30 March, 2012

Holding the vibration of love

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Ahhhhhhh.... long sigh.

I'm not sure how many ways there are to say, "Thanks, Cassandra. I needed that!" And I'm not sure how long it's been since my last class with her... though, I guess, if my blog is correct, it was exactly two weeks.

I was a little apprehensive about taking a Vinyasa class at all, because the shoulder is not getting better. It's just sort of lingering in a state of very slight discomfort, as if it's asking for me to make it worse. Nonetheless, I wasn't going to miss Cassandra's class. Being a 4pm class, it was not very crowded, so the humidity stayed fairly low. All in all, it was one of the easier classes I've taken of late.

Today, we started on the mat with some abdominal work, and then spent the majority of the standing series building through Warrior I and Warrior II flows. We did a little bit of Dolphin Plank near end of the standing series, but there were no balancing poses. No Half Moon. No Airplane. No Standing Splits. No Eagle. No Dancer's Pose. It was mainly just the flow. Floor series consisted of Locust, Floor Bow, and then Bridge/Wheel. The hardest part of the class for me, actually, was forcing myself to take a modification on the two Side Plank poses in the middle of the class. I had this loud voice my head saying "Don't weasel out!" but I know, know, know that I am dealing with an injury right now. Several instructors, lately, have talked about how important it is in our practice to listen to the body, and take the necessary modifications. But, damn, it's hard to not want to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak.

Today, Cassandra talked a little bit about Chakras, and about living from the heart. She also talked about how yoga is what enables us to hold the vibration of love. I know it's woo-woo. Really, I do. But I do feel what it is that she talks about. There is something important about a yoga teacher. Anyone can learn to guide a room full of people through a series of physical actions. But there's an almost intangible quality in any truly great teacher (regardless of what they teach), and that is the charisma they embody. It's when you know that they are teaching you with a passion that comes from deep within their heart. With instructors like that, you can feel the energy of the room full of people. You can hear it in the collective breath. There's a connection there.  Shared energy.

Woo-woo. I know. But, if you doubt me, maybe you should come check it out sometime...

29 March, 2012

Back from a brief rest

Today was Hatha with Colette.

I took the day off yesterday. The rest didn't really seem to have any significant impact, other than the psychological knowledge that I forced myself to take a rest. But class went by very quickly, and did not seem to have quite as much struggle as the previous few classes had, especially in terms of dehydration. There's no logical reason why resting would make one sweat less, so it most likely has to be attributed to something about the conditions in the room.

Somehow, it appears I've gained 4-5 pounds in one week, which seems completely impossible, as well. Nothing has really changed in my eating habits. I don't know. Really don't have any answers here.

And I really don't have a lot to say about the practice today either.

27 March, 2012

What am I thinking?

Today was Hatha with Jo, followed immediately by Vinyasa Basics with Jo.

Okay, so what the hell am I thinking, right? The last several days, growing awareness that rest is due. General concern that I might be just a slight tad obsessed with going every day. So, of course, what does one do in this situation? The opposite of what reason would suggest, of course. 

But wait! Let me explain...

Today, I went with the full intention of taking a Hatha class. And I also had full intention of taking Wednesday (or Thursday, or both) off. The thing is, I knew there was this brand-new class starting tonight. I was really curious about it, and also interested to be there for the first one. Ugh. As I type it, I hear the addict-speak. I remember an earlier time in my life, where I was obsessed with a certain computer game (I won't say which one, but suffice it to say that my homeland in the game was "Darnassus" and one of my special abilities was invisibility). And, when I was at the peak of my obsession, I could always find a reason to play more. Even if I'd decided that I needed to step away from it, there would be some unavoidable, unmissable, too-good-to-be-true justification for playing "just a little more." 

And so it is with the hot yoga right now. I had to be there for Jo's first Power Vinyasa Basics class. In spite of the fact that I'd already done Hatha, and dropped about 5 pounds of sweat. In spite of an injured shoulder that, honestly, didn't even feel fantastic doing modified Chaturanga, never mind regular ones. 

It probably sounds like I'm being pretty hard on myself. And I guess I am. But it's because I don't understand why I'm in this mode. Am I afraid of something? Am I afraid that if I miss a day, somehow I'll be "off my game" and start missing 3 days a week? 5 days a week? Quitting yoga? I suppose there are positive interpretations of my actions. Maybe I just love it, and I don't want to miss a day? 

I must say... I enjoyed every minute of Jo's Hatha class tonight. It was very well-paced, the room was quite comfortable (hot, but good). Things didn't hurt. My knees were good. My shoulder was good. Of course, I have taken a bit of ibuprofen in the last 24 hours, and it was warmer outside which always makes my joints feel better. 

It was just good.

So I decided, "What the hell?" I will stick around and do the second class. I'd heard that it wasn't going to be as hot as a regular class (it wasn't) and I assumed it would be relatively mellow because it was an instructional class (and it was). I didn't suffer any great physical insults from doing the double. 

But I think the only thing I really satisfied by sticking around for a second class today was my curiosity about what the class would be like. It was interesting to have mirror at our side. I got to see how my Downward Dog looked (not bad). I got to see what adjustments are necessary to be in a truly flat back for Halfway Lift. I got to spend some long, deep time in Warrior I and Low Lunge (both poses reminding me just how far I've come, and also how far there is to go). Jo gave a reading about patience, and about how we need to allow ourselves to develop at a natural rate, not to rush things. Seems apropos.

It was a good class.

But my body didn't really need to do two classes today. My body needed rest.

As such, I am putting my clothes and towels in the washing machine now. All of them. And I am not staying awake to put things into the dryer. I will have no dry towels or shorts. This is what is referred to as "extreme measures." 

No yoga clothes = no yoga.

26 March, 2012

Maybe Monday... or not

Today was Hatha with Bret.

I think I'd said to myself that maybe Monday would be a day off. But then, Monday came, and I went. I may need to start imposing restrictions on myself. The question starts to become "What am I avoiding?" And I am not even sure if that's a rational question. But here it is. March 26th. And I have taken 26 classes. Add to that the 4 days before that, and I am pretty much at a month with no rest.

As we saw in the Yoga Challenge, there are people whose bodies are made for this. There were people who took almost 60 classes in a month. I cannot even imagine how that's possible. But for some, it is not that difficult. Some bodies are fitter. Some are more resilient. Some are just plain younger. My body is not one of those bodies that can go-go-go. Not only that, each class, as I've stated too many times to count, takes somewhat of a toll on me in terms of dehydration. The other day, after a class, one of the staff at the front desk saw my mat and towel, drenched beyond all imagination. She said to me "What happened?" as if the only logical explanation would be that I had either spilled an entire 2 liters of water on it, or that I had thrown it in the shower. But the sad fact is, that's me, every day, dropping 4-6 pounds of sweat. Perhaps I should have been a wrestler. I keep waiting for my body to equilibrate. I've only been doing this for a few months. Maybe I'll adjust. Or maybe not.

