31 July, 2012

Second time is still the charm

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Carley.

I had to find out if that stellar experience of last week was merely a convergence of multiple magical forces. Turns out, nope. Carley's an amazing instructor. Of course, I am realizing that what we have in our rich yoga community in Seattle is a wealth of fantastic teachers. Someone for everyone. And one size does not fit all. After class today, Carley pointed out that she and her colleague Nicole complement each other well because Nicole's "earth" balances her "fire" and "air" (or maybe it was water). And it made me realize, in perfect metaphor (my favorite mode of communication), how it can be that we each resonate with different instructors' styles. I guess I am a fire and air guy? Earth is nice, but it's not the channel that sings to me? I dunno. Maybe this is all silliness.

So, class was 90 minutes. And it felt good. My knees and hips are a little stiff lately, but not prohibitive. The cadence and energy of the class, the wording of the cues, the humor, the lightness, lifted me at least part way out of a funk that had set in from an ambiguous and chaotic work day. I was able to come to the moment.

Some unique elements in today's class: a different way of coming into Dolphin Plank using a block to define hand position while on your knees, and then going first to Dolphin, then waking back the feet until you're in a plank. Interesting entry. Another was trying Crow by squatting with your feet on a block. This one was actually harder for me than regular Crow. I chickened out.

Felt strong overall today. Much preferring 90 minutes in the modest heat. It's good to feel strong in a 90, since I usually am obliterated.

I need to Google "Kali the Destroyer" since Carley referred to this character with respect to Lion's Pose. What's the scoop on that, eh?

30 July, 2012

All you need is love... and yoga

Today was Power Vinyasa with Jo.

But much more important than the Wheels and Warriors and Planks we would eventually do, there was a little surprise for Jo at the beginning of class today. At the start of class, on behalf of the Community (with a capital "C") that is Urban Yoga Spa, Kathy presented Jo and her soon-to-be groom, Branden, with a wedding gift... one which will hopefully help their dreams come true, as they start on the next phase of this journey together.

Jo's the director of yoga at UYS. But she's a lot more to all of us. She's such a gentle, open, and honest heart. She's an inspiration to all of us. I had the opportunity to really start to get to know her better at Cassandra's Port Townsend retreat this year. It's quite likely I would have come to know her over time, anyway. But that trip really kick-started the friendship, as the small group of us bonded over three days of yoga, hiking, talking, laughing, dining, and (um...) drinking. After the retreat, I remarked to some friends that my original intention for attending had been to get to know Cassandra better, since she'd been the instructor who I'd probably credit with getting me irreversibly "hooked" on hot yoga. And I did get to know her better, for sure. But the unexpected surprise on that trip was that I also came to know Jo so much better. I'm so glad for that.

I've talked about community a lot in this blog. Mostly, it's been with respect to how I feel, personally, being a part of a community, and about the meaning that it has had in my life recently (as well as some of my fears and apprehensions about the same). But this was the first time I had a chance to witness, first-hand, what strong communities can really do. They bond together and mobilize around causes for the good of the entire community, and for the well-being and happiness of members of the community when important times come, whether they be good times or bad times. Now, I feel fortunate to have that community around me, and I also feel honored to be a part of it, and the good that it brings.

So... after that opening... how could today be anything other than an amazing class?

I needed only to set my intention on love (sending it out to Jo, but also creating a little space inside to have it for myself as well). And with that, everything felt light today. It was freaking hot. But it felt light. The poses were tough. But it felt light. We spent forever in Chairs and Crescent Lunges. But, all the while, it felt light. How could I possibly want to be anywhere but right here, right now? Right? Surrounded by people I know; people whom I come to know better every day, with every class, every gathering, every chance encounter on the street.

UYS is providing me with something that's been missing from my life. It's my community. It's my neighborhood. It's a place where everybody knows your name.

Who doesn't want that?

29 July, 2012

Wherever you go, there's your mat

Today was Hatha (66 minutes) in my bedroom.

I knew this weekend's schedule would not afford me the opportunity to do yoga in any studio. There were some grander visions of how it would look instead but, in the end, it was yoga in my bedroom, listening to Spotify (radio station based on Pomplamoose, a band I highly recommend - in fact, if you want to become obsessed with them in 30 seconds flat, check out this YouTube video of them doing a cover of "Single Ladies" by Beyonce... but I digress).

Postponing yoga until 9pm is not a fantastic idea, in general. Especially, when it's preceded by food, sunshine, cocktails, a long day of driving, and not much sleep the night before. But part of this yoga marathon (64 days) has been finding a way to do it every day, no matter what else happens.

The upside to doing yoga alone, at home: (1) Temperature is a comfortable 78 degrees in my room. Not great for sleeping, but fantastic for yoga. (2) I can stay in the poses until my mind says it's time to come out of them. I try to adhere to what I perceive to be the typical duration for the poses, which we know varies by instructor, but there's something nice about being the voice that says "when." (3) I control the playlist.

The downside to doing yoga alone, at home: (1) It's a little harder to focus in a room with all my "stuff," as compared to a spartan studio. (2) There's something nice about having the collective of yogis engaged in the same mission. (3) My rug was a little slippery in Side Angle pose.

So, it was a Hatha class. It's actually quite easy to pace the class. I didn't feel like I needed to speed up or slow down, just do the usual tempo. Finished with Eagle pose at the 20 minute mark. Went to the floor at the 40 minute mark. Seems about right. In spite of the low temperature, I broke quite a sweat by the time I hit Side Angle pose.

One would think it's harder to do by oneself. But one would be wrong. If you've taken enough classes, you actually pretty much hear the various instructors voices in your head while you're doing it. My class was a mixture of Bret and Patrick's voices, probably because those have been several of my most recent Hatha classes.

Now I need to try to de-energize myself so that I can actually fall asleep tonight.

28 July, 2012

Smile and a helping hand

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Zakkry at Be Luminous.

I am always a bit afraid of the 90 minute classes, though I have tended to assume that a large part of that was due to dehydration from the heat. Turns out, even in a much cooler room, a 90 minute class is just more challenging. Duh. I shouldn't have needed a mathematical formula to know that 50% more yoga would be more tiring.

Zakkry came into class with a big smile on his face, and he pretty much kept that smile going for 90 minutes straight. Slow, deliberate instruction, with encouragement to take our time in the poses (read: stay in poses for a looooong time), and lots of adjustments that were very hands on, and very helpful. He's just got an incredibly uplifting positive energy to him, almost playful.

The class was a "Level 1" class, which I had expected would mean the sequences would be easier than what I have seen in previous classes, or at Urban Yoga Spa. But I was incorrect. This class was nearly the exact same set of poses I have seen at every class I've taken at Be Luminous. The only difference between the 60 and 90 minute classes, it would seem, was the amount of time spent in each pose. And there appeared to be far more people in the class who were beginners, based on what I could see when glancing around. Of course, if you are going all the way into the poses (or at least, trying to find an edge), then staying longer in poses makes for quite an intense class. I actually was a bit shocked at how much I sweated, given that it was only 90 degrees.

Okay, that's all.

27 July, 2012

Hot is still hot

Today was Hatha with Bret.

Back to UYS today. Today was my first Hatha class in a while. Not even sure when the last one was. Think it was this same class a week ago. After four days at the cooler Be Luminous, I really felt the heat today.

The past few days I have been distracted with the pondering of how to move forward after this little yoga field trip. I am having a hard time even writing about it, honestly. There's "what feels good for my body" and there's "all the other stuff," including community, teachers I like, loyalty, etc. I am finding myself analyzing (what I do) and negotiating with myself. Logic such as: "I could start eating breakfast at home and bringing my lunch to work... Then I could have a membership at both places..."

Thing is, I don't want extra complexity. But maybe the complexity is just in my head. Surely. I want to simplify. Going two places doesn't feel simpler. But I want to maintain my community and do what feels right for my body. Some people thrive in the heat. I wilt. They say you get used to it. It's true that my capacity to perform in the heat has expanded greatly in 9 months. But my comfort hasn't. Ah... But is it supposed to be comfortable? I know the answer to that one.

Today, Bret said "decide which variation you like better and then do the other one." It was classic Bret humor. But perhaps it is also truth. I don't know.

Nike says "Just Do It."

It's a good thing I don't work for Nike.



26 July, 2012

The angel is also in the details

Today was Power Vinyasa with Nicole at Be Luminous.

When I woke up today, I was tired, in spite of 9 hours of sleep. For a good chunk of the morning, I was thinking "How am I gonna do class at noon? I am just not feeling it today!" But, sure enough, I got there, and class was fine. There was no drag. No hesitation. No distraction. Another good class.

Today's series was quite similar to yesterday's series. And that was quite similar to the day before. Subtle differences. It was another tough class. Though, as I've said, it's a lot easier to weather a hard class at 90 degrees. But, in spite of the similarity between these classes, yesterday's class with Carley stood out as that rare experience of total awesomeness (the kind where I can't wait to go write a blog about it, which is probably a sort of distraction I need to learn to put at bay). And it made me think, not only is the devil in the details, but so is the angel. It wasn't the sequence that made yesterday's class transcendent. It was tiny little things that are hard to write about. I tried to capture them, and it was mostly about the words and the mood of the class. But it's even subtler than that. It's not exactly what is said. It's how it makes you feel. And chances are that different things make different people feel different ways. Vague, obvious, and unarguably true.

Today, in Nicole's class, I was trying to pick out what that defining thing was for me that made this class whatever it is, or was. And I couldn't grab on to it. She was a very good teacher. Her instructions were helpful. The pace was good. The energy was good. I guess the defining characteristic is that she lets the yoga do all the talking. There's no parallel channel of energy or thought going along for the ride with it. It's entirely, 100% "The Pose." And that's an interesting class, in its own right. When I contrast that with the majority of my experiences, especially in Power Vinyasa, there's almost invariably a "coloration" to the class, which is a reflection of the instructor's own philosophy or view on practice. Lots of spirituality. Lots of inspirational words. Occasionally life stories. Occasionally readings from literature or self-help books. Most of the classes we take are Yoga + {Something}. Nicole was simply Yoga. I love the various "somethings" that we get in the Vinyasa classes, and it's something that sets the style apart from Hatha for me. But I guess it was kind of interesting to see that, left with only pure Vinyasa yoga, and no decorations... left with nothing extra except what was happening in my body, my mind, my breath, the room... it was still a great class. A little harder to write a romantic story about it. But very real.

Thank you, Nicole, for showing me that there are many ways to have a great class.

25 July, 2012

Limp noodles and perfect salads

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley at Be Luminous.

I'm not sure if it was just the day, just the teacher, just my body, just my mindset, or a magical coalescence of all the forces of the universe, but I think today was the best yoga class I have ever taken.

It was my first class with Carley, and everything just felt right. Everything just sounded right. Just. Right.

The series was really not a lot different from the past two days. And it was really not a lot different from most of the classes I've taken at other studios. But the energy, the timing, the guidance and adjustments, the words of encouragement, were all spot-on for what I needed today.

Carley is big on metaphors. Maybe that's why I loved it so much, since I am one big walking metaphor. When we were in Triangle pose, she was slowly, deliberately, itemizing the steps to this pose. The tiny adjustments, the miniscule things to be aware of, all the subtleties. But her guidance was not a mental overload. It was like sprinkling ingredients, one by one, in a perfectly-timed sequence, just as you're ready to receive them. And then she talked about how simple it is. That was really a big theme of her instruction... the simplicity of it. Keeping it simple. We were all in our totally optimized, totally adjusted Triangle, with sweat pouring off our bodies, and then Carley said "It's sort of like a salad with only two ingredients... so simple... and yet, somehow, so perfect."

Another metaphor: as we finished our standing series, and finally came to face-down on the mats, she told us to let it all go, and let our bodies collapse and go soft, like "way-overcooked noodles." Perfect.

The past few weeks, I have been experiencing a lot of difficulty with Crescent Lunge. I have somehow lost the ability to feel comfortable in this pose. Today, Carley broke it down for me. In the lunge, feet are at hip-width distance. That was problem number one. I have been lining my feet in a straight line, and it was getting me all torqued out, with no way of getting my legs or hips comfortable, with no stable balance point. Then, after I got my legs right, one piece at a time, she had me adjust my back knee, rotate my hips, suck in my belly and firm it up, and then allow my shoulders to relax down. Suddenly I felt much more like I was doing Crescent Lunge, instead of an impossible and uncomfortable contortion. Not sure why I forgot how to do it, but it was neat to get it back just like that.

The energy she created really made me want to find my edge. And I really got a lot out of my body today. Even from the most unlikely of poses: Gorilla Pose! What adjustments could one possibly make in that pose? Well, really step on your fingers, and wrists. Then, really bring your weight forward. Suddenly, I found myself falling forward, and unable to break my fall, because my feet were on my hands!! I laughed as I fell sprawling on the floor, and Carley pointed out that I've found my edge.

The best part about no music in a class, and one of the aspects I really like at Be Luminous, is that I can hear everyone's breath. I can hear my own breath, fully. And I can hear the breath from far away, in the opposite corner of the room. I can hear people who are out of breath. I can hear the thud of a foot hitting the floor as we float forward. I can hear someone fall. I can hear my sweat drip onto the mat. I feel like the silence makes me more present, more aware of what it is we're all doing together.

Today was a good day.

24 July, 2012

Relax, breathe, and move forward

Today was Power Vinyasa with Tina at Be Luminous.

