31 August, 2012

Drowning in Dave

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

Given the ongoing soreness, and my seeming inability to remember to take ibuprofen, I was nervous about today's class. But it turned out, the hardest part of class was the soundtrack, a mix of Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam, and other bands I did my best to miss the first time around.

Nonetheless, I had a pretty good class. Cassandra was inspiring, the room wasn't toooooo hot, and she kept class interesting with a few flows that I had never done before (i.e. step forward and immediately come to Side Angle, then Triangle, Warrior II, Half Moon, Warrior II, reverse, flow).

Being the start of a long weekend, class was somewhat of an eclectic assortment of people, trying to fit in their yoga before going away.

I can't really call today a "bad day" because I had a good class. But my body is sore all over. Wrists. Hips. Shoulder. Heels. Sometimes I think I have some sort of degenerative disease. And then I decide I am probably just a hypochondriac.

In one week I will be Boston-bound. On the final stretch of this marathon.

What will a day off feel like?

30 August, 2012

Gentle yoga = Yin?

Today was Gentle Yoga with Nicole.

I had no idea what gentle yoga would be. I only knew that, whatever it was, it's what I needed. Turns out, it's Yin. This was my second class with Nicole, and I really enjoyed it.

We started off, the 10 of us, by introducing ourselves and stating one word to describe how we were feeling. It seems so innocuous, but those simple acts of sharing really made me feel a sense of connection with people in the room. The emotions ranged from "great" to "anxious" to "uneasy" to "relaxed." I was "sore," as you may have guessed.

We did about 5 minutes of meditation. Then we did a pretty basic Vinyasa flow for 10-15 minutes. And then... The Yin.

It was pretty similar to UYS Yin. Same series of poses. Focus was mainly on hips and hamstrings. Temperature was only around 80 degrees though.

For the first time, I left class without breaking a sweat. Interestingly, in some way, I feel like I didn't really do yoga because I didn't sweat. But yoga is still yoga even when it's not hot yoga.

Right?

29 August, 2012

How hot is your yoga?

We do hot yoga.

Some of us do Bikram yoga. Some of us do Baptiste yoga. Some of us do other versions of hot yoga. Everyone has a good sense of what the temperature is for these different styles. Bikram is between 104-106 degrees Fahrenheit. Baptiste ranges between 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit. There's another factor that comes into play, and it's an important one. It's called "Heat Index." There's a website by NOAA that you can visit for explanations and calculations of this index, which is based on temperature and relative humidity. The heat index, in simplest terms, tells you how hot it feels for a given combination of temperature and humidity. The two charts below (one from the NOAA site, and one by me) show you how heat index increases quite dramatically as temperature increases. For your convenience, I have placed a dot where Bikram and Baptiste have set their studios.


As you can see above, there's quite a big gap in heat index between those two styles of yoga. Though the actual temperature difference is only about 15 degrees, the heat indices differ by closer to 25 degrees, and that's even taking into account that Bikram is nominally done at lower humidity. Basically, humidity exaggerates increases in temperature. At the highest temperatures and humidities, the above curves likely start to become inaccurate, as humidity probably hits a cap when temperature keeps going up.


It's interesting to note that, according to NOAA, conditions in a Bikram studio are considered to be on the border of the "Danger" zone.

And, it's even more important to note that, often in hot yoga classes, especially in the summer, or in heavily attended classes, the humidity of a studio can go far above the 40-50% ranges that are prescribed for these two styles of yoga. And from the two charts above, you can quickly see that the effect on heat index, which is a more accurate measure of what your body experiences, are dramatic, and take it far into the "Extreme Danger" zone. For example, a class that is at 105 degrees, with only a moderately elevated humidity level of 60% will have a heat index of about 149 degrees. That is a full 25 degrees higher heat index than Bikram's prescribed conditions.

It is important to regulate not only temperature, but humidity, in order to keep conditions safe and healthy. This requires a mechanism of circulating air to return humidity levels into the desired range as a room gets moist with 50-100 people sweating for an hour or more.

Something to think about.

Slowly breaking down

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

I am realizing that I am slowly breaking down. This has become such an automatic routine for me, I don't even think about whether or not it's a strain to go as often I have been going. I just do it.

But today was Day 95.

And believe it or not, it takes a toll. I'm 44, not 24. And my body has not ever been fantastic at recovering quickly. I've been asking it to recover on 24 hours rest for over three months. The homestretch is upon me, and all I want to do right now is take it easy.

Carley was tough today, again, but the energy in the room was good. We did a lot of fun variations and things you don't often or ever see in a Baptiste class. We did a version of Rag Doll, where we pivoted around 180 degrees without moving our feet, so our legs were crossed, and then folded forward. That's similar to a runner's stretch we used to do back in high school track, which I think we called "Burger Kings" (for reasons that were never explained to me). We also did (or tried to do) a deeper variant of a hip stretch in Malasana, which involved pushing one knee outward with a hand, while resting the other palm on the floor. I was pretty much unable to get anywhere in that stretch, since my hips are so tight.

Day after day of Warriors is really making my hip joints sore. I want it to be loosening them, and making me feel more open. But everything just hurts.

Tomorrow I am going to find out what "Gentle Yoga" is. Nicole Tsong @ Be Luminous. I hope it's gentler than what I've been doing to myself for the past three months.

28 August, 2012

The battle of the mind isn't easily won

Today was Power Vinyasa with Whitney.

One of the hardest classes I have done in a very long time. When I walked in to the room, twenty minutes before the start of class, it was 101 degrees (with all the doors open), and so humid that it felt like it could start raining in the room at any moment. That didn't bode well, since humidity is slow to dissipate. I positioned myself as close to the door as I could possibly get, in the hopes of mitigating. It was barely a help, and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be buried deep in the room during this class.

Whitney's always tough, but today was an exception even beyond that. About 5-10 minutes into class, after barely a few minutes of warm-up Salutations, Whitney threw us into a Chair series, that involved sweeping arms forward and backward, and Prayer Twist, on both sides, with arm sweeps in-between, never coming out of the chair. At the end of the second side, I had to give in and squat down for a brief second, because my legs were burning so badly. And this, so early in the class, figuratively "broke my spirit," such that I was dancing on the edge of all my mental walls for the remainder of class.

