31 May, 2012

It's good to be Alice

Today was Power Vinyasa with Kathy.

The title of this blog was supposed to be "It's good to be alive" but my iPhone changed it to "Alice" and that seemed pretty good too.

Today, I was well on my way to dipping a notch lower into the cloud-induced funk, feeling down about the flurry of violence that's taken place around town. Then, a random exchange of greetings at the supermarket snapped me out of it, or at least started me in the right direction.

"It's good to be alive."

That's what he said. And I realized immediately how true that is. And given that it's good to be alive, it is even better to appreciate being alive.

And that started the gradual upswing from the low of the past few days. Then, Kathy's class catapulted me along that path back to positivity.

The energy in class today, in spite of the large crowd, was a bit subdued. Kathy started class with a dedication to the families of the many victims of recent shootings around town. It was on everyone's mind. And I really appreciate that she called it out. Because it is there like a elephant. She ended class with some very powerful words about how we go through periods of surging forward, and periods of regrouping and restoring for that next forward surge. And that when times feel rough, it is important, above all, not to become "downhearted."

This rang so true to me, it was almost as if she was in my head. And it was exactly the message I needed.

We are not alone. It's a hard week for everyone.

Between those inspirational bookends, we had a strenuous, but well-paced class, with lots of Dolphin Planks, and a fairly even balance of flow and balance work. Kathy and her assistant, Julie, were both doing hands-on adjustments, and the atmosphere felt incredibly nurturing.

I am glad yoga is there for me.

30 May, 2012

Trying to make sense of the chaos

Today was Hatha with Diane.

Such a peaceful environment. Such a calming voice. Such a wonderful class.

Yet, around me, it feels like there is so much chaos and "non-sense." I am intentionally splitting that word down the middle. We so often use the word "nonsense" these days to connote "ridiculousness" or "bullshit" or other variations of flippancy. What I really mean is "non-sense:" that which just does not make sense (to me).

In class, we often hear instructors talk about how chaos is our perception; it is something in the mind. Things just are what they are, but they become chaos because we label or experience them that way through our filter of thinking. But I look in the world around me; heck, I look at Seattle these last few weeks, and I see violence and loss of life that is very difficult not to label. I know it's true that it's still a choice as to whether I point a finger and say "this is complete chaos" or take some other path.

How can we not label it?

But then I start thinking, "Is it really a good idea for me to be walking all around town, or taking the bus? Maybe it would be safer if I weren't doing that?" And that's where I realize why the labeling takes me down a bad path. If I believe that something bad is out there, and that I could conceivably take actions to avoid it, then all of a sudden, I am living from a place of fear. It's absolutely true that there are ill-advised things to do, from a standpoint of safety. But I don't want to close off. I don't want to not walk all around town because of some chance of something bad occurring. Something bad could occur anywhere, anytime, in any way. That's just the way life is.

But good things happen everywhere, all the time, in all sorts of ways too. To be fair, should I consider that to be chaos as well? Completely unpredictable goodness.

Bear with me... I'm going through a little "thing" this week.

Hatha today was indeed Hot. It was nice to take Diane's class again. It had been a while.

29 May, 2012

Desperately in the breath

Today was Power Vinyasa with Rob.

It was quite a crowded room, day after holiday, and there was a strong sense of the collective energy. The class had a good tempo, and was not too hot.

For the past few days, I have been feeling a sense of "separateness." I am not sure if it is self-induced, or circumstantial. But I just have felt like I am floating along, not connected. I suspect it has to do with the juxtaposition of the previous weekend in Port Townsend. That weekend was all about connection.

In any case, knowing this was going on in me, I tried to overemphasize focus on breath, almost coaxing myself out of the inward obsession through my breath. I found that a) it kind of worked, for at least 45 minutes of the class, and b) placing that much focus on breath and committing to it actually turns the flow into something that makes a lot more sense. I would venture to say that I am normally not breathing enough in class.

All these perceptions of connectedness, separateness, even happiness, sadness, are often mediated entirely internally. The world around us may be unchanged, yet we transition from state to state. On one hand, I wish I understood better how that is happening.

But on the other hand, I am not sure if I would like what I see. I recognize that "practice" sometimes exposes us to things we don't want to see.

Not feeling so fearless today.

But there's always tomorrow...

28 May, 2012

Memorials

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Class was a recap of Friday's "boot camp," but my experience in the class was a bit different. First of all, I'd been given some advance warning to expect the recap. Sometimes "expectations" can make things worse, but sometimes they make things better. What's the difference? I guess when you have expectations, but you don't know what's actually coming, you're setting yourself up for a reality correction and, at the same time, focusing on this mental image of the future, as opposed to just whatever is. I do this all the time. On the mat and off the mat. We think we should be getting a Child's Pose and it doesn't happen. We think they should be opening the door and they don't. We expect that we're going to get a promotion or a raise, and it doesn't happen. So it's actually baseless expectations that are the problem.

Today, I had been forewarned that we would be revisiting "boot camp" (and I refer to it that way tongue-in-cheek, since I am pretty certain that real boot camp is not as dreamy as a Power Vinyasa class). So my brain said "Okay, I know what this class is going to be like," and I was ready for it, and that was that.

At the start of class, Cassandra asked us to think about Memorial Day, and sacrifice, and people who may have lost their lives for our freedom, or safety. I would go one step further and note that our troops sometimes lose their lives under circumstances where we are never really sure that it was for our freedom or our safety, but perhaps only for a political goal, or some other agenda that is not so noble. And the troops must do whatever mission our government decides to deploy them to do.

My cousin Michael died in Vietnam in 1968. I never met him, because he died a few months before I was born. But he was my first cousin. My Dad's nephew. I know nothing about him at all really, other than that he'd already supposedly flown all the missions he was required to fly, but somehow had elected to do more. His helicopter was shot down. I never had the opportunity to understand the impact this had on my aunt and uncle, or on their other son who was a little younger at the time. I know it had an impact on my brother, who was much older than me, and was close with Michael.

Michael's brother, Al, served in the Navy in the early 1970s, and I am told he was part of the crew of the world's first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus.

My Dad served in WWII. He was in the Navy near the very end of the war, after Japan had already surrendered, from 1945-1947. It was mostly duty in the Pacific on a small support vessel, with stops at many islands throughout the Pacific, and there was never any battle involved.

I had another cousin who elected to join the Army special forces, and served on missions in Grenada during the early part of the 1980s as a paratrooper, and he made it back fine.

And that is the extent, as far as I know, of my family's involvement in war over the past 100 years. Though, now that I think about it, we always had a folded up American Flag from my grandfather, so I guess he must have been in the military as well? World War I probably... I should really know this.

Sometime back in the early 1990s, I visited the Vietnam War memorial in Washington D.C. There's a wall on which the names of all the fallen troops are carved. I found the name of my cousin Michael on that wall. I took a photograph. And that was the closest I actually ever came to "touching" his presence, since he was never a part of my physical world, and I barely even recall any photos of him.