I'm becoming a bit indifferent to the heat, which I suppose is good. I am not a fan of roasting, but when it occurs day after day, it starts to just be part of the game.

Not sounding very positive here. Not feeling very much like a yoga blog. A little bit more like complaining. Not the intention for this blog.

Today's class was really good (in spite of the moaning you just listened to). As I do Hatha more and more, the standing balance poses are getting better and better. In the last week, I think I have only "fallen out" of Standing Bow pose maybe one time. It's probably a little bit of me getting stronger, but the much more significant part is the focus that I am starting to develop in that pose. There came a point very early on, where I realized that focus was key. But it was a very difficult pose, and the difficulty led to distraction, and that broke the focus, etc. I used to be very susceptible to falling if anyone else fell. I would fall if the teacher spoke unexpectedly during the latter half of the pose (anticipating the words "and... release..." before they were actually due to arrive). But I am becoming (at least lately) more impervious to these outside distractions. I am getting better at allowing the instructor's words to be in the background, not the center of attention, but something that is received passively.

Regardless of the fact that there is this progress, I still must confront the reluctance to rest.

Perhaps leaving all of my yoga clothes and towels in the washing machine will solve the problem.

25 March, 2012

Hamstrung

Today was 90 minutes of Hatha with Erin.

Resting the shoulders (not doing Vinyasa) unfortunately equals overworking the hamstrings (doing Hatha). I didn't realize how much hamstring there is in Hatha. More than Vinyasa. It's the standing balance poses, the leg stretches, the forward-fold stretches. So, in my effort to give my shoulder a break, I'm getting tighter down below (what I probably really need is rest, and I am seemingly unwilling to take it).

In today's class, Erin's focus was on extending backward, feeling ourselves pulled into our back side, while simultaneously bringing our chest and heart forward. It was a series of directions that were about finding opening and space in poses. It was very effective at making many of the poses feel "bigger" because we were forced to bring our awareness to these two seemingly (though not actually) opposing forces.

I must confess, I have fallen behind a few days, again, on my entries, and therefore, I am feeling kind of sparse in what I have to say or recall from the class. Shame on me. But the thing that is standing out as a clear pattern now is that I have become (what one might call) obsessed with going to yoga. I don't think it is yet an unhealthy obsession. And perhaps I am not being kind in my assessment. But I am finding myself super-reluctant to take a day off. It's like I have this streak going, and I don't want to break it. But why?

This makes me think about my dad. He's 86 years old. He exercises seven days a week, for about 90 minutes a day. I've often, in the past, told him that it would be better for him to take a day off. His response is "I just don't feel like I need it. I have a routine, and this is how I start each day." There was a time where I would be in a position to debate that point. But presently, I am not sure I have any moral authority to comment. Because, here I am, seven days, stating that I don't feel like I need a day off. But my shoulder is a little sore. My hamstrings are tight. And I am rationalizing that "listening to my body" means modifying my workout to go around the injuries, rather than just taking a day off.

Why?

24 March, 2012

Dancing on thin ice... or cartilage

Today was 90 minutes of Hatha with Bret.

I'd mentioned that I needed a week of mostly Hatha, resulting from my shoulder being a bit sore deep in the joint. Yesterday, as mentioned, I took a Vinyasa class, and it definitely made the shoulder joint worse (especially because the unpredictability of the sequence had me moving through some angles that my shoulder wasn't accustomed to hitting). As such, the plan for today, and here forward, was "Back to Hatha" again. I'd originally planned on doing Odessa's 90 minute Vinyasa today, but that seemed like an extremely ill-advised idea. I am in this for the long run, and that means "injury free" is a top priority.

Class was good today. Bret's energy was just what I needed. A solid 90 minute class, but with enough lightness, creativity, and subtle variation on the strict Hatha series, that it never got to be too much of a struggle, and I never got lost too far in my head. I am not opposed to a struggle. But I also must admit that I like the idea of at least some of the classes being utterly relaxing and peaceful without that struggle. There's time enough, and opportunity enough for struggle.
I found my hamstrings extremely tight today and yesterday, which I am attributing to a well-guided and tough Hatha class with Patrick two days ago. Because of that, a lot of the stretching poses had slightly limited range of motion today. I also found (the last two days, actually) that I'm tight enough in my right hip that, when I take Happy Baby, I'm not staying really balanced or centered, with my body slightly lopsided. Hopefully, and probably that will just sort itself out over the next couple of days.

Even though Hatha doesn't really do any weight bearing on the arms, I still felt some shoulder tenderness on poses with arms over head. I took one or two Chaturanga sequences today, at places where Bret offered it as an option. But I skipped the optional Wheel, and a couple of other optional poses, again, because I need to rest the shoulder (I figure if I say that here enough times, I will do it).

My body is probably due for another day off soon...

Maybe Wednesday?




(these avocados have nothing to do with anything)

23 March, 2012

Way outside the comfort zone

Today was Power Vinyasa with Ginger.

Each instructor has their own variation on the Vinyasa sequence. There are subtle, sometimes moderate differences between classes. If we were to think of the relation between the styles of different instructors in terms of a genetic tree of species, most of the instructors would be as related as, say, most mammals are. I'd even go so far as to say that, if the prototypical Vinyasa class were a figurative "mouse," we might have some rats, squirrels, chipmunks; but they'd all be rodents.

Are you following me?

Well, if most of the classes come from the figurative rodent family, Ginger's class is like a ring-tailed lemur. It's got a lot (or even most) of the same parts, but it's put together completely differently, and you can't possibly have any idea what to expect! I say this, of course, in good humor. And my analogy might be a little bit lame. The main point I am making is that the sequence in this class was so unpredictable, so unfamiliar, and so challenging (while, oddly, at the same time, rather mellow, meandering, and lulling), that it had me almost completely outside my comfort zone from the start to the very finish.

During the class, I was fighting with my head:  "What's this? What are we supposed to do now? I don't even know what that is! Where am I supposed to put my foot?!" The inability to anticipate anything whatsoever forces us to get into a different mindset (or, to be a bit tormented if, as I found myself doing, one insists on continuing to expect something predictable to occur). The mindset needs to be "THE MOMENT." I thought I might be getting better at being in the moment, but I learned tonight that I'm getting better at being in the moment when the moment is what I expect it to be. But how do I handle the situation when there's chaos? Um... still got some work to do.

As you can probably imagine, about halfway through class, I was mentally cursing Ginger, thinking "Okay, so I'm not coming back here to one of her classes again!" But, at the same time, I sort of knew that this was going to dissolve within minutes or hours (turned out to be only about a half hour) into "Okay, so I've got to get back into Ginger's class again as soon as possible!" Next time, I am going to step onto my mat with the intention being clearly set on "anything or everything might happen."

The class was a fairly quiet, mellow class, and we all had a decent amount of space, probably because it was a rare, good-weather Friday evening, and people were probably outside instead of being in a hot studio. We didn't really do anything that I could call "Salutations" in any complete or formal sense. We didn't really do anything that I could call a standard "Warrior" series; the Warrior poses that we did do were landed out of other parts of other sequences. Our Standing Splits were initiated by walking hands back to feet from a Downward Dog. Chair poses transitioned into Airplanes. It was sort of like taking a video of a 60 minute class, and cutting it into sixty one-minute clips, throwing them up in the air, and then splicing them back together again.

But this is life, right? If life were like a Bikram class, with the same 23 poses, in the same order, every day, for the same duration, with the same cues and instructions, what would that be like?

Actually, there's really a benefit to both extremes of practice. In Bikram, the focus shifts entirely to quieting the internal chaos that ensues, when we are trapped in these tedious, boring, awkward poses, knowing full-well what is coming next. That is one kind of struggle. But in Vinyasa, we are forced to bear both the chaos of the external circumstance, which is wholly unpredictable, while, at the same time, keeping the wolves at bay inside our minds, which are just dying to create drama and find someone to blame for this discomfort.

Yin. Yang. Internal. External. Mind. Body. Balance. Flow. Tedium. Chaos.

The readiness is all.


22 March, 2012

Finally. Here. Now.

Today was Hatha with Patrick.

There was an energy in the room today that doesn't normally seem to be present in a Hatha class. Usually, the energy and chatter happens over in the other studio, with "The Flow People," and Hatha classes are quiet, calm, almost like you could hear a pin drop. But today, there was a little bit of talking before class, and it felt like everyone was very aware of everyone else in the room. It was just different somehow.

From start to finish, today's class was probably the most "right-on" that I have ever felt in a yoga class. It wasn't that it was easy. It wasn't that the conditions were any more comfortable than typical. It was just the rhythm of the class. Patrick, as I have mentioned before, has a way of providing instruction that is almost a stream of consciousness blend between encouragement, instruction, modification, philosophy and detail that effectively leaves little room for any extraneous noise to creep into one's practice. You could imagine a case where that much coaching would be distracting but, somehow, that is never the case, because it comes across as entirely pertinent, real-time feedback that just keeps you in the moment. It is not something that one can learn how to do. It is something that seems innate.

Today I experienced a "first": in the Low Lunge (with top of back foot on the floor), I was able to push down onto the back foot and lift the back knee up off the floor. This is something that, even just a few weeks ago, had seemed utterly impossible in my mind. I had always thought "there's no way I can push down hard enough on the top of my foot to get that knee to lift."

I also found Standing Bow, once again, to be solid and stable. Getting better at not being distracted by my own body movements, or by the shifting of bodies around me. Those tend to be the hardest things for me. If someone else falls out of the pose, it tends to pull me. Often, certain verbal cues by the instructor, especially beginning a countdown of the final 5 or 10 seconds, trigger me to fall out of Standing Bow. It's truly a position that, for me, requires laser-sharp focus.

But, beyond that pose, everything just felt like it was "the way it should be." I am not sure what was different, but there seemed to be a kind of zoned-in sensation in just about everything. Even when I was almost falling over in Pyramid, I still felt like I was right there where I should be.

At the end of the class, I found myself feeling that kind of light euphoria that I used to feel after going for a long run. I haven't felt that way very often from a yoga class.


21 March, 2012

More ebb less flow

Today was Hatha with Diane.

I am actually liking the dynamic of shifting back and forth between Hatha and Vinyasa in blocks rather than alternating. There is something about getting into a mode, a rhythm, for a period of several days, and then switching it around. Last week I did mostly Vinyasa. Now, the last two days in Hatha I have found that my Standing Bow has become very stable, compared to what it was. I am not sure I would have noticed if I were alternating daily.

Today's class was hot, but the heat didn't seem to be affecting me as much as usual. Interestingly, I heard a couple of people assert that it was one of the hottest classes they'd taken, but it felt normal to me. The perception of heat is highly subjective.

I felt like my standing series was really solid today. I have not been trying to take the one-leg balance pose into a head-to-knee because I really like the feeling of strength and stability of keeping my shoulders up and back, but the head-to-knee makes us sort of cave forward. Eventually I will start working on that one.

There were no major thoughts or revelations today. It seems I experience more insight in the Vinyasa classes. Somehow, the extremes of pushing the body, and the talk that goes along with it tend to trigger me. Hatha is more stilling. Both are necessary.

I'll likely keep running with the Hatha slant for a few more days, with a possible Friday flow class just because.

Okay that's all.

20 March, 2012

Look to the sky

Today was Hatha with Jo.

First class back in Studio B after the ceiling replacement. And each time we reached our arms up to send that energy out to the universe, we were gazing at a shiny new, almost reflective ceiling.

It felt really, really good to have a day of Hatha. Slowing it down. Finding stillness. Today's class was simply perfect.

It's remarkable to me that, just yesterday, Jo ushered us through a grueling, limit-exploring journey and, only 24 hours later, she chaperoned us through a peaceful place of calm. I love that a teacher has the power to create such vast extremes.

Today, I noticed something new. My Warrior II is getting better. My knee is not collapsing inward as much. My front hip is not flying out as much. My arms aren't burning as badly. I am looking in the mirror and seeing a warrior more than just a person trying to do yoga. It's a bit of a tongue in cheek reflection, but it feels different.

I am not sure why or how it has changed. I presume that it required my hips to be opening more. Yet my hips don't feel more open. These tiny changes, almost imperceptible, begin to manifest themselves in the capacity to form shapes with our body, these poses, which we could not previously produce. And each time a new shape materializes, we are forced to recognize that we are in no way static beings. We are constantly changing. Constantly evolving.

And all it takes is practice.


19 March, 2012

What does "rest when you need to" mean?

Today was Power Vinyasa with Jo.

Once again I got escorted by Kathy to the hot part of the room. I might as well stop trying to put myself by the door. Maybe reverse psychology would work?

We were rotated 90 degrees again today. And that was the only thing about that class that was 90 degrees (attempt at humor). The class had over 80 people in it and was HARD!

That brings me to my topic for the day: teachers always say "rest when you need to rest" but I am not sure I actually know when I need to rest. Mostly I try to stick with it. Sometimes I fall behind. Sometimes I drop my knees. Sometimes I forward fold between poses. But rarely do I flat-out take a Savasana mid-series.

Today, finally, I did. We had done flow after flow, with Crescent Lunges, twists, Low Lunges, more twists, Chairs, etc. Finally we hit a point where I was so dizzy and lightheaded that I honesty thought I was going to collapse. Do I take a rest? I don't know. Is that "needing" a rest or is that the magical moment of "the work begins when you want it to end?"

How do I know? How can I be sure?

I am trying to learn and test my limits but I don't fully know that what is "need" for me is "need" for you or anyone else. And I guess it doesn't matter.

I finally did take that Savasana.

I managed not to get down on myself over it. It just seemed like if I am nearly collapsing I am probably "there." When I got back up we were on Eagle and I was still so spent I could not even stand on one leg and wrap, I was so dizzy and shaky. Normally Eagle is one I can do without much effort. So I guess that was my limit.

When I came out of the class I was feeling like Jo is too hard and thinking about how I might avoid her from now on. But a little while later, my thoughts shifted; now I guess I am looking forward to my next Vinyasa class with Jo. Because she guided me toward that edge. The one I am most afraid of. The one where I need to rest. Full. On. Rest. Running away from Jo's class is saying "I don't like that... I think I won't test that limit." I don't want to live like that. I want to go right back at it.

Fearless.

I want to be fearless.

(while I am not sure when to rest, the dog always knows when to go downward)

18 March, 2012

Why not twice?

Today was 60 minutes of Hatha with Erin, followed by 75 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Gordy.

This was my first "official" double class ever. I've done a morning/evening thing, but my general reaction to going right back in the room after sweating so much has been "I don't think so." For some reason, today, several people asked me if I was going to stick around for the next class. My initial reaction was "I don't think so," but then I thought about it for a moment and realized that I didn't really feel strongly opposed to sticking around. I was actually a little curious as to how it would go. What's the worst that could happen? I would spend a lot of time lying on the mat. That's about it.

Erin's Hatha class started off pretty mellow, and relatively cool, making it not too difficult, but I think there was a recognition about halfway through class that the heat wasn't on as much as it probably should have been, and it ended up being "Bikram Hot" by the end of class. I am used to Erin's classes being 90 minutes, so there was definitely a sense of this one being abbreviated at 60 minutes. I also am pretty sure that we ran out of time in the standing series, because we only spent a short time on the floor at the end of class. I've been trying to "sleep" the Eagle pose again lately, since I feel like I've gotten solid enough in the balance and foot-wrapping that I am not severely compromising the pose.

Class ended, and there was the usually lingering outside the studio, during which time I self-persuaded into sticking around for Gordy's class too. It's funny though, because there were definitely two factors at play. One of them is this new "I wonder what would happen if..." process that I think is definitely the result of the yoga practice. But the other thing that was happening was the "seeking approval" thing; I imagined that having people who know me see that I am taking a double class would somehow make them look upon me favorably, or at least give me praise for the effort. And I definitely am a praise-seeker. It's hard for me to tease apart the balance between those two motivations. Which was more significant? Is it right or wrong that I seek praise? But it was definitely something I felt myself doing.

So.

Gordy's class was quite similar to the series that was run on the previous Thursday night, which I described in an earlier entry. We once again had the long flow series, this time led by Heidi. And we once again had the long Plank series, which went even longer this time, through two songs, instead of one, since (as Gordy noted) the first song was too short. I did not stay completely on the Plank poses. I dropped my knees several times, and pushed back to Downward Dog several times. I am not actually sure if this was physical or mental failure (again, I use that word "failure" not in a judgmental way, but merely to refer to a ceasing of the intended course of action). I tried to explore that a little bit during the series, but it was not clear to me. I would venture to guess, however, that 99% of the time that we don't push through, the battle is mental not physical.

At the beginning of class, I'd noticed a tall young woman in front of me who was doing Downward Dog, with one leg raised up nearly vertically in the air. I was marveling at how that is even possible physically. Later, during the class, we were doing Standing Splits, and Gordy actually stopped the music, and stopped the class, right in the middle of a flow series, to call out the amazing form and perfection of this woman's Standing Splits. Seeing a body in such a perfect execution of a pose really makes me appreciate not only the practice of yoga, but also the beauty that is possible in the human form. I liked the fact that Gordy showed this to us in much the same manner that someone would stop you on a nature hike to point out a beautiful flower growing on the path.

After that pause, I found another 3-4 inches of elevation in my back leg.

My first double is done. I don't know for sure that I'll make this a habit, because I do feel like I need to come up with some better solution for managing my dehydration than I currently have. But I am glad I did it, because now I know I can.


17 March, 2012

The physical versus the mental

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Odessa.

It might be better to say it was 5400 seconds... because it sure was a long series of moments. As per usual, I planted myself by the back door, being that it's a long class, and I am always a bit concerned about my heat tolerance in the longer classes. But this time, Kathy and Odessa both made the observation that this location by the door was becoming "my spot." This led to Kathy suggesting I come up front (under the heater) by the mirror right next to her. So... long story short, I decided to take the challenge.

It was indeed a challenge. Odessa's classes have been on the more difficult side the last few times I have attended. Today there was a series that involved going from Crescent Lunge to Airplane, and then somehow, I think, Half Moon was mixed in there too. This happened, if I remember correctly, after a fairly extended series of Chair-related poses, of noteworthy duration. My quadriceps were burning, my calves and shins were burning, everything was shaky. There came a point where I actually experienced what I feel quite certain was a "physical failure" to maintain the pose. I was fried.

And that's where my observation begins. I discovered that, after that failure, the class became harder for me. The subsequent poses were more consciously "grueling," and I was feeling a bit of frustration and growing resentment over the heat, and that, in turn, fed upon itself, making the last 30 minutes or so of class quite trying. At a certain point, I asked myself the question: "What is going on here? Am I fatigued? Am I failing?" Because, there seemed to be a distinct difference between what I was experiencing in the latter portion of the class, and what I experienced in those few moments where I couldn't keep my weight over my left leg in Half Moon. And, what I concluded is that I was experiencing "mental failure." My mind had decided to get involved, and start doing whatever it does: protecting, defending, guarding, excusing, judging. You name it. At one point, where I was feeling like I had moved into a somewhat "half-assed" effort, I managed to muster the will to say "What happens if I stop being half-assed right now, and try to just do the freaking pose right?" Sure enough, I was able to do it. But I could hear my mind fighting it.

It raises an interesting point about how I handle challenges or failure or limitations. It's like I am afraid to actually encounter a limitation or hard-and-fast barrier, so I set my own artificial limitations far below the actual thresholds. I think I do this in many aspects of my life, and it was interesting to see how it happened on the mat.

I can't say that the experience today was pleasant, but I think I understand something new, which is that the unpleasantness is amplified or possibly even created by this mental interference. We are told this every day in class. It's not new. But today, I had a glimpse of myself actually doing it.


16 March, 2012

Cooking strength

Today was Vinyasa with Cassandra.

I'd been looking forward to this class all week, and Friday was here at last. And then, just like that, class was over. Sixty minutes flew by like it was one second. Cassandra came back from vacation fired up, full of positive energy, and full of inspiration, as always. Today, we were once again oriented 90 degrees to the side of the room. It was the second class this week where we were turned, and Cassandra talked about why she wanted us to have this experience. It was about being more focused in our bodies and how they feel, than worrying about how the poses look, or distracted by any other aspects of what we typically observe in the mirror.

It's interesting to me the way a certain energy of change starts happening, and it's almost as if it's just something in the air. Cassandra does the 90 degree rotation, without even being aware that we'd done it in Patrick's class two days earlier. Gordy has us keeping our eyes open the entire class. It makes me wonder what creates these energies.

Today's class, as I mentioned, went by shockingly fast. It was also surprisingly easy. There were some elements in the middle that were very difficult. Plank holds that were especially challenging given what my upper body had endured in the previous two classes. But otherwise, it was rather mellow. At one point during the class, Cassandra was talking to us during a Savasana about how important it is for us to really allow our bodies to come to a full rest during these breaks. She used the expression "Cooking Strength," meaning that our whole practice is about creating this stronger self.

Quote of the day, which I have heard before, but this time she attributed it to Baron Baptiste, was "How you do anything is how you do everything."

If you really think about that, it makes you want to set a really high standard for just about everything, doesn't it?

15 March, 2012

Eyes wide open

Today was 75 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Gordy.

This week, I decided not to hold back at all. If' it's going to be a Vinyasa-filled week, then that's what it's going to be. Prior to today, I had not taken a "regular" Gordy class. I'd only done a couple of his "Fundamentals" classes, and some of the special theme classes that were co-taught by Gordy and Kathy. So this was a first, of sorts.

At the start of class, Gordy made a suggestion to everyone in class: "Keep your eyes open the entire class." This referred not only to the poses, but also to the rests between poses. The idea, he said, was to see if we experienced anything different, and see if it makes us feel more present.

The class today featured two unusual, and relatively challenging sequences. The first was a modified version of Sun Salutation B (with Warrior II added). He had us flow through an entire 5 minute song, with Kathy and Heidi as our "tempo guides" for the sequence. I had never done a flow sequence before that was based around time, rather than based around a number of repetitions. I honestly have no clue how many time we went through the entire sequence, but it seemed to be maybe 7 or 8 times. In some other classes, I have found that I had an expectation of the sequence being repeated maybe 2 or 3 times. And, when it goes a fourth time, I would become impatient. So, it was a little intriguing to me that I didn't have much difficulty keeping up with this longer sequence. Again, I think it has to do with expectations.

The next interesting series was a full song worth of long Plank holds. We would hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then come to the mat for about 30 seconds rest, and then back up again. In total, there were about 5 of 6 of these repetitions. Plank holds are certainly physical, but I suspect that the limiting factor in these long holds is the mental one. There's a voice that gets louder and louder as the pose progresses, and the general tone of that voice is "I don't want to keep doing this!" So, as I have mentioned before, this is definitely a place where the expression "The pose begins when you want it to end" applies.

Gordy also talked at the beginning of class today about how we are driven by our achievements and successes in life. He came back to this point after we got through those two tough series. He asked if any of us surprised ourselves at how we were able to perform those series. And he asked whether any of us felt like this was a kind of a success or achievement. For myself, I can definitely say "yes" to that question. I wouldn't have thought that I could flow for 5 minutes straight, and stay on pace with Kathy and Heidi, who are both much more experienced than I am. But I just kept my eyes on them (they happened to be diagonally in front of me, in my view) and stayed locked in sequence with them. There was no time to get caught in the "I don't want to do this" mindset, because all of my physical energy was focused on the sequence, and all of my mental energy was focused on synchronization with the pacesetters. This is interesting to me, especially, because the teachers often talk about keeping the focus completely in the pose, on the breath, in the moment. Having the pacesetter to follow actually made it much easier. It's almost like our minds do best when they are cognitively loaded in such fashion so as to disallow random thoughts to creep in. I almost wonder if I would benefit from doing weird exercises like counting backwards from 100 when doing poses that are particularly difficult.

For me, the biggest success was making it through a Gordy class. In the past week, I have really been trying to charge right at the things that I have been afraid of, or avoiding.

So this feels pretty good.


Rotate ninety degrees

Today was Vinyasa with Patrick.

The class was not unusually crowded, but we were arranged perpendicular to the typical orientation, i.e. right side of our bodies facing mirror, instead of facing forward toward mirror. This could have been a very minor modification and, as I mentioned earlier, many (most) Vinyasa studios don't even have a mirror. Initially my mat was placed somewhere near the middle of everything, but I decided at the last moment that I wanted to be next to the mirror, because I thought it could be interesting to see how some of the poses look from the side; a view I rarely ever see.

How good is my Downward Dog? How straight are my arms in Side Angle? How bent is my front knee? \

Right?

So I placed myself next to the mirror, with the extra (important) detail being that I was in the absolute front corner of the room, under two heaters, with no view of any other students in the class.This turned out to be quite a different experience. The only reference point I had regarding my own form was a shadow on the wall in front of me (which is surprisingly useful, in the absence of any other stimuli). Though I did get to see my Downward Dog (not that impressive) and my Side Angle (pretty darn good), there really were not many other opportunities to observe myself in the mirror. Some of the poses where it could have happened, such as Half Moon, are poses where I am not yet able to rotate far enough to look into the mirror.

The class was very intense and challenging, as I knew it would be. I was also using all of my yogi-calm to not berate myself for moving directly under a heater. Good practice in being kind to myself, right? I suppose. The highlight of the class, which would ultimately have me "feeling it" for days afterwards (I'm postdating this entry), were a series of High Plank to Low Plank transitions (what the rest of us would call "Push Ups"). Really amazing workout.

I am starting to understand my body better. Like everyone, I have strengths and weaknesses. My chest is strong, my arms are strong, my quadriceps are pretty strong. My shoulders are not bad. Middle and upper back are fair. My abs are fair. My hamstrings are incredibly tight. My hips, and the surrounding muscles, are tight (and possibly weak). Low back, pretty weak.

I don't say those things as criticisms of myself. They're just facts. Yoga poses illuminate these facts. Poses require specific muscles, and the ability to persist in a pose, or to achieve a certain degree of expression, are directly dependent on the strength, flexibility, and endurance of those muscles. The interesting question to me is "Why are my hips and low back so weak?" I was a runner for most of my life, and it just seems odd that I would not have a lot of strength in there. I suppose it's possible that my assessment isn't entirely accurate. Maybe I am labeling something as weakness, when it's actually tightness.

In the past week or two, I have really started looking forward to yoga each day. Not just the idea of going to class, but the entire experience: the workout, the environment, the people, the heat, the afterglow. I've had this little thought in my head of "Will I be able to keep coming here like this forever?" Of course, nothing is forever, but I am enjoying each of these moments.


13 March, 2012

Finding room for Hatha

Today was Hatha with Ginger.

I took the noon class today, to squeeze in another Hatha class around the modified schedule at the studio. This is probably only the second or third class I have ever taken with Ginger, and I like her classes because they tend to be quite a bit different feel than the other instructors. As I mentioned before, she tends to always give you a "breath count" in advance; letting you know that you'll be in Side Angle for 5 breaths, for example. This is an interesting counterbalance to the other end of the spectrum, where you have no idea what is coming next, though both have their value and their place in a practice.

There's also something fluid, and almost flow-like about the way Ginger does a class. Even though there were no full-fledged flow sequences, she still gives a sense of movement that continues throughout the class.

I am without many words today.

12 March, 2012

Finding comfort in discomfort

Today was 75 minutes of Vinyasa with Odessa.

This week, for some reason, I decided to map out my yoga schedule for the week. I don't know why this week, but probably because I was trying to find a Hatha class at some point (turns out, that will be tomorrow at noon with Ginger). I also wanted to mix in some variety and hit my body with some different instructors this week. So I'm looking at Ginger, Patrick, and Gordy over the next three days.

You probably didn't need to know all that.

Today's class was H-A-R-D! Started with abs, and then went into flow, after flow, after flow, through Crescent Lunges, Low Lunges, all the Warriors, repeated Chairs, twists on everything that could possibly be twisted.

When we seemed to be winding down, we still hit it hard again for Side Planks and Dolphin Planks. The only thing we were "spared" was Wheel.

And all this physiological fury delivered in Odessa's calming, ethereal tone.

I fought the heat and humidity a bit. Really had to consciously try to drag myself back to the moment, and back to the breath. But now I am taking 75 minute Vinyasa classes. I used to shy away from them. I am not sure if this is physical progress, so much as progress in my willingness.

Odessa repeats a quote she heard from a colleague: "The secret to life is finding comfort in discomfort"

And then Odessa says: "Hips drop... Utketasana... Chair Pose"

Comfort in discomfort, indeed.


(i have no idea what this means, but they spelled aesthetic wrong)


11 March, 2012

Just when you think it's getting easy

Today was Hatha with Diane.

Sunday afternoon class. This one tends to be pretty crowded. Rumor has it, there were 74 people in the class today. I had guesstimated 69 (based on my quick count of 23, multiplied by 3 rows). If you put that many people in the room, you know what happens? If not, refer to my entry about Heat Index.

Once again, I arrived 45 minutes early, because I cannot seem to remember that this class starts at 4:30pm. Mental note to self:  CLASS STARTS AT 4:30PM ON SUNDAYS!!! There. I should never forget it again. One would hope. Arriving early, I laid my towel down in what I considered to be a strategic spot, near the front mirror, and spaced exactly evenly between two heaters (there's a big difference being in front of a heater, versus between the heaters, which are evenly spaced about every 6-8 feet along the walls. Went to the locker room, and sat there, goofing around on my iPhone for about 20 minutes. Finally made my way down, and I am about to lay out my mat, and realize that my towel is now directly in front of the heater, and closer to the person to the left of me than I was before. And the class is not crowded, so it was not a case of needing to pack everyone in (yet, though it did ultimately become that crowded). I look at the person next to me, whom I've never seen before, and the first thought that goes into my mind is "This guy moved my mat so that he wouldn't be in front of the heater!" For a moment, I was irritated, but I decided to pick up my mat and move to a different spot. And in the end, I don't think it would have made a difference, because it was just plain hot.

I think I'm complaining.

Anyway, the more important point here is that I actually have no idea how or why my towel moved three feet to the left. I don't know that this guy moved it so that he wouldn't be in front of the heater. I don't even know that this guy was the person who moved it. I really don't know anything. And it doesn't do much good to try to perform some sort of crime-scene analysis to figure it out (though, I kinda think he moved it <grin>).

I usually expect Diane's classes to be gentle, relaxing, and easy, in terms of the energy that she sets in the room. Today, I found myself in the Land of Asphyxiation, to the point that I started needing to fight the mental battle to not complain to myself. It's funny, actually, because I just got done with my sort of righteous assertions over the past few days about how much easier the practice is getting, and about how I am not being hard on myself, and not getting frustrated, and being in the moment, and all these fantastically yogi-like accomplishments. And then, today, Sunday afternoon Hatha kicked my ass.

It just goes to show you.

Manufacturing drama

I decided to re-read some of my posts, and noticed that I have a tendency to type at significant length around the subject of "creating drama." This is, as I have noted, something that rings true to me. I know that I have a propensity for doing it, and that it's an area where I need to grow. I often feel it on the mat, at the end of a class. And I have had the experience of recognizing it, and still creating it anyway. Not surprisingly, I have started noticing a parallel experience off the mat; not only recognizing that I am creating drama, but doing it anyway. It's almost as if I want that drama.

Right now, in one way or another, my life is sort of in a figurative Savasana. But, nonetheless, I see myself rooting around, finding ways to not be still, to not be calm. And I have to ask myself: "Why do I want to create this drama?" In the past, I have focused on this, though I didn't have the label that I ascribe to it here. I might have called it "making things harder than they need to be" or "creating a problem where there is none." But there's something perfect about the expression "creating drama" that almost answers the question before you finish asking it.

I could expend my energy on exploring why I have this tendency. I might get somewhere, gain some insight, come away with a few snapshots of the navel that I didn't previously have. But it isn't really going to get me where I want to be. There may be an easier path. Just stop creating the drama. When the thoughts arise, when the mind begins stirring, when the negative fantasies start coalescing, just stop.

Stop.

Breathe.

Return to the moment.

Because the moment is actually drama-free. On my back. Shoulders relaxed down. Feeling the earth pushing back against me. Arms open. Palms facing up. Feet falling open slightly to each side. Face soft. Jaw relaxed. Eyes closed.

This is Savasana.

(enjoy it... because the work is coming)


10 March, 2012

Receiving the gift

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Odessa.

It's been a long week, and it was nice to get a solid 10 hours of sleep, the first 2 hours of which occurred on my living room floor in front of the fireplace last night. Woke up refreshed, and utterly enthusiastic about taking a long, morning yoga class. Yogurt for some energy. 800mg of ibuprofen for the knees. Ready for the bus ride downtown.

Because it's a long class, I once again came equipped with 2 liters of water (1 with Emergen-C, the other without) and positioned myself by the door (more accurate would be to say "in the door").

Today's class was great. Pretty intense, with a few balancing series that had me almost falling over. By the time we got to standing balance poses like Eagle and Tree, I was fuzzy-minded and wavering from fatigue, but in an entirely awesome way.

It was amusing and rather ironic that, in today's class, I ended up having a bull's eye view of the clock that Odessa uses for making sure class stays on schedule. There are no clocks in the room, except this tiny one. And every time I was in Downward Dog, my eyes were pointing straight at the clock. So, for most of a 90 minute Vinyasa class, I was keenly aware of exactly where we were in the class. 10:15 doing Sun-A. 10:35 in Twisted Chair, etc. I recognized immediately that this could be a bad thing or a non-thing. So, when it came time to set intention in today's class, it was a no-brainer:  "Timelessness". The clock is there, but it does not matter, because I am going to be feeling my body move through every nuance of every pose. When my legs are burning in Half Moon so much that I just want to crumble, my mind will not go to "It's 10:47" because my mind will be too busy experiencing what it feels like to have my legs burning in Half Moon so much that I just might crumble (though I won't actually crumble; maybe just wobble).

Near the end of the class, Odessa commented that one of her teachers, Baron Baptiste (she says, casually), once said that the final Wheel of the class will determine whether you walk out of the class, or fly out of the class. Today, I achieved a kind of elevation and elation on "Wheel #6" that was far beyond anything I have ever experienced in that pose. And the inspiration came from knowing that Odessa's words were only one-degree separated from an iconic figure in the yoga practice.




I've only taken three of Odessa's classes, due to the way the schedule tends to work, but I think I would like to seek her class a little more frequently, because she has a wonderful calming energy, and her sequences are a bit of a complement to many of the other classes offered.

There's been a change in the past week. I am not sure if it's just a phase I am now in, or if it may reflect an actual progression. The big difference I am feeling is that I am no longer impatient with classes, even in the face of challenge, fatigue, heat. I am starting to welcome whatever comes. This seems to be happening off the mat too, which I find very satisfying.

09 March, 2012

The heart knows what is true

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

A much awaited, and much appreciated experience, as always.

Today was day one of the Vinyasa marathon. I will likely attend one Hatha class, Sunday, with Diane. Then it's nothing but power for the week.

Cassandra started class by asking if there were any requests. Someone asked for heart opening poses. So Cassandra began class by talking about the heart. It's really quite amazing to me, how she integrates the physical part of practice with what could only be described as a spiritual part.

Cassandra quote of the day: "if you are trying to figure out if something is true for you or not, ask yourself where you feel it. If you feel it in your heart then it must be true because only what is true and real can enter into that place"

My heart was opening before we even had one drop of sweat.

Class was intense today. We did some unusual poses and sequences today. Nothing completely wild but just a little shuffled around from a garden variety Vinyasa class.

During several of the rests today, Cassandra made a foreshadowing assertion: "rest now, because the work is coming." I am not sure why, but I really like that. There are times where we don't know what is coming. But there are also times in life where we know exactly what coming. And it is good to learn how to prepare for that. Not to brace ourselves, but to be open, willing, ready, fearless.

I want to be fearless.

08 March, 2012

Last call for Hatha

Today was Hatha with Colette.

UYS is about to do some renovations, as I think I mentioned earlier. As a result, today was probably one of the only Hatha classes I will take for the coming week.

It was interesting doing a week of almost exclusively Hatha. Different muscles are sore. My hamstrings feel very worked out. Even more surprising is that my lats are very tired. I never knew that would happen. I think it's from a lot of the stretches where you pull with biceps, as well as side angle, half tortoise, etc. An important thing to note is that a week of Hatha is *not* a week of rest. I did want to lay off the plank poses and downward dogs for a bit, but the class is still a workout.

I think it was Jo who said you burn more calories in Hatha than Vinyasa. I am trying to figure out how that could be true. But I guess I could believe it because of all the balancing, which uses big quadriceps muscles.

Today's energy was a little unusual. We had some Ani DiFranco and some Nirvana. Quirky, right? For the first time ever, in a Hatha class, we only did one set of Side Angle... Unusual, right?

But my focus was still there and, the reality is, life doesn't often deal us what we expect, so a class that is a little unexpected is actually a great opportunity to practice with the unexpected.

Tomorrow begins the long stretch of flow. I think I am ready for it.


07 March, 2012

In need of a 48-hour Savasana

Today was Hatha with Jo.

Today was also my tenth consecutive day of yoga, and I've decided that tomorrow will be a scheduled day of rest. The shoulder was supposed to be receiving a break, via the Hatha-only stint. But, I am now discovering that Hatha also does a little bit of work on the shoulders as well. Things like Ardha-Chandrasana and Extended Side Angle pose really work the deltoids. I found that, if I am not really gentle, the latter can actually irritate the joint as well. I'm hoping that a day off will do the trick.


Much to my disappointment, I'm probably on the verge of doing a Vinyasa-only stint, because UYS is about to begin some renovations of one of their studios. This will result in most of the Hatha classes for the week being canceled. I am going to need to find a way to take it easy, and still do the poses. We shall see. It's hard to do things like Plank pose, Upward Dog, Downward Dog, without really getting the shoulders involved. No way around it really.

This was the first time I'd ever taken a Hatha class with Jo. I didn't actually know that she teaches Hatha, but I guess she's had a 6am class for a long time that is before my waking hour, so I have never seen it. It is always kind of fun taking a class with a new instructor. While I have had plenty of Vinyasa classes with Jo, this was a different experience, and a different energy comes with it. It was really nice. The class was very crowded today, and the room was quite hot. But it felt good. For this hour class, we did two sets of most of the standing poses, and compensated on the back end by doing one set of most of the floor sequence, even skipping Pigeon today. 

My back muscles are tired. Almost cramping. My eyes are dry. I am not feeling particularly philosophical. 

All this suggests it is time for rest.


05 March, 2012

A case of the Mondays

Today was Hatha with Bret.

Hatha. Hatha. Hatha. I've definitely conditioned myself to tolerate Hatha.

The more you do it, the faster it seems to go. I don't know if it's that I'm getting better at it, or if it's purely psychological. But the standing series seems to fly by. Perhaps it's the 90 minute classes on the weekend, rendering the hour-long classes "short." Could be.

Classes have been crowded lately. Lots of new faces. I suppose it's seasonal. I don't know if this is what always happens after New Year's, but it seems like resolutions would have faded by now? Maybe? Other possibility is that their membership package promotions brought a lot of new customers. It's good for the business to have crowded classes. But I do miss a sparse room. Maybe it will slow down when the weather gets better outside. In the cold, late Winter, what else is there to do to stay warm besides hot yoga?

There's not much to note today.

I have been doing very simple versions of the poses lately. As I've mentioned before, my standing leg is never feeling rock-solid on balancing poses. I am therefore disciplining myself to focus only on that standing leg. The Eagle don't sleep, and the Standing Head-to-Knee is just a one-legged Tadasana, until I feel like I've got impeccable balance.

Hips seem tighter than usual for the past week or so. It's almost as if the plane ride tightened me, and I never loosened after it.

Lots of questions. Lots of theories. No answers. This is practice. This is life.


04 March, 2012

Overcoming obstacles

Today was 90 minutes of Hatha with Erin.

It was another morning where I could have just as easily stayed in bed. But I don't want to miss the opportunity to do these long classes (actually, I am not entirely sure if it's commitment, discipline, obsession, or what, but it is driving me to get up and go every day).

Erin's classes are a little bit more "granular" in terms of detail around form than most of the other Hatha classes. She is very good at using literal directions (e.g. telling you about proper body alignment and motion), as well as figurative directions (e.g. "fluff up your chest") to draw the most out of us in every pose. It's funny, because those little suggestions like fluffing things up really help, even though I am not exactly sure what it means to fluff something. Somehow, just the thought, the idea, the bringing of awareness amounts to more extension. Erin is consistent throughout the class in repeating these types of small messages that bring better form and more extension. I also like that, on any given week, she may choose a single detail on which to focus. For example, this week, she spoke a lot about drawing our shoulder blades down in the back, to open our chest more. This message related to many different poses, and it really altered my thinking about the practice.

Class was not too hot, which was again very nice.

Today, I came equipped with 2 liters of water again, but barely needed to finish the first liter. Sharp contrast from the previous day. I really do think it's just my body (not necessarily the room conditions) that vary considerably from one day to the next.

This weekend felt like a mental victory. The long classes had been really killing me. A big part of the reason was that I kept showing up in anticipation of hell, and got what I was expecting. I tried to come to these classes with a feeling of positivity and confidence: "I want to do this, and I am going to enjoy this."

Perhaps an hour class is going to feel short now?

In line with this accomplishment, I also finally managed to get myself to sit down (off the mat) and finish a very tedious project that had been lingering for weeks. It was a report that I needed to write. The report was no longer important, but needed to be done, and I had been procrastinating it forever. Every time I would think about sitting down to do it, there would be this feeling of doom, and it would automatically morph into avoidance... write a blog... browse the web... play music... text with a friend... This yoga practice is absolutely shining a light on these types of thoughts and avoidance. I see myself doing it, and I know that just doing it would be far less unpleasant than moaning about it. I didn't get there as quickly as I might have liked, but I finally got there. And it feels good to have the weight lifted.

For that, I have to give thanks to UYS instructors for making me sit deep in Chair pose, when my legs were screaming, or to try to remain stable, with my top leg raised, in Side Plank, while stinging sweat is dripping into my eyes. These uncomfortable experiences make report writing seem just a little more tolerable.


03 March, 2012

Intention to rest

Today was 90 minutes of Hatha with Colette.

As you've probably seen in my previous posts, I have a bit of a mental struggle with the 90 minute Hatha classes. I decided that I cannot avoid these, and cannot just resign myself to perpetual torture, either. So the plan is to desensitize myself, and destigmatize the 90 minute class, so that it becomes an enjoyable experience, maybe even a preferred experience. In fact, on Thursday evening, Colette was talking about how at least one class a week that we do should be 90 minutes, because it's important to have an opportunity to do two sets of every pose.

Ugh.

So I've committed myself to it.

Friday night I did not get a great night of sleep. For various reasons, I did not finally get to sleep until about 2am, so I knew that getting up for a 9am class was potentially going to be a challenge. I really needed rest. But I had committed, in my mind, to doing the class. And I don't want to set a pattern of breaking commitments to myself (though, as I write this entry, I am procrastinating writing a report for work that I've been promising myself I'd *just finish* for the past 3 weeks).

Because I did not want to walk into the room with any negative expectations or anxiety about the long class, I decided to arm myself with 2 entire liters of water, instead of the usual 1 liter. There have been one or two times where I have run out of water during a 90 minute class, and that is not a great place to be. I have been trying to (as Patrick once put it) "honor the practice" by only drinking water at the prescribed water break points. It doesn't always work that way, but I try to not begin taking water ad libitum until I am on the floor and, even then, only between certain poses. Having the extra water is like a psychological insurance policy, and it definitely helps. It turns out, I did drink 1.5 liters during the class.

The class was blissfully not too hot, though I sweated a ton anyway. When it came time to set my intention for the class, for some reason it came to me just like that:  "Rest."

How can that be? How can you set an intention on resting while doing a physical series of poses, in a hot room? Well, I wasn't exactly sure how, but I knew that what I needed was rest, and I decided in that moment that maybe it was possible to rest while practicing. What that meant for me was to find an ease in every pose. To not think about the poses as strenuous - even the challenging ones like Standing Bow or Balancing Stick - but to find an easy place where I am not fighting gravity, or fighting myself. To be rested by being peaceful.

Somehow it worked. The class breezed by. Before I knew it, we were on the floor, and before I knew it, we were done.

Some of my balance poses have been getting better again. Standing Bow, a little more stable. I am not sure why, but this pose seems to go in waves, over two-week periods, where I am sometimes very solid, and then completely wobbly again. Given that I've done a bit more Hatha lately, that might be part of the reason. I think the Vinyasa really makes my legs tired from the difficult leg poses, and it erodes my balance (in the short term, anyway). I have not been taking variations lately on the standing poses, Eagle or one-leg balancing (would be Standing Head-to-Knee, but I stay in Mountain, with one leg raised). I feel like, although I could try to do the variations, my standing leg has been shaky enough that I'd rather work on that becoming effortless, than constantly be trying to force the next step.

It's hard to know how much of the ease that I experienced today was due to the power of intention, versus the circumstances of the given day. You need a lot of data on such things to determine conclusively. But I shouldn't really worry about why it was as it was. It just was.

And I am glad for that.


02 March, 2012

In the palm of the mother's hand

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Seriously, this was an intense class! In spite of nursing the shoulder, I didn't want to miss the chance to attend this class. Highlights included a very extended Warrior flow series, fast-tempo, with almost no break between repeats. I fully expected we'd go through the flow twice, and then there was a third repeat that caught me a little bit by surprise. I was expecting the rest in Child's Pose. But I'm getting better at just going with it. So the rest will be a little later. Cassandra is good at giving the words of encouragement to get us through the last little bit that our minds don't want to do. She give an enthusiastic "You're almost there!" and that somehow helps, even though we know exactly how far away from "there" we are; those little words make it easier to continue.

She talked a lot about energy. About how we encounter negative energy and we need to be able to work through it. The energy of others, the energy in ourselves, the energy of situations. This was a theme in both of her classes this week.

Late in the class, we went down to the mat for what felt like it would undoubtedly be the start of the floor series. It was probably at about the 45 minute mark, and we'd just finished some tough series with Standing Splits and Half Moon. Surely the floor series was upon us. And, again, to my surprise (and I think everyone) we were suddenly doing Dolphin Planks.

I realize my message is chaotic today.

Near the end of class, Cassandra said something about how the mat is the place that we grow. She made a comment about how we are in the palm of the mother's hand. That stuck with me, and I knew as soon as I heard it that this was the quote of the day, and a worthy title for the blog. I like the imagery in that message. This giant, safe, nurturing, warm place. Holding us. Protecting us.

It's safe here.


01 March, 2012

Another day, another dharma

Today was Hatha with Colette.

I am trying to do a stint of Hatha only. It will probably be interrupted by a Cassandra class tomorrow but, otherwise, I feel like my body needs it. All the dogs... Upward... Downward... My right shoulder is a little inflamed and I don't want to find myself needing to take an injury break. So, it's time to let sleeping dogs lie.

Today's class was, again, mellow. Not very hot. And it felt like a very fast hour. Colette had a light and casual mood in the room. She joked about people giving her the "stink eye" for making us stay in poses too long. Everyone laughed. It was nice.

I noticed that, in side angle, my right deltoid was very sore. It's got nothing to do with the inflammation I mentioned. The latter is deep in the joint. But the shoulder soreness is another indicator that going easy up there is the right plan.

I felt a little separate again today at the studio. Community feels like it is at arms' reach the last couple of days.

Ebb and flow.