All of the usual battles inside. Why does it need to be so hot? Why is there no air circulation? I'm battling myself, I think? Though, as I continually say, I am not sure it is a battle I want to fight. By the time we were doing Triangle pose near the end of class, I was so dizzy and light-headed, I thought I might pass out. The door was opened on a number of occasions in the second half of class, but the problem is that air doesn't really come in when it's that humid.

Complain, complain, complain.

I made it through class, and did the best that I could.

After class, I saw Whitney getting ready to leave the studio, with a big smile on her face. And I couldn't help but smile back, in spite of the fact that she just got done torturing me for an hour. I jest. I think that it might have been good for me. Maybe? I really don't know. I felt pretty euphoric after class.

To steal (and modify) a line from an Ingrid Michaelson song, "The battle of the mind isn't easily won."

27 August, 2012

Lots of love

Today was Power Vinyasa with Jo.

There are days where class feels more or less like you've got your own personal trainer. Today was one of those days. There must have been 75-80 people there, but I still felt like Jo managed to give me enough personal attention that I really felt loved and cared for. Whether it was an adjustment, or assistance, or a touch during Child's Pose, or a smile when she walked by... it really was nice.

I'd expected it to be extremely difficult today, since the Monday 5:30 often is. But there was something gentle about it, in spite of the intensity. And Jo brought her humor and levity in her teaching style. Whenever she has us do something extremely difficult, she will sigh or groan or say something funny like "Oh goodness!" It is a little playfulness that helps keep things light. I found myself laughing several times today.

Anyway, another good day. I did find the need to search for a place of ease in the practice, as I remain tired and a bit sore.

26 August, 2012

Better than my words can describe

Today was Power Vinyasa with Heidi.

I sat here for five minutes trying to come up with a title for the entry. Nothing was coming to mind. I'm tired, and feeling on the verge of writer's block. In fact, feeling that "I don't want to write today" kind of feeling. I know that means I had better write, before it slips out from under me.

I had low hopes for my ability to be "on" for a 9am Sunday class. But I'd made a promise to Heidi to do my best to attend her first-ever class in Studio A, "The Big Studio." The good news is that class turned out to be wonderful. I'm not entirely sure what it is that makes a class wonderful. It's not always the same thing each time, of course. And some part of it may have even been knowing that I showed up for myself, and to support my friend. But, objectively speaking, it was also a very good class. The pace was great. I like it when the poses feel like they have distinct cadence to them. I have mentioned this before, that I like when each part of the Vinyasa flow has enough of a beat to it that you can be in the different stages, rather than smearing the whole flow together. Heidi seems to be a natural at this. From what I have seen, it is not a function of experience, as to whether or not teachers deliberate this flow. I have seen very experienced teachers who do it (what I would say is) too quickly. Maybe it's a matter of preference? Maybe some people like to flow really fast? Perhaps.

It didn't feel particularly hot in the class today, though I was told after class that it was actually quite hot. Suspecting it was low humidity, perhaps being the first class of the day, and having an attendance of only around 25-30 people in a room that often has 80 or more.

Regretting that I don't have more to say about this one, because it was certainly inspiring. But my head is tired, and my words are plain. I'll stop, rather than ramble.

25 August, 2012

The teacher in me recognizes...

Today was Hatha at home.

I've thought about whether or not I should consider doing the Baptiste training. It fleets through my mind from time to time. And occasionally, someone says to me "you should teach yoga." I am not sure why. I guess I've always had an inclination for wanting to teach. And perhaps my (alleged) way with words makes some think I'd be good as a teacher. I dunno. When I've done my several home practices, it's occurred to me that having a good memory is a useful thing for a yoga teacher, because there is actually a lot to string together. I've found that I have little difficulty remembering the entirety of the Hatha series, and am pretty decent at pacing it to hit the one hour target. Probably because of my magical power of time perception. See, today's my day to be completely egotistical and tell you all the things I can do. Of course, I'm not sure that "good memory" and "time perception" really qualify for super-power status. But it is what it is, right?

So, today was the first time I've ever "led" a yoga "class." I am putting both of those words in quotes because I don't really think it's fair to call "practice at my house" a "class." And I don't really think that doing yoga while mumbling a few instructions constitutes "leading."

I can tell you this: the idea of calling training "Prepare to teach, prepare to lead" is really appropriate. Instructing yoga is much more than just teaching. It is a lot more like leading, because you need to stand confidently in front of a room full of people, and yourself, and be willing to tell others what to do. I've always been afraid to tell others what to do, and have mostly shunned any sort of leadership situations. And it's not that I don't have thoughts about how things should be done (as you know). It's just that, with power, comes responsibility, and it scares me to be the one leading others.

It helps to be instructing a class of only one student, especially when it's someone you're entirely comfortable with. But I have to say, it still made me quite nervous to be the one responsible for someone else's experience. And, heh, there's the truth of it. I am not actually responsible for anyone else's experience. We are all responsible for our own experiences. But when we teach, we commit to leading others in their experiences. And they submit themselves to our leadership or guidance. It's a trust relationship.

Scary stuff.

Anyway, I learned that it's a lot easier to have all of the things in my head than to say them out loud and have them sound as good as they do in my head. I learned that it's damn hard to do the poses while trying to offer instruction (and makes me want to offer massive kudos to people like Patrick, Gordy, Ginger, whom I've seen essentially do the entire class with us, while providing the instructions -- that is not easy). I learned that there's an interesting (and intriguing) sense of power (and I don't mean tyranny, but simply power) associated with being the instructor of how others will move their bodies.

I suspect that learning to teach, learning to lead on a yoga mat could potentially be a step toward having the courage and confidence, and commitment to lead in other areas of my life.

We shall see.

24 August, 2012

New faces, old fatigue

Today was 75 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Jen at Be Luminous.

