Pals. Real amigos. It just means that fun will not be a "late night bar crawl around gutter-ville, vomiting, no sleep and coffee in the morning" cycle. I'm thinking fun in terms of nurturing my body and opening my soul. Great movies at the Indie theatres in Raleigh, exploring other yoga studios, rock climbing, long bike rides, reading in my favorite corners of town, gardening (when the weather warms up) and maybe even practicing meditation. One day that will be labeled fun or beneficial, insead of just "Shut the fuck up, brain."


Wins: Ramping up the Mala; Delicious oranges; finding a pear at the perfect ripeness point!; staying in the present; edge, edge and beyond the edge; building strength; clean lungs; awesome arm warmer gloves made by Liz Niemeyer; Rooibus tea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 10: Samana, Sunday, Sun Salutations and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee

The studio is really picking up. It's wonderful that so many new people are coming to class; the community vibe is great, as is the added energy. Class today is my favorite of the week, since we break from the straight 26 postures in a row and do more of an ashtanga/vinyasa flow with every movement following the breath (and usually worked through a sun salutation). We cover almost all of the 26 class postures, but Renee adds in so much's great. awesome. a tad painful in that wow-this-is-a-workout way. The best part is how fast you progress. You stretch, lengthen and build all at the same time.

The magical Samana is a flow series and Renee loves core and upper body strength, so there's plenty of ab work and chaturangas. To be straight up the class is challenging, but anyone can attend. We're all at different levels in the room and most poses have a modification if you need a softer set (due to tightness, old injuries or any other concern). You start with pranayama breathing, move into sun salutations, flow through various stretches, push it up with 20 dolphin and 20 scorpion push ups, hold it up with some fine-tuning isometric ab holds, relax it down with a long pigeon set and round out class with some inversions (today, I worked on favorite). This is a very streamlined description; you need to come to really know what class is like. And you should!

Standing Separate Leg Head-to-Knee:

Wins: Homemade veggie burgers with adzuki and cannellini beans, flax seeds and tempeh with magical seasoning; Mochi!; standing splits; a full Samana Class with at least 5 new students!

Day 9: Balancing Stick and Hot Silent Flow

I'm too tired for a real post. Lame? Lame game. Yes.

Class: Hot Silent Flow
Teacher: Claudine
Style: Hot series with several added poses-sun salutations, twists, dancing shiva, and many others.
Wins: Flow style class: no breaks = more poses; strong bow; floor spinal twist with eagle legs.

Balancing stick:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 8: Dear Jana, I loved class today. You were great. Mucho love, Chris. Oh, and Bow.

I showed up at Open Door at my usual time, which is 1-2 minutes prior to class beginning. I would really like to be that person that arrives early. The dude who has 10 minutes to change, pick a good spot, relax and settle into the room. But I'm not. I bike like a maniac across town, a brisk 2.5 miles, coast on one foot up to the door, roll my bicicleta into the corner and start disrobing as I venture back to the men's changing room.

Today was the same, though instead of rushing around, Jana greeted me with a warm smile and the news that I was the only student today. Win! I really like a full class, but every now and again, it's wonderful for an accidental private lesson to pop up. And today was wonderful. Jana and I moved through the series differently, incorporating other poses, taking turns calling release and flowing sets together. It was a beautiful start to our day.

We both moved the heaters in close and did 3 sets of sun salutations to awaken the body. After the normal standing series, which included a bonus postures-revolve triangle-we moved to the floor. We flowed all the spine strengthening poses together, moved into one deep set of each of the remaining poses and we were left with enough time to practice two arm balances: scorpion and handstand. The variety in class was great, incorporating some muscle confusion with added postures. Arm balances are great. really. everyone should try them. especially scorpion. that pose is just fucking awesome. WIN.
Standing Bow:
 Favorite part of this photo? My peter pan shadow! What!? crazy. crazy awesome.
This is my most love-hate postures in class. On a great day, it's a pleasure holding this pose; kicking back with all my effort feels amazing. Other days, i just want to collapse. And that's just what progression means. It's not a straight comparison from day to day, but an accumulative action. Each day builds on new components. Each day is comprised of little moments, like my 30 seconds in bow, which change just as we do. So each day shouldn't be better, worse, or even the same; each day should be different.

Wins: Cooking, aromatic beans! (See recipe below), Jana's class, added poses, a badass scorpion, saving spider plants from the frost, giving, opening, changing, relaxing.

Aromatic Beans!
I buy dried beans in bulk, usually from the monster Whole Foods on Wade Ave. It's cheap, I can reuse plastic bags from around the house and I have enough mega-jars for them all to fit. The only difference is a little foresight.
Dried Beans need to soak overnight (or for a minimum of 4 hours) to plump up prior to cooking. The easiest thing to do is to pour 1/3 of the amount of beans (by eye) that you want to eat, soak them overnight, wake up to plump beans (triple the size!).
To cook:
  • Pour beans into a large pot and cover generously (as in, completely cover with water, with an extra inch of that agua on top).
  • Bring to a rapid boil and then lower the heat to medium, boiling still for about 10 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer (that's the low setting) and let them there beans slow cook for about 2 hours.
  • After ze' beans have been cooking for about 30 minutes, add in your aromatics!
    •  - several sprigs of thyme, parsley, rosemary, chives, or any other delicious herbs
    •  - add one thickly sliced onion
    •  - add a strip of Kombu (an edible kelp: KOMBU!), which helps tenderize yo' beans)
    •  - add any other spices you may enjoy. I like tumeric and black pepper (which are superstars in keeping your body healthy, especially when used together. They love each other.)
Leave them alone for the remaining 1.5 hours.
Strain off the broth and reserve for some delicious, easy, homemade veggie broth. Pick out the stems from all those herbs. Enjoy delicious beans with brown ride, salad or straight up!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 7: Standing head-to-knee. Oh, and welcome new feeling. My name is Chris. Great? your name is great? awesome.

Do you ever wonder what 'great' feels like? Beyond the "Hey, I feel good today." Even more than just the high you achieve from any random number of positives-new job, great dinner, rockin' sex. The me of yesteryear, say about yesterfiveyears ago, thought that good lay somewhere in the not feeling tired and not having a stomach ache region. Good was smiling after my sugar buzz from a kit kat big kat washed down with chocolate hormone-nastiness milk. I don't ever recall feeling amazing, except maybe during that three month period where I became a veggie...but then, I was just gassy from all those beans!
Since most of us don't have anything to compare our normal, seemingly good state to, it's hard to know what feeling great-physically, emotionally, mentally-really means. Like everything in life, we need two states of being. Everything we define has an antonym, a counter-balance by which we can express its quality. We know what our good day is by what a bad day feels like. Warmth and chill. tongue-jabber kissing and hot slam-me-against-the-door smooches. Opposite states, moments, physical expressions. We compare things to show the difference. And today, I was able to compare feeling good with the much better feeling of great. Good is finishing work with tired, but happy-I'm-done eyes; smiling at random people; giggling at funny memories that pop into my head. Generally happy, but not quite fulfilled with my day's work. Great, a step passed good, happened 30 minutes after yoga, post biking home. After walking in the door, I quickly did a number of chores without hesitation. I was efficient and happy. I moved with ease; no sluggishness in my way, slowing me down. Light. I felt light. And really really fucking happy. This is great to me.

Standing head-to-knee. Working on pushing more from the hip, curling over, flexing those toes and elongating out. Time, patience. It will happen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 6: Double Up, but short and sweet. Oh, and eagle. Eagle. Twist-my-limbs pose

I doubled up on yoga today. Hot 90 at Open Door this morning followed by a vinyasa flow class at this great studio called evolve with the sweet and super spiritual Carson. You should try it. Usually when I encounter a free spirit anywhere outside of isolated locales (eg: a true hippie's home, like the woods), I'm a little guarded towards his persona as "one with the planet." But Carson? She is straight up in it. She'll guide you through practice talking about holding on to the moon and shooting light out of your foot, and at want to giggle. But that disappears in an instant, because she believes it. It's her style, her language. And it's sincere. By the end of the class, I was holding on firmly to mother moon in a warrior stance and my balance was great. So there, thank you. Thank you Carson for sincere words. Thank you moon for letting me fondle you. Thank you evolve for a badass class. Yup, lots of thank yous.

Third picture! Sweaty, gross, but fully clothed. Win for non-porno looking photos. And then there's Eagle:

Day 5: Awkward pose, Simple Coconut Milk and a new heater. boom. Boom!

Today (being yesterday), I took class with Monica, who owns the studio and teaches several classes throughout the week. Over the past few months, the heater at Open Door has been slowly my love of peanut butter, and hopefully the roaches that have moved inside to escape the cold weather.

Side Bar: you can take care of these pesky non-friends in a super safe, non-"that shit is super toxic" way. And you should. Better for you. Better for your children. Better for your pets. Better for the earth. Just better. Check out Toxic Free NC's tip sheet for some awesome pointers on tackling the most resilient of bugs, including recipes (posted at the bottom, too).

And back to yoga...this class was a great lesson in how to ease a cold and tired, early morning body into some deep stretches all with breathing and proper pacing. When your body is cold or stiff, usually just after you rummage for a glass of water or mug of coffee, your toothbrush and something to wipe the odd gooey bits of sleep-funk from your eyes, your body is not loose enough for the more advanced poses. Having a class at 9 am that I biked to (ahem, or full out COUGHIT'SCOLDCOUGH. 18 degrees...just sayin') left my body stiff from both the frigid temps and the early (kind of early? day off style early?) hour. Monica reminded everyone that, especially with the heater lacking serious oomph, to wake up your muscles slowly. Breathe into stretches smoothly. Don't. Do not overdo it in the beginning. The class was a great lesson in trusting my body; listening to the cracks and creaks and breathing into the tightness. Today was all about awareness. Awareness of my breath, my body and my connection to both.

Here's awkward pose (foggy in the studio, but that's a given):

I could obviously sit down lower. I could straighten my spine more. And I could tear this pose apart in a number of other ways, but I'm not going to. This is my point A. Better yet, my first draft. The next few months will start to fill in the picture, adding color and depth. A fullness to the picture, which can only come from time spent on the subject. Retuning, reworking, rethinking and retrying. This is a progression, not a snapshot. Point A.

Oh, and the studio is getting a new heater on Monday. Big ol' win for everyone. It will be warm and magical at Open Door once again...well, warmer and more magical. That place is magic with or without a heater.

Coconut Milk! I love it. It's fatty and delicious. It is chock full of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), those wonderful fatty acids that our bodies can digest and utilize without cranking the stomach, pancreas and liver into high gear. MCTs are great for maintaining a healthy weight (even helping you LOSE weight), providing quick energy and ensuring proper absorption of nutrients. MCTs. WIN.

So, in my quest for things that are healthy and magical, coconut rises to the top...too much? Cream jokes are funny, right? Saying cream? not so much.

Make your own coconut milk beverage instead of buying one with all those funky ingredients and thickeners. You can substitute this lighter version for making smoothies, delicious hot chocolate or just savoring right out of the bottle.

To Do:
Buy 2 cans of coconut milk (I buy Whole Foods Organic, Full fat can for 1.29. Cheap and wonderful).
Pour 1 can into a blender and add 1 & a 1/2 cans of plain tap water.
Pour into large bottle (I use a carafe...easy)
Repeat with second can (split apart, since my blender is a little smaller than average...but still gets the job done! ha HA, awkward penis reference. baby boom?)
Optional: Add 1-2 squirts, tablespoons or mm...that looks right of Agave syrup.

Results? Creamy, delicious, magical coconut beverage that can stay chilled in your fridge for the whole week. Total cost? $3.38 for a large carafe of organic, plain, bullshit-free, vegan milk-beverage. Win!

Other Win: Least toxic pest control! Get those roaches up out of my house.
Make Your Own Roach Bait.
Recipe: Mix 1 cup borax powder, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup minced onion, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Make a paste out of the mixture, and roll it into little balls. Put 2 or 3 of the balls into a little plastic sandwich baggie, and leave the baggie open. Place the bag(s) anyplace you have roaches, like inside cabinets or drawers or under the sink.  To be on the safe side, be careful not to put the bait anywhere that a pet or child could find it.

Day 4: Half moon, standing head-to-feet and foggy photos

After four days, I feel amazing. Incorporating daily practice into my schedule wasn't hard. It did require some fine tuning to fit class in everyday, but it's worth it. Yes. It is. From here on out, I will be chronicling my class time with updates on what is happening within my body (including ze' brain), my outlook, perception, and general being. I'll also be posting snazzy pictures of myself to show my progression in each asana.

The biggest change I feel so far is taking place in my belly (and brain). My food cravings are simple: salad, fruit, and easy to digest edibles. Though after several hours pass and the cold that has become Raleigh settles in, I do crave things with more oomph...cue roasted veggies, legumes and delicious high-fat coconut curries. mmm, good. Eating this way makes me feel great, compared to the normal sugar and salt laden death that constitutes much of the Standard American Fare. Cue barfing.

What's hitting me the most is how fast these changes are taking place. I have been practicing yoga for over 6 months now, roughly 3 times per week (with peaks and dips throughout). But I've never practiced day after day. There's something magical that happens when you hit the fourth day in a row. You have a slight soreness in your legs, mostly the knees; a tenderness to your back and neck. You also have this intense feelings of lightness, as if you are incredibly graceful (which may now be true). The only downside is that the lightness took residence in the space between my ears today, and that proved for an interesting first hour at work. "Uh oh. Huh? What? Where...shit. We're almost out of coffee. Dammit. Okay, okay. No worries. Shit. What? oh...yes. wait, oh." The dialogue, mostly internal, for my first hour. A small snack and a cup of tea later, I was back in the game. Food grounds that light-headed feeling...something about the calories and the energy...or the weight. Whatever it is, after that little snackeroo, I was fine. Onto awkward, sweaty, foggy pictures!

So this is where I'm at in half moon and standing head-to-feet:

I have plenty to improve upon, but am quite happy with how flexible somewhat regular attendance has made me. At my first yoga class, my backbend was a mere head roll and my hands-to-feet was more of a grimace as I thought "people can actually touch their feet?"

Wins: 4 days of consecutive yoga. Cravings: salad, fruit and healthy snacks. deep back bends. standing tall, resting my head on my knee, Monica's class. Sautéed greens with Tofu over Quinoa (see recipe and pictures below).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day 3: Samana, Lilly's, Scorpion, Cold Snap and Social Roads

Day 3, baby. Boom. Boom, baby. Yes. That's it.

Today started with a brisk ride to work. The bike is still serving me well, but Raleigh's reputation for a pleasant winter is not serving anyone well. 25 degrees this morning with a wind chill that made me shake like a seizure. Only 1 mile. 5 minutes to work. I have perfected the hands-in-pocket and head-bent-low riding position that provides a perfect balance of wind shield, heat retention and maneuvering capability (as to dodge those shifty early bird drivers).

Class at Open Door was Samana with Renee. This is my 'do everything' class of the week. She flows countless poses together in the heated room with a 'break' being  2-3 breaths in downward dog...followed by another series. The whole class is built off of sun salutations and the pace is great. I really enjoy a serious workout where I can work on killing my self, as they discussed at 101 Bikram Yoga Challenge. I love pushing my body so hard that everything else turns off. There's no room for "when's work tomorrow?" or "dude, check his butt out. wow." My life is a slow drive through the social roads. I wake up, work, eat, sleep, converse, serve, buy, sell and fit so nicely into this cute little package of the young American forging ahead. But every time I push it so hard, to the very edge, all of that leaves; and I find new room. There, I'm not some post-college coffee shop hipster or a student taking some extra classes. I'm not a cog in the system. I'm simply there. Pushing. Opening. Changing. I guess that's why I'm doing the challege.

So scorpion. My favorite pose to watch. And try. After Renee's grueling 'kill your self' flow, we spent 10 minutes practicing arm balance. Watching Renee do scorpion requires a slack jaw and complete respect. She is so fucking graceful in this pose, it's ridiculous. Today, I was no object of grace...but I did kick up and hold forearm stand. And then brought it down into the closest Scorpion of my Sunday Samana's. Boom. BOOM.

Wins: Regular practice. Scorpion. Graceful poses. Lilly's tofu salad! Bringing my sister to yoga. large glasses of water. PINEAPPLE. smiling. strong hugs. humility.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Day 2: My nap can't be over. No. No way. Shit.

I woke up this morning and struggled to get out of bed. Struggled. Like I had to crawl my way through bleary eyes and a thick fog of "whathuhwhere...what time is it?" This is my 6th shift in a row and the lack of sleep is hanging tightly around my ankles...forcing the pathetic foot-drag routine. And the sad bags under my eyes? They could carry all my belongings to Thailand. I long for sleep. 8 full hours of restorative sleep. The hell-no-I'm-not-setting-my-alarm type of sleep. Yes. I'll take 3 orders of that. for here. and 2 to go. Thank you. Bye.
Wins: Hot Silent Flow with Claudine. Cue nice music, added poses and straight up flow-magic for 90 minutes of sweaty fun times. I like this class. A nice break from the straight dialogue and routine of a normal hot 90. Magical coconut water. My christmas stocking that my sister brought back from her sojourn home, which included dolphin natural chocolates (vegan, sugar free and no puréed dolphin filling. They protect those sleek mammals and I think that's tender). My Parents. My sister, who gave me 400 sticks of of which is scented "pussy." What? (I haven't lit that one yet).

Motivation? I want to feel good. No, fuck that. I want to feel better. Constantly, continually better. I want to wake up with a relaxed back. I want to feel energized before reaching for that mug of coffee. I want to be happy with stillness; to fill space with thought and reflection instead of stimuli. I want to be calm, yet lively. I want balance. I'll take 2 of those to go, too. Just add it to my order.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 1: Happy New Year, Douche Monkey.

Today was tough. Trying. Today was irritating. Like a rash. A rash covered in wool. During the Summer. Today was a "Hey...Douche Monkey. I really don't know what waving your hand like King-Master of Raleigh means in reference to what you want to eat. Or drink. Use your words. Use. Your. Words. And lose the entitlement. It's making you suck more." Yup, it was all right there. Zero buffer, All edge.

Today was also great. It's a new year. 2010. Can we just say 10? Like O9. Not 09, but "O." Everyone likes the "O." Today was great because I started my challenge. Today was great because I made it to a 5:30 class at 5:29. Today was great because I was exhausted before the first inhale. Today was great because I was energized by the last one.

Today is turning into tomorrow. The really important day. January 2. Follow through. Follow. Through.

Today. First Day. Done.