Wednesday, February 29, 2012

double the fun!

I did my third "double" today and it was the best one yet! The first two I always felt awful in the 2nd class and mostly just sat or lay there. This time there was almost nothing that I sat out of in the 2nd class and even though I was tired, I really don't feel any worse than I do on a normal day. My stomach hurt a little afterwards, but I think it's because I forgot to bring food for between classes. My friends were kind enough to share, but I probably should have eaten a little more.

Anyway, I figure if Elaine can do it, I should be able to do a double, once in a while, at least!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

this yoga won't just change your body...

I've heard instructors say, time and again, that this yoga is not just changing your body. Stick with it and it'll change your mind, and your life. These sorts of over-arching, non-specific statements sound good... but I would often lie there and wonder just how true they really are.

Perhaps it's the navel-gazing aspect of blogging about your hobbies (I'm also a knitter, in case you didn't know) or maybe it's the fact that I've been going more often to yoga (4-5 times a week) in the last few months and am more aware of it's role in my life, but in any case, I realized yesterday just how much of an effect it is having on me.

This might seem trivial, and it is, but it's a great example of positive yoga juju: Yesterday I was supposed to have an appointment for a mani/pedi. I had bought a groupon to this place and called ahead to schedule. I went about my day: we had friends visiting who had to be dropped off at the airport for a noon flight, so we brunched, then I dropped them off, and headed to yoga. After I got out of yoga, I listened to a voicemail, asking if I could post-pone my appt by an hour. No prob. It would afford me the time to run home and grab some lunch first... the only issue is that I would only have an hour's worth of time to devote to the salon before I would have to go get DH from work.

When I got to the salon an hour later, it was clear that the groupon had been a little more overwhelming than they expected. The girls who were supposed to be done before my original appointment were still there, getting their manicures. I got set up for the pedicure, which was good, but took longer than expected... I had been there for more than 45 mins before it was finished. And the girls who were getting manicures were still there.

The owner came up to me, very apologetically, and asked if I could possibly come back another day. I said no problem, so we set an appointment up for next week. As I was walking out, the owner thanked me again for being so understanding and mentioned that most people would have thrown a fit. I told her I figured that it wasn't worth being angry over. As I got in my car and drove off, I realized that at various points in my life I probably would have gotten angry, at least in my own head, over something so trivial. Maybe I'm maturing, but maybe it's also the calming influence of having a regular yoga practice. Either way, I'm sure the yoga isn't hurting!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Little by little

So lately I've noticed some small, but definite changes to my practice. For a while my left hamstring was hurting more and more, especially when in triangle or other poses that really stretched it out. Now it seems to be getting better, and I can really get almost low enough into triangle on both sides to have that perfect upside-down letter "L" shape.

The last few days I've also been able to get into the full expression of fixed firm. And for both sets! I used to think it was lucky or a good day if I could get most of the way down into the second set.

And finally, and this is perhaps the smallest of changes, but significant to me... I can grab both feet in floor bow without struggling. For the longest time I had to grab for one foot and then twist quite a ways over to grab the other... and I'd still grab it with my palm over the bottom of the foot and then flip my hand over. It meant that I was pretty much tired and out of breath before the posture had even started.

I think that's all the changes I've noticed in the last couple of weeks... I'll update if/when I notice anything else!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Do the clothes make the practice?

While I posted in my open letter about the dangers of over-dressing for bikram (seriously, sweatpants in the hot room might kill you), I've also noticed over the past few weeks that the outfit I wear can potentially make or break my class. Most of my tops are of the racer-back variety, and while they're mostly from the same company (and all the same size) there is one in particular that seems to be cut a little different around the neck, and it feels like it's choking me around the sides and back of my neck. Every time I wear this top I want to run screaming from the room after about 25 mins. And it just gets worse as time goes on. It makes me feel claustrophobic, like the room is hotter and smaller than normal.

I mentioned it yesterday after class and I was surprised to hear that other people had similar experiences and it had taken them time to find the right yoga gear for them. Someone suggested a bandeau top (like a tube top, but not covering the stomach) but I think I'd be extra self-conscious, worrying that things might fall apart in the middle of standing-bow or any other posture, really. I need something that will give me support and enough coverage to not feel self-conscious, without feeling like I'm choking. I'm not a big brand person, I know some people loooooove certain brands, but really comfort and affordability are my biggest concerns.

Any suggestions would be very welcome!

Friday, January 27, 2012


This morning there were 2 new students in class and the instructor asked them towards the end of the class what they thought. The first girl said it was even more than she had expected, while the second new student, a middle aged gentleman, was asked if he had any "words of wisdom from a beginner"... and he said "patience".

The first few weeks that I started practicing 4-5 times, I saw a lot of changes, quickly. But, as always, life gets in the way, and I traveled a few times over holidays and lost out on a couple of full weeks. I always find things to be harder to get back into when I've been away for long stretches of time, be it yoga or writing or knitting or whatever. So the changes have slowed, but they're still there, if I look for them. Some things hurt more now, like my hamstrings, but I'm told that that's a good sign... but not to push it too much.

The best results, even in yoga, come to those who wait. And practice. And listen to their bodies. So that's what I'll do! Namaste.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Double Trouble

I completed my 2nd double yesterday and boy am I tired! The thing about doubles is that it isn't like doing 2 regular yoga classes (at least, not for me). The first class I sort of took it easy, not really pushing myself to my limits because I kept thinking "I'll be doing this again in 2 hours, I can push it then". Except that I can't. Because by 2 hours later I'm exhausted. I mean, like, really, seriously, dead tired. I did a lot (comparatively speaking) in the 2nd class, but it was tough. It was better when I tried not to think about it, because when I thought about it it went something like this: "omg, why am I doing this again? am I INSANE?" and then I'd collapse onto the floor. (OK, not like, pass-out collapse, but sink very heavily down on to my mat.)

Fortunately I had some great partners-in-crime. There's a group of 3 or 4 people at my studio who do doubles at least once a month together. They were supportive and smiling and trying the whole time. Every time I'd just want to lie there in regret, the woman beside me would smile and poke my arm and I'd get back into posture.

Say what you will about bikram, I know it's not for everyone. (And although I was a little harsh on new students the last time, you can read a teacher's open letter to new students to get the kinder, gentler version of why it is the way it is.) But the people are amazing and it is the one place that I feel like I've been accepted into a community here in my new town. I thought the same thing about my previous bikram studio... I've never met a group of people more accepting or open to newbies. And that's a hard thing to find in yoga studios, having tried more than a few in my life. I often felt like the instructors and regulars are judging me, and keeping their distance, as if they were yogic-demi-gods who the rest of us newbs should worship. Not at any bikram studio I've ever attended. Surprisingly enough, it's not about ego, it's about doing your best and appreciating the energy of the people around you.

The doubles are hard, but extra rewarding, especially when you're surrounded by friends! Looking forward to the next one... but not too soon...

Monday, January 16, 2012

An open letter to the newly converted

Dear New Yogi,

First off, welcome! This is the month of resolve, where many people try out new things in the hopes that they can change themselves and their lives for the better. You chose yoga, and if you stick with it, you can bet that you will see your body and your outlook on life change in ways you never imagined. So please, don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way... my council herein is designed to help you have a better practice, all while managing to keep the other practitioners from feeling murderous rage towards to. If you keep these few simple things in mind, I'm sure you, and all the other yogis around you, will enjoy your practice for years to come.

1. There is no talking in the yoga room. I almost typed that in caps because really, I can not emphasize it enough. Yoga is about meditation and most people don't want to hear about your weekend during their meditation time. This goes for before, during, and after class.

2. Please close the door behind you when you go in and out of class. This not only relates to #1—the space outside the yoga room tends to be louder, especially when reception areas are not far from the yoga space, but if you practice a hot yoga (like Bikram) the room is specially regulated to the right temperature and humidity and leaving the door open, even for the couple of minutes that it takes to put down your mat, etc, will mess with the system. Not to mention annoy your fellow yogis who are trying to warm-up/cool down.

3. Yoga is not a group activity. Again, see #1. I get that it might take some nerve to come to your first class (believe me, I know... it takes some nerve to try out a new studio, even if you've been practicing a long time, too) and having some of your friends/sorority sisters/whatever along for the ride might relieve some of the anxiety you feel walking into a new studio for the first time. That's great, and really, the more the merrier... but if you aren't going to be able to practice without laughing/talking/making faces at each other in the mirror right behind me while I'm trying to hold standing bow for a full minute... you should probably split yourselves up. Not just for my sake (or to keep me from giving you death glares in the mirror), but for your own practice as well. You should be aware of nothing more in the class than you, and your yoga. (While it may seem contradictory for me to say this, as I have clearly noticed you and your actions, it is because your laughing/taking/whatever have broken my concentration and therefore made you the target of aforementioned death glares.)

4. Find out a little about your yoga before you enter the studio. Bikram, as well as Moksha, and a number of other practices are hot yogas. This means that you will probably be practicing in room that is specially heated to a higher-than-room-temperature. Bikram is usually around the 105-107 mark, while Moksha tends to be a little cooler, around 90-95 (at least, in my experience). This means that sweatpants/shirts are inappropriate and unless you have ice-blood in your veins, you're going to be uncomfortable. Dress appropriately and you'll have a more enjoyable experience.

5. Don't get discouraged if your first time seems more difficult than you expected. People (myself included) seem to go into yoga expecting it to be something it's not. I don't remember when I expected so many years ago when I first stepped into a yoga class, but I think it was more on the relaxed scale vs true exercise. Some yogas are more relaxation-oriented, while bikram is on the physically demanding side of things. Don't be afraid to try different styles, but give each style a good try. Go back a second, maybe even third time to make sure you didn't just have a bad day, or let your emotions or mental state get in your way. One day I'll have the greatest practice ever, the next I might hate myself for forcing myself to go.

I hope I haven't sounded too harsh. Yoga can be a powerful force in a person's life and your practice should make you happy and healthy! The rest of the "regulars" in the room are always thrilled to see a newbie who has that look of wonder and awe at the end of their first class and we all want you to become "one of us" (now that's chanting in my head...). Just make sure you allow yourself to get the most out of it by respecting the practice, your fellow yogis, and yourself.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Why bikram is right for me

A friend posted an article about how yoga can actually hurt you on facebook the other day and, while I couldn't read the whole thing (there's some pretty graphic details regarding injuries, which I just can't deal with) it made me reflect on how lucky I feel to have had the experiences I've had with bikram yoga.

I've tried other yogas in the past, both hot and not, and none have ever worked as well for me as bikram does. The biggest culprit for me is downward dog and the accompanying asanas, like the sun salutation, etc. My wrists were just not made to hold up my entire body weight, and they begin to hurt almost immediately. Almost every other yoga style I've tried has some variation on down dog, and therefore I'd go for a few weeks and then just give up.

I'm not going to tell you that bikram is right for everyone. But I don't want people to walk away from that article thinking that yoga is bad for you either. It, like many other forms of exercise, can be great, if practiced under knowledgeable instructors, and with a clear knowledge of your own abilities. I was very fortunate to be taught early in my bikram yoga practice by instructors who explained how important the dialogue is, as well as how important it is to know your own body. If you listen closely enough to the dialogue you will hear the teacher telling you just how to work on the yoga to the best of your own abilities. One of the most repeated phrases in the dialogue is lock the knee. (If you are still unsure as to what "lock the knee" means, click on the link there for a great article that explains how and why it's so important.) If you haven't locked the knee, you're not doing most postures at all. If you can't lock your knee, your body is telling you something... please listen before you do it harm! Don't just kick out in standing head to knee if your knee won't stay locked (something I've noticed people do all the time). I don't kick out very often and I've been practicing for almost 4 years. (I tore my left quad about 2 years ago and that leg just isn't that steady, still.)

Anyway, you don't have to listen to my diatribe, I'm not an instructor. But I promise, it's all there in the dialogue!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: day one

Back in the hot room after a long weekend and I was feeling more like this guy:

Image from Prozacville.

Than my usual yogic self. But I got through all the postures and it was definitely better than last week.

Here's hoping that tomorrow is even better!