Woke up feeling like I am getting a cold. Who knows why. Went to sleep early and slept over 8 hours. Decided today was a day for less-hot yoga and scouted the options. In any case, class would be with a new instructor for me, and that seemed like a perfectly good idea.

There were only 7 of us in class. We started off by doing little introductions in pairs and then we went around room and introduced ourselves. Who are you? Why are you here? The answers were varied: neck pain, relaxation, movement, repenting for eating cake or, in my case, to keep my streak alive at 90 consecutive days.

Jen noted that this was a Level 1 class, but I am honesty not really feeling like that means class will be particularly easy. In fact, today was freaking hard. But I know that a lot of that was just where my body is right now. Every Chaturanga felt heavy and painful. We did three sets of Dancer's Pose, two with a strap to hold our foot above our head (or at least in that general direction).

Today didn't really bring anything new or revelatory for me. But that sure was not Jen's fault. My body was just not up to it.

I am not going to start any sort of countdown, but I am keenly aware that there's 18 days to go.

Until what?

23 August, 2012

Welcome back, Jo

Today was Hatha with Jo.

I had no idea she was back from her honeymoon. Just automatically assumed today was Hatha with Bret. So, when I saw her there in the lobby, I asked her what she was doing here. She replied, "Well, I do still work here!" Fair enough.

Surprisingly packed class considering how sparsely Hatha classes have been attended lately. Jo was lighthearted and tough as hell. We did two sets of many poses early in class. This included the Chair series, which featured Twisted Chair, rarely seen in our Hatha classes.

Of course, the double sets early meant we ran out of time near the end. Thankfully, I was by the door today and benefited from lots of air. It made class relatively easy. And I needed an easy class. There have been many hard ones back-to-back.

That's all.

22 August, 2012

Not so luminous

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

Every class has its "on" days and its "off" days. Today was the first time that the energy in a Carley class did not feel absolutely uplifting. I'm not sure really why. It was gloomy outside, and the light in the room was considerably different than usual. From the moment class started, the energy was just... different. It was heavier. Usually, we have classes in silence with little or no music, and the air is filled with breath and electricity. Today, we had quiet music throughout most of the class. Usually, there are many tidbits of magical lightness sprinkled through class. Today, it was just a little quieter, and a little more serious. Usually, class begins with a query of how everyone's doing today, and some light comments about the state of things, either internal for her, or external with us. Today, we were almost immediately, quietly, ushered into the opening Child's Pose.

Interestingly, what we lacked in levity was made up with intensity. Carley brought a very tough practice today, and included several poses (including a few for stretching the fronts of our shins) that are rarely ever seen in a Vinyasa class. We started class a bit differently than usual, with some lunges and twists nearly at the beginning of class, before moving into the more "Baptistesque" sequences.

My practice was pretty strong today, but my body feels tired, and my muscles feel sore. I have been working pretty hard the last few days, especially on the poses involving oblique muscles. The obvious ones are the Side Planks, but I've also been working on lengthening more during Side Angle pose, and extending more during the twisted poses. As a result, I have a lot of soreness in places that are usually not sure. Additionally, all of the muscles around my shoulders and upper back are feeling it more than usual.

It was still a great class, even if the mood was a bit different from usual. I also am open to the possibility that I am projecting all of this, and that the darkness and heaviness might have been inside of me. Though, I don't feel dark or heavy today, so I'm only offering that up as a humble possibility, recognizing that perspective is not always objectively true.

21 August, 2012

When she shines, she really shows you all she can

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra*.

I'm trying to think of a fair analogy for the relationship between yoga instructor and yoga student. Instructors often refer to themselves as nothing more than a guide. But that's such an understatement. In some ways, it's probably more like the "Dungeon Master" in a D&D game. They lay out the course, set the stage, create the experience. The students agree to submit themselves to this landscape, and engage in the magical inner battle of the mind and body. The "yoga" is always in you. But the landscape can significantly color the experience. It can be an ordinary village, a peaceful meadow, the slopes of a great mountain... and so on.

Cassandra, always inspirational, has her days where she shows you a world that you never want to leave. Like one of those dreams where you're flying, and everything seems magical and almost "Lord of the Rings"-like. Today was one of those days, from start to finish. It's still yoga. It's essentially Baptiste Power Yoga. There were no poses invented in today's class. There were no surprises. Money did not fall from the sky. Jennifer Connelly was not a guest yogina. The difference between today and any-other-day was the special energy that Cassandra brought into the room, and the resonance between that energy and the group of students in class today.

I hate to cop out on the details, but I think I'll sum it up by saying "You had to be there."

Namaste.

*And a free beverage of choice to anyone who can tell me where the title of today's blog originates, without using the Googles to get the answer.

20 August, 2012

Bringing it

Today was Power Vinyasa with Gordy.

I was worried that my body was too tired, and that it might be a bad idea to do a Power class today. But, to quote Tom Cruise's character, Joel, in "Risky Business," sometimes you just gotta say "What the fuck?" So, I showed up, and I brought the fire. And it was actually a good class. The first 20 minutes of class was very difficult, with a lot of Plank holds, followed almost immediately by Side Planks, and Bellies of the Beasts. Tough stuff. But I stayed focused, stayed in my body, and had a really good class.

I've noticed that there are layers of stillness. This is not the first time I have mentioned this. But what I've noticed now is that there are different kinds of "quiet mind." I have really made great strides at quieting the body. That's a space where I feel I've grown immensely. The next layer seems to be quieting the mind's desire to grant free passes or excuses for the body. That's a harder one, but I am making a little headway in that area. But the hardest one, for me anyway, is the next layer. That's just the idle mind-spinning about whatever, whether it be work, life, the conditions of the room. The racing mind. I feel like I've sort of got that mind quarantined now from the body, but not entirely, you see. Even though I don't, for the most part, allow the mind to allow my body conscious deflection, I think this racing mind is causing the body to experience unconscious badness, i.e. racing heart, panicky feeling, extra fatigue, anger. All of these things feedback negatively into the yoga practice.