One thing I am starting to detect from my experiences here is that there's no guarantee that you'll get a rest during a Vinyasa class. The whole point of Vinyasa (I gather) is FLOW. Everything ties together. You are always in a pose, and the poses are not islands, completely separate from one another, but more like stones in a stream that can be stepped between. I mean, I knew that. But most of the Vinyasa classes I've taken have some sort of break during the series; either a Child's Pose, or a Savasana (though, not all, as you often hear me complaining when I don't get a rest during class). When the temperature is a little lower, it seems it is easier to go through a full class without offering those breaks, because there's a little bit less cardiovascular burden, a little more air. In a way, I think this might offer the possibility of making a cooler class harder, because you don't ever need to stop.

Tina's class was very much about keeping the flow going the entire time. The sequence, though pretty standard, had some very long holds in the poses, taking us from awkward (knee-to-nose) to even more awkward (pull that leg up really tight to your chest and hold it there, before stepping through). It reminded me a bit of a Gordy class, in that the burn comes not from speed, but from depth, duration, and continuous flow.

Today, for the second day in a row, I ran into a fellow yogi from UYS immediately after class. Strange coincidences, since I don't typically run into people during the day. But interesting, the way the universe works. Yesterday, I ran into a fellow student. Today, it was an instructor. It pulled at my heartstrings for my yoga community. That, combined with other rumblings I had heard about my whereabouts, and I'd had my mind nearly settled on showing up this evening for a double, to take Whitney's class. But the truth is, my body was completely beat from this one class, and it would have been ludicrous for me to do another one. Still, I do miss my home studio. This is something I wanted to do to shake things up a bit. So I'm going to try to stick with the plan, and listen to my body.

Hey. Body. I'm listening. To you.

23 July, 2012

Luminosity

Today was Power Vinyasa with Michel at Be Luminous.

In the seven months since I started writing this blog, I have taken over 150 classes at Urban Yoga Spa. It's become, as I've said a number of times, a community that feels almost "church-like" if not "cult-like." Anyone who goes there can surely appreciate how tight-knit things are. This has played a huge role in my life. I am not sure I've noted it previously, but yoga has been so amazingly helpful to me, I actually opted to take a hiatus from "therapy" (counseling) because it just wasn't even feeling necessary. For one reason or another, though, over the past month, I've started feeling like I'm hitting a wall. In spite of the yoga, I'm still finding myself feeling a little bit "stuck" (for lack of a better word). I know that this is the place where the work really needs to happen. But I have started to wonder if I've become so comfortable, and if Urban Yoga Spa has become so much of a social routine for me, that I am not as effectively showing up for myself on the mat each day.

Other than a few short stints of a day or two where I have been traveling, I've not experienced any other yoga studios. In fact, I have never taken a yoga class in Seattle other than at UYS. Some people bounce from studio to studio, following teachers, or based around their schedule, or just to have variety. I've been a devotee of this single location. Given the rut that I feel I'm sitting in, I thought now might be a good time to take a little "vacation" of sorts. I'd heard that Be Luminous has a special for new students, and I thought I'd give it a shot.

I have no illusions about what practice is and is not. I know that "No matter where you go, there you are." I'm not expecting a greener pasture, where yoga is easy again, and solves all my life's problems. I am just curious what a slightly different environment, a slightly different message, new, unfamiliar faces and voices will do to me. Maybe it will be like shaking loose something that's stuck.

All that said, class was good today. The first time in a new environment, one is immediately drawn to "what is different" in the new place. Focusing on the tangibles that are most applicable to yoga practice: (1) higher ambient light level in the studio, (2) temperature regulated at exactly 90 degrees, (3) no music (at least not during the class, though this may not be true for all instructors there). In spite of the heat being substantially lower, I still managed to sweat more than anyone else in the (rather crowded) class.

The entire sequence was very familiar. The class was called Lvl 1 and 2, which would mean nothing to me, since UYS classes are unleveled. The difficulty felt on par with the bulk of the classes I have taken. There were no official rests during class, but there was a brief break for an instruction in the middle of the class. There's something exciting and stimulating about hearing a new voice. Even if they are saying pretty much what you've heard before, we are such amazingly sensory creatures, the impact of words is heavily flavored by the delivery. For me, that novelty brings a kind of high. I don't know if that's a "for better" or "for worse" phenomenon. It is what it is.

Things I focused on today, through instruction (or adjustments) that I had not yet focused on in previous classes: (1) really getting the hips rotated properly during Triangle pose. I have always known that I'm under-rotated. Today, Michel actually physically twisted my hips in the pose, and I felt a stretch on the top of the upper hip that I'd never felt before. (2) Feet wider and very slightly pigeon-toed in Downward Dog. I have a bad habit of always ending up with my feet too close together during Vinyasa flows, which causes them to also be too close in Downward Dog. Today, she called attention to that, and I tried to focus on constantly bringing them back apart again. (3) When "floating" forward from Downward Dog, she encouraged us to really take flight, and get our hips up high instead of making a thud forward, with knees bent the entire time. We practiced this by just taking hops. This is something that other instructors have called for, but we didn't actually get as much explanation about what this is a setup for (handstands). I had a little fun with the hops, but found that when I tried to use that same hopping motion to bring me into the Forward Fold, I came down hard, lost my balance, and forced my quadriceps to contract so hard, I thought I might have almost cramped up! That tells me that I've definitely not been getting much "hop" in my "float" previously.

So, for now, it looks like it will be 10 days on this field trip. It's a Vinyasa-only studio, so I'll need to take extra precautions to not further stress my shoulder.

What new things will come?

22 July, 2012

Thin line between can't and won't

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

There are days where you can't. And there are days where you won't. I am pretty sure today was the latter. From the moment I arrived on my mat, my head was fighting it. Distracted. Mind in other places. I walked into the studio today and didn't want to make contact with anyone. I just wanted to be in my own private zone. Most of the time, I welcome the greetings and the connection. But when you want to avoid it, the environment can feel oppressive.

So I tried to hide on my mat today. And it was hard, with half the room facing me.

It was a very unconventional class today. We did beaucoup upper body work, spending what must have been 30-40 minutes on the mat at the start of class, doing various Plank-related poses. Then we did some standing balance poses. It wasn't until at least an hour into class that "The Flow" finally came. By that time, I was just not feeling it. I don't know if I was tired, or if I was just unfocused. Perhaps a bit of both. But I decided, with no uncertainty, that I was "Done" with a Capital D. After one feeble round of Warrior I to Warrior II, face-down I planted myself on the mat. And I didn't move again for the final 20 minutes of class. I didn't do the final stretches. I didn't do Pigeon pose. I didn't even sit upright at the end of class. I was gone. Sayonara. Adios. Dosvedanya. Kaput.

My final 20 minutes of practice were spent trying not to judge myself or feel badly about the choice. Should I feel badly? Did I let myself off the hook? Is it wrong? I don't know. I only know that I just didn't want to do it. I didn't want to feel angry that it was 104 degrees, high humidity, and we're doing 8 rounds of a killer Vinyasa flow, 70 minutes into a 75 (90) minute class. I didn't want to feel frustration. I didn't want to fight it in my mind. I just wanted to give in.

I got nothing more to say about it.

21 July, 2012

Finding the good day in the bad day

Today was 75 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Kathy.

I could just as easily have titled this "not letting the good day spiral into the bad day."

I think I've come close to "mastering" the endurance of a 60 minute Power Vinyasa class. It's only 60 minutes, and you know that it won't be long before the hard part is over. But a 75 minute class has a little "no-man's land" in the middle, where there's no end in sight. For some instructors, this ends up being a series of balancing poses. In some classes, it's some abdominal work. And in other cases, such as today, it was about 10 extra sets of Warrior III to Standing Splits.

As has been the case for the past few days, I have been trying to "Think Strong" and not go for the water unless it really feels like my body needs it. I tried to not take rest unless my body really needs it (first two breaks today were Dolphin Plank). But it caught up with me this time. I found myself in no-man's land, and started unraveling. Negative thoughts come in... I can't hear a word she's saying... there's no air... why isn't she opening the door... how many Warrior IIIs are we going to do... negative, negative, negative.

I never gave up, which I guess is a kind of victory, but I would like to be able to stay out of the negative thought land.

Near the end of class, Kathy gave me a little foot massage, and then the entire class sang along with "Imagine." Somehow this rescued this from being an entirely "Bad Day," but I am not sure how this class should be tagged. In fact, I am starting to wonder if it is really meaningful to tag things as being good or bad days.

20 July, 2012

Time to shake things up

Today was Hatha with Bret.

Normally, Friday is my Cassandra day, come hell or high water. It's become almost like a church for me. But the past few days, I have been getting that urge that I've had once or twice in the past that it's time to really shuffle things around, and go for opposites. Every instructor has a different style, and a different message. And we humans tend to get into patterns that can be internally driven, or can be influenced by the things we expose ourselves to in our environment. I am interested to see if I can shift my energy and shift my perspective by changing the things I expose myself to each day.

So, it's Bret on a Friday.

Class was roasting hot. But guess what? Didn't need a single sip of water, and spent both of the resting points in class (after Eagle, and before Triangle) in Dolphin Plank. I'm not showing off, and I'm not trying to run myself into the ground. I am just listening to my body, instead of listening to my brain. The brain says "Drink! Drink! Drink! Rest! Rest! Rest!" because it wants to make sure that you're going to be hydrated enough and rested enough in the future. The brain doesn't spend a lot of energy, of its own volition, on now. It's planning ahead. But I listened to my body, and my body said "Nope. Don't need water. I'm good. Keep on keepin' on!"

So I did.

I did one of those "What if?" games... "What if I work a little harder here, instead of backing off?" There was a momentary thought (in my mind, of course, not my body) of "Am I gonna be sorry later, when we're doing Balancing Stick and I've got nothing left?" But that shouldn't even make any sense, and it doesn't. How would Dolphin Plank for 60 seconds affect someone's ability to do Balancing Stick five minutes later? It wouldn't affect it. Other than our mind having a certain preferred capacity for how much work it wants to allow our body to do. Fact is, our body can do way more than our mind wants it to do. Our mind is like Jamie Gertz's character on that Seinfeld episode, telling our body (Elaine) "Sorry. I can't spare a square." (that reference will hopefully be not-lost on at least one person).

Bret did a lot of unconventional, awesome things today in class. We had at least a couple of full-on Chaturanga flows offered as transitions in different parts of the class. He's had us doing a neat side stretch called Stargazer, near the end of class, as a transition during the Seated Twist poses.

So, for the next few days, or weeks, I will be looking at the schedule with an eye for doing what I normally wouldn't do. Seeking out the classes that I might be a little sheepish about taking. Staying away from comfortable, familiar favorites.

Finding myself in new places, being subtly shaped by new messages.


19 July, 2012

Bodies in motion

Today was Power Vinyasa with Kathy.

Felt strong again today. Only took about 2 sips of water during the entire class. Am I less dehydrated? Or am I just telling myself a different message before and during class? I had this whole theory about Diane's class, yesterday, that I felt great because I drank like 8 gallons of mango juice. But somehow I don't think that's the difference. I talked about showing up with the intention of having a "good day." And I've talked here, and in my other blog about the huge gap between perception and reality (or, alternatively, about how our perception defines our own reality, and there's little distinction between the two, from our perspective). More than one time, I have looked around the room during or after class, or talked with fellow yogis, and had both agreement and disagreement about what kind of class it was. Was it a hard class? Was it an easy class? Was it too hot? Not hot enough?

Is hot yoga some genius therapy technique designed to teach us that we have complete control over only one thing: how we choose to experience what life brings?

Kathy's class is deemed by most to be one of the hardest classes there is. Though, for some time now, I have been finding her to be less difficult than a number of other teachers. I'd better be careful what I say here, or she'll make sure to set me straight in one of these upcoming classes. But there are a few reasons why (I tell myself) that her classes are not that hard for me. First, what she focuses on tends to be what I am strong at doing. A typical Kathy class has us spending quite a large amount of time in a horizontal position, in some variation of a High Plank. It just happens that this is less exhausting for me than holding Crescent Lunge or Prayer Twists for 3 minutes each. It's not that she doesn't do these poses. But there's a substantial chunk of the class that is spent in Planks, leaving less time for the legs. Of course, is it really that it's easier? Or do I tell myself "This class is going to be easier for me." If I could somehow tell me that Odessa's 90 minute class is "what I'm good at," would that one suddenly become a cakewalk as well? Another reason why Kathy's class tends to be easier for me is because she's got pretty much the best timing to her Vinyasa flow of any instructor at Urban. It's deliberate, with very distinct pauses at each step. There are two important things she does in the middle of her flow. First, she has an explicit call for "High Plank," which gives us time to really set up the start of the horizontal position. Second, she's got enough of a pause after High Plank, before calling for Chaturanga, that there's an opportunity to go down with good form. Often, Vinyasa flows go straight from calling the Halfway Lift to calling Chaturanga. Everything in-between is "implied" but not explicitly stated. We all know there are these intermediate steps, and we do them, but when it gets blurred together in the instruction, there's some tendency for our mind and body to also blur the transitions. It can also be easy to start falling behind the flow.

My lesson has been to try to go at my own pace, and not worry about falling behind. But that does put a little burden on me during class that goes beyond the fundamental elements of the class. I suppose it's a good lesson. But "being okay" in the mind takes some energy, at least for a beginner like me. Kathy's deliberate teaching style (I think) relieves that burden for me, and makes me feel more at ease.

I did Wheel today for the first time in at least a month. My shoulder has been feeling almost entirely better, for reasons that elude me slightly. Probably due to not doing any Chaturangas at all for a few weeks there. Anyway, I decided to "test" the shoulder today. If it hurts, back off. If not, still be careful. And surprisingly, it was completely pain-free. Nonetheless, I'm not going to push it. If it's barely better, that means it's almost hurt. Important to remember that.

Is it possible to have an effect on the number of "good days" merely by talking about it?

18 July, 2012

First time for everything

Today was Hatha with Diane.

And it was the first time, ever, in a hot yoga class, where I did not require a single sip of water for an entire class. Could it be the pound of Rainier cherries that I ate today? Or perhaps the quart of mango juice? I am not sure. But I just felt great the entire class, and didn't ever feel like I needed to hydrate. It was nice, actually. The class was not particularly hot, though I am not sure if the temperature was lower, if it was just my perception of temperature. Every pose felt strong, and there was not even a point during the class where I had the usual anticipation of being ready for it to be over.

There's been a lot of this back and forth lately. Good day. Bad day. Good day. Bad day. If I could identify some magic formula that determines this, I would be sure to employ the correct inputs to bring about the positive outcomes. But it eludes me.

Such is the nature of these things.

Tomorrow is Kathy. Good day?

(for kicks, I'm going to start tracking these via tags... might be interesting to see the trends)

17 July, 2012

The hot corner is hot

Today was Power Vinyasa with Whitney.

Class started oppressively hot, and the needle never really moved from there. After my big commitment about showing up with intention, I am not sure I met that bar today. I survived. That's about the best I can say about it. At the halfway point, there was that familiar devolution into silent mini-rage, at why and how it is necessary for the room to be so hot that it one cannot actually obtain air. There were the typical fantasies about going to a different yoga studio that is cooler. All the usually ghouls and demons reared their heads. But I just kept on walking past them, and staying in the series of poses that Whitney requested. It's all I can do, right? Let the mind do its talking, and try to not let that interfere with what the body needs to do.

I am not really sure if oppressive heat is "The Right Way" to do a hot yoga class, or if there is some loss of the original vision. What would Baron Baptiste say if he came into a studio that was teaching his series, but 15 degrees hotter than he does? Would he say "Way to go?" or "Um... I don't know if this is such a good idea?" I don't know. I figure that if I can keep myself together, and build a stronger mind, and not actually physically decease in there on the mat, this will probably be of benefit to me, no matter how grueling it might be in the moment.

There. Was that uplifting enough for you? Perhaps tomorrow will bring better spirits.

16 July, 2012

Intention without expectation

Today was Hatha with Patrick.

After yesterday's debacle on the mat, which I subsequently found out was (at least in part) due to the 108 degree temperatures in the room during the class, I felt it was absolutely imperative that I jump right back in there with Patrick again, rather than shy away from the challenge.

There had been much pondering about whether or not the end of the yoga challenge should bring with it a day (or multiple days) of rest. In the end, I decided that I wanted to get right back in there and try again, after a tough class. There's also this memory, from running track in high school, of running through the finish line, rather than slowing down as you approach it. I felt, in some way, like stopping on July 15th was a little bit too much like calling this entire journey a complete service of "The Challenge." In fact, this is just a practice that is ongoing, never-ending really, and today is just one more day in that life of practice.

So here I was, ready for better or worse.

In spite of having endured many consecutive days of tired, weary, sometimes painful sensations, today was like another rebirth. I talked about it after class with Patrick. Why is it that one can feel completely rock bottom, and then suddenly spring back into energetic form only a day later. I didn't get particularly good sleep. I didn't take a day off. I did nothing in particular that should have made me feel better. But I did. One could attribute it to all sorts of supernatural forces, or to energy inside our bodies that we don't fully understand. But I think the more likely explanation is that it was in my mind, in my intention. I came to class today, not dreading the experience, but fully intending on meeting it head on. I was going to have a good class. It was not a question of "I hope," but a simple fact that "I must, and I will." And simple as that, I did.

Our body will do what our mind tells it to do. But there are a lot of days where I can't seem to will my mind to tell my body what it ought to hear. For several days, I came to class with negative expectations... Odessa was going to be grueling... Hatha/Yin was going to be tedious... showing up with an intention to suffer. And, sure enough, suffer I did.

Others in class today said that it was hot. To me it felt less hot than previous days. Where is reality? What is truth? Is perception comprised primarily by experience, or by expectation? I have my suspicions.

Therefore, I think the greatest challenge I have for myself, in these coming days, weeks, years, lifetimes is to show up with intention and without expectation.

I think that might be what this is all about.

15 July, 2012

Time to rest...

Today was Hatha/Yin with Patrick.

It was Day 45 of the challenge. The final day. I met the challenge, and then some, having done yoga for 53 consecutive days. I woke up this morning, feeling like I couldn't believe I actually had to go do yoga. It shouldn't have really been any different from any other day in the past couple of months, but for some reason I was just tired, and feeling not-looking-forward-to-it. There were not many familiar faces in class today, just a couple, which surprised me, because I expected the final day to be a big turnout. I guess people were opting for Power Yoga as a last hurrah for the challenge, and this was not that.

The last week or so, I've really been feeling tired and sore in my hips. Every Warrior II has felt like it's just making my joints creak, and like my hip sockets don't want to rotate that way. But today was the last day of the run, I should be able to pull it together.

But, it turns out, today was the day where I found myself giving in to the voice that was saying "For fuck sake, just rest, already, will you?" And I know it was my mind that really wanted the rest, because this lapse occurred during the Yin part of the class, not the Hatha part (which I did, for the most part, as prescribed). After 45 days (53) of heat, and no air, and sore muscles, and struggling mind, Day 45 was the day where I gave in to it. And it wasn't without some inner conflict. We were doing wide-leg stretching, long holds. I was seated on a block, and trying to get into the hamstrings. There was no air. I am sure this was not a crisis for everyone in the room. But my crisis was that I wanted more of it, and I didn't have it. And I knew that the practice is to quiet that mind, and to not stir up the chaos. The entire point of Yin is to be in that, more than any other form of practice that we do at UYS. And it's here that I encountered the greatest resistance and, ultimately, gave in to it.

Yin is a lot like meditation. Yoga is a lot like meditation, but Yin is a little more like it than any-old-yoga. And that's because there's not a whole lot you are doing physically to distract from the places the mind wants to go. It's pretty much just you, the mind, and some connective tissue (the latter of which is either cooperating, or not, depending on your body).

So it's back to the meditation thing. It's apropos that I concede in this space, because it's where I have had my big wall ever since forever.

I'm being hard on myself.

I was just tired, right? But I was tired in Odessa's class yesterday, and I kept going, because Power Yoga always has the next pose to keep your mind busy with the sheer mechanics of it. It certainly is a challenge for the mind, but it's a different kind of challenge. Power Yoga builds "mental toughness," and it has the capacity to quiet the mind, but that's not a sure bet. You can have a really decent Vinyasa practice and still have the little monkeys running full speed in their wheel. But in Yin, or in meditation, you are either doing the practice, stillness, or you are not. There's no faking it. No escaping it.

There's my edge. I knew it was there all along. I am not faking my way through yoga practice, but I am a beginner. I have a long way to go. I did, and do deserve a rest, and it's okay to pat myself on the back for the accomplishment. But the rest could have started 15 minutes later.

I'm beating myself up again. I don't know if I know how not to.

Yet.

14 July, 2012

Anticipation is making me wait

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Odessa.

After class, I pointed out to Odessa that I'd been mentally preparing myself for her class for the previous 2-3 days, knowing how hard it was going to be, and psyching myself up for the experience. Truth is, that's a slight exaggeration. I was not really preparing myself. I was merely reflecting on it, thinking ahead to the experience. I didn't do any kind of visualization that might have productively prepared me, not that preparation was necessarily in order.

Odessa asked me why I didn't just not think about it ahead of time, and just show up, and enjoy it. I was being funny. She was being funny. But the point was well-taken. I know that thinking about future challenges, aside from actually preparing for them, is just being somewhere other than the moment. Yet I do it. Even when it comes to yoga. It shouldn't surprise me, I guess. Yoga is a pretty good mirror for everything in our lives, so it stands to reason that I will even do my usual "stuff" when it comes to yoga "the plan," as well as yoga "the practice."

Class was hard, but it was nice practicing among a group of familiar faces. New friends. This community is why I want to be here. It's what makes me feel so committed to it. I should also say that it's for my own internal growth, and that is true. But I am a very social person. I like seeing friendly faces, and having those connections. I am willing to endure a grueling workout, dehydration, fatigue, occasional muscle cramps, and skin problems in order to have this.

And it's truly unlike anything I've ever had. I like knowing my instructors, being friendly with them. It feels really nice to have these wonderful people in my life who are my guides, but we can also share a smile during class, and share a conversation or a drink outside of class, too.

I've talked about how things are shifting a number of times. I don't so much feel like I am in an active shift right now, so much as settling in to the aftermath of a series of shifts that have occurred. I am now in a different place. It's time to be in it, and see what it feels like, and take a look around and try to understand who I am in this new place.

13 July, 2012

Becoming a blur

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra. 

Right? I think so. I think that's what it was. It's becoming a bit of a blur. I fell a couple of days behind on the writing, and it's catch-up time. The yoga challenge is extra-challenging when it means that I have 7 blog entries a week to write, and the back-log is unrelenting.

Yes. It was most definitely Cassandra. Friday at 4pm. I had made a special request that she not use the word "Dog" in class. It was a joke, of course, since that would be pretty hard to do unless you know all the sanskrit names, in which case, nobody else would know what she was saying.

How many Downward Dogs have I done in the past 9 months? How many Warrior II poses? How many times have I wrapped my arms in Eagle pose?

A year ago, well, 18 months ago, I had no idea what Downward Dog was. Now I assume everyone knows what it is. Chances are, most people have always known what it was, with the exception of me, since I was so yogilliterate. But now, yogaspeak is part of my daily lingo.

I honestly don't remember much about class on Friday. I remember it was hot in the room before we started, and one of my teammates took the personal liberty of propping the door open before class. I don't remember who was next to me. I barely even remember where I was in the room.

My commitment had been to write about these classes as soon after class as possible, to try to capture the feelings and thoughts fresh, while they were still clear in my mind. Almost like writing down dreams when you wake up. And much like a dream, this daily practice starts to blur. And as I get fatigued, my will to write about it is wavering. I even asked the question of myself, "Do I really need to write about every class?" And I think the answer is still "yes."

At least for now.

I am tired. And I will probably feel more enthusiastic once this lifts.

12 July, 2012

Learning to breathe

Today was Hatha with Bret.

It was a pretty standard Bret experience today. We did a few variations on the normal Hatha poses, with some unusual stretches, one of which looked a lot like Side Plank with the bottom knee down. We even did a little bit of Vinyasa flow in there, for good measure (though, this has actually been a week full of unusual Hatha "poses" - Patrick had us doing Push-Ups on Monday, and Marva had us doing hardcore abs).

After class today, I decided I should go get one of the many massages that I am "owed" by Massage Envy (where I have a membership). It's been about 6 months since I have visited them, and the 1-per-month quota keeps accumulating if you don't use them (fortunately).

During the massage, I made an interesting discovery. It's a lot easier to relax and breathe now than it used to be. I was able to take that "Savasana" breathing onto the massage table, and really relax, in a way I probably never have before. The massage therapist even commented on how good my breathing was! At one point, I am pretty sure I was down around 2 breaths per minute. And I also realized, when I really relax, there's a lot more room on the inhalation side of the breath than I typically experience. I have a hard time "filling" with air when I breathe. I am not sure if it's because I don't usually use my full lung capacity, or if it's some other reason, but I was shocked to find that I could keep taking in a little more, a little more, getting maybe an extra 10 seconds on the inhalation side.

It seems weird to think that we need to train our lungs and chest to expand that far. But why should that be surprising? It's no different than any other muscles.

11 July, 2012

No knee to nose

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

As a joke, I'd asked her to please not make us do "knee to nose" in today's class. Unfortunately, I neglected to word it explicitly enough. I said "do not say the words 'knee to nose'" which she cleverly interpreted as "knee to elbow is just fine." Anyway, it was worth a laugh in class today, and that's always a good thing.

The big decision in today's class, which I think I mentioned previously, was that I decided to try a Chaturanga-free practice. No Upward Dogs. No Low Cobras. None of it. Today, "Vinyasa Flow" meant "High Plank to Downward Dog." Every other attempt to give my shoulder a break has failed to provide adequate relief. What I found was that this worked well. And it was still a decent workout, because it meant I was doing High Plank "holds" instead of going through the flow.

At this point, anything is worth trying.

10 July, 2012

First first time in a long long time

Today was Hatha with Marva.

I've had some yoga field trips, where I've experienced new instructors, but today was the first time I have taken a class with a "new" instructor at UYS in a long time. Marva has apparently been there as a regular in the past, but was away for most of my tenure of doing yoga. It is always interesting to get a new person's perspective (except, of course, in Bikram, where there are no perspectives).

I'd heard Marva is tough. So I was curious what that would mean. It turns out, Marva is very gentle and soft-spoken. But the class earns its intensity via short rest periods. We did two sets of every standing pose, except Tree. Somehow, Marva packs the equivalent of a 75 minute class into 60 minutes.

The Hatha stint is doing my body justice. Starting to recover a bit. Mostly I have been making the necessary adjustments and I should probably recognize that.

Tomorrow I'll try Vinyasa again, but with a new "plan."

09 July, 2012

The Countdown

Today was Hatha followed by Yin with Patrick.

The countdown is on. Unless I have woefully miscalculated, the 45-day challenge should be ending this coming weekend. Of course, I have long since passed the 45-day mark, since my streak started around the 24th of May. But who's counting, right? I'm not really sure what, if anything, I'll want to do differently at the end of the yoga challenge. It's become such a habit, it's almost easier to keep going. Though, I suspect it could be good for my body to take some rest days. Maybe back off to 5 times a week, instead of 7. Maybe take a field trip to another studio just to jump start the system with some variety. Who knows?

The main reason for doing the double today was that I wanted to take the Yin class, but felt it would be better not to take it on cold muscles coming straight off the street. I am glad I did the Yin class again, though it was one of those days where parts of it felt like I just couldn't get there. Could not get into the positions required to access the body parts that are indicated for the given poses. Either due to tightness, or injury, some things are just not available to me.

Not much to say today.

08 July, 2012

Nope. It still hurts.

Today was Power Vinyasa with Kelley.

Here's where a yoga "challenge" gets in the way of listening to my body. My shoulders have been really hurting, and there's no way I would have ever done another Vinyasa class today, but my schedule rendered 9am as the only viable time to practice.

I suppose I could have done a Hatha home practice. In fact, I should have. But I opted to just go for it. Modified every single Chaturanga, but it didn't matter. Lowering down with my knees on the floor felt terrible too. The only other modification I could have done would be to go from Plank right into Downward Dog. Unfortunately I didn't think of that one until just this moment.

Kelley's a tough teacher, as I mentioned. I was grateful that, once again, class was not too hot.

The challenge is almost over. I've avoided major injuries. But I still need to learn to search deeper for the path of least damage.

How does that relate to my life?

Does anybody know what time it is?

Today was Power Vinyasa with Rob.

It was another of those rare occasions where I happened to be positioned facing the small clock that instructors use to check the time during class. Normally this clock is facing toward the wall so no one can see it. But occasionally they forget. And the result was that every Downward Dog had me facing back between my legs and seeing that clock.

I knew that we were 20 minutes into class after the first major flow sequence. I saw us hit the 40 minute mark and we hadn't gone to the floor yet. At 50 minutes we finally went to the mat, but it was clear that there was more than 10 minutes of class left. I started thinking "Does he know this is only a one hour class?" I was wondering when is it going to end. But the strange thing was that I was not suffering. I was not even really tired. There was no panic. But that clock made me want it to end. Had there been no clock, I would have had no idea class ran long.

What is it about time that is so fixating? Why is the movement of numbers in an inanimate device such a driver for state of mind?

There's not that much time left in the challenge. My body is feeling it. Today, every Chaturanga hurt. Even modified to the extreme, it was still uncomfortable. And my schedule has kept bringing me to Vinyasa rather than Hatha. Doing the best I can, but fatigue is setting in. I feel it in my wrists. I feel it even in my palms.

Rob kept the class cool today.

Thankful for that.

06 July, 2012

Covalence

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

She had us line up with half the room facing the other half, like several of the teachers have been doing lately. Normally, this involves a "Neutral Zone" in the middle of the class where the teacher stands. But today, I was feeling feisty and decided that I was lining up in that space.

But my plan got one-upped when Heidi suggested that we line up our mats face-to-face, in perfect alignment, with virtually no gap. I knew immediately what some of the implications of this would be. Certain poses were going to be very humorous. Others would have the potential to be rather intimate.

What I didn't fully anticipate was that the entire practice was going to have an intensity and energy to it that was truly unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It is an amazing motivator, having a fellow yogi standing practically as a "mirror" across from you, sharing the experience of each pose. It's not just the knowing that you're acting as a physical mirror, but there's this connection around knowing that they are "in their practice" but sharing that with you.

I have often found that staring directly into my own eyes in the mirror helps focus during tough poses. What I could never have guessed would be that staring into someone else's eyes would help even more.

Class itself was pretty intense. Cassandra had a newish routine today compared to the previous several classes I've done with her. But it didn't really matter what poses she called out. The effect of that mirror was to effectively lock me in the moment. Staying there because I am now sharing the ownership of being in this moment. To cop out or drift is to break the energy.

Near the end of class, I came to the realization that this practice was sort of like a "covalent bond," where energy was passed back and forth. After class I felt euphoria, as well as a very odd sensation that I hadn't really felt before. I'm not the "woo woo" type of person, but I cannot help but wonder if there is a tangible type of energy that we exchange in class together. We are always sharing it just by being in the same class together. But is it possible to really elevate that energy by co-practicing?

Probably.

Thanks, Heidi, for sharing that.

05 July, 2012

Getting in tune

Today was Hatha with Jo.

It's been two years since I played in a band. Prior to that, I spent most of my adult life playing in bands or, at the very least, playing with other people. The last band "breakup" was tough on me because it was unexpected, sad, and it was very much avoidable. I'm reminded of a quote by a friend of mine in the medical profession. She said "There are no car 'accidents,' only car 'crashes.'" (and I have no idea how to punctuate that sentence properly)

That notion ends up being apropos in more ways than I will discuss, but the reason I mention it is because it's about awareness and intention, both of which I have been working on daily.

In class today, Jo said "We tend to move toward wherever we focus." That's actually been my mantra for quite some time, in slightly different words: "Where you look is where you go."

I'm rambling and dancing around the point. The main point is that I've been away from music for two years and an important part of me has been dormant, nearly absent. Now, during this 45-day yoga challenge, things are awakening in me. I started looking for a new band, and I am doing an audition this weekend. I could have done that any time in the past two years. But I became "ready" now. During the yoga challenge.

Emptying the cup to make room for something new... Letting go... Call it whatever you want. This shit works.

Things are shifting.

04 July, 2012

More tales from Planet Ginger

Today was Power Vinyasa with Ginger.

No matter how many times I tell myself "Be Prepared For Anything!" I will always be surprised and unprepared for what transpires in Ginger's class. It simultaneously beats me up and keeps me coming back. Today's class started at 9am, with the proclamation that the heat was "not working" and that we'd have to rely on our own internal heat today. Of course, I was absolutely overjoyed at the prospect, and immediately geared my entire mindset toward the bliss of an 85 degree class. Fast forward 15 minutes, and it became clear that this assessment of the heat was, shall we say, less than correct. The heat was working just fine, and it was very quickly (guessing) 105 degrees in the room. For some reason, call it "unmet expectations," it hit me much more that the temperature was not what I was expecting than if I had just gone into a class expecting the heat.

The sequences themselves were the standard fare of unusual flows and wild transitions. I don't think we did a single unmodified Sun A in the entire class. I don't think we did a Rag Doll until about 30 minutes into class. Perhaps I need to take her class more often, so that it starts to become more familiar? Though I wonder, is the routine consistent enough from class to class that I would ever become familiar?

It kills me. Every time.

So why do I keep wanting to come back?

Well, I guess I remain curious. It's kind of fun, albeit grueling. And I am looking forward to that day where I show up and rock a Ginger class.

For now, I'm still waiting :)

03 July, 2012

Bliss quota surpassed

Today was noon Hatha with Jo.

Apparently, last night's bliss extravaganza resulted in my hitting the bliss quota for the week, and there was no more bliss to be had until the counter gets reset.

And that's okay. It can't all be roses and unicorns and heath bar crunch sundaes, or we wouldn't be able to appreciate it when it is. There was nothing particularly "anti-bliss" about today's class. But it was a little hot (because I opted to plant myself in "The Hot Corner") and a lot humid. More importantly, my body was tired from last night. I could tell, just walking up the stairs to the locker room before class, that my legs were shaky and my balance would be questionable today. And it turned out to be one of those days that standing on one leg was hard to do, even without any of the additional movements involved in the various poses.

The big question I have is whether I can learn not to panic in the heat and humidity? The obvious alternative would be to do yoga at a studio that is not as hot. And I am torn as to the balance of the benefits on each side. I'd like to think that my body would just "get accustomed" to the heat. But I've been doing this for 9 months now, and many days consecutively, with absolutely no shift in terms of how my body physically responds to the heat. I do believe that my mind is responding differently to the heat than it did previously. I am making it through classes much stronger, and having fewer mental spin-outs.

It's got me wondering if I need to branch out and experience yoga at some other studios and see what works best for me. I found that the few classes I took in cooler environments (Boston, Port Townsend, Walla Walla) were very much to my liking. There's that voice in me that counters that with "Maybe you're just wimping out." And that's a tough one for me. I don't want to "let myself off the hook" but I also know that the amount of sweat that I drop during a class far exceeds 95% of the people in any class. Clearly, my body is responding to the heat with a far more extreme reaction than most people. You can't fake that.

The hesitation about branching out is that I have this community that I'm building here at Urban Yoga Spa, and I also have a monthly membership, which is very convenient. I don't really want to be complicating my schedule by adding another studio.

I don't know. I don't know. I don/t know.

Maybe I'll feel different tomorrow.

02 July, 2012

Bliss Part 2: Patrick

Tonight continued with Patrick's new Yin class, which will now be a regular Monday event.

I went into the class today joking with Patrick that I was back for "the hair of the dog that bit me," but somehow I knew that today would be different. I was already starting out in a euphoric state. My body was not the least bit fatigued from Jo's class.

I talked in the previous post about how I wanted to understand what made today different. It's all speculation, of course, but I suspect that my attitude played a large role. I showed up today to overcome. I came right at my fears. I don't want to be afraid. I want to go within. So my whole mindset was around having a positive experience.

And I did.

One big change today was that I generously employed a block to help with creating space to move. Another thing was that I was determined to listen and observe my body nonjudgmentally instead of getting mad at what it can or can't do. This came into play in the first pose, Hero's Pose, which I have a great deal of trouble with due to knee pain. There would be many days where my mind would immediately have gone to "God! I cannot even do the first freaking pose! What's wrong with me?!" But not today. Instead I patiently kept adjusting my position, staying emotionally neutral, until I found something that worked. And then, that pose ended and another began. New experience. Clean slate.

I found myself surprised a few times today. In some of our cross-legged forward folds, my chest was draped over my legs with my forearms flat in front of me. I didn't even realize I'd gone that far, and I am not sure I have ever been in that position. But I got there by breathing and listening to Patrick's calming guidance. He mixes instruction, philosophy, science, and plain-old coaching. More than any other teacher, I find that his stream of words (and he is a talker) is lulling, meditative. It is never a distraction.

At the end of class, we were doing a pose involving long slow breaths to whatever count we wanted. I remembered Patrick saying in the previous class that if we took a long pause at the end of an exhale, we could really experience the stillness that is possible. Yesterday, I only experienced panic, and short breaths, and disappointment with myself. Today, I found that at the end of an exhale, I could pause and begin counting silently... One one thousand... Two one thousand... Three one thousand... And I am going and going, empty lungs, at Twenty... Twenty five... Until finally I took a breath only because it seemed like the right thing to do.

And there was stillness.

I felt like I was floating in a hang glider above the earth. Peaceful. Present. So amazingly calm and still. My brain was probably on some strange pattern of activity. It was amazing.

When class ended, I didn't want to leave the room. I sat with Patrick and a couple of students who were practicing headstands. I just absorbed the experience I'd just had.

Stillness is possible.

Bliss Part 1: Jo

Today was Power Vinyasa with Jo.

I don't know what, how, or why, but today the positive forces of the universe converged in a little bubble around Urban Yoga Spa.

I knew that I was going to do a double today. This is rarely something that I plan. But after the really tough experience I had yesterday in Yin, I wanted to go right back at it. And it just felt like
Jo's class was meant to be the prelude to that.

I had told myself that I'd better go easy to make sure I wasn't too dehydrated. But it turned out not to be necessary. The energy in the room today was so amazingly unified. In spite of a dismally cloudy July 2nd, we made the dimly-lit Studio A shine.

And there was nothing "special" about the sequence. It was not easier than usual. Maybe a hair less hot, but packed mat-to-mat nonetheless.

The thought that lingered in my mind was "Why?"

I am not trying to deconstruct it to the point that it has no raw value. But there had to be something different today. Was it me? My body? My mind? Was it Jo? Was it the room? Was it the chemistry of 100 yogis breathing in unison?

I won't get the answer to that. It's unknowable.

And there's a kind of beauty in that.

01 July, 2012

What's that drilling noise?

Today was Hatha + Yin with Patrick.

There was a loud drilling noise during class today. It might as well have been a loud drilling noise inside my soul, because I was completely unable to keep my head together during the Yin portion of class. Always excited to take Patrick's class, but the external stimuli in the room (loud construction drilling in the ceiling) contributed to my lack of focus.

My body doesn't have very far to go, in terms of depth, in many of the Yin poses, because of tightness. It is a place where patience is the only thing you can have. You can't work around it. You can't ignore it. You have to be in it, and either be patient, or suffer. At one point, Patrick was emphasizing how important it is to just breathe wherever we are, and to focus on breathing for the 6 count or 8 count. But what I noticed was, as I started to get more uncomfortable and frustrated with myself, I was not breathing at all. When I attempted to breathe to any count, I became aware that it was hard to even maintain an inward or outward flow of air for even a 2 count. I was short of breath. Patrick suggested that we pause at the end of an exhale, to feel the extreme stillness that's possible. But, in my case, what I felt in that gap was the adrenalized sensation of mini-panic. That happens quite often during the difficult parts of class. Something in me is triggering the opposite of stillness. I wish I were able (now) to get past that.

Yin is bringing me face-to-face with the kind of real fear that I have experienced in many circumstances in my emotional life. I want to run away from it. I came closer to running out of the room during this class than I think I ever have before.

I want to run away.

But instead, I will probably get myself right back in there again for more.