29 December, 2012

Pet peeves are a perfect place to practice

I couldn’t resist the title of this blog, because of the alliteration.

We practice with a focus on learning to let go of our attachments and expectations, to move toward a real freedom that comes with openness and being in the moment. Right? But, for some reason, I find that the hardest things to let go of are not the “real suffering,” the attachments during tough times, or the reactions to major stressors in my life. I am actually doing quite well in those areas, and seeing myself having taken huge strides forward. The place where I am seeing myself struggle is around those things one might call “pet peeves.”

An example: I have a colleague who is not a particularly strong contributor at work. Not only are they not productive, but they end up wasting a lot of people’s time, and the net effect is to bring down morale in our organization. I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the “When are they gonna get rid of this guy?” thoughts. It’s tapping deep into my “River of Shoulds” (I just made up that expression). Why should he get to keep working here? Why should we have to put up with this? They should do something about it. I shouldn’t have to deal with this. The thing is, I am not actually impacted by his presence in any substantive way. He does not block my work. He does not affect my performance. I allow him to be a distraction through my own obsession with his outcome. And I find it hard to let go of this attachment. I will call this a “pet peeve,” and I think it’s a perfect example of why we use the word “pet,” because some part of me (the “ego” perhaps) doesn’t want to let go of it. A pet peeve is an irritation that we love to be irritated by. As such, I think that the pet peeve probably reveals more about me than it does about the object of the peeving. True, in this case, I am not the only one griping about it. But that’s just a case of this being a common area that people get “stuck.” The area of others getting away with something when we can’t/don’t/wouldn’t do it ourselves.

I want to be able to be free from suffering (supposedly… I mean, that’s why I’m doing yoga, at least partially) but I don’t want to let go of this pet peeve that induces completely unnecessary suffering and distraction in my life.

So I would assert that pet peeves are the perfect place to practice, because it’s a fairly low stakes situation, but it’s deeply rooted in the kind of attachments that are truly serving us no good. For me to say I want to let go of the big stuff, but continue sweating this small stuff feels like a short cut. I am running ahead in this marathon of an inner journey, but somewhere, back around Mile 3, my shoe lace got snagged on a twig, and I’m going to keep tripping as a result.

Can I let go of this? Can I decide that this peeve doesn’t serve me? I don’t think this means I need to be Mother Teresa and try to help the floundering to succeed. But I could, perhaps, practice radical acceptance. This is what’s happening, after all. And I don’t have control over it.

Perhaps our pet peeves are about our desires to have a sense of artificial control over things that we cannot possibly control at all. Perhaps they’re roadblocks we create for ourselves, to avoid ever getting to the big scary stuff. So it would stand to reason, if I ever want to tackle the bigger, scarier stuff, I need to be able to let go here.

26 December, 2012

Getting unstuck feels good

1. I have lived in my townhouse almost 5 years.

Less than a year after I moved here, the sliding door to my laundry closet failed. The door is made of the Home Depot, low-quality particle board (albeit, with a decorative appearance), and the craftsmanship with which the door was hung on the sliding runners was poor. After a short time, the screws holding one of the brackets with runner wheels ripped out of the door, and one end of the door sagged, making the movement of the door un-smooth, and tedious.

Shortly after it happened, I attempted to repair the door by rescrewing back into the same holes with the door still standing. Of course, this lasted about 1 hour, and the bracket ripped out again. From that time forward, I lived with a sagging, stuck, un-smooth laundry door, on the premise that "It's not really that important for this door to move smoothly."

This weekend, on a whim, I looked at the bracket that was still laying on the floor inside the laundry closet, and decided "This problem is going to be fixed now!" First thing I did was look at the problem, and realized that there was no reason, mechanical or cosmetic, why the bracket needed to be remounted in the same location - I could attach the bracket to new holes a few inches over, and it would work just the same, and not be noticed, because it's on the back side of the door. The second thing I did was to remove the door from the runner, and lay it on the floor so it would be easier to reinstall the bracket.

Fifteen minutes later, the laundry closet door was fixed, and reinstalled. Four years of tolerating a problem that only required fifteen minutes of careful examination and action to address it.


2. I have a lot of guitars. Fifteen of them, to be exact. Thirteen electric, one bass, two acoustic.

Each of these guitars has either a case, or some type of carrying bag. I started accumulating this collection in the mid-1990s, with my most recent purchase probably about two years ago (hmm... perhaps I need another guitar). The downside of fifteen guitars is that they end up strewn throughout my house (and, at various points in time, scattered among houses of various musical colleagues, though there is presently only one guitar on a long sabbatical in the Wedgewood neighborhood).

The result of this has been clutter. Lots of clutter. Cases on floors. Cases in closets. Cases in piles. Guitars on chairs. Guitars on floors. Guitars on top of guitars. There are lots of downsides to this. I can't find a particular guitar when I want it. I am less inclined to pick up any particular guitar, at any particular time, because they're not easily accessible, my place is a freaking mess, and there's an overall ambiance of "lack of  care for my belongings" permeating my life.

About a week ago, I had an epiphany. I am going to build a guitar rack for my room. I could buy a guitar rack that could hold 7 guitars for $50-$80. But I would need to buy two of them if I wanted to hold all my guitars on organized display in my "studio." I decided that building one was what I wanted to do. I spent a week or so doing mental sketches of what it would entail, figuring out dimensions, thinking about materials. Then I went to Lowe's, examined available materials and costs, made some on-the-fly adjustments to my design to be efficient about material use, and bought everything I needed for about $70.

Yesterday, I built it, in about 90 minutes. It's bigger than it needed to be. It's heavier than it needed to be. Some of the pieces were not the perfect size, because of small measurement errors during the cutting process. But it works. I plan on painting it red, so it looks good in my room. And now, all of my guitars are on organized display, available to me whenever I want them, saving my life from clutter. I can put the cases all in one closet, and only worry about grabbing a case when I am transporting a guitar.

I spent years and years of my life in need of this. And all it took was focus and effort to solve the problem.


I have to say that both of these "Actions" are the result of my practice. And I am not just trying to give credit to an external factor, like an NFL player saying that he scored 4 touchdowns because someone upstairs was watching over him. I know that the work was done by me. But it's this structure and commitment of practice that has brought me to a place where I am now able to get unstuck.

In the past, either of the above situations would have encountered any number of potential "spin-out" points. Places where I would have either rat-holed on details, or become frustrated with imperfection, or just lost the focus and confidence to proceed. In yoga, we don't skip Warrior II because our hips are not in perfect alignment. We do Warrior II because it gives us an opportunity to become more and more aware of what proper alignment feels like (and that may include knowing what improper alignment feels like). But we learn not to get angry at ourselves, or hate our bodies because they don't immediately form the shape we are requesting from them. This "sufficiency" -- "I am enough" -- enables me to move forward in a lot of places where I was previously stuck.

So, to all of my teachers, I say "Namaste!"

24 December, 2012

Discipline from an early age

I had the opportunity to watch my girlfriend's 6-year old in his Saturday morning karate class this week. I'd never been before, and it stirred memories from when I was a child and had briefly done karate. I don't know that I ever made it past a white belt, and I cannot recall if I went for more than a few months.

It was interesting to me to note how many of the "poses" that they were doing looked strikingly similar to the yoga poses that we do: Warrior I (a pre-punching stance), Half Moon (a side kick), Standing Head-to-Knee (a forward kick). It's obviously no coincidence that these postures appear in many different physical/mental disciplines, having all rooted themselves (at least as far as I can tell) in practices designed to make one ready for battle.

As I watched these kids, who ranged from the ages of about 6 up to 16, it occurred to me that this is the perfect time for people to learn the art of disciplining the mind. When we talk about discipline as regards children, we usually are talking about "punishment" for transgressions. While that is often a necessary thing, it doesn't really teach the same lesson as when one learns how to discipline their own mind and body. We start off not really wanting to do this tedious practice, and assume these awkward positions, remaining still and quiet, often while exerting a large amount of energy. But doing this teaches us so much. We learn to quiet our mind, because it becomes essential in order to withstand the practice (otherwise it's pure torture). And we also learn to set our sights on bigger goals. For a karate student, it might be the next belt level that motivates us. In yoga, it might be the ability to do a new kind of pose which is presently out of our reach.

All of these things we aspire to, if they're hefty aspirations, take time. Sometimes a lot of time. And practice, more than anything, teaches us that real progress is, by necessity, slow, and it may involve steps backward more frequently than we would like to think. When we understand, that is, learn that progress must be gradual, it sets us up for a lot more success and a lot less frustration in everything we seek to achieve.

And here's why I might assert that video games are such a problem. They subvert that development. Video games enable us to achieve new "levels" and "progress" in an albeit fictional environment, very quickly, and with very little real-world effort. The only physical effort is the clicking of a mouse button or two. "Leveling up" in a video game may take minutes, hours, or maybe a few days at the advanced levels of very elaborate games. But it still involves only sitting still and clicking buttons. And each time we do this, and "succeed," a little bit of that wonderful dopamine is released in our brains, signaling "reward," and reinforcing the behavior, as well as the perception that "this is what success looks like." Thus, one might argue, the artificial reward of achievement in video games sets us up to become frustrated when real-life achievements require substantially more time and effort.

Just some thoughts...

22 December, 2012


I've never taken a "Yoga Nidra" class before. It had been explained to me in enough detail that I had a good idea of what the experience would be. Perhaps I had too much of a preface, because it might have resulted in a bit of expectation getting in the way of the experience. I suppose there is a bit of irony in the idea of a yoga class getting overhyped.