In today's class, I sent my dedication to my cousin whom I'd never met. Because I can't even conjure an image of him, there was only a vague sense of what it meant to dedicate something to him. But I thought a little about how it must have destroyed my aunt and uncle in ways from which they never recovered. My parents never had to endure that loss. And among my circle of friends, we've been fortunate to have never lost anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I felt pretty strong in class today, though there were a couple of brutally difficult sequences. After doing the long sequence of Side Planks and push-ups, we reach a point where it feels like a Child's Pose is long due. But there was still a series of Warrior II and Side Angle, transitioning into Triangle, Pyramid, and Standing Splits (and throw Crow in there, for good measure). Eventually, I settled into this sequence, but that initial shock of going right into Warrior II after the push-ups is what puts this particular class among the pinnacle "edge-pushing" experiences.

Today, because I was feeling strong, I decided to give a go at some of the poses I have been modifying for weeks now. I did the flipped Downward Dog, Side Plank, and Belly-of-the-Beast without modification. It appears that neither my shoulder nor my elbow objected. In any case, I will still only sprinkle these back in on a weekly basis, because the overdoing it is exactly how I got the injuries in the first place.

Near the end of class, we did some Bridge poses with arms spread wide. They felt really good, and it was stretching my upper back and neck in a nice way. I decided to take these instead of Wheel, since it was working for me today.

27 May, 2012

Grasping at the moment

Today was 75 (90) minutes of (Hatha +) Power Vinyasa with Gordy.

One day of rest, after my 8 day mini-yogalympics, but I felt like I was well-rested. In spite of spending most of the night feeling dehydrated, I arrived on my mat with what seemed like a spring in my step. During our opening warm-ups, we were doing some sort of Downward Dog thing where we had to walk our hands slightly back toward our feet, and then lift up one leg, and bend at the knee. This is a pretty standard opening move, except for the walking the hands back part. For some reason, this reminded me of Ginger's class, where she has us walk back into Standing Splits from Downward Dog. I was feeling fresh, and decided to take it that little bit further, walking my hands all the way back to feet and going into a modified Standing Splits, then Half Moon, with the knee bent on the raised leg, hips slightly stacked. I don't know what possessed me to do it, but it felt good.

However, the energy I had at the start of the class did not last me the full 75 (90) minutes.

Gordy had some very interesting, unique ideas for today's class. Essentially, the first third of the class was a good chunk of what one would normally do in a Hatha class. A series of standing poses, without much in the way of flowing. We saw Dancer's Pose, Eagle, modified Standing Head-to-Knee, modified Hatha Chair series (imagine transitioning from the first phase of Chair series into the raised up on tiptoes, but starting at the deepest point in your Chair, rather than coming up out of it first).

We did not do our first true Chaturanga until probably close to 40 minutes into the class. But then, rest assured, we flowed. As we often do in Gordy's classes, we had about 5-6 solid minutes of flow, with a challenging sequence:  Warrior I, Warrior II, Crescent Lunge, Warrior I, Warrior II, Reach, Reverse, Flow. In the 5-6 minutes, I think I probably went through about 8 repetitions of that flow. And I was not in lock-step with the "pace car," who had probably carried the class through about 11-12 of them. The tricky transition in there is the Warrior II to Crescent Lunge, because it is not something we're used to doing.

There were a series of Plank holds, of course. A series of Side Planks, with the usual Belly-of-the-Best and Wild Thing transitions added (all modified, in my case, to Side Planks with one knee down, and top leg raised).

At the point where we were all pretty much spent, and it felt like we'd been easily going for 75 minutes (we had!) there was still Warrior II with Side Angle. Side Angle is one of those poses that can be a somewhat joyful deep stretch, when you're fresh, or a rather grueling, quadricep and glute-burning ordeal, when your legs have already endured over an hour of standing balance work.

We finally made it to the mat (at around the 75 minute mark, one would assume), and finished up with some Locust, Floor Bow, Pigeon (I skipped) and, of course, a few sets of Wheel.

Today, my mind struggled mightily. I felt so strong at the beginning, but the heat and the extreme leg workout really took its toll, and by the halfway point in class, it was a battle of Mind vs. Everything. I was able to smile at the challenge and, other than briefly longing for the door to be open more than it was, I didn't find myself spiraling out of control with respect to the surroundings. But I found myself battling random thoughts that had nothing to do with "The Moment." Thinking about work, here and there. Thinking about what was coming next. Wondering when we'd be done. Wondering how much longer I could stand it. But also realizing that the wondering (not "The Moment") was actually far worse than the actual being, yet still I kept on wondering. Why?

When we neared the final Savasana, during the last few stretching poses, I actually found myself skimming the edge of a full-on panic. Suddenly, the thoughts of the heat in the room, and my desire to "be done" got mixed together with thoughts about some work I needed to accomplish today, and how much I did not want to do that work. And the panic stemmed from this feeling that I was not going to be able to make myself do that work. I was afraid I was going to freak out, and not get it done, and resented the fact that I even had to do it in the first place!

I had to consciously replace that thought with "Breathe... this breath... and this breath... and this breath... and this breath..." Planting this substitute for the chaos spinning in my mind. It was still "thought," but it was at least thought that was bringing me back to the moment, instead of pulling me further away.

Today there was a lot on my mind outside of yoga. And I am curious as to how much those looming thoughts, like wolves outside the fence, affected focus during practice. Did my panic ensue because of the physical experience in the poses? Or was I simply more vulnerable to the cracks in the fence that let those wolves come charging in, howling their distractions, and breaking my resolve? I think I know the answer to that, and I'm not thrilled with it. But I also recognize that I am not impervious, nor should I expect myself to be.

It can take years to do certain poses. And we seem to have an intuitive okay-ness about the fact that we can't all do arm balances from day one. But it seems it might take as many, or more years to do the "pose" of quieting the mind, and we seem to have an intuitive not-okay-ness about the fact that changing the shape of our mind is even more difficult than changing the shape of our body.

The tangible seems so much easier to grasp than the intangible.

Funny how that works.

26 May, 2012

Thus ends the Mitchell Sisters Marathon

Today was Power Vinyasa Boot Camp with Drill Sergeant C. L. Mitchell.

In all seriousness, Cassandra came to class today with Memorial Day on her mind, and a message about sacrifice that others make for us, and about getting outside of our own minds to experience gratitude for what we do have in this world: safety, freedom, health and, above all, the time to practice yoga together.

This was my tenth class in eight days. Every one of those classes was with either Cassandra or Jo. Normally, as I have mentioned in earlier entries, I make a conscious effort to spread my classes around the different instructors so that I am getting the different messages, the different styles, challenging my mind and body in different ways. But this week started off with the retreat in Port Townsend, and I felt this deep desire to keep that feeling going as long as possible. The schedule happened to work out perfectly to allow for a virtual extension of the retreat, and I figured I would take advantage of it.

The "cons" of taking all of your classes with the same person are actually very few, it turns out, because a good instructor is always evolving, even on a daily basis, and always finding new wrinkles to add to the class. They're learning from classes they've taken, things they've overheard (i.e. Let's go straight from Sun A warm-ups into 3 sets of Dolphin Plank alternating arm push-ups! Kathy would be proud!).

The "pros" of taking all of your classes with the same person are rather interesting. You get to experience the subtle nuances of your guide, on the timescale of life. Each day, they bring their day to class with them, in one way or another. Today, Cassandra was thinking about Memorial Day, and it came to class with her. Seeing these small shifts on a day-by-day basis really helps you realize that we are all constantly changing, constantly evolving, constantly moving. The world is never a static place. Our practice may move slowly on the scale of the kind of progress we normally think about, i.e. gaining new poses, working out the kinks of alignment in our body. But on a less conscious scale, the practice is never the same for long.

I am reminded of something that Whitney said awhile back about "tiny arrivals." We are not growing by revelation so much as imperceptible shifts, every time we show up. I like that.

Class today was light on the heat (probably only about 95 or so, my guess), and h-e-a-v-y on the upper-body strength. We did the Dolphin Planks, lots of Side Plank variations (which I had to modify, still), and flat-out, honest-to-goodness push-ups. No doubt, the class of about 30-40 people, all of whom delayed their long weekend to get in a Friday night yoga, were pushed to "the edge" today. It was simply impossible not to be at that edge. Interestingly, I think the slightly lower heat is what helped hit that edge. If it had been 105 in the room, it would have been a different story. Today, the battle was "Mind vs. Body" as opposed to "Mind vs. Heat" or "Heat vs. Body" that often occur (at least for me). I am not sure it was intentional, but it's a good variation.

I don't spend a lot of time thinking about "the troops." There's always been a resentment of war in me, and of the forces that send us there, that often results in me just blocking it out of my mind. I also, being the bleeding-heart liberal, tend to latch on to the stories we read in the news about the "bad apples" who go rogue in the military and kill innocent people, or don't hold high regard for the countries they are stationed in. This is what the media gives us, because it's what gets readership. Fuel the fire, sell copy.

But throughout recent history, in the absence of conscription ("The Draft"), military service has been largely performed by people who are looking for a way to a better life, better opportunities, education, and a future that holds more promise that what their life to that point has allowed. Of course, there are other examples, like career military families, where pride in service is a primary driver. But when we think about what people are doing to have a better life, they're really taking a huge risk, their lives, on the hopes of something better afterward. And looking back over history, so many have died; in this country, and in others around the world. And it continues.

As Cassandra said, when it gets too much in a yoga class, we've got "Child's Pose" as an option. That's not true for those who are in military service; they don't get to rest when they need to rest. It's important to remember, both on the mat and off the mat, how lucky we are that Child's Pose is always there for us.

Irrespective of your beliefs, that's something worth pondering on Memorial Day Weekend.

24 May, 2012

Breaking down the flow

Today was Power Vinyasa Basics with Cassandra.

Just as every instructor has their own flavor of "regular" class, the same is true of the "basics" classes. I've taken four of them now, each with a different instructor. To do Power Vinyasa, (almost) everything starts with "Sun A" and "Sun B," but even with those absolutes, there are still many ways to break down and focus on the elements of those two sequences. Cassandra started with Chaturanga. That's a good place to start, because it's like the "hub" of a multi-terminal railway station of flow. Everything comes through Chaturanga. In a full-speed Power Vinyasa practice, this transition happens so quickly, that you might never actually get the opportunity to see or understand the shapes the body is supposed to take. The tricky thing about it is that failure to properly learn Chaturanga can very quickly lead to injuries, either to the shoulders, elbows, or low back (and I can attest to this, since I've now got all of those injuries).

I found it to be poetic justice that Cassandra, whom I've mentioned previously as being someone who typically leads a fairly fast flow in her classes, took this Basics class as an opportunity to slow it way down and focus on the nuances of Chaturanga. She emphasized a number of elements: keep your hips up, keep your hands completely in contact with the mat (not lifting up knuckles), get an inner rotation of the forearms (the insides of your elbows end up facing forward) to engage triceps, drop the knees if you feel the shoulders hiking up. To just be in a low plank requires a lot of steps. With the mirror at our side, I have to say, I was not thrilled with the way my body looked in this position. I imagine myself as a solid line, but the reality is that things are sticking out here and there. My back is less flat than I think it is. My stomach is less tight than it feels like it ought to look. I am not going to stare and berate myself, but it certainly is humbling.

We spent a lot of time working on Chaturanga. Half the class, to be precise. Holding in the low plank, it is most definitely a relief to go to Upward Dog. The longer the low plank, the better that Upward Dog feels. Downward Dog? Not so much. Planks of any sort fry the deltoids and core. And no matter how many times an instructor tells me "Downward Dog is a resting pose," my reply is still "Resting compared to what? Compared to climbing a tree?" But maybe it's me. I'm a guy. Guys have the bulkier upper bodies, and tight shoulders. Maybe the lanky females find Downward Dog to be just Dandy.

We learned a bit about use of core. Pretty much, it seems, it's supposed to be engaged 100% of the time. I am not sure (because it was one of the few questions, I didn't ask) if we are supposed to have our core engaged in Forward Fold. I presume not, since that would be awkward. But I wouldn't put it past the yoga gods to expect me to have my entire torso draped over my legs, yet still have abs engaged. I might need to ask that question next time. I expect my abs to hurt tomorrow, since I made a major effort to keep them completely engaged on Halfway Lift, Chair, and Downward Dog; normally, I don't think much about what my abs are doing in these poses, because a full-speed class doesn't give me enough time to ponder every inch of the body.

As I started saying in the beginning, every instructor has their own little spin on what it means to be a teacher, a guide. Whether they teach Hatha, Vinyasa, Basics, or probably even if they taught Salsa Dancing, the essence of that person would shine through. That's part of what's so awesome about having 15 instructors to choose from. One of Cassandra's trademarks is really sharing herself and her own experience as a yogi, with her students. We are constantly humbled in our practice. There are poses we can't do for various reasons; either inexperience, lack of strength, injuries, fear... you name it. There are days we're too tired or sore. There are the myriad ways our own minds can get in the way, and humble us through expectations, comparison, distraction... again, you name it.

When Cassandra shares some of the struggles she's had in her practice, and talks about some of the poses that have played in her humbling moments, I think it makes us all realize that we are all taking this same journey, whether we are seasoned yoga practitioners, or sitting on the mat for the first time.

It's a journey that has its individual aspects. But it's a journey we are all on together.

23 May, 2012

Addicted to the truth

Today was 75 minutes of Hatha with Cassandra.

When we come to the mat, we are, whether we intend to or not, opening ourselves up to "truths" that lie beneath the surface. No matter why you show up, no matter what you hope to get out of the practice; fitness, relaxation, meditation, enlightenment... even if you were dragged here against your will by a well-meaning friend (as I first was), just being here creates that possibility for discovering things.

It's hard not to make these discoveries, because there's not a whole lot else to do in the room. There are pretty much three choices: practice, rest, or think. We are always doing one of those. And, I am not sure it's really three, because I could argue that practice and rest are different sides of the same coin. And I could take it one step further and say that thinking is *not* practicing. Thus, we are either practicing or not practicing. "Here now or nowhere," as Baron Baptiste wrote.

But whether we are practicing or not, we are exposing ourselves to this "truth place." Either I quiet my mind and allow things to reveal themselves to me as they come, or I fight it. But when I fight it, I might even be learning more, because that resistance to something is often more revealing than open willingness. What am I resisting? Why am I resisting today? Why am I fighting it?

In spite of yesterday's double, I felt a thousand times better today. Thank you, Ibuprofen. My favorite vitamin. 2400mg a day, and I feel pretty close to "normal."

Class started at 104 degrees today. I'm pretty sure that was the peak temperature. That's standard Hatha, yes. But it doesn't actually end up that way every day. I was roasting hot, but my mind and body were ready for it.

Pretty standard Hatha series, and I felt good enough that I pushed a little on some of the poses. In Low Lunge, I managed to lift my back knee off the floor today. I only started trying this a couple of months ago, and it really depends on how my body feels. It's a pose that doesn't involve any of my injured parts, so I figured I'd give it a try. Beyond that, I was very cautious and conservative. My primary goal is to keep practicing without need for an injury timeout.

The truth that is continually being revealed to me through this process is that I need to learn to go easier on myself in general. I am reminded of a couple of yoga quotes I've heard in many classes: "How you treat yourself is how you treat others" or "How you do anything is how you do everything" or "How you show up on the mat is how you show up in your life." Three statements, all basically saying the same thing. What I have seen in my life and on my mat is that I have very high expectations of myself. And I have tended to have similarly high expectations of others. Unrealistic, at times.

These expectations probably led to some of the injuries I am nursing, as well as much of the suffering I have endured or caused in my life.

I have always felt that the truth was preferable, no matter how unpleasant. Yoga helps discover truth from the inside out.

22 May, 2012

Heart above head

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra, followed by Hatha with Jo. A double.

After the retreat this weekend, I was eager to get back in for more of the retreat vibration. I had to do some fancy footwork to get myself there, but it was so worth it. So much to say here, and it's hard to know where to start. It's not easy to reflect on a double, because it's a kind of journey that is less "monotone," for lack of a better word. Normally, in class, you warm up, you work, you cool down, and you're done. There are, of course, a million variations on that theme, but it's the general idea. The mind and the body follow that arc. With a double, well, you pretty much do that whole thing twice. And both the mind and the body handle it a bit differently the second time through, compared to the first. And usually the gap in-between classes involves some type of activity that takes you out of the zone.

As I said, it was the result of magic plus some sort of chakra-based homing device that got me to Cassandra's class on time today. She started the class with a few announcements, and then we began our work.She did a reading of a poem (from our retreat) that I shared already in an earlier entry (and that Jo shared with us in yesterday's class).

Today, for some reason, I found myself feeling very emotional at the beginning of class. The good-old "crying in Child's Pose" thing. You know that one, right? I was already sort of losing it a bit, and then she read the poem, and I lost it a little bit more. I don't mind this, because I have a hard time accessing my feelings sometimes, and it is often through music, or external inspiration such as this, that I am able to get at those emotions. I am still definitely feeling the residual effects of the weekend in Port Townsend.

So we're still facing the long-way in Studio A, and mirrorless. I think I miss the mirrors, but I am getting used to it. It is interesting to me that I had taken at least 6 classes in a row without a mirror, after having done nearly my entire practice in front of a mirror. Cassandra has talked about how it's important to feel the pose, rather than to see the pose, or to be distracted by my neighbor, or by how our hair or our outfit look. It's important to make the adjustments by feel, as well; your body knows where it needs to go. There is, indeed, something liberating about not having a mirror. If I've got the mirror, Warrior I is a never-ending measurement of the "quality" of my pose. I see my hips are not all the way around. I see my arms are not straight. I see that my knee is not as deep as it could go. I see that my back leg is not perfectly straight. I see. I see. I see. But that leaves me twisting my body trying to force it to look perfect, according to some impression I have of how Warrior I should look. I have never actually seen a diagram of Warrior I. I've seen what I imagine is the textbook version of it, in the bodies of 25-year-old women in class. I presume that's how we're supposed to look. But there's this obsession with what I see. Without the mirror, I still know my hips are not squared up. I didn't need the mirror to know it. I know that my knee is not as deep today, because the weather has my (self-diagnosed) arthritis acting up. Without the distractions of the mirror, I also am more able to pay attention to details I was missing because they were not "in my face." Details such as... Is the outer edge of my back foot pressing into the ground? What do I need to adjust in the rest of my pose to allow that? Am I breathing? Am I still breathing?

The mirror, in a way, is like a kind of visual "noise."

So, today, my (self-diagnosed) arthritis was bothering me, with the weather change, and the forgetting to take ibuprofen all day. My knee. My shoulder. My elbow. Even my hips were so tight in Side Angle and Happy Baby that it was like I had gravel in the joints. But you've heard all this before. It just happens that today it was all of them, together. It forced me to take many adjustments. Side Angle? Maybe I spend the whole thing in a half-bind because it hurts to extend the arm high. Side Plank? Keep the bottom knee down, but compromise by raising the top leg to add something back where I subtract something else. Make the pose work for me.

Cassandra had us do quite a few tough sequences today. Crescent Lunges with the Twist, followed by opening arms wide to the twisted side, then switching over to Side Angle. The block helps with these, and I think it also helps keep the body more upright instead of "dumping" into the hips. We had the opportunity to do an interesting series involving alternating between Side Planks, Tree leg, and then push-ups. Mine ended up being a rather Frankenstein jumble, given the laying-off of Side Plank, but I found something that worked.

As we neared the end of class, I realized that, though I'd sweated about the average large amount, I hadn't felt much need to drink water. There wasn't even an inch of my water gone. And the thought immediately came to mind... "Should I stick around for Jo's class?" My immediate response to self was "No, that's crazy. The joints hurt. The last thing you need is more."

But, after hanging in the lobby to cool off, and having brief chat with Jo, I found myself feeling more tempted. I could take it easy. I could do another class. Right?

Guided by mysterious forces, I found myself in Studio B for Jo's Hatha. It was a one-hour class, but my body managed to expand time. It was not easy. Whereas the Vinyasa class felt "not hot," the Hatha felt "very hot." And I know this was because I was fatigued and already dehydrated. The place I needed to "work" in this class would be to try to find as much ease as possible in the poses. To commit to the practice, but not insist on pushing new limits. Opening Half Moon pose, I focused on not trying to lean too far to either side, or to pull too strongly on my arms above my head. Even so, it was difficult. The class, for me, followed that track; searching for as much ease as could be had, while "not letting myself off the hook." Nonetheless, my mind struggled to stay in the moment, and on the breath. I was wandering off to thoughts about work, or thoughts about the past weekend, or thoughts about the heat, or concern that my water bottle was now going to empty before I was ready for it to be empty! Thoughts. More thoughts. And more thoughts.

In spite of the heat, class felt very nurturing today. Jo had suggested a number of modifications to poses that I found to be very helpful, such as keeping hands at heart-center during Balancing Stick. I took all of these modifications, trying to pace myself with the limited reserves I had remaining.

There came a point in the class, where we were on the floor, and we'd just got done with back-strengthening exercises. The next pose was probably going to be either Hero's or Half Tortoise (I was anticipating... guilty as charged), but first we had brief Child's Pose, which I traded for a Savasana on my back. And my brain actually said "You're done." I planned fully on spending the rest of class in Savasana. I had given it the college try, but this was not going to be the day where I rocked the double. And then, Jo says "For the past 50 minutes or so, we've been climbing a mountain. And now, we are at the top of that mountain; Camel Pose." And with that sentence, I immediately sprung up, and found myself recommitted to doing the best I could, whatever I could, for the remainder of class.

See, in the earlier class, Cassandra had said something quite similar. She'd pointed out that Camel Pose is the very top of that mountain. And then she had added "You're almost at the top of the mountain. Why would you give up now?" And it was those exact words that rang through like a bullhorn. Why would I give up now? I can do this. I may not want to do it, but that's my mind that is saying that, not me. And for all the aches and pains I have, I know for a fact that Camel is not a pose that causes any discomfort for me. So I did it. And then I did my best to make it through the rest of class.

One of the things we often hear instructors say is that it's very good for you to do inversions, of any kind, because it's healthy to put your head below your heart (or conversely, to put your heart above your head, which sounds better). It's supposed to be energizing, rejuvenating, healing.

Perhaps I might consider sleeping upside-down like a bat tonight, so I can be ready for tomorrow's adventure.

Letting go

Off the mat.

About a month ago, I had tickets to see a National Geographic lecture at Benaroya Hall. I have tickets to this speaker series each year, consisting of about one talk per month in the spring.

Somehow, I forgot I had the tickets, or lost track of the date. The night of the talk, I was riding home on the bus (from yoga, I course), and we passed by Benaroya. There were many people coming in and out of the building. It immediately occurred to me: "The talk was tonight." It was already 7:15pm and there would be no way to go home and come back in time.

I had missed it.

Years ago, or perhaps not even that long ago, I would have become very upset, stayed upset, and really lamented this mistake. I think that my yoga practice has helped me to move beyond that. It is already the past. I am here, now. What good will it do to obsess?

I am learning to let go.

I made the note to myself to not let it happen again, and made mental note of when the next (and final) talk of the year would be.

Fast forward to last night. I had just returned home from yoga (of course), and I was sitting on the couch. It was around 8pm. My housemate suddenly says "Hey, wasn't tonight the National Geographic talk?" as she holds up two tickets that say May 21st. They have been positioned on the kitchen counter, prominently, for the past month. So I would not forget. But I did. I has missed another talk.

For a moment, this emotion of anger at self began to rise in my gut. But I immediately closed my eyes and turned to breath. This was either going to be a horrible session of self-beratement, or it would be nothing at all. After all, I had been sitting on the couch, relaxing. How is the moment really any different other than this thought in my head? My situation is unchanged.

I didn't lose my shit. I've thought about whether I want to try to buy tickets again since there is another showing tonight. If I decide I really want to see it, I can still try to do that. Or I can just be okay with missing it.

The thing I really want to understand is why I have not yet implemented a system to manage these events. I use my work calendar all the time, and in the past I have used calendars for social events as well. Even recently. But there's some type of blind spot here regarding these lectures. It's rather curious, actually. The interesting place to "think" is about that: Why didn't I put them on my calendar? Are they really not that important to me? Or am I not managing some of my life as thoughtfully as I could be?

I have periods of higher and lower maintenance of my affairs, and now is clearly a lower maintenance time. My clean laundry remains scattered around the entire second floor, with little concern for putting it away. I might pay a bill a couple of days late, here and there. What drives these periods of lower maintenance? And does it even matter? Does everyone go through this? Does that even matter?

It sounds a lot like being on the mat in a yoga class.

Just as the mat mirrors life; life also mirrors the mat.

21 May, 2012

Home is where the heat is

Today was Power Vinyasa with Jo.

It felt good to come back to the yoga studio right away and continue the practice, after this weekend's immersive experience. Normally, I take a Hatha class on Monday evenings, but the retreat left me feeling like I wanted to keep the vibration going, and this seemed to be the way to do it.

It was a vastly different environment to the past three days. Bustling energy of the city. The dark, large studio and its decor. A room full of 90 people, many familiar, and many not.

And the heat.

The heat.

The heat.

I'd enjoyed the spoiled 3 days of "warm yoga," and it was surprising how quickly my mind and body forgot about the heat.

Class was, in spite of my thermal complaints, peaceful and nice. Though we were densely packed, it felt close in a good way, not a cramped way. On a couple of poses, I found myself in physical contact with a neighbor. And, instead of pulling away or issuing a hushed "sorry," we just let the contact be. In Locust pose, we even used that contact and lifted each others' arms a little higher. It is okay to touch your neighbor yogi. We are already connected by being in the room, on our mats together. The physical connection is little more beyond that.

The heat was tough and I was tired from lack of sleep (4pm coffee yesterday led to a 2am bedtime - thanks Port Townsend folks). But I made it.

I noticed, as I have before, that the heat is worst when I am anticipating some future pose... "what if we have to do Crescent Lunge?" Those thoughts are not this very moment. And they are much worse than the moment I am in. And they are much worse than the actual Crescent Lunge would have been.

And, it turns out, the dreaded pose never came. All that wasted worry.

I can't tell you how often the same has been true in my life.

Mat as a microcosm.

20 May, 2012

Thank you

Today was the final day, and Class #4 of the "City of Dreams" Yoga Retreat in Port Townsend; it was Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Class today was all about "Heart Opening." Even more so than the yoga poses that we did, the mood of openness of the heart permeated the entire room. After yesterday's marathon of yoga, hiking, dining, connecting, this morning had that bittersweet atmosphere of knowing that it was almost over. It was almost time to return to reality. To the "real world." Though our minds want to reminisce about the time we had this weekend, or jump forward to the concerns about the future, or hopes for the next time we can gather like this, the truth is, we are still here. Still now.


The class today was not like any other yoga class I have ever taken. 

It was like the sealing of a bond between us. 

Although it was the final class that was specifically about heart opening, the truth is that the entire weekend was a collective opening of the heart for all of us. On so many occasions, in so many ways, we opened up to one another; on the mat, in a restaurant, walking, shopping.

I'm reminded of one of the readings Cassandra did yesterday. She talked about how all of our emotions and states of mind are like "seeds" that we carry. When we express these emotions, we plant those seeds, and they have the potential to grow and then create more of those seeds in ourselves and in others. I feel like Cassandra brought us all together, with a giant bag full of the finest, most precious seeds: love, caring, nurturing, honesty, trust, humor, energy, hope, spirit, power... and she shared them with us, and we joined in, and added our own seeds. Lots of seeds. You get the idea?

Something wonderful will grow from these seeds that we planted.

I will end with a poem, by James Broughton, that we came across at dinner last night, and then in a birthday card that we found for one of our fellow yogis at the retreat... Cassandra started class by reading this poem to us, and it really did sum up the entire weekend, and really, everything it means to be here together, practicing:


This is It.
This is really It
This is all there is.
And it’s perfect as It is.
There is nowhere to go
but Here.
There is nothing here
but Now.
There is nothing now
but This.
And this is It.
This is really It
This is all there is.
And it’s perfect as It is.

A final "Thank You" to Cassandra for organizing this retreat, to Jo and Cassandra for teaching and sharing themselves with us, and to my fellow yogis with whom I had the opportunity experience it all.