Gordy talked a lot today about enjoying the complete peaceful stillness washing over us. But I was feeling my heart beating harder than it should be, and a bit of an anxiety-like sensation. So, his words of total Zen-ness were actually agitating me further, because I couldn't understand why I wasn't able to achieve that stillness. I tried to return to the breath and make that anxiety subside, but it's hard to slow down once adrenaline is in the system. One needs to stop it before it starts to experience the ultimate calmness.

Just something to think about.

But not during class.

19 August, 2012

No moratorium on mindfulness

Today was Hatha with Diane.

I think I mentioned last week that I decided, on a whim, to run to the yoga studio one day. I hadn't run for many months prior, perhaps even close to a year. And I went out and ran, fast, downhill, two miles to Urban Yoga Spa. And the consequence of that is now ongoing soreness in my left Achilles tendon. One run. That's all it took. And I have pain. In certain standing poses today, especially Eagle, the pain was exacerbated every time I pushed down into my big toe (which is exactly what you find yourself doing when trying to stabilize the balance while bringing the upper body perfectly upright).

Hence, the title of today's entry. There is, indeed, no moratorium on mindfulness. We do damage, to ourselves and others, whenever we are not mindful. It's not a guarantee that it will happen, but the odds increase substantially. And routine lack of mindfulness (which is, for example, where I found myself before I started practicing yoga) will inevitably lead to damage. It's not rocket science, right? At the same time, we may still get hurt, or make mistakes, even when we are being as careful as we can possibly be.

After a practice at home that was fraught with distractions, I really wanted to focus on focusing today in Diane's class. It was a mellow class, and I felt like I achieved the goal of focusing physically, and arriving at stillness quickly during and between poses. But my mind was racing with thoughts of the day. I wouldn't say it was spinning around like crazy or anything, but I did find that some thoughts were hard to push down, as I had a few things on my mind that carried a lot of emotional weight. Nonetheless, compared to yesterday, where I was picking up my iPhone, and fiddling with the music on my computer (home practice), today was a good step in the right direction.

There have been a few consecutive weekends where I've ramped up the intensity a notch, doing long Vinyasa classes. This weekend, I took the opposite path, listening to my body saying "rest." Not just "yoga resting," but overall resting... sleeping in... trying to bring the cup back up to full.

Monday brings Gordy's class. Hopefully, things are well-rested enough.

18 August, 2012

Home is where the distractions are

Today was Hatha at Home.

Because of fatigue and soreness, I decided that it was best for me to practice at home today. The options at Urban were either earlier than I wanted (Colette) or more difficult than I wanted (Odessa and Kathy), and my afternoon plans ruled out the other options. I considered Be Luminous, but really wanted Hatha. I even looked at the schedule for Breathe, a studio I have never visited. But I settled on home.

It was a balmy 76 degrees. It was a good practice, but I allowed myself to be distracted a bit. First, the music distracted me. I wanted to try out Krishna Das (say it ain't so), but whatever tracks I found on Spotify were nothing like what we hear in class, and they annoyed me. So I settled on a shuffle of Ingrid Michaelson.

I got the music sorted, but I was still was distracted by texts on my phone.

Today was a day where the practice was more about doing the poses well, and doing them fully. My head was on the other things. Normally this isn't such a challenge.

I guess I need to expect that doing yoga every day will lead to some less focused days.



All you need is sleep

Last night was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

All day, I was trying to decide which class I would take. Bret Hatha? Or Cassandra Vinyasa? Normally, it's a pretty easy, snap decision for me. But this time I was waffling on it. I left work with the intention of taking Bret's class. But then, I realized I forgot the key to my locker, and needed to go back up to the office to get it. For a moment, I thought "Screw the key, I'll just ask them to cut off the lock." But then, I thought "Maybe this is a sign that I'm supposed to take Cassandra's class," which starts 15 minutes later. So I went with that, and walked back to my office to get the key. Turns out, I still arrived in time to take either class. But, at this point, I figured, if I am going to subscribe to the notion that magical forces in the universe are conspiring to determine which yoga instructor I should take, then I had better at least heed these extremely non-busy deities who dabble in such things.

Cassandra was excited about her new watch today. Apparently, having a digital watch with milliseconds on it makes her want to have people do Plank holds. Who knew? So, today, we did Plank holds. Only two of them, for 1 minute each (and I'm pretty sure the second one was only 40 seconds... maybe her watch was broken). I am told the previous class did three Plank holds, so it pays to be late, I guess. We also did 1 minute Warrior II holds. That's not as big of a deal as you'd think. We never really pay attention to time during such poses, but I would say it's pretty standard for the first Warrior I and II of a class to be a full minute.

I felt weak today. Tired. Heavy. Normally, High Plank feels almost weightless to me. Today, it felt like gravity was 98 m/s^2 instead of 9.8 m/s^2. Like I was doing hot yoga on Jupiter. Except, I am pretty sure it is not 105 degrees on Jupiter. Maybe 105 degrees Kelvin*.

Cassandra talked about "transitions" today at the start of class. And I felt a lot of very strong emotions around the topic. She was talking about paying attention not only to the poses, but to the transitions between poses. To be as mindful and present through these transitions as the pose itself. And she alluded to the transitions in our lives, and how she felt like many of us seem to be in a period of transition right now.

It's interesting, because I think in some ways, everyone who is practicing, whether it be yoga or meditation, is constantly in some process of transition or transformation.

But I thought a lot about my transitions. Have they been graceful? In life? Do I flow with grace? I think about how I treat others, how I get my needs met, how I initiate change in my life. Am I mindful? One thing I think I have been starting to learn, in no small part through yoga, is to act with intention. To be clear and decisive. I still am a "thinker" and that's probably not going to change entirely. I still analyze everything. But I am learning the value of doing that quietly rather than creating a big drama show. This is starting to spin into a topic that belongs in my other blog. So I'll save it for there.

I've been tired for a couple of days now, and I've been doing Vinyasa every day for as far back as I can remember. Not even sure when the last Hatha class was. Probably a week ago. My knees have been hurting a lot lately. And for the last two days, my shoulder has started hurting again, even though I had not been feeling any pain in it for over a week. Normally, the knee pain would be something I'd associate with weather, being that I assume it's arthritis. It tends to be worse when it's colder or wetter. Yes, I am getting old. But it was hot and dry, and I was feeling so much pain in both knees that I have been holding railings to assist myself going up and down flights of stairs. That bad, yes.