Libby Ludlow, who taught the class, started off with a reading. I wish I could remember who the author was. But the main thrust of the passage was that we so often wake up in the morning to the immediate thought of "I didn't get enough sleep." And that this sets the tone for a continuous stream of thoughts in the same vein: "I don't have enough time... I don't have enough money... and so on." And the message was that we should consider the idea of "sufficiency." Not as in a measure of the quantity of what we have, but just with regard to our state of being irrespective of "having." The notion of "I am enough," rather than "I have enough." This is something that I have read about in the Iyengar book, and also in Buddhist books, and various pop-culture self-help books as well. It seems pretty obvious, but it's not easy to do it. And I suppose it is partly because of human nature. But it might also be because our society, especially in this country, is set up around achieving more, and more, and more.

When she did the reading, it was all I could do to not start convulsing into tears, and I am not sure why, really. It's not like it's a revelation to me. I think it may be because when someone shares a message with 60 people, and it resonates so much for me, I have to assume that we are all sharing in the same struggle... to be enough. There's some degree of comfort in knowing that I am not alone. Often I tell myself that I would like to move toward living as simply as possible, and become less materialistic, and less focused on money, and to try to become liberated from the hamster wheel of life. But before the thought is even completely formed, I am buying some new thing, or pursuing some new hobby that costs money, or deciding the upgrade this or that, or feeling like I need to advance in my career. And I wonder, if I am fully conscious (supposedly) of the paradox here, how can I keep moving toward the very things I suspect are making me ultimately less free?

I know that the issue is "the ego" and the answer is "practice." And there are no shortcuts.

Elizabeth said to us, a few weeks ago, that we need to think about what it is that we want. Because if we really want something, we are probably going to get it. And her point, I don't think, was so much about "you can do anything if you try," but more along the lines of "you should pay close attention to what it is that you're telling yourself you really want because, chances are, that's what you're gonna get." Reminds me of the "where you look is where you go" line that I heard in a self-help group about 15 years ago. Obvious, true, but sometimes easy to overlook.

Maybe I don't want to be liberated from all this?

Anyway, it occurred to me during class that my ego gets me in a lot of trouble, in various ways. It is my ego that constantly is chattering about not enough of this, or not enough of that. My ego pushes me to go beyond limits that I know I shouldn't go beyond. Lately, I have been trying to defeat the "not enough time" problem by staying up later and later, working on things that I didn't have time to do during the day. The end result is often five hours of sleep. And the consequence is that I feel pretty bad during the day, I can be moody and difficult to be around, which impacts my relationship, and then I am also considerably less effective at all the things I was trying to squeeze into the extra time.

I think I've been using my "mind/ego" too much during my physical practice. I am telling myself what I am going to do, too often in opposition to what my body is asking for. For example, it occurred to me the past few days that, every time I do a lot of twists in a class, even very passive ones, my low back ends up feeling horrible. But, because these poses are "part of the class," I just do them, because I don't want to skip poses. It's not much different from the staying up too late. And the thing they teach us over and over in yoga is to quiet the mind so that we can become aware of what our body (or information beyond our body) is really telling us, so that we can act intelligently.

I'm over a year into the yoga practice, and I see the benefits of it. And I also see that road of progress keeps going.


20 December, 2012

Clutching at control

I tell myself that I'm getting better at letting go.

That's a harsh way of putting it. I am getting better at letting go, for sure. And I attribute it to practice. The flip side, unfortunately, is that, as we get better at letting go, we also become more aware of the ways in which we still struggle to maintain control. It's a necessary piece of the puzzle. But there's a bit of irony in there.

Recently, I had a falling out with a friend from my previous job. It was actually someone quite important to me, for whom I have always held a high degree of respect and regard. I have even told others in my life that I don't think there is a single colleague whom I have trusted more to "have my back" and look out for me. After I left the company, our association transitioned into friendship, rather than coworker, and I was even happy to have to opportunity to offer him counsel on a number of occasions about things that were going on in his life.

We had a misunderstanding. I won't go into it, because it's not relevant. But what happened was that I misunderstood something, then I miscommunicated, and the result was that my friend became extremely angry at me. I did not, and still do not fully understand why he became so angry, because I had actually not even realized that I had done something wrong. But he was mad. I did my best to apologize, but it really didn't seem to be accepted. Some time passed, and I thought perhaps we were "okay" because we'd tried to make a plan to spend time together. The plan fell through because of mutual schedule conflicts.

A few more weeks passed, and then I noticed that he'd removed me from his friends' list on Facebook. I don't know why. I don't know if he never got over being angry at me before. I don't know if I unwittingly angered him again? Maybe what I perceived as "mutual schedule conflicts" was actually perceived by him as being blown off by me (though, he did start the scheduling conversation by telling me that he might need to cancel on me, so that doesn't seem right). I decided to give benefit of the doubt that perhaps he didn't intentionally remove me, and I sent a message asking him why. Days passed, and there's no response.

I don't know what to do. I'm hurt. I'm sad. I feel little tinges of anger about the fact that I can't make this right. There's nothing I can do to make him talk to me, nor is there anything I can do to rectify that which might be unfixable for reasons that will never be known to me.

When I started to get angry, my mind jumped about, and landed on possible reactions. Though, there are few. One that came to mind was: "I can go on LinkedIn and delete him from my Contacts list!" Yeah, that will show him. That's my reaction. That's my ego. I am hurt. I feel offended that there is no respect being shown to me from someone for whom I hold such high regard, and my desire is to hurt him back, albeit in some petty way.

Of course, I didn't do it. But it is about control.

There actually are not that many situations in our lives over which we have no control. There are the big things... accidents... death... other unpleasant surprises. But on the day-to-day, we certainly can go about feeling the illusion of control.

What I need to do here is practice letting go. But I don't want to. I want to understand why it happened. I want to know what I did. What is wrong with me? Why wasn't I as valuable to him as he was to me? How could I have been so wrong about the relationship? Of course, there are other explanations. Perhaps it's all about him, and not me?

But what I really need to do here... is practice... letting go.

I may not like this. But this is what is happening.

18 December, 2012

Mission Statement 2.0

The Feeble Yogi came into existence just under a year ago, as far as this blog is concerned. When I started, the goal was to document my trajectory in the practice, focusing on "The Yoga Class" as the template, vehicle, and yardstick for personal growth. Each entry was intended to describe something about each of the following:
  1. The physical experience in the practice on that day/time-frame
  2. The mental/spiritual/emotional experience in the practice in that class
  3. The relationship between on-the-mat and life off-the-mat
My purpose was to document the growth, and to also explore what might arise. Along the way, I shared a lot of the nuggets of wonderfulness that my teachers have passed on to me.

There has certainly been a lot of growth, and I have had the fantastic opportunity to experience many different teachers, and a handful of different styles of yoga, in places near and far. 

Of late, I've found myself having greater and greater difficulty sticking to this "practice" of writing to that mission on a daily basis. It's now become a repeated falling behind, and catching up, which is leading to guilt, anxiety, and a sense of burden, none of which were ever the intention of having a yoga blog in the first place. There were two utmost goals (okay, maybe three) all along (here comes another list):
  1. Commit to my practice fully
  2. Engage in a writing project that brings about self-exploration
  3. Hopefully share and entertain some people in the process
The third one on that list is actually a bigger deal than you'd think, as writing (and sharing) are a big part of who I am. For the longest time, I had been posting in another blog. When that stagnated over a long period of time, I saw this yoga blog as a good way of kick-starting the writing. And it worked. But here we are again, at a "plateau," so to speak.

I should note that today I took class with Elizabeth McElveen, an amazing teacher who has really brought me into a new focus and passion, in an entirely different light than I had ever imagined before. She was actually talking about plateaus in our practice. There will be periods of time where our practices are growing and changing rapidly, she said. And then, there will be periods of time where nothing is changing. And that it's easy to get discouraged, or lose focus, when these times occur. Sometimes you have to do something different when you hit these times, to get yourself out of a rut. But sometimes, you just have to keep going. I'm gathering, from the lessons I have learned from my teachers, and from some of the reading that I've done, that "Intelligence" is knowing when to stick with it, versus when to make a change. And at this 1-year time-point, it feels like a good spot to redefine the mission.

So here it is, subject to further evolution:

The purpose of this blog going forward will be, first and foremost, to document the thoughts and experiences I have "off the mat," each day (or nearly so), in light of my ongoing practice. These may be internal struggles, challenges at work, or in relationship, hopes, dreams, the world, anything. When relevant, I will share what I am learning in class, as it relates to my mindset for the day. 

As such, "tagging" of blog entries will take on a new meaning now. Rather than tagging according to "Who was the teacher today? Where was the class? What style of yoga did I do?" (I will likely not even mention these, unless it relates to what I am writing about), my tags will be topic-related. Once again, the goal is to rekindle this blog as a vehicle for my own growth, and something to which I will enthusiastically commit, rather than carry forward out of obligation.

I thought about holding myself to "catching up" on the however-many entries I had missed, so that I'd be entirely up-to-date before moving to Mission 2.0. But that seems like just about the most "opposite of yoga" approach, full of "shoulds" and serving ultimately nothing but some self-flagellating figment of my ego.

So here we go.

Reality checks

Yesterday was Power Vinyasa with Jo.

It was a strange day, in terms of the yoga-thinking. I was slightly torn about what class I wanted to do. The idea of Hatha with Patrick sounded good. Class with Michel sounded good, too, but I wasn't really up for a 90 minute class. I decided that it might be nice to take class with Jo, since it had been a long time. And I was happy to practice next to friends, who made the class extra-fun. But I was reminded of all the reasons why I decided, for my body, that I needed to make a change, and the consequences of that re-realization have lingered with me (and then some) into the next day.

It was, without a doubt, the hottest class I have taken in, well, probably since the last time I took the very same class. And what was hardest was not just the heat, but the feeling of absolutely no oxygen to breathe. And I had to ask myself, "Is this a good thing?" But at the same time, while trying to stay "in the practice," I found myself quoting Lola in my mind again ("This is what is happening"). This was, after all, what was happening, and my choices were to be in the practice, lie down and rest, spin out of control in my thoughts, or leave the room (in decreasing order of yogic preference). I opted, to the best of my ability, to be in the practice, and focus on a different question. Instead of "Why does it have to be this way?" How about, "Given that this is what is happening, how can I *best* be mindful and stay in my practice?" I won't kid you though. At about 40 minutes into class, I was enraged at Jo, when the door was opened for about 2 minutes, bringing in about, um, zero air (because of the humidity), and then the door was closed again, back to the swelter. But the anger passed. I nearly fell over from exhaustion trying to return to Crescent Lunge from either Airplane or Half Moon, or who knows what.

The consequences of the class:

Severe dehydration all night long, dry eyes, waking up parched with a headache, weighing 2 pounds less than usual and, to make matters utterly worse, a strange, cramp-like spasm in one of my back muscles that is so extreme and painful today, that I am having difficulty even breathing, never mind moving.

My intelligence says "This is just not for me." It's the equivalent of going on that long run that I would really like to do, but my body just doesn't cooperate. And when I ignore my body, and go on that run, we all know what happens. Achilles tendinitis for like six months. 20 minutes of mindlessness, brings 250,000 minutes of recovery. That's why it's so important to listen to the messages.

I want to be in this for the figurative long run, not just a flash in the pan.

So, from now on, if it's going to be a drop-in on my old friends, I'll have to find them teaching a Hatha class, since my body firmly says "no" to 105 degree Vinyasa.

That is what is happening.

11 December, 2012

Improvising as a way of life

Today was gentle yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

I bought some new headphones a few weeks ago because my old ones had broken. I spent more money than the last time but not as much as I did on my favorite earbuds, which had gradually disintegrated over years of use. The new ones didn't fit right. They sort of slip out, and then there's no bass response. That's the thing about earbuds: fit is critical. So I had been lamenting the fact that I spent X amount of money and didn't have what I wanted. And then something occurred to me. I had always been really happy with the way that my "expensive" earbuds fit me. And they had really good bass response. I wonder if I could take the little rubber buds from those and fit them onto the shafts of my new ones? And sure enough, they fit, and they sound perfect.

How does this have to do with yoga?

A few weeks ago in Elizabeth's class, she had told us to experiment in our practice and in our lives. Try different things until you see what works. And it doesn't need to be conventional or cookie cutter. It can be a completely outside the box approach. And this mindset, I think, helped me to experiment rather than to simply give up or complain. And I found a solution that works.

Surely this will apply in far more important areas of life than earbuds.

But it's a good start.

10 December, 2012

Here we go again, working backwards

Today was Hatha with Patrick.

It had been a couple of weeks since my last Hatha class, and it was definitely feeling like it was time for it. Today was a very strong day, for some reason. It was hot, and I haven't been getting enough sleep lately. But if this had been some sort of competition, I would say that I "totally killed it." Of course, it's not a competition. It's yoga. So that doesn't really hold the same meaning.

But I found myself really able to focus on the depth of the poses today. Thinking about major extension, thinking about breathing, thinking about alignment of even the parts that don't seem to be the primary focus of the pose. It was, of course, by no means perfect. But I felt like the practice was focused, and the mind was quiet.

I'm working my way backwards with these entries, in the hopes of some degree of recency effect in providing an actual account of "the yoga" instead of the random musings that I'm left with, in the absence of clear memory.

09 December, 2012

Be comfortable with your own mess

Today was Gentle Yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

Near the start of class, we were doing some opening Cat/Cow and Spinal Balance. This always hurts my palms or my knees, so I decided to make a modification. But it wasn't a modification to the pose. It was a modification to my situation. I rolled the edges of my mat inward, to provide extra cushioning. This isn't neat, and this isn't easy to get organized. But it doesn't need to be. And after the pose is over, the towel ends up sort of disarranged. And it occurred to me, I have a bit of an OCD thing going with arrangement of things. I like my mat and towel perfectly perpendicular. I like the towel to stay down flat and not get bunched up. I like the mat to be perfectly aligned with the wooden planks on the floor. I like to make sure that when I sit on my mat, I am not rotated to the left or to the right, even a few degrees.

But I think it is time to get comfortable with my own mess. Because life is going to be messy. And sometimes, the most important thing is not how neat, organized, aligned, your "stuff" is, but how aligned you feel on the inside. And this means (for me) that it's important to let that go. Be okay with it.

Elizabeth teaches Gentle Yoga. But she even acknowledged that there's often other words to describe her classes. They can be quite intense, and physical. Instead of moving through poses with velocity, throwing our bodies around, we perform those same poses, but hold in the positions, and experiencing the depth, and the smoothness of a transition, rather than flow, flow, flow.

Continuing to learn a lot from her.

07 December, 2012

Unexpected and good

Today was Power Vinyasa with Elizabeth Thomas.

I really wanted to make it to her class. She teaches the 4pm on Fridays. And that's it. One chance to take her class at Be Luminous. If you miss it, you wait 7 days for another chance. So it was frustrating when I found myself busy, rushed, and then somehow having not eaten lunch or breakfast as of 3:45pm. My mind was so delirious from hunger, I wasn't even thinking clearly about the hunger itself, never mind being productive in my work.

"Old me" might have just gone to yoga anyway, and struggled through the class. But "new me" made the decision that it was just not a good idea. Better to eat, and then go to a later class. There were a few options for later, and I guess that would be what it would be. So I went over to Be Luminous to take the 5:30 class and, to my surprise (pleasant), Elizabeth was filling in for Scott. I enjoy Scott's class as well, so this was mostly about the feeling kind of lucky to get a class with her, after my physical schedule didn't seem to be allowing for it.

I seem to be slowly coming up from my low that I was experiencing for a few weeks.

03 December, 2012

Turning inward to expand outward

Today was Power Vinyasa with Michel.

Last night was the final meeting of our book group, where we have been discussing Iyengar's "Light on Life." After attending the book club, I have found myself wanting some more Michel time, so it was nice to be able to take her class today. It was especially nice to have a small group (only 12-15 people), so we did a few things that were out of the ordinary, and spent a little more easy time in the poses. Michel talked a lot about breath, which was a continuation of our discussion the night before.

At the start of class, we were to say our name, and one word that described what our state of mind was at that moment. I was not entirely sure what my state was. Pondered "tired," but opted for "here," because I was really just glad to be there, in the room, and I wasn't troubled by much else. There was nothing bubbling up in me. So that was what it was.

During our practice, she asked us to set an intention - one word, one thing - on which to focus the practice. For me, as it has often been lately, it was "ease." How to find ease in Twisted Crescent Lunge? Is it possible? Let go of the clenching of the butt muscles. Try not to have the front quadriceps so tightly engaged. Try not to allow (wrong) pain to occur, or modify when it does. Try not to strain to make the body twist. Try not to let upper body collapse onto the front thigh. All this, and don't lose the breath.

Ease is no trivial thing.

While I am on that subject, here's my pain check-in, since I haven't reported much lately.

Shoulder is not the worst it's been. I am doing an okay job of modifying around it, and have managed to mostly avoid pain, without resorting to tons of ibuprofen lately.

Wrists and palms are still kind of sore, but not the worst they have been, either. I wish I had a better idea of what makes them hurt more or less, and I don't right now. Hoping rest and time do the trick.

Right knee, which was completely better, has shown some hints of the former pain on the side of the knee, which I think may be due to trying too hard on Triangle pose. Need to be careful.

Left heel, getting better.

General arthritis of the knees, not really bothersome at this point.

Oh yeah, and the left groin continues to be scary. I am not sure what to do to protect that one from becoming worse. It has neither worsened nor improved in several months. I forget when it started. Maybe it was in August or September.

And that's that.

02 December, 2012

Savor the impermanence

Today was Gentle Yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

Something happened at the beginning of class today before we started. It was a little subtle occurrence. Something said, and it made me immediately think "Oh no! Elizabeth is going to tell us that she's not teaching here anymore!" I am not sure why I jumped to that (which is interesting, in and of itself, Mr. Worst Case Scenario). I spent a few minutes at the beginning of class, worrying, wondering, spinning about what I would find out or hear at the end of class. Anticipating. Not the moment, eh?

Elizabeth then talked a little bit about "Setting an Intention." This is not something she typically does in a class, but today she did. And it occurred to me in that moment that it could only be this:

"Savor the Impermanence."

Because that's all there is to work with. Nothing is forever. There will be good times, and they shall pass. There will be bad times, and those, too, shall pass. There's no point in getting bent out of shape, or attaching greater importance to anything than what actually is. People talk about this in so many ways. The Baptiste folks refer to "non-essential stories," (which, I assume, is a quote of Baron Baptiste). The thought in my head was, "How am I going to be able to get along without Elizabeth, who has been this new-found, shining light in my practice?" But the truth is (minus the stories), the practice is always the practice. Whether it's with Elizabeth, or Michel, or Patrick, or Cassandra, or Carley, or the teacher I've not yet met. The person showing up on the mat is me. They tell us that they're only here to be a guide. Nobody stands in front of us and says "You will come see me if you want to do 'The Real Yoga'." That doesn't happen, because it would be absurd.

But there was that attachment popping up.

When I chose to savor the impermanence, suddenly, I could say to myself, "It's going to be okay." If this had been the little stretch of my life in which I practiced under the guidance of Elizabeth McElveen, then that's what this would have been. And I am far better for having had that experience. I retain the essence of her guidance in my practice now. I am always calling upon her words. So, really, all it took was that exposure. Sure, it's joyful to practice with her, and I get a kind of warm-fuzzy feeling from it. But that fuzziness, itself, is not "Practice."

At the end of class, Elizabeth said "I'll see you all next week." I asked her about that which I had feared, and she laughed, and I realized I had just misread the situation.

So what good did the worrying do anyway?

30 November, 2012

It's not because I don't love you

If I connect the dots together on my broken yoga blog calendar, there's clearly a missing entry from Friday, November 30th. It was Elizabeth Thomas, Power Vinyasa. I know this, because I do my best to make sure I attend that class every week, and I know I didn't miss it last week. I feel like I wrote an entry for it too, which probably means my iPhone lost it.

I continue to create a large mountain for myself to climb, catching up on missing yoga blogs. Can I commit (after this lapse) to getting back on it regularly again?


Of course, I don't remember anything about the class, since it was 10 days ago.


29 November, 2012

Juice is the big lie

Today was Gentle Yoga with Jessica Willis.

I don't remember this class. It's part of the collateral loss of not doing these entries the day of the class. I am curious about why it's so difficult for me to make myself write every day lately. When I was on my big marathon, it became a routine. Now, I keep falling behind, and then catching up. The reason it bothers me is because I see it as a missed opportunity. The point of the daily entries was to catalog for myself (and you, I guess) how the practice is evolving, and how my experience is changing from day to day. And when I miss a week, and then try to go back and connect the dots, it ends up being a different kind of blog. Of course, I could make the argument that, perhaps, an entry like this is an interesting deviation from the run of the mill. And I realize that there are at least two phrases in this entry that should have been hyphenated, but that's not my problem. You're the grammar freak, not me.

Jessica is going to be teaching the "40 Days to Personal Revolution" workshop in January. It happens to start while I am away in Thailand, and I am pretty sure I have decided that I will not put that commitment on my schedule when I am traveling abroad because it seems to be unduly urgent thinking. I did purchase the book, and maybe will make a head start on it for the future occasion when I am able to do the course.

Lately, I have been thinking about changing the way I eat. And I struggle with that a little bit. I believe I have already made some pretty big shifts over the past couple of years, toward less junky food. But I am still heavily dependent on dairy and carbs. I drank an Odwalla yesterday that was 1 liter. The container said "Number of Servings: 4," and I drank the entire thing. If you're curious to know, that's 640 calories, and consisted of 118 grams of sugar. So, pretty much, I drank 3 cans of Pepsi, as far as my pancreas is concerned. And, most importantly, how did I feel afterward? Like shit. Nauseous, and horrible. And then very hungry not much later.

You know what? I'm just going to say it:

Juice is the big lie.

Whoever got all the hype going for juice was clearly trying to sell juice. Because it's not that good for you. It contains some vitamins, yes. But otherwise, it's pretty much sugar water. If they put 100% of your daily allowance of Vitamin C in Mountain Dew, it would not be much different.

And I know this. I tell myself, "No juice... water." But sometimes I want juice. I crave juice.

I would like to explore what it means to feed, not based on "cravings" but on what my body really needs.

So the big question is: "How do I know my body didn't need juice?"

27 November, 2012

Right Action

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Tina Templeman.

It was also, sadly, the last day of my cat's life. The blog's not about cats, so I'll keep it short, and say that he was 25 years old, maybe older, and he had deteriorated to the point that it was cruel to keep him alive. I say "my cat" even though he is actually my housemate's cat. But he's been a part of my life, honestly, forever. I don't know that I could have made the choice to euthanize him, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

So... the plan had been for the vet to come over the house and do it. And I had made up my mind, in no uncertain terms, that I did not want to be there for it. I did not want to see the cat go from being alive, to being not alive. I didn't want to see him stop being. He's been for so long, and I just didn't want to watch. The night before, there had been a little gathering with a few friends to say goodbye, and I hid in my room all night, not wanting to be social. Had a hard time going to sleep. When I woke up, I said my goodbyes in the morning. And I asked my housemate, "Are you sure you don't want me to be there?" And she started to answer, and then hesitated, got a little choked up, and then restarted, and said "Not unless you want to be there for you. Don't do it for me." And I went to work, planning on going to Elizabeth's class at 4pm, and feeling bad all day.

Around lunch time, I was really down, really upset, and my girlfriend said (over text), "Maybe you should go home, and be there with her?" I got upset, and defensive, and replied that I didn't want to talk about it anymore. And I then felt frenzied, and completely out of control. I was in Whole Foods, but I didn't want to eat anything. I felt like my brain was spinning.

And then, suddenly, something clicked: "I need to go home and be there."

It was a combination of things. First, I know my housemate well enough to know that she'd never ask anyone to do anything for her. But maybe doing things for people isn't always because they say they need it, but because you want to do it for them, just because. Second, the degree to which I was avoiding the notion of Ozone (the cat) ceasing to be was troubling to me. And I know that it was because it makes me think about mortality in general. This little guy that I have been so close to, and I will see him "transition" out of this life. My fear of it, and my utter aversion to it practically demanded that I confront this, because what am I avoiding, really? Truth. What is.

As Lola would say, "This is what is happening."

So I went home, and it was clear that it was the right thing to have done. It was one of those "If you hadn't done this, you would have regretted it for the rest of your life" kind of situations.

I don't know if, before starting to do yoga, I would have made the right choice in this situation.

Class was tough. It took me nearly half the class to get out of my head, and I was trying not to be hard on myself. Eventually, I got beat down enough from the sheer challenge of the 90 minutes class, that I settled into breath, and was okay. It was somewhere after the flows, around the time we did either Dancer's Pose or Tree or Triangle. I can't really remember.

But really, give myself a break, right? I mean, my freaking cat just died.

26 November, 2012

Temporary discomfort into lasting comfort

Today was Hatha with Patrick.

It's a good way to start the week. The positive energy of Patrick. The grounding nature of the series. I continue to feel a little better than before. So curious as to why. It's always a big investigation to understand why I (we) feel worse. I (we) seldom stop to ponder why things are better. But perhaps that is even more important. Think of life more like cooking than debugging a computer program.

The reconfiguration of my yoga life involved a bit of an internal struggle. I watched myself do all those things that I do in an effort to achieve what? Not clarity, so much as justification. I feel like one of the lessons I am learning is that it's not just about figuring out how to achieve one's goals, but determining if one is even pursuing the right goals for oneself.

Seek clarity and peace. Easier than seeking justification or validation. The latter is a loud and chaotic pursuit. The former is a quiet and conscious one.

Okay that's all.

25 November, 2012

The opposite of everything

Today was Gentle Yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

As always, Elizabeth came to class with a lot of interesting thoughts to share. She was talking about how thoughts that are "outside of this moment," regardless of whether they are happy or unhappy thoughts, create stress in our body. That was an interesting idea. She talked about how the pain that we experienced years ago, that seems to have disappeared, may come back from time to time, and that maybe we're really just on a cycle, where things come around in a big circle. Maybe we aren't even going anywhere, in reality. And then, it doesn't really matter, because maybe it's just all about doing the practice. Something like that.

And then she said that yoga is the opposite of everything, which I kind of liked. She didn't elaborate too much on it, but I don't think she really needs to. It's obvious what she's saying. We're constantly doing things in our lives that tighten our bodies, create stress. We're always making lists, planning, and trying to hold on to the memories of everything important to us. Yoga is teaching us to not do that, for even a little while. The opposite of everything.

Without a whole lot to explain it, I would have to say that the pain in my body has been subsiding the past several days. Not really sure why. There's been a little bit of ibuprofen involved, but not enough to say that I am dealing with inflammation. There's also been a little bit of rest involved, Wednesday and Saturday, but I've been on that schedule for several weeks now.

23 November, 2012

Draw outside the lines

Today was Power Vinyasa with Liz Doyle.

Again, we colored mostly outside the lines. Sun A? What's that? Sun B? Who could be bothered with that?

Liz talked about a lot of things that reminded me of the reading we have been doing in the Iyengar book. In particular, she brought up Samskara, which are patterns of behavior or thought that we get stuck in. The metaphor Iyengar uses involves sand bars forming on the bottom of a lake, disrupting or exaggerating disruptions at the surface. It was nice having read about this so it felt familiar.

Her class is tough.

But interestingly, while the novelty makes it tough, the novelty is also a kind of break for the body from the regular Baptiste routine. Doing the same series again and again can be a kind of Samskara of its own if one is not careful. Though the reason for this is our tendency not to stay purely in the moment, but bringing memories of past classes and expectation of what is to come. I suppose that is "The Practice" but it is nice to really shake things up sometimes.


22 November, 2012

Thanks, but no thanks

Today was Power Vinyasa with Julie Andres at Live Live Flow.

Yep. A new studio! Fun times. I'd been meaning to try it out since it is so close to my house. And the thanksgiving plans made this a good day for firsts. Whereas my other studios were sporting only 2 hour classes, LLF had a 75 minute which seemed like a better idea for my body and my turkey.

The class was crowded but not overly so. Julie was a great teacher with lots of positive and uplifting energy. She is just coming back from traveling so I think this was her first class in some time. The studio was bright and airy with a cool black ceiling that is nice to stare at during savasana.

Class was tough but I suspect that was more a function of my general difficulty with morning classes.

At one point during class, Julie asked us all to yell out something we were thankful for. I struggled with that instruction and remained quiet, having a hard time even conjuring the thing I would say if I were to have done it. Though it is not because I am ungrateful.

I look forward to another class at LLF. Seems like it could be a good Saturday spot?

20 November, 2012


Today was supposed to be gentle yoga with Elizabeth.

And there's the problem. Those attachments. "Supposed to be" often leads to disappointment.

In reality, today was 90 minutes of power vinyasa with Nicole. And it was just fine. It was hard, but it was yoga.

I was so set on doing this class today. But my schedule at work trapped me in a meeting that I could not quite escape for all my best efforts. And as the meeting wore on... 3:30... 3:45... My resentment was growing. Anger directed primarily at one colleague whom I felt was wasting time, pontificating about unnecessary things. Bleeding the time away. I started to believe that he was trying to make me miss the class. While that's not entirely out of the realm of possibility (we don't have a fantastic relationship), the more likely explanation was that he was talking to serve his own purposes.

The point is... the attachment to this class actually took me out of the moment and had me feeling worse than what was actually right in front of me. I know that complete surrender and acceptance would be to take all things in stride. The idea of getting so bent out of shape about a yoga class feels, itself, to be ironic.

I found a glimmer of a message in my mind: my "intelligence" if you will, saying to me "another yoga class will be fine. This is an opportunity to practice with what is." But, much as I knew this, I cling to the attachment and the resentment.

And what did it buy me? Only I felt bad. No one else. But it made me less effective and probably less pleasant to be around. The faster I can let go, the more effective I can be. The happier I can be. That seems simple.

But just as it is difficult on the mat to "tolerate" that 6th Sun B (when you expected there would only be 3 or 4 of them), it's even harder to accept (radically!) when things don't go according to plan in "real life" where the perceived stakes are higher.

Amusingly, after finally accepting this reality, I had built up the new mental preparation around my Plan B which was to be Tina's 5:30 class. And I had a fair amount of apprehension because I know Tina is tough and I am sore. But sure enough, I got there and Nicole was subbing.

I think the lesson here is to make plans... but don't be surprised or disappointed when they change, and don't bother thinking through how something is going to be, because it is probably going to be different.

19 November, 2012

Long time no see

Today was power vinyasa with Jo.

My body wasn't really up for an intense class today. But my choice was intense or nothing at all. And I am feeling like I need the yoga lately. Even though it has been hurting, I need it.

Familiar faces that I haven't seen for a while. I miss these people. It feels warm, the welcome. I decided today that I do want to keep the practice going there, and did a class pack. I know that the heat is harder on my body and I will likely pepper these classes in to my schedule because I want to see my community there. But my body needs ease. And that can be hard to find. Still pondering if I need yet another studio for the gentlest of the gentle yoga needs. Maybe.

Class started off not too hot being a 4pm but it quickly escalated to the point that I was feeling sensations I haven't felt in a while. For me it's the fatigue and weakness of muscles that grows in the latter part of the class. I just don't hold up well.

Blah blah blah.

18 November, 2012

Rekindling the love

Today was gentle yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

Every class with Elizabeth is like a gift. I would pay just to watch a video of her class while sitting on the couch, her voice is so lulling and her words so wise.

After the various great yoga stories in my year of practice, I really have been hitting a wall. A bit of a letdown. What is next? And maybe it's nothing. The honeymoon is over and now practice is sort of like life. Just something I need to do every day.

As Madonna says, "beauty's where you find it." I am sure she was quoting someone else. But the beauty is Always there. At times it's harder to see.

Elizabeth is helping me find it again.

16 November, 2012

Working my way backwards

Today was Power Vinyasa + Meditation with GUEST TEACHER.

Ok. Guest teacher was actually named Cole. I guess he was going through a potential new teacher evaluation with Scott and Michel (who were both in the class). I was curious about who a guest teacher might be, and eager for the experience, since most of these unexpected experiences have been good ones.

Turns out, class was really good tonight. Even though I have been pretty much hurting for days, and days, and days, this day was a little better. Who knows why? I certainly don't. I don't think I took any ibuprofen today, which is usually what makes things better.

From the Iyengar book, I have been thinking about the breath a lot lately. Reading about the different stages of the breath really makes me more conscious about them. Especially these elements like holding the breath at both the top and bottom of the cycle, and about exhaling just a little bit further at the end of the exhale after pausing. I have tried this while reading the book, and now I have been trying it while on the mat. It's easy to do in Child's Pose or Savasana. What's harder to do is pay attention to the breath in the same way, hitting the same points, during a pose like Crescent Lunge, or Chair. But it's just as relevant there. In particular, I have always felt like it is hard to go through a Sun B because, at the end of the Downward Dog, I am out of air from an exhale, but am supposed to continue exhaling as I step forward, before inhaling up to Warrior I. But now it makes a little more sense, because I can imagine that step forward as being that little extra exhale at the end of a breath. Instead of being freaked out that my timing is off, wondering what I did wrong, did I exhale too quickly, am I suffocating, I am now just taking it as the natural step in the process.

An interesting transition.

Being a new teacher, Cole, who is actually just moving here from New York, brought a slightly different dialog to the classroom than I have heard elsewhere. "Halfway Lift" was "Prepare your spine." But the words don't really matter. In some way, I feel like "prepare your spine" has an interesting different connotation to it. I think about that motion differently when it's a "preparation" than I might for a "halfway lift." Halfway why? Lifting why? Why halfway? Not all the way? Well, I guess it's because I am preparing my spine. For what, I guess I will have to ponder some more.

Anyway, after a long series of rough days... days I didn't even want to write about... a pretty good day.

15 November, 2012


Today was Gentle Yoga with Jessica.

It was one of those classes, from start to finish, perfect.

We started class each saying something that we are struggling with, and something that motivates us. It was a small class. Only about 12 people. We had lots of space. It felt intimate, and was interesting to hear the things people said around the room. Deep, honest sharing.

I'm struggling with the pain in various parts of my body. At most recent count, it goes as follows:

Old Stuff: shoulder, hips, groin, Achilles tendon
New Stuff: wrists, palms
New Old Stuff: knees

It all hurts. Some of it feels like injury. Some feels like ache. Some feels like inflammation. And some days are better or worse than others. The struggle I have is integrating my desire to practice and get the emotional and physical benefits, while not doing harm to myself. At the same time, I want to do all this without feeling badly about myself, and rejecting or resenting my body.

We did Moon Salutations today. Instead of jumping forward and backward into our Downward Dog, we took a long stride forward into a Runners' Lunge, and then brought the other foot forward. It was exactly like we did on the retreat in Italy when Sue was teaching. That was how she did her Chaturangas. And when Jessica had us doing this, suddenly, I was transported by this flow back to that time, that place, in the studio where we practiced. I closed my eyes, and I saw Sue. I could hear her voice. I could feel Lola off to my right. And I could feel Linda, Mary, and Joanna off to my left. I can still feel and remember every minute detail of the room... of the entire trip. And this flow took me back there, and I started to feel super-emotional.

I am not sure I really comprehend fully what that retreat did to me. But I think it shifted something in me. I don't know that I feel better, necessarily, right away, anyway, as a result of the experience. It did something though. I came back, and things shifted. I started going to a new studio, I started, actually, turning inward. Perhaps too much so, I think?

I wanted to have a big "A-Ha!" moment on the retreat where things magically became clear. I wanted to have a breakdown. Anything. Others did. But I just went through it, feeling gravity of it, but not a big bang. But I think a big bang did happen, perhaps in the form of an implosion of something.

I do think I am better off than I was. Changes are occurring in my life. The practice of yoga, I suppose, is just being open to whatever the practice brings.

14 November, 2012

Not the thoughts I want to be thinking

Today was power vinyasa with Carley.

I have been in a negative place lately. A bit of regression. Seeing the bad in the world. Focusing on the negative in my life and in those around me. Obsessing over the bad news in the media. Dark. Dreary. Heavy.

Today it was on the mat with me. I hurt. And I really started to hate my body. Not the vanity type of hatred but more the resentment for it letting me down. I want to feel light and flexible and strong. And instead, I am sore and broken and aging. My parts aren't moving the way I want.

It was a class that I only just survived. It's still a joy, somewhere deep under the gloom, to have an opportunity to practice at this place with these teachers and students. But I am hanging on right now.

12 November, 2012

So long ago I don't remember

Today was power vinyasa with Vanessa.

The night before had been a potluck with some of the same people from this class. This community. I was happy to be coming into class, for the first time connected to the people, as well as the practice we share. I am not forgetting my community that I already have. But I guess more community isn't a bad thing.

I knew Vanessa would be tough and she sure was. But it's a good class and she has a good message.

It would be nice if my freaking palms would stop hurting.

11 November, 2012

More that I do not remember

I think I did Elizabeth's class last Sunday. But I waited so long to write about it that it's now a blur. Was it her class? Did I do yoga? Who am I? Why am I here?

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09 November, 2012

I promise myself...

At some point there was a class with Elizabeth Thomas that I failed to document. I believe it was Friday the 9th. I remember it. It was hard because most of the classes, with exception of gentle yoga, have been hard lately.

The point of this blog was to document the day to day. But it's slipped a little bit. The reason I'm making myself even write these entries now is because I'm trying to just discipline myself to stick with the intention even if it isn't really the way I wanted it to be. I feel like allowing myself to just lose these entries even though they're so far after-the-fact would be setting a precedent that is historically the way I fall out of good habits and routines. So in a sense, this is me, trying to remind myself of consequences...

Unfortunately at your expense.

08 November, 2012

This is enough

Today was gentle yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

As always, magical.

How do I get more of this.
Because this is what I want.

I suppose it's in me. She just has a knack for bringing it out.

I had more to say but it eludes me now.

Darker and the same

Today was gentle yoga with Jessica Willis.

Still I am trying to do as much gentle as possible. Now I am shooting for three a week if I can. It's a big change in focus because it means I am accepting that yoga isn't all about the big cardio workout. It's more about what it is doing for me on the inside. That means I should probably start thinking about other ways to remain fit, particularly diet. I have been eating a bit worse and worse. It has been under the guise that I can eat whatever I want when burning so many calories. But that is a slippery slope of thinking. I see myself eating fattier, sweeter food and craving it. And caffeine increasing. Jessica is doing a special 40 day program involving meditation and healthier living. I am curious if I can do it. Not so much the grueling bodily challenge of the 108 days. But a different challenge. One that feels less about ego and more about inner health. Must read about it.

Today was gentle but not simple. The flow still was pretty deep and complete bit it spared the places I am sorest: the wrists and the shoulder (which is already getting better).

The writing is still not coming easily but I tell myself that really sticking with this will take me somewhere. So I am doing it for that reason now.

05 November, 2012

Willing to walk through the fire

Today was Power Vinyasa with Michel.

I knew how difficult the 90 minute class would be. And I knew that my body was sore. But I just had to go to Michel's class today. After being in the book group with her last night and feeling the connection in that group, I just wanted more of that channel. So I elected to walk through the fire, carefully, to enjoy those rewards.

Class was super-intense. I felt good, though, knowing that I was choosing it. For good reasons. I was careful and took modifications, managing not to do any harm.

But I will need time to recover from this one.

Mindful of the transitions

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

When I walked into class it was 106 degrees with the doors open. This was amusing, for a change, but it didn't stop me from making a comment to Cassandra before class. Of course, it was a passive comment: "it's 106 degrees in there right now with the doors open." What I meant was "it's too hot in there, can we turn the heat down a little bit."

This is sort of a theme for how I handle things and it has come up in many areas of my life. I become frustrated when things are not as I feel they should be. But instead of taking useful action, or learning to accept, I passively struggle: complain, get unhappy, etc. It's just something to think about.

The class, other than the oppressive heat, was quite good. We did abs in the middle of the class, for an interesting variety. I tried modifying my flow in various was to take pressure off my wrist and shoulder. But it still hurts.

04 November, 2012

My hand puppet duck has a sore throat

Today was Gentle yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

I knew that gentle was the right plan for today. But I am surprised that, even in a class where we only did like five Chaturanga, I still experienced pain even with modification. The pain I had in my shoulder has led to an even more acute pain in my wrist upon flexion in either direction. I've tried using my fists instead of palms down and that helps a little but also increases the intensity of the weight bearing sensation. I guess my body is saying I should modify further.

I invited a friend to class today, who is recovering from an injury. It was really important to me that she have a good experience. It felt like this was the right class for her. And it seemed to go very well.

I found it relatively easy to get into a calm state at the beginning of class.

I don't really have much else to say today.

02 November, 2012

Forced to listen

Today (Wednesday) was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

For Halloween, we had somewhat of a themed class. We started off class by introducing ourselves and saying what superpower we would want. I said invisibility, because that's what I have said for years. But for the first time, it didn't feel true anymore. That's what I used to want. To be a rogue. To see what is hidden. To go where is forbidden, fearlessly. To know what is concealed. All this, while giving away nothing of my own darkness. To have control.

But after I said it, I realized that I probably would want some other power now instead. Maybe I want to be like Bruce Willis in that movie Unbreakable. Maybe I want to have the power to heal myself and others like a Druid (another World of Warcraft character). Maybe a Warrior! Fearless and powerful.

But to be invisible?

Maybe not so much anymore.

Class was hard because the shoulder has found its way down to the wrist and palm as well. The pain is distributing itself through favoritism. The Low Cobra helps a little with shoulder. But not the wrist. Carley made a suggestion after class, which I will try today: fists instead of hands flat.

Let's see how that goes.

Keeping it gentle

Today (Tuesday) was Yin with Nicole.

I intended to take Elizabeth's class, but I had forgotten that Nicole was substituting for her. This turned out to be a good thing for my body, because it meant another day without working my shoulders. Elizabeth's "gentle" class is an Ashtanga-based, slow class that can actually be quite intense. Nicole's version of Gentle yoga is Yin. Much better for me right now.

Compared to many experiences I have had with Yin, I was a little more forgiving of my own body today. A little more patient. I guess, in some way, just grateful that I would not be doing any harm to myself.

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It's harder when it's your own journey

Today... well... Monday... was Hatha with Patrick.

It was easier to write these entries during that time where I felt like I was writing for an audience. It was not the original purpose of the blog. Though maybe I am kidding myself. But there came a point where I became obsessed with getting a readership. And I did. But that sort of crested and waned, to mix metaphors.

So here I am. Back to just me again, give or take. And the journey of exploration is back to the personal one. And I find myself not wanting to write here.

That's interpretation #1.

The other interpretation, the more likely one, is that I am closing off, in terms of my willingness to share this. There's a lot more evidence for that. But I don't really want to pursue that line of thinking.

For the first time in over a week, I felt strong in class, and not much hurt. It may be the rest I has the last few days, with Friday and Sunday off. That, and the fact there were no Plank poses.

I need to find a way to keep Hatha in the mix.

27 October, 2012

My own private Salvation Army

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

I'm tired today. Actually, class was yesterday, but I say today anyway, because I didn't write yesterday and I didn't take class today. I was trying to remember, at the end of class, what part of class felt the best. And I realized that it was Savasana. It was, in fact, the only part of class that felt great. My body is resisting it again. It was such a good class. The class itself. But my body's experience of it was just fatigue and heaviness.

It was a crowded class. It was humid. I should have plenty to say about it, because Carley was in her typical amazing fashion of saying just the right things. But I am having a hard time making myself write. Why the wall? I don't know. I can hardly scrape these words out of me, even though it's taking more effort to complain about having to write than it would to just write what there was to say.

Okay, so we see how this is just like yoga.

Sorry, Carley. Your class deserves a better blog entry than this.

25 October, 2012

Long time, no see

Today was Power Vinyasa Basic with Cassandra.

I walked into Urban Yoga Spa to take a class today. It was my first there in a while. When I entered, there were many people in the lobby, as the 5:30 class had just ended. Upon seeing me, there was a loud cheer of a greeting, which took me somewhat by surprise. I have a paradox of not wanting to be ignored or forgotten, but also not wanting to have too much direct attention thrown upon me. This was solidly in the latter category. Cassandra was at the front desk, and she was also excited to see me. She was standing separate from the rest of the people, and I somehow found her to be the safest, most comfortable destination in the room, toward whom I could express my feelings of connection. I approached her, and gave a hug and a shy hello. I don't know why I feel so shy. I am not sure, really, at all.

Even a Basics class felt heavy. I know. It's getting tiresome hearing the same old thing. It wasn't even hot at all, but my body continues to say no to just about everything I throw its way.

The mirror was not my friend today. I have become accustomed to not seeing myself in the mirror during the poses. And today, the combination of mirrors and heaviness, led me to feel negative about my body. It felt doughy. The poses looked crooked and sloppy. But I suspect that it wasn't really seeing what is, but being spun off into some negative fantasy about what is. Still, I don't want to have those mirrors right now. And I suppose that is interesting too, why it bothered me so much. Perhaps it tied together with my emotions arriving at the studio.

I really don't know.

Don't know where I am in my practice right now, but feel like I am losing ground. We talked about how it is difficult to maintain the ground gained. How soldiers often say that it's harder to keep territory that you've won, than to win it in the first place. That subject arose during the book-reading class last weekend. And here it is. This sensation of losing ground.

And I don't know why.

A moment of fear... what if I decide I don't like yoga anymore and just stop doing it?

24 October, 2012

Did I mention that it hurts?

Today was Power Vinyasa with Sean.

I had to take Low Cobra today. And I will probably have to take more and more of them if I want to keep doing this, because the shoulder is back in the land of the bad again. It hurts just about as much as it has ever hurt. I don't understand why. I have worked on my form, I am trying to be mindful and aware of the movement of my body. I want to conclude that my body just has "issues," but there's another part of me that says that is a story that I am telling myself. And I am not sure how to know the difference. We discussed this during the book reading last weekend, as well. How do you know the difference between "letting yourself off the hook" versus "listening to your body?" There's this belief that you'll know the truth in your heart. Or that if you quiet down and listen, it will be more clear. But, in the meantime, there's still the practice. There's still this body, hurting, and telling me what I think sounds like "back the fuck off." Okay, so it's not as difficult of a question as I was making it out to be. I am not letting myself off the hook. I think, perhaps, the lesson here is that I default toward the hardest possible perception of myself. The judgment of self and others. The tendency to want to abuse (self and others) rather than to be gentle, compassionate, accepting. To punish (self and others) for not measuring up to whatever arbitrary standard is on the table for tonight's discussion. And you see that right here, this absolutism.

It was my first time in Sean's class. It was a nice combination of humor and hard work. And it was another of those rare, and interesting experiences of taking a yoga class with someone whom I have met and spoken with prior to taking their class. That is always a different vibe, perhaps for no other reason than it being the opposite of how things usually go.

A very nice class.

But the body not cooperating.

Trying to remain calm in the face of life's challenges

Last night was Gentle Yoga with Elizabeth.

If I'd written about the class last night, it would have been a very different entry. But the day's events have led me to be trying to use my yoga in life, rather than recalling the yoga itself as clearly as I would otherwise.

Earlier this week, I had a semi-scare about a major crisis at work. I guess I handled it okay? Now, two days later, I was faced with another mistake at work. This time, a rather major one, in terms of the integrity of the actual work that I do. I made an error that impacts the quality of the data that I collect in my research. There were other implications of the mistake, but I'll spare you the details. It was rather big, and broad in scope. And there's no way of undoing the mistake, other than to try to decipher the truth from within the data that I do have. 

I'm disappointed in the error. 

It was the result of overlooking a detail in my process, and I actually (it turns out) have repeated the error in several consecutive studies that I've conducted, never catching it, because of the fact that this portion of my process was essentially "auto-pilot." I may never have caught the mistake, for some time longer, had I not stumbled upon it dealing with a weird detail in the data I collected. 

To err is human, I guess? 

I was working on a complex project. I had actually elected to make it even more complex than it needed to be, in an effort to be fancy and clever in my implementation. And I spent copious amounts of time and effort troubleshooting and testing the part that was complex. Turns out, my error had to do with an extremely simple, trivial part, that was as obvious as counting from A to Z (in fact, it was just that; namely, I thought a list was in sequential order, and it actually wasn't, and I pasted info from one list to another, assuming the lists aligned). 

So what does it say? I pay attention to detail, but I might be blind to the elephant in the room? I spend time instrumenting complexity in my world, when simple, yet tedious, sometimes suffices? Ironically, just this morning, I was marveling at how I had not made any big mistakes in my entire time on the job. And, just like that, the slap-down. 

I didn't get too upset about it today. It's a mess. It's ugly. It's a little embarrassing. But somehow, I will just move forward, and get what I can out of the data. And I'll learn from the mistake. The thing that scares me a little bit is that I am not entirely sure what all the lessons are that I should learn. I know not to make that error again. But how do I not make those types of errors again? That's the main concern. And I guess, what I learned is that there are types of risks that are unavoidable, such as typos or oversights. But then there are the choices we make that determine the severity of the unavoidable mistakes. The choices I made about how to structure my work failed to consider "worst-case scenario." That's actually rather funny, since I am typically someone who is utterly driven by worse-case-scenario thinking, or at least I had been. Maybe I have finally swung so far into the realm of overcompensating, that I now would do well to remember my roots?


All that said, there was, indeed, yoga yesterday. 

Elizabeth took us through the Standard Series of Ashtanga (or at least, a part of it). The poses take on a deeper level in her class, where we have an opportunity to spend a very long time in certain stretches, exploring form and function of our own bodies. The mechanics start to make more sense. We started class with a fairly lengthy meditation, where Elizabeth talked about how it is tough to quiet the mind at the end of the day, enough so that it becomes passive, which is a necessary state of mind for doing the yoga. 

It was a deep practice, and I enjoyed it a lot, even though I knew I would once again be feeling it in my muscles today. And I am.

Tonight, I will have the opportunity to try to let it all go, this day. I know that life has lessons to teach us. And I know that everything is going to be okay, no matter what. But there are times where I just wish it could be an unending string of successes.

22 October, 2012

Trying to stay in the body not the mind

Today was Power Vinyasa with Vanessa.

It was a tough day today. Perhaps it was the hardest day I have had at my one year on the job. A situation arose in work where it appeared that a major mistake had been made, and it was potentially my mistake, though it was unclear. The consequence was that certain work would need to be put on hold indefinitely until a matter was resolved. Another consequence was that we might have been violating a policy that could have repercussions. I wouldn't say that I became adrenalized, but I was a bit angry and resentful that this was happening, and I felt like running away: "I shouldn't have to deal with this!" I went to lunch with a friend, where I was barely present, imagining worst-case scenarios where I might lose my job. Even started to think wild thoughts like "I should get all my personal files off my laptop immediately, in case... whatever."

After the lunch, we were walking back to work, and I paused to check in with my body. And I realized something interesting. I wasn't feeling fear. I wasn't feeling anxiety. I was actually feeling nothing in my body. Complete calm. And it occurred to me that all the "crisis" was in my mind, and it was largely fabricated around possibilities and expectations. My body somehow knew that everything was okay. I went back to work and, after a series of phone calls and systematic thinking, I solved the problem. And, in the end, I actually ended up solving a bigger problem than the one that was at hand, because I was able to think clearly.

There's a yoga lesson in here somewhere.

At the end of a long day, I found myself at Vanessa's class, knowing that I really needed to get on the mat, and let go of all that which had likely taken up residence somewhere in my body. It was a tough class, but it was exactly what I needed. For the most part, there was no pain, and I thought a lot about what it means to really expand and extend, and to feel the earth beneath me, and to be constantly checking in with the entire surface of my body as I move through the poses, recognizing what is happening and where.

I could get caught up in the "negative" or my moment's panic today. Or I could recognize that the more important thing is coming back to the center, letting go of the drama.

Because this is what is happening.

20 October, 2012

Those Saturday mornings

Today was Power Vinyasa, 90 minutes, with Nicole.

I always thought that it was Odessa who was my Saturday morning nemesis, wringing me out like a sponge in those 90 minute classes. But I am now quite certain that it's the 90 minute Saturday morning classes (particularly when they follow a Friday evening, resulting in less than 24 hours rest). Nicole's class was a very standard Journey Into Power flow, and she was certainly not overly brutal on the class. But I walked out, crawled out, sopping wet, with my towel dripping so much that it was like a stream. One of those embarrassing situations, where I feel like I need to apologize to everyone who sees me, because of the disgusting wake of sweat that I am leaving behind.

What to do about those Saturday mornings... Do I just avoid that time slot and opt for an afternoon? Do I power through it, and try to break myself of the aversion? Is my body just telling me "No go?"

Maybe the trick is to recognize that this time slot requires a different request from my body? To show up asking for less, until I find that spot where the practice is not "profuse."

When reading Iyengar, he was talking about "right" pain versus "wrong" pain, and I think that there might be a lesson to be learned here. He also talks about effort and intensity being enough, but not too much. I find myself dipping deep into "heaviness" in a lot of classes. I ask the same of myself every time. Interestingly, I think I tend to expect the same from others all the time. And as I see in my body, that expectation is fantasy. We aren't the same every time, and if we expect the same, we will repeatedly encounter conflict.

So I guess it's not "no go" but "slow go."

19 October, 2012

A bit lost

Today was Power Vinyasa with Elizabeth Thomas.

I was really happy to be here at Elizabeth's class today. I am liking this slow feeling of new familiarity, easing into a place that was first exciting because of the novelty, and is now taking on a softer welcoming feeling, as I get to know the people, and some of the instructors start to recognize me as well. Of course, I make it rather obvious, my presence, being that I tend to plop my mat down directly in front of the instructor (not really sure why I do that, actually, and it was never the case at Urban Yoga Spa, but has been the case in most other places where I've practiced). I could venture to guess that it has to do with connection above all else, but who knows what's going on in that brain.

Though I was happy to be there, I felt heavy. My shoulder has been hurting, and I have been resisting modifications. I don't know that I've put my knees down on 3 Chaturangas in the past month, even though my shoulder has been hurting progressively more. There's a resistance in me. I talked about it in class. I guess it's ego, but I don't think it's coming from a place of trying to impress. I think it's coming from a place of not wanting to be gentle and nurturing with myself for some reason. I won't let up. But I need to find a way to get lightness back in. Just staying in High Plank for brief holds, I feel quite fatigued in shoulders and triceps. Could be the weather change? Could be not sleeping well? Could be lots of things.

I am in a phase where the body is telling me things I don't want to hear. And, along those lines, I have been resisting even setting down to write about it. But finally, here I am.

18 October, 2012

Finally Carley

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

After two full-on missed attempts at taking her class (once due to a scheduling mix-up, and once due to her being out sick), along with other misses where my schedule didn't permit, I finally managed to get back in for a Carley class, after what seems like at least a month.

I only wish my body were being more compliant right now!

Yesterday was a day off, resulting from what can only be described as amazing things that were going on in my muscles as a result of the so-called "Gentle Yoga" class I took on Tuesday. I felt soreness through deltoids, lats, obliques, glutes, and outer hips that I'd never experienced before from a yoga class. It felt more like I had done some sort of weightlifting workout, and I wasn't even really sure if I would be able to do yoga at all, given what a challenge it was just to walk up and down a flight of stairs!

I don't recall much about the class, other than the heaviness seemed to be really coming on that day. By the end of the week, after this class, I was starting to feel like I might be getting sick. And perhaps I had not slept well.

It's a bit frustrating, if one allows it to be, the idea of not being able to fully enjoy a teacher that one really enjoys, because of lack of cooperation of the body. Every day is what it is. I think it was either Nicole or Michel who quoted Baron Baptiste this week, saying "Wherever you go, there you are." Of course, that saying has been around for a long time. I think I first heard it 15 years ago, and it had been around then, too. It can be applied in many contexts. With respect to our favorite classes, favorite teachers, favorite poses, etcetera (and the converse), it helps to recognize that it all comes down to where our bodies are on any given day. Coming to the mat without expectation means to arrive ready and open to whatever is. Carley's class is not always going to be wonderful dreamy utopia for me, because my body is not always going to be in tune with that channel. Practice is accepting that. I am still happy, and grateful to practice in her class. I have a little bit of work to do when it comes to being happy and grateful with my body right now, though. That's a work in progress.

16 October, 2012

You call that gentle?

Today was Gentle Yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

First off, let me say that it was an amazing class today, full of light energy, and emotional flowing, humor, creativity. I feel like Elizabeth is like a magical pixie-like creature who landed on Earth, wise and spiritual, and she shares thoughts with us, in almost a meditative stream of consciousness. With nearly all of my instructors, I feel a sense of being cared for. There's not a shortage of that. But Elizabeth seems to have a gift of imparting in her style. I feel like we are receiving a gift just being there. And every class is different, based on the whim of the day, and what her eye observes in the room. She really pays attention, and that is something special.

Today there were two things that made class into something that would ultimately not end up feeling "gentle" in its aftermath. First, she had us take our leg up in a Three-Legged Dog, and do some serious long, slow circles, with the leg fully extended, really opening up without bending the knee. We were held in this for a long time, going first in one direction, then the other. This was a serious glute and outer hip workout.

Then, she noticed that we were not getting very much extension in our Standing Splits, so she suggested we all try a wall exercise, where we did Half Moon with our foot squarely placed against the wall, followed by Standing Splits, with our "vertical leg" pressed up against the wall, using the wall to aid in getting that extension. There were two possible lessons here: (1) If you were able to easily get into a full-on Standing Split, using the wall, that implies that you have the flexibility to achieve the pose, and need to work on building the strength, or (2) If you were simply, completely unable to get the top leg all the way up the wall, it implies that you do not yet have the flexibility to achieve the pose, and need to work toward opening up more (likely in hamstrings and hip flexors). Of course, no surprise, I fell into the latter bucket. But the effort of trying these wall-assisted poses, resulted in my feeling some extreme soreness in the associated muscles for several days after the class.

I really love her class, because it is always outside the box. I think of her as having the lightness and whim of Ginger, the gentleness of Diane, and the technical knowledge of Patrick (to compare to my long-time instructors at Urban Yoga Spa), which is a pretty interesting combination of attributes.

15 October, 2012

The work is always right there waiting for you

Today was Hatha with Patrick.

I had taken four days off, I believe. We'd contemplated the idea of doing yoga together in Chicago, but the schedule didn't really permit it, and I also figured my body could continue to use some more rest. Italy feels like a million years ago, now, and I would have to actually do math and check a calendar to remember how long ago it was. I think I returned on September 26th? So I guess it's not even a month.

The rest was needed, but I probably lacked some elements of the kind of rest which were key, namely extra sleep. And I assume that flying on an airplane probably does a fair bit of damage to me every time, with the general stiffness of sitting all that time, combined with whatever effect the pressurization has on arthritic joints.

The Hatha felt good, and I was surprised to find that Patrick went really easy on us with the heat (for some reason). The room was neither as hot, nor as humid as typical (I have stopped recording temperatures and humidity, because I decided, after initial amusement, that it was sort of pointless and a tad obnoxious to be reporting it in the blogs).

Patrick did most of the class with us, which always amazes me. How can someone do an intense practice, involving challenging balance poses, like Natarajasana, while giving instruction through all stages of the pose. Some of these poses practically require regular breath to navigate into them, which must mean that he's either finding a way to breath and talk, or he's just hella strong and doing the poses without breath. Either way, it's a source of wonder.

It was good to be back in a yoga class. I'm still having a bit of an existential "thing" right now. I toyed with the idea of ceasing this blog, but then was reminded (and reminded myself, as well) that this is the time when I need to force myself to do it, because there's obviously something here that I'm trying to run away from. Is it boredom? Is it tedium? Is it fear? Challenge? Discomfort? Uncertainty?

I also found myself (and was called out for) being on a slightly downward trajectory, emotionally, over the last few weeks. I suspect it's a combination of seasonal changes, and the reality check of not being in Italy, where all I need to worry about was yoga, and dinner.

But here's the work, right? It's right here. I can run away from it, or I can face it. But running away won't make it go away. It will be right there waiting for me.

10 October, 2012

What is it teaching us

Today was Power Vinyasa with Elizabeth Thomas.

Again, I'd planned on Carley's class, but things didn't turn out as planned. She was sick. And it's really no matter, because I am enjoying Elizabeth quite a bit as well. And, more importantly, the quality of class is increasingly driven by internal states and attitude. I think that was always the case, but I may have not been attributing enough credit to it.

My shoulder felt a little better today. My suspicion is that I got a little more sleep.

Still feeling like I am against the current in this phase. But that too shall pass.

09 October, 2012

Need it gentle

Today was gentle yoga with Elizabeth McElveen.

I have a problem now with too many Elizabeths. I will need to refigure my tagging system.

The only sensible solution, given how sore I have been, was gentle yoga. And I am really glad I took her class. She's a very unique instructor. There is philosophy. There is reading. There is floaty, ethereal energy. The poses, though all similar to a power vinyasa class, all felt like stretches because of how she frames them, and where the emphasis was placed. It sort of felt like more of a static practice than a flowing one. But what do I know?

It was what I needed, in every way. And I am looking forward to more gentle yoga.

08 October, 2012


Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Michel.

I took a day off Sunday. What gives? I was dragging, and it was exacerbated by a crowded class, bringing humidity into realms I hadn't seen before at Be Luminous. It wasn't even that hot, honestly. But I felt weak, tired, and the shoulder was hurting again (consistent with not getting enough sleep). I could feel the heaviness in the room. I think it was tough for everyone, and we were granted a "break" under the guise of some coaching about proper form during Chaturanga. Much needed, but it didn't serve to reset me, only perhaps delayed me from disintegration (good word, here, in both it's literal and syntactic definition). By the 60 minute mark, I was truly "dis-integrating" though I did manage, for the most part to come back to breath, when things got to be too much.

There came a point where I felt like I was "all done" when we got to Camel pose, and I found myself experiencing dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea. I decided maybe today was not a "Camel day" for me. Then, it lingered onward, with me deciding I didn't want to do supine twists either. You know when you skip supine twist that it's because your mind has given up, rather than your body. But truthfully, my body was saying "Savasana." And I didn't want to argue with it on principle alone.

The last few days, I have been feeling like I need yoga, but that I am not getting to spend the time in the poses my body actually needs. I want to spend forever in Forward Fold. I want to spend forever in Low Lunge. I want to spend forever in Reclined Butterfly. Twisted Chair? Not so much. Low Plank? Not at all.

Tomorrow's another day...

06 October, 2012

The switch-a-roo continues

Michel, not Carley
Long holds... Intense class indeed
Muscles hurt today

Well, I left myself to write three days of blogs, and haiku seemed to be a cheap way of getting through it. The highlight of this week has actually been vertigo. In Tuesday's class, I started to experience it. And it has progressed from there. It went so far as me falling over onto my neighbor's mat during Cassandra's class the other day. Fortunately my neighbor was no stranger. It happens when I rotate my head. Especially to the left. I think it's likely an inner ear infection. But I am not a doctor.

The interesting thing is that I have evolved over the past 4 days to the point where I can now anticipate the spin and not lose my balance. But it's not right.

The last few days had lots of surprises. Teachers filling in for other teachers. Me taking classes other than the ones I planned. The whole week was pretty much the unexpected. And it doesn't really matter. It's my body. My practice. I welcome it.

Bring on the unexpected.

But please make it the "good unexpected" not the "bad unexpected."

05 October, 2012

New flows

Today was Liz Doyle
She's got her own kind of flow
Goodbye comfort zone

03 October, 2012

02 October, 2012

More unexpected

Today was supposed to be Power Vinyasa with Jen, but it ended up being with Farzeen, who is not even an instructor at Be Luminous.

There was a case of miscommunication, apparently, regarding schedule. The result was that we were laying on the floor in the studio, quietly waiting for Jen to arrive, as time passed. It was noon. Then five past. Then ten past. At that point, the front desk attendant poked their head in the room and motioned to someone in the class to come out in the hallway. Next thing we know, she (Farzeen) is back in the room, and tells us that she's going to be teaching today. She also informs us that it is going to be a very intense class, presumably because we now have only 50 minutes to do an hour of yoga.

It was definitely true that it was a difficult class.

During class, I had no idea if the instructor was a regular teacher at Be Luminous or not, since she hadn't been introduced to us. I am not sure if she's ever taught a class before, though it was clear that she's had a lot of teacher training, because she knew all the right instructions, and had a comfortable teaching style. I am guessing she probably teaches at another studio (though I can't find her on Google search, other than it appears she might have reviewed some studios on Yelp!).

I continue to be tired physically. It was interesting having unexpected changes in class. But my shoulders don't care about surprises. And gravity doesn't ever take a holiday.

01 October, 2012

Mind all over the place or mind on life

Today was Power Vinyasa with Vanessa. Vanessa. Vinyasa. Vinyessa. It has a nice ring to it.

I had never taken a class with Vanessa before. Getting a lot of firsts lately. She pushed hard, and my body is still tired and creaky in the hips. Though, as I keep saying, even the hardest class at Be Luminous is still manageable because I never find myself in the near-panic heart-pounding state of not having enough air. It's just what works better for me. And I know that I'm just an individual with individual preferences and individual capacities. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

In class today, it was kind of crowded. We'd just begun, and we were in Child's Pose. I had my eyes closed, and I hear someone enter the room a few minutes late. They set up their mat right next to me, which caused me to feel this moment of distraction. I also felt like they got in my space, since there was not much room between mats, and I start having these thoughts like "I show up on time, so that I can get a good space, and now someone comes in late and is in my space. How is this fair?" But I try to push that thought away. Then, as class progresses, I notice that the guy has his towel and his glasses, sort of almost on my mat, and I think "It's bad enough that he's late, but now he's putting his shit in my space too!" And I'm trying not to be irritated by him, but I am. Then, as class goes along, I peripherally notice that he's working really hard, and breathing really hard, and probably trying to get himself into some poses that he shouldn't be trying to get himself into. On the one hand, my mind is getting irritated because his choppy breathing is distracting me. But then, at a certain point, something starts to shift, and I almost start to feel some compassion and acceptance for the guy, because he's just doing the best he can, showing up, and doing his practice. And then, later, I reflected on it further, and realized that he probably was busting his ass to even make it to this class. And he probably meant to be on time, but life made him late. And he probably really needed this yoga. And as distracted as I was, he was probably having an even harder time settling in, and getting centered, after whatever frenzy it took to even make it to class. And I realized that, instead of being irritated by this guy, I should love this guy. Because he's trying.

My mind isn't really on the yoga these days. I still find myself going nearly every day. Taking a day off still feels a little bit like "Do I really need a day off?" And I still find myself working hard and feeling present on the mat. But I don't feel like I am doing deep exploration at the moment. And that's not even really true. It's just sort of slid off the mat and into other areas. And I am not even sure if that's really true. I think I almost cried the other day in class, but I can't remember whose class. Probably Elizabeth.

Maybe I am not really feeling like writing about yoga right now. I wrote about it for 108 days in a row, for Christ's sake! Right? But, nevertheless, I will continue writing about my experiences in this practice.

I bought tickets to go to Thailand last night. This may seem to have nothing to do with practice, but I am pretty sure it has a lot to do with it. I had an aversion, a fear, about going to Asia. The culture shock was something that I was very apprehensive about. I always found a reason why I don't want to go. I would say "There are a lot of other places on my list that are far above Asia." And then, I would go to Hawaii. Again, and again, and again. I have been to Hawaii 8 times? Or nine? That's nothing to complain about, of course. But it is the epitome of staying within one's comfort zone. Hawaii is easy, familiar, comfortable, safe.

Now, just like that, I am finding myself not the least bit apprehensive about leaping far outside that comfort zone, and exploring places that are not as easy, unfamiliar, perhaps uncomfortable at times. The yoga is where this came from. The practice shows me that I can go anywhere, and do anything.

That's where my mind is right now. And the excitement now will be crafting (loosely) the framework of that experience. I don't need to know everything, but I do want to know where I'm staying.