19 May, 2012

We are always here, always now

This afternoon was class 3 of the "City of Dreams" yoga retreat, Vinyasa plus Yin with Jo.

This entire day, I had the opportunity to be with people who are open and genuine, and who know what it means to "show up." We took a hike in the afternoon around the grounds of Fort Worden. I was unaware that it would be anything more than wooded trails. It turned out to be this interesting arrangement of military bunkers and various structures, scattered through the woods. The first assumption would be, logically, that this was a camp set up to defend against the Japanese during World War II. Right? But it was actually built in the 1890s to defend what were considered to be highly strategic ports in the Pacific Northwest. It was used as a training ground during World War I. Wow!

It felt like I was walking through the landscape of some sort of video game, or something you might see in rural parts of France. Strange to see it in Washington State.

The day was filled with fun conversation, silliness, photos, and a general feeling of well-being. We are all here. Connected. And that connection is through Cassandra.

That point really hit home this evening, in our second class of the day. Jo began class by asking us to answer a series of questions that she'd been thinking about. We each had a piece of paper to write our brief answers, and then we discussed them a bit. One of Jo's questions was "What dreams do you have?" And she pointed out that this retreat was a dream of Cassandra's, and that we all were a part of making it come true.

And it was the first time that I realized that we all showed up for Cassandra. Of course, we also showed up for ourselves. But, when I thought about this retreat, I'd imagined it like an event that Cassandra was holding, and that the participants were the "receivers" and Cassandra was the "giver." But it is really more than that. We are here because of the meaning she has in our lives, either as a friend, a sister, or a teacher. That's kinda special.

Jo's Vinyasa this evening was great. I've got to say, it's nice to sweat because of the movement of my muscles alone. It's interesting to see just how much heat we generate in certain poses. To notice that even a series of 2 or 3 Sun As can get the heart moving, and the sweat flowing.

During this retreat, I have been really enjoying the use of a block during many of the poses. I rarely, if ever, have brought a block into a Vinyasa class. But when it's there, and I think to use it, the discovery is that some of the poses are becoming more controlled. Especially the balance poses like Half Moon and Standing Splits. I will bring that lesson back to my practice at Urban Yoga Spa.

The second half of our class tonight involved deep Yin poses. Getting into the hips, the shoulders. Some of the poses are a bit emotional, because we realize how much tension is stored in these joints. It took years, decades, for that tension to set deep into those places. And now, we are rooting around in there, discovering what is there, where it is, and what it feels like. Shaking out cobwebs and knots. And along with the physical sensations, there's emotion as well. The first place I go is the frustration of "Why did I let myself become this tight?" But that's the same old voice. The one that starts right off with criticism. And I let it go, and listen to the breath. I did find it harder to stay with the breath in Yin. I find myself distracted by the pose, trying to go deeper, and realizing that I haven't taken a breath. The deeper we go, it seems, the more temptations there are to lure us out of the moment.

But we are always here. Always now. Whether our minds play along, or not.

Flowing with grace

Today was the second class of the "City of Dreams" yoga retreat with Cassandra.

We are in a post yoga blissed state. Class was 90 minutes with a starting meditation. Again, bright sunshine outside. The room was light and airy. And class was euphoric.

Surprisingly I felt strong throughout class today, although my shoulder says it is a little tired. Every day is different. Knee fine. Elbow fine. Shoulder... That's where I am at today.

Warrior II felt like I was standing in someone else's body. An actual warrior, perhaps. Is it easier to do yoga on a retreat, where we aren't trying to strip away the stress of everyday life? Can I find this focus in my regular practice?

Everyone seemed peaceful. After class we are all in a zen-like state. Eating lunch together. And then we will hike. And then. More yoga.

The room here has an amazing ceiling. The color is so perfectly blue.





18 May, 2012

Now here

Today was Class 1 of the Port Townsend "City of Dreams" Yoga Retreat with Cassandra.

The first day of the first retreat of my life. It was also, I learned, the first day of the first retreat of Cassandra's, as a teacher. We started class with an introduction around the room. There are 11 of us. We each had an opportunity to say a little about why we were here. I generally have no problem with such things. I don't freeze up. And I usually don't even try to plan my words, because I know that once my mouth opens, something acceptable will come out. But when it came my turn, I guess I felt like I slightly understated just how much it means for me to be a part of this. Blah blah blah. What I said was fine, but I felt like it could have been more precisely what I felt. You know how it is with these things?

We started a 90 minute class with the 10 minutes of introductions, followed by about 15 minutes of guided meditation. At the very beginning of class, Cassandra had a new tidbit to read to us. One that I'd never heard her read before. Joy. I love that newness of perfect words never before heard.

Google informs me that the quote is from Baron Baptiste:

""Now here" or "nowhere." Interesting, isn't it, how 

the only difference, really, is a little extra space.
All LIFE happens in the present moment. All we 
really have is right now, in front of us. Any moment 
that happened in the past is a memory, and any 
moment that will happen in the future is a fantasy. 
Memories and fantasies can be very nice, but they 
lead us nowhere except in the past, which no longer 
exists, or the future, which doesn't exist yet. The 
past and future are not places. They are, essentially, 
NOWHERE. So you see, you are either NOW 
HERE or NOWHERE!"

How could I have never heard that, or thought of it, before today? So obvious, but so perfect. 

Class was not hot. There was no heat. It was a warm room. I started with no towel on the mat, but realized soon that my mat is a little slippery in Downward Dog, without a towel, even when dry. So I had to add the towel back. But then, interestingly, because I wasn't sweating much, the towel wasn't adhering to the mat like it usually does. Tiny adjustments. You get so used to your own studio, it is almost like your own body. And going to another studio is almost like doing yoga in another body. Well, not quite.

The series were not as intense as typical classes, but we still managed to have some good flows, and I broke a pretty serious sweat through some Half Moon poses. But there was a lot of deeper, slower poses that felt calming. The room was large windows, bright light coming in, light-colored hardwood floors. Such a different setting than the caves where we normally practice. Again, that different energy. Plus, you know you are somewhere different, somewhere special. A place that only a select few chose to be.

The first half hour of class was pretty emotional, listening to people introduce themselves. There was a sense of deep connectedness and community. I found myself getting a little teary, just feeling the enormity of what it means to be able to be at a yoga retreat, practicing with people who are of like mind, and who share at least some of the values and desires I do.

The thoughts are a bit scattered.


16 May, 2012

Today my gratitude is for you

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Continuing the seemingly reliable trend of having a great class after what felt like an endless stretch of struggle, today was just one of those (good) days.

And today, my gratitude was for Cassandra, and what she has brought to my life with her guidance over the past 8 months. I think there was definitely something in me that was ready to do this work. But the connection I have felt to her message has really helped me feel like the entirety of this practice was something for me.

I am sure I have mentioned that I am not a "religious" person. But there's a space between "atheism" in terms of "nothingness" and traditional organized religion. I always lamented the fact that I didn't get the goodness of religion without believing in God. But the positive energy in our lives is not from a deity. It's from a sense of connectedness. Belonging. Purpose. Yoga practice is helping me find these things that I was missing.

The light in me recognizes, honors, and bows to the light in you.

Namaste.

15 May, 2012

The (temporary) pit of despair

Today was Hatha with Diane.

First of all, no offense whatsoever intended to Diane with that title. Today was just not my day. All the aches are aching, and all the modifications I could muster didn't seem to make a difference.

Yoga is supposed to feel good, right? At the moment it feels bad. I feel bad. And at the end of class, in Savasana I felt a huge weight draping down over my psyche. It felt all-encompassing. In spite of the sun, a good job, a good life, I felt heavy. In that moment, I started the tiny "what ifs" of "What if I am slipping into depression? What if my injuries persist? What if? What if? What if?" After a few minutes alone on the mat I told myself "You know there is nothing wrong. You know this is temporary. It will pass."

I took a shower and went down to the lobby. It was already dissipating. Twenty minutes later, I feel like the heaviness is actually my sinuses. It is not the proverbial "weight of the world."

There will be days, hours, weeks, maybe, or moments, maybe, of "The Downs." Perhaps practice will help me see them for what they are.

Moments.

13 May, 2012

Nurturing

Today was 75 minutes of Hatha with Cassandra.

As I alluded last night, this morning was not to be a Power Yoga day. Today was Mothers' Day. And I am motherless. Coincidentally, it is also my mother's birthday today. Thinking about nurturing, which was Cassandra's "collective intention" today, I realized that I have not been one for exemplary self-nurturing.

My mom was definitely protective, and there's no doubt that she loved me. But I would not have described her as the nurturing type. So when I experience nurturing from others in my life, it sometimes feels so foreign and unimaginable, I don't even know what to do with it!

It makes me wonder, though, if the lack of familiarity with nurturing leads me to have a heavy hand with myself. Today, as she often does, Cassandra talked about how we need to listen to our own bodies, and what they're telling us. And we need to know when we need to rest, and know when something is too much. But we also need to not let ourselves off the hook. She referred to this as "taking the middle road." And what I am coming to realize is that my scale is always pushed way toward the "don't let myself off the hook" extreme. Perhaps this was a learned behavior. But it doesn't really matter where I acquired the behavior. It's only important to recognize it.

Class was a little challenging today. Trying hard to not make my various injuries worse. Between yesterday and today, I discovered that I really couldn't find a way to do any variant of Pigeon pose without making my knee hurt worse. No matter what angle I take, it hurts. Today, it made me feel a little bit emotionally drained. Feeling like I can't stretch one tight muscle because of an injury somewhere else. It's not a big deal, but it was upsetting me. Add to all this, the fact that my 6 week cough has ramped back up into being as bad as it was when it first started. All this is starting to make me paranoid that I've got something "wrong" with me.

This isn't even entertaining to write. I cannot imagine it's entertaining to read.

Complain, complain, complain.

12 May, 2012

What are your dreams telling you

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Odessa.

I had a dream last night that I was moving back to the East Coast. I realized that I needed to pack all my things, load the truck, and leave tonight. By myself. This made me feel anxious. Then I am suddenly at the supermarket and I run into Odessa. In my dream, I realize that I won't be able to go to Urban Yoga Spa anymore and I am bummed out. Odessa tries to reassure me that I will find another studio.

I woke up, and it was plainly obvious that I was supposed to go to Odessa's class today.

Ninety minutes. Intense. As always, Odessa has a keen ability to keep us right on the edge. We did some unique poses today. A series of alternations between Reversed Warrior II and Side Angle, with eyes closed! We were already fried at that point, and the back and forth was an immensely challenging feat of balance. Interestingly, I found it fairly doable on one side (right foot forward), and almost impossible on the other side. I even fell over onto the floor once.

There was very little time on the floor, actually. It might have been 75 minutes of standing series. The heat was not too bad, but my shoulder and elbow were both problematic, with nerve pain sporadically shooting through my right elbow. I came to the conclusion, during and after class, that I have been routinely going too far down in my Chaturangas. The result is that I was hyperflexing my elbow. Hence the injury.

It's pretty messy right now. I am hoping I can be careful and keep using modifications and concentration to make it through these nagging pains without needing more serious time off.

That's why I question if I should be doing Cassandra's 9am Power Vinyasa tomorrow. I really should do the Hatha, but I am so determined to get into her Vinyasa classes whenever possible. Maybe I could go there and just stay in Savasana for the entire class? Does meditation count?

I guess we'll just have to wait and see if I wake up on time.

11 May, 2012

Sick again?

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

I often refer to the classes as Vinyasa, instead of Power Vinyasa, but I am always referring to the same thing. Not sure why I interchange terms.

I felt like I might be getting sick yesterday. Not even done coughing from 5 weeks ago and there is hint of new cough on top of the old one. As such, I felt weak in class today. We had interesting twist: no mirrors. Apparently they are being replaced.

Everything felt out of sync today. Even the magic of Cassandra could not pull me up. I guess I did not drink enough water today. At the end of class I discovered my palms were dry. Almost sticky dry. That has never happened before. And I sweated much less than normal. I suspect I was severely dehydrated. Who knows?

I did my best to get through the class. Took modifications on a number of poses. Weak. Weak. Weak.

I miss feeling strong. Hopefully it comes back soon.

09 May, 2012

Upsidedownland

Today was Power Vinyasa with Ginger.

I know to expect the unexpected in this class. I know it will never be the same twice. I know it will be an ethereal, meandering flow that seems like it should be peaceful, but is actually rather grueling.

So I was ready for today's class.

My arms were tired. Lots of modifications. Mind was pretty busy because of the work day. Oddly, the difficulty and the distraction did not lead directly to "suffering," and that was likely because Ginger tends to go easy on the heat. It makes me wonder if I would enjoy doing non-hot yoga. Maybe I should try it sometime.

Today really should have been a Hatha day for the sake of my injuries. But schedule led me to choose the earlier class. Tomorrow will either be Hatha or a day off.

No great wisdom to share today.

08 May, 2012

It's a long night

Today was Hatha with Jo.

Class was unbearably hot, though the thermometer read only 97 degrees. Like my mother always used to say, "It's not the heat... It's the humidity!"

I had to jog from work to arrive on time, so I'd already started the class with a sweat and it rapidly progressed to a Tandoori situation. By the time we got to Half Moon, 10 minutes into class, my brain was asking when it would be over.

Thoughts thoughts thoughts.

About work. About life. About heat. About my body aches. A stream of thoughts to label and dismiss. Trying to remember to breathe.

Standing Bow was shaky. I am nervous on right side now because of the right knee and left elbow. It's a double whammy. And that was normally my good side. I am always nervous on left because of my low back. So now I am just... nervous.

But it is over now. And I feel good. So there you have it.

07 May, 2012

Showing up

Today was 75 minutes Power Vinyasa with Rob.

And today, my yoga guest came to practice with me. I wasn't sure if she would come. And I felt myself hoping so much for it.

And she did.

We met early and got her signed in. I found the coolest spot in the room, with her mat right in front of the door. Introduced her to Rob, and showed her a few of the basic moves of the flow series.

When class began, I experienced a mix of elation that she actually showed up, and concerned attention that she was having an okay experience.

Class was reasonably difficult. But it was very well-paced. The first time we raised our leg in Downward Dog, I knew that she was going to be just fine. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her leg extending almost vertically. Of course it was. She was a gymnast. And I knew I didn't need to worry.

She took a few brief rests but mostly kept up with the whole class. Much more easily than I did in my first class.

When it was over, she was a bit at a loss for words. She expressed a lot of emotions about the experience in fleeting phrases and abbreviated sentences. I won't elaborate. But I understood it. The experience on the mat was a microcosm of all that I have heard from her about life in general during our conversations. The similarity was clear as day to me. I am not sure if she caught it or not.

I resisted the desire to ask her much. Just let it sink in and be her experience.

I hope she decides to come again but I don't want to push much.

Why do I care about this girl? What resonates for me?

I am not really sure.

06 May, 2012

Ball in motion

Regarding my "Yoga Project Girl," it appears I've got a commitment from her to come and attend a class with me as a guest. I am really curious and interested to see how it will go. I feel like her chaperone, which I guess I am. But I also feel a little bit responsible for it being a positive experience for her. That is not something over which I have any control. I already gave her the "pre-speech" that instructors will usually give to newcomers. I want it to be good for her. I remember how hard and demoralizing my first class was. I ran away for 4 months before I came back again. But it will be her experience. And it will be whatever it is.

Today, a friend asked me if perhaps I see a little bit of myself in her, and that is maybe why I am so interested in reaching out to her and "helping." I thought about it and realized that, by and large, she's just a more extreme flavor of what I see in myself. But she is someone who seems open to possibilities, even in the midst of her rigid perspective.

I think about things I have heard in class, in particular from Cassandra (of course):  "You are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing." And I can't help but feel like maybe I was supposed to meet this girl. 

Reality is, much like was my case, she may go once, and not go again for months or years. But she will have showed up on the mat this one time. For this one moment. 

And that is a start.

Seis de Mayo

Today was 75 minutes of Hatha with Bret.

It's a beautiful day. I didn't really feel like coming today, truth be told. Morning classes are not my favorite. I usually sweat even more than evenings and also often get more stuck in my head.

Today wasn't bad. Once I got to class, the resistance faded. The injuries to knee and elbow are now giving me more issue than the shoulder. I learned the poses that were hurting my shoulder and made necessary modification. I am still trying to figure out which ones underlie the other two injuries. I know Eagle is bad for the knee. But I think that the standing balance poses, in general, are a problem. There's a tendency to lock the knee and hyperextend. Not sure how to work around it. The elbow. That's a mystery so far. I thought it was the Plank poses. But now I think it may me things like Bow pose that twist my arm and pull it. I need to start paying attention to it more.

Recently, I feel like my yoga is grounded but I am in a mini-ungrounded phase off-the-mat. It's self-created and unnecessary. And I can't put my finger exactly on why it is occurring. I may need to start writing about it in my long-unused journal.

05 May, 2012

Giving it back to the universe

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Just after class, I had an unanticipated encounter. I met a woman who seemed so trapped and weighed down by her perceptions and judgments about her life. I do not want to say much because I wish to respect her privacy. But I just felt that she was this intense passionate person, if only she could get past her self-defeating attitude.

Of course, we ended up discussing yoga. And, of course, everyone's been telling her she should be doing yoga. And it makes so much sense. She used to be a gymnast. She is looking for an intense physical outlet. She actually enjoys the heat!

So.

I decided that my mission is to show her yoga. To bring her as my guest. And to see what happens. To lead the horse to water and see if it learns to drink.

So much more I would say but I just wanted to share that this feels deeply purposeful to me. And I could be misguided. I could be a sucker. But something I see in her and hear in her felt sincere.

I'd like to offer yoga to someone else's life, as it was offered to mine. This sounds crazy religious or some shit.

But you know it's not.

Today, Cassandra's class was peaceful. Deep. Good stretches. Still being cautious and needed to revert back to Low Cobra again. And the elbow is still a new issue.

That's all.

04 May, 2012

The unexpected

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Prior to class I had a spontaneous request come to mind: "Do something unexpected!" Cassandra seemed happy to oblige and proceeded to give us a hell of a tough class, indeed with some unexpected sequences.

Today my shoulder felt so good, I could not help but do Upward Dog, in spite of my better judgment. Thinking a lot about form in Warrior series after Kelley's class the other day. And having hard time getting it all right. The hips, the knee, the back leg and foot. So difficult to put it all together.

I am grateful that I am able to show up nearly every day.

I am grateful that my heart just beats.

I am grateful that my lungs just breathe.

Forgetting that less often, which is nice.

03 May, 2012

Too much mirror

Today was Power Vinyasa Basics with Kelley.

I thought it would be a good idea to have full side view in the mirrors during this class. It's slower. There is time to examine posture. Check form. Adjust. Should be great.

But I didn't really love what I saw today. First I noticed my ribs sort of hang down over my hips in Downward Dog. My body didn't look beautifully elongated like I want to picture in my mind's eye. My Warrior I looked even more twisted from a side view than it does from the front. Interestingly, my Warrior II looked pretty damn good.

But I started focusing too much on what I was seeing. And started to notice things like skin. Why is there so much skin? Why do I still feel flabby. I can't possibly *be* flabby. But I see it. Self conscious. I tried to stay in the moment but kept drifting to the question of why I don't look more fit. Maybe my posture isn't good? I don't know.

Class wasn't hot. But it wasn't that easy considering it was a basics class. The Crescent Lunge and Chair series were still tough. And slow!

I am nursing the new injury. The nerve thing in my left elbow. It's not bad. But there it is. Another on the list. This week has been a week of scattered focus. Off the mat, in particular. I don't think it's been bad on the mat. But where is the disconnect.

Am I simply taking a Real World Savasana?

02 May, 2012

Am I bold enough?

Today was Power Vinyasa with Whitney.

She started and ended class by reading us a poem about living life on the edge of possibilities, and exploring, and being courageous. It was a really nice poem:

questions that matter

Am I bold enough?
Are there ways I am living
too small?
There are definitions and containers
I could cram myself into
But would they leave me space
to breathe?
Am I watchful enough?
There is much in life 
that can diminish me
if I am not vigilant.
How have I succumbed to
noxious streams of sentimental
nonsense that have clouded
my vision and hidden my hope?
Am I courageous enough?
There is so much worthy 
of my love 
and my time and my tenacity.
When have I stepped valiantly
into life’s arena to confront
the bullish nay sayers?
Am I resilient enough?
Perfection is insidious
and potential too precious
to worry over or waste.
Where have I been an architect
of something grand
and graceful and good?
Am I enough?
Am I living my dream of myself?
And where and when and how 
have I lived at the edges of possibility
serving the magnificent dream 
of the wholeness
of the world?

Class was oddly comfortable. The heat was never too much. Her sequences were very challenging and different from what I have been doing in other classes lately. Lots of twisting and low lunges. Lots of time spent in Chair. My Chair is pretty good, I must say. I feel strong in my legs. Where I have a hard time is with getting my arms up high while sitting down low. Not sure if it's just tightness of my shoulders or something else. But that's my challenge.

I felt good about myself after this class. Continuing to faithfully modify poses to protect my shoulder. But I do look forward to return to standard flow.