But today, something new occurred to me. My joints seem to hurt more when I don't get enough sleep. I only have a few data points to support it, but it makes sense. And I don't think it's inconsistent with the diagnosis of arthritis. If I am suffering from inflammation, then sleeping is a critical time where my body is (hopefully) working on repairing things. Interestingly enough, after sleeping for ten hours last night, which I rarely ever do, my body feels much better today. Of course, I also took a shitload of ibuprofen in the last 24 hours so it's hard to say for sure.

Okay, enough about me.

*For your reference, 77 Kelvin is the temperature of liquid nitrogen. So 105 Kelvin would be just about right for Jupiter. In fact, the internets tell me that Jupiter's surface is around 165 Kelvin, so I wasn't far off.

16 August, 2012

Baptiste in a blender

Today was Power Vinyasa with Ginger.

After my happy hour of power post the other day, I can imagine what you're thinking this one is going to be, with such a title. But I assure you, it is not the case.

Today, I found my schedule encountering a last-minute change that left me no option but to attend a morning class with Ginger. And this was actually a good thing, because I have been eager to return to her class after yet another rough experience last week. When I arrived, she was in the lobby, and I asked her if she was planning on standing at the far end of the room (where she often stands), because I wanted to position myself as close to her as possible. After the last class, where I had difficulty understanding the poses, I thought I should take initiative on my own to make things easier, rather than just be frustrated during class. Ginger informed me that she would, indeed, be at that end of the room, but that she was just planning on "doing Baptiste" because she was substituting for another instructor.

I thought about what it might mean when Ginger says she's "doing Baptiste," and (correctly) assumed that her idea of this might be quite a bit different from my idea, or Baptiste's idea, of what it means. It turns out, when you take apart the dinosaur skeleton and put all the bones back together in a different arrangement, you might just end up with a ring-tailed lemur.

Nonetheless, today's class went really well. It was extremely difficult, but it felt like a huge success. Class was so hot at a couple of points, I felt like someone was holding a blow torch pointing down at me from the ceiling. But I stuck with it, and didn't give in to the mind. Even though her poses were so fatiguing on my upper body, I kept it together. At one point, she had us doing "knee-to-elbow" while in Side Plank!

I want to be the kind of person who craves a challenge. I want to run straight toward the hardest thing, rather than always looking for the easy route. I feel like I have lived a lot of my life trying to avoid bad experiences, rather than to figure out how to turn them into good ones. I believe it was in a yoga class that someone first said to me that everyone we meet, and everything we encounter has the potential to serve as a teacher to us.

Teachers everywhere.

15 August, 2012

Harmony of the collective Om

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

At Be Luminous, the "Om" is a part of every class. This is not true at Urban Yoga Spa, where Om'ing only occurs occasionally, at the discretion of the instructor. So, prior to coming to this studio, I had very little context for appreciating or experiencing the variability and nature of a collective Om.

The first time I really noticed it was in Michel's class, my first day at Be Luminous. The room was quieter, brighter, and new to me. My senses were heightened. I was a little nervous, out of my familiar element. When the Om began, I was immediately struck with the perfect harmony of the room. It was like a Major chord. You could clearly hear the root, the third, and the fifth. And it was like a choir. That chance perfection of the particular collection of yogis, on that particular day, led me to become interested in the tonality of the Om going forward from class to class.

What I've noticed is that it's much more likely to have the collective hold a strong "pentatonic" nature, a lot of some root note, and a lot of a fifth. Today's Om, for instance, was very crisply on that vibe. I even heard a very faint minor third in there, which may have only been one or two voices, but enough to subtly affect the overall feel of it.

On one day, I cannot remember when it was, the Oms were scattered... dissipated... dissonant. There was no common ground. And I wonder, is there something about the energy of the group? Or is it the mood of the day? Or something else that is not tangible, but is nonetheless very real, driving the tonality either toward, or away from something that feels congruent?

I don't know the answer to that.

Today's class was amazing, and difficult.

Lately, I have been pushing pretty hard to get my hips up during poses like Belly of the Beast. It's a ton of core, and quite difficult for me to keep the hips up. And I often feel the soreness in the side muscles the next day. These are muscles so foreign to me, I am not even sure what they're called. They're not obliques. What are they?

We experienced a couple of really tough sequences today. Crescent Lunge, bind the arms behind, forward into Dekasana with the bound arms, pivot into Half Moon, step back to Warrior II, then down into a Low Lunge and stretch the hips letting the front foot fall outward. When we did the Triangle, to wide-leg stretching, to Pyramid near the end of class, Carley had us substitute the second wide-leg stretch with a High Squat plus Eagle arms right, then left, all holding in the High Squat. Quite a burn near the end of class. She also had us do a very novel entry into Tree pose (which I couldn't really execute) by lifting the leg way up and holding the foot with both hands, then placing the foot into Tree. My hips do not yet move that way.

Good things to note: (1) no shoulder pain lately, because I think I have really learned how to do Chaturanga in a non-damaging fashion, (2) my right knee is now so close to "better" that I can even sit comfortably cross-legged without feeling even a hint of pain, and am even able to squat pretty deeply into that knee without pain.

14 August, 2012

Happy hour of power

Today was Power Vinyasa with Whitney.

And today, I got my best physical evidence of just how true it is that it's all in the mind, and that the body just plays along. Of course, I already knew that. But to know it theoretically is different than seeing it in action.

Today, I met a friend for coffee in the afternoon. It was a former colleague who was visiting campus. Coffee ended up becoming non-coffee, and the time passed. I knew that this would all culminate with yoga class, so I had no illusions. I also knew that, ill-advised as it may be, I have "succeeded" at this before. Not a great data point to have, but there it is.

So...

Off to Whitney's class I go. I arrive jolly and ready for whatever will come. And, it would seem that Whitney brought the fire. But, for some reason, I just responded by peacefully doing the poses. I didn't even slack off. It was a full effort. But it came with ease. I left class feeling euphoric and light.

And it occurred to me... My mind is what holds me back. Not just in yoga, but in life. Thinking is my greatest asset, but also my downfall. The reduced "inhibition" I had going for me today amounted to reduced thinking. My focus was on pulling this shit off, regardless. And the mind, slightly attenuated, got out of the way. Even a slightly compromised body is overshadowed by a quiet and purposeful mind. And the converse is also true. A scattered mind is not able to master even the most able body.

The quiet mind is everything.

But there's got to be a better way of getting there than happy hour.

13 August, 2012

Back into the belly of the beast

Today was Power Vinyasa with Gordy.

Yesterday's class, for obvious reasons, mandated that I return immediately to exorcise (and exercise) the demons that were left lingering from the mental meltdown of the last third of that class. I showed up today very determined to have a good class, and very determined to absolutely rock it. That's Intention with a capital I. And, sure enough, I breezed through class. The sequence, save for 15 minutes shorter, was nearly identical to yesterday's class. There were a couple of sequences cut. And the flow near the end of class was considerably simpler (standard Sun B, rather than augmented with Crescent Lunges and Airplanes). It was probably just as hot as yesterday, and my mind did start chirping the same type of thoughts, about halfway through class. It's always the questions... "Why does it need to be this hot? What benefit is there?" But this time, I just labeled it, and moved on. I didn't allow myself to spin out and grab the thought. It's ludicrous to believe we can not have thoughts. But it's completely achievable to move past our thoughts.

This is the practice of yoga.

Don't let the bad make you forget the good

In the haze of my post-class funk yesterday, I neglected to mention something positive that occurred during class. We were doing Crow pose, about halfway through class. Somehow, in my Crow, I started losing my balance, falling forward. I landed directly in a tripod position, without toppling over completely. And I decided to play with it, since there I was anyway. First, I got a little comfortable just being in that position. And then, I tried to lift my left knee off my elbow. It was hard, but I did manage to lift it just a few inches, without falling. But I felt shaky. I noticed that my core wasn't exactly "facilitating" the effort. But I got to experience, for the first time, which muscles are even involved in making the transition to the headstand. I brought the leg back down to Crow. Then I tried the right leg, and noticed that it was less willing to lift than my left. Much like many other poses, there's some imbalance there. Of course, it's not surprising, or bad. But now I know something I didn't know before.

I could have walked out of Gordy's class yesterday excited that I had my first dabbling with Tripod Headstand.

Again, it's all about perspective.

12 August, 2012

Remembering my own words

Today was 75 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Gordy.

I decided to walk to yoga today. Only, when I left my house, I realized that it was not certain I would arrive on time, unless I really made good time. Even then, I would barely make it. So, I decided to run to yoga today. It's only two miles, and I am in shape. Should be a breeze. I haven't run in at least a year, but I was a runner for so many years of my life, I figured that I'd be fine. And I was. It's all downhill, and it felt amazing to be running again. Makes me wish I could do it regularly, but I know my body well enough (though it has changed some) that I suspect it would be a bad idea to try to take up running again.

I'd like to believe that running to class had no impact on my experience today, but maybe it did.

Someone mentioned to me recently that they were entertained with how I label classes as "Good Day" or "Bad Day." I feel like I should clarify a little bit. I was doing this to try to help myself keep track of trends in my practice, as they correlate with other things in my life. It wasn't necessarily something that I meant literally as "This is a good day" and "This is a bad day." The idea was more that a "Bad Day" is when I am spinning in my head, feeling struggle, fighting it all the way. A "Good Day" is a day where things are flowing smoothly or, at the very least, I handle the obstacles well.

Today I tried to position myself right in front of the door, which I think was a wise choice. But some logistical shuffling moved me deeper into the room, and I believe it impacted my practice today. I want to be tough, and "be a yes," but I also know my body, and I try to listen to it. I put myself in front of the door because I knew that 75 minutes of Gordy, after running might be a challenge.

Class was very tough. And it got very hot part of the way into class. The air became very dense, and I asked for a door opening a couple of times. Gordy accommodated the request, but the cool air doesn't really make it very far into the room when it's that hot, so I didn't experience much of a reprieve from the oppression until I'd already had my mental spin-out.

It's the same struggle. The heat gets to me, and my mind falters. Though, to be fair, I think my body was also faltering. I was seeing stars, dizzy, lightheaded, and feeling my balance going woozy. There were a few poses where I thought I could collapse. When we finally came to Gordy's infamous "late Flow" (the one additional long flow he often does deep into a class), I found myself unable to properly set in any of the poses. It was one of those W1 to W2 to Crescent Lunge to Airplane to W2 deals. And my body was just not cooperating. Not a single one of the poses felt stable or solid. And I just decided to shut it down and go easy from there onward. I did some sort of meek flow involving Low Lunges with stretching. And I had two encouraging fellow yogis on either side of me, whispering that I should jump back in to it. But I'd flipped the switch. The air wasn't getting any richer. I tried to restart the effort a couple of times, before accepting that I wasn't going with the flow, so to speak.

Did I let myself off the hook?

The inner dialog was "Why, exactly, is it physiologically or psychologically advantageous for us to be doing a very intense Vinyasa class at 15+ degrees above the temperature prescribed by Baron Baptiste, one of the foremost figures in this discipline?"

And I started obsessing on that question.

And what I'm curious about is whether I was "right" to give myself the rest, but then my internal coping mechanism is to get mad at the world for what rest my body demands. Or did I just flat-out give up, and let myself off the hook, and start making excuses?

I think there is a difference.

The more important detail, I think, and the one that is where "practice" resides, is that this dialog that fired up in my head was likely responsible for me being unwilling (or unable) to jump back in again at some later point and give as much "all" as I had left to give. I half-assed my way through Bridge Pose. Skipped the Wheels altogether. I even half-assed my way through Supine Twist, which is practically like weaseling out of nap time. And all of that was not because I was spent, which may have been true for the big flow that I skipped.

It was because my mind left the mat.

There's no doubt that these huge dragons are raising their heads because of the high temperatures in the room. I am certain that I would not be experiencing the same kind of struggle at 90 degrees or 95 degrees. And this is the choice I need to make. Problem is, I don't want to make the choice. I want the world to accommodate me, instead of me adapting to the world. I like Urban Yoga Spa. I like the people. I like the teachers. I feel like it's my home. But I want it to be the way I want it. The argument about whether or not it is valuable to have it that hot is really a completely separate issue. It's got nothing to do with it, really. And I keep wrapping the two things into one. Conditions will not always be favorable. And when they aren't, how will I react? Will I endure? Will I flee? Will I complain?

One thing is for sure. I'm going to find out tomorrow in Gordy's class at 5:30pm.

And then, Megan hit me in the head with a block

Every class starts with Child's Pose. Or Rag Doll. Or something that has a Sanskrit name. 

What is less documented, but equally important, are the little bits of life that happen just before and just after class. The before class usually involves little circles of people catching up, saying hello. Warm-up poses, and various forms of meditation to get oneself from "wherever we were before" to the here-and-now of the mat. The after class usually involves sharing about the experience we just had, expressions of gratitude, quiet pensive moments of absorbing the goodness of it all or, in some cases, recovering from the intensity of it all. All of that occurs on a daily basis, and it rarely makes the headlines, in spite of the fact that it's an important piece in the pursuit of our practice.

Occasionally, when you make the mistake of responding to an instructor's query for any requests by suggesting "Dolphin Plank," you may find yourself getting bonked in the head by Megan with a block. 

They don't tell you this in Yoga 101. 

But be forewarned.

11 August, 2012

Step in the right direction

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Odessa.

For those of you who've been reading for a while, you'll recall that I tend to come to Odessa's 90 minute classes with an unhealthy amount of fear and expectation. And, not surprisingly, those expectations have usually been met. Funny how that works. She's even said to me to stop thinking about it, and just do it. Good advice. So I tried it. Class was still difficult, but I felt like I did much better. Part of the reason for this, I do believe was the dropping of the preconceptions about what class would be. But another attribution I will make is that I took that series of Baptiste classes at Be Luminous. The sequence they do over there (which, I am told, is "The Baptiste Sequence") is pretty much identical to what Odessa usually does. And now that I have experienced this a few more times, from a few more teachers, I am starting to understand the sequence.  It used to be that, every time Pyramid and Triangle would show up *late* in her class, I would be like "Oh my god! What are we doing in another Warrior II?!" But now, after repetition, I understand that it's actually part of the final stretching of the standing series. It's become clearer to me. And thus, easier. But, to over-think, which is what I'm best at doing, is it really in our best interest for things to become "easier?" Hm... Therein lies the rub (since I'm being cheesy, I might as well go all out, right). I think the real trick is not to have things become easier because they've become more familiar but, rather, to have familiarity slowly cease to be a condition of acceptance. The moment.

Damn it. Why does it keep coming back to that?

Inescapable.

10 August, 2012

Part of you is weightless

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

It's been such a long time since I have taken her class.
Cassandra's class comes in at least three distinct flavors: spiritually uplifting, ass-kicking, and dreamy restorative. Each of those variations is its own brand of fantastic. But I was very happy that today was a restorative day. It's exactly what I needed. My body and mind.

There were only about 12-15 people in class, which made things feel peaceful from the start. We spent a lot of time in the poses. There were no fast flows. Just deliberate, deep asanas, with a focus on shoulder and heart-opening poses.

As I have been feeling pretty strong lately, I opted for Dolphin Plank during the first two breaks. The second break was a long one, meaning I spent almost two minutes in the pose. And, to my surprise, though I probably should have seen it coming, Cassandra had us go into Dolphin (not Plank) from the "break." Therefore, I spent a really, really long time in that position. Needless to say, my next opportunity to rest was not one that I would trade away.

Cassandra spoke about finding the part of ourselves that is weightless. I liked that image. We have it in us to tap into a place of lightness. A place where there is ease.

Just choose it.

09 August, 2012

Changes in attitude

Today was Hatha with Bret.

It's come to the point where I just know that Bret's class is going to be relaxing and enjoyable. It's an interesting counterpart, actually, to Patrick's assertion on Monday that "This is supposed to be difficult." I would bet that Bret's mantra would be that it's supposed to be fun. And that's the beauty of yoga. It comes in every color of the rainbow. And they all work, albeit in slightly different ways.

Consistent with the previous few Bret classes, we're still seeing a lot of Vinyasa sequences. Most of them are optional suggestions, but there are a couple of moves that have found their way into the routine. For example, the opening Chandrasana (Low Lunge) pose has been flowing into a Vinyasa between sides. I like that quite a bit, though it definitely changes the character of a Hatha class. Patrick often speaks about how the "yoga" is really the stillness between the asanas. He talks about letting go entirely of what just happened, and finding that stillness as quickly as possible. By inserting Vinyasa flows between the asanas at various points during the class, it significantly changes the character and tone of a Hatha practice. Well, I think it pretty much makes it a Vinyasa practice. No real complaints from me on that one.

When I look through my archive, it surprises me how many classes I have taken with Bret. I wonder, am I seeking the teacher who pushes me the least? I am in no way saying that Bret's not a great teacher, because he is fantastic. But, compared with Ginger, for example, I don't find myself running into my "walls" in Bret's class. I'm going with the grain, as opposed to across the grain. Rarely, if ever, do I find myself engaged in an inner battle during his classes. Although, that was not the case when I first started doing yoga.

I guess if I'm going to do yoga seven days a week, there must be days where it's a relative rest.

Familiarity brings comfort, I suppose?

08 August, 2012

Practice is always about you

Today was Some Type of Yoga with Ginger.

My takeaway, to give you the end of the story first, is that practice is always about what's going on inside of you. Not the room. Not the teacher. Not the person next to you. Not what happened at work today. Not all the world's problems. You are none of those things. You are only you, and your experience of all things inside and outside of you is governed by one thing: perspective.

That said...

I spent the entire class angry at Ginger. And it was not her fault. She didn't do anything wrong. There is nothing she could do wrong. Her class is never a Baptiste flow. That's not what she does. But it's what I show up expecting every time. And with most teachers, experience matches expectation. Never with Ginger. And I know this. I tell myself every time to be open and expect the unexpected. And every time, within minutes, I am losing my shit, and drafting the email to Kathy in my mind about what's wrong with this class. And every time, by the time I finish showering, I have recovered, and I see that this is all me. It's not Ginger (and, for the record, I've never actually written that email to anyone, about any class).

I don't want to avoid her. Actually I know I should go to her class every week. She's the one who is showing me my biggest walls. My walls. Ambiguity. The unexpected. Not knowing what to do. She's the anti-me. From a Myers-Briggs perspective, she's the extreme P to my J.

When I have these experiences, I find myself "building a case" for how I am right. For how this is not my fault. Someone else is responsible for what I feel. And I look for validation around me. But this is all an illusion and it's the extreme epitome of what my mind is trying to do in general. That is to run screaming from discomfort, with excuses ready.

I'll see you again soon, Ginger. Thank you for being you.

07 August, 2012

Be a weed, not a flower

Today was 90 minutes of Power Vinyasa with Carley.

Hard day at work today. My head was not doing great. Was churning away on both the stress and ambiguity of a tough project at work, and also had the lingering effects of an encounter I had last night with a friend, where I had inadvertently hurt their feelings. By the time I had made it through my day, I was desperately feeling the need to get on the mat and try to let it all go.

I got what I came for… sort of… it was a difficult class for me today. My body has felt tired these last few days. Not sore or injured, but just tired. And the 90 minute classes are a lot of work. At the end of class, I was in a sort of fog-daze. I would call it euphoria if I’d felt more positive. But I guess it would be more accurate to say it was just floaty.

Carley talked about the different energies we can draw upon, or experience: air, earth, water, fire. She said we should try to notice these energies as they arise. But I don’t know what energy I was feeling. She said that water is flowing, but to me it could also be drowning. She said that fire can be exuberance, but to me it could also be destruction. She said that air is a sense of lightness, but to me it could also be disappearing. She said that earth can be a sense of grounding, but to me it could also be death.

I guess I’m still seeing things through the negative light.

Carley told us, during Tree pose, to be a weed, not a flower. Because weeds can grow anywhere and thrive in any conditions.

Just trying to be a weed today.

06 August, 2012

It's supposed to be hard

Today was Hatha with Patrick.

More angst over the heat. It felt like I was on the surface of the sun. I've come to the point where my physical focus mostly remains strong, but the inner focus still gets scattered. I remember in the past, I would not maintain stillness. There would be much fidgeting and heavy sighs. I've learned to shut that down. But the mind still spins. I wonder, is the quieting of the body the first step toward quieting the mind? Are they interrelated? I hope so. But it seems there is a chasm between the two. One could achieve complete physical stillness years before the mind starts to cooperate. But I am inclined to believe I am heading in the right direction.

After class I was telling Patrick about the difficulties I was having with the heat. He told me that it is supposed to be hard. I know he's right. But that's hard to hear. I want it to become easier. Every day it's going to be hard? Because we are always at our own edge? Is that life? Always hard because we are always pushing some limit?

Probably.

05 August, 2012

Creating the new normal

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

It was a good day. A really good day. I am not sure why it was so especially good. But I felt strong from start to finish, and found everything about the class to be enjoyable. I left the room feeling euphoric, and it lasted quite a long time after class ended.

It was an atypically typical class for Gordy. Usually, the sequences in his classes are very unconventional. Today, he said from the start that we would mostly follow the Baptiste flow. And it was really nice, and really well-taught. Again, I am not sure what makes one day feel so much stronger than another. I wouldn't say I was particularly well-prepared for today in terms of prehydration or nutrition or rest. It was just one of those good days.

I do know that I was in a good mood today. I wonder if that helps? Good mood, friendly faces, early arrival, peaceful, relaxing, sunny day. I guess maybe there were multiple convergent positive forces at work.

No matter what the reason, I will gladly take it.

04 August, 2012

Do try this at home

Today was Power Vinyasa at home.

The schedule didn't work out fantastic for me today in terms of attending classes at a studio. I could have done so, but I decided last night that I'd rather do a home practice today, and that it would be Vinyasa this time, instead of Hatha. Something new. Something untried.

Again, I was surprised by how easy it was to stay focused and on plan, while self-guided. Today's class was conducted at 81 degrees (almost studio temperature... well, at some studios). I had no music, because my computer was no cooperating with me. But it was just as well. I enjoyed the quiet.

Decided to go for a tough class which was a blend of many different classes I've taken. There was a lot of flow, and lots of twisting. There were abs, and floor series, but no standing balance. In spite of the relatively low temperature, I was sweating a ridiculous amount. It really amazes me how much, considering that I have never thought of myself as someone who sweats much. Did it change? Or was I just never correct in my perception.

Being able to have a good, solid, hard class when self-directed feels great. It builds a lot of confidence. I have learned how to focus. While I enjoy having an instructor, a studio, and fellow yogis around me, I do not require these things to practice yoga. I am learning how to do yoga on the inside.

03 August, 2012

Same heat, different day

Today was Hatha with Bret.

I have to give Bret credit. He was quite apologetic for how hot it got in class today. It was not really his intention. But we found ourselves in a class where the temperature probably bottomed out at 104 degrees, and I'd venture to guess there were parts of the class that were hotter, and parts of the room that were even hotter than what the thermometer said.

It was still a good class, in spite of this. We had lots of opportunities to add little fun things to this one, as has been the case for the last few classes. There was some Vinyasa flow in there, as linking material between different parts of the class.

I'm probably the only one that has a problem with the heat... and I've complained about it so much (though not as a "complaint" to anyone, more as just a whining session to various friends and this blog). I keep waiting for that day where I like the heat, as I lay in my bed, typing this in unpleasant 88 degree nighttime temperatures in my room. I don't know that I'll ever love the heat. Merely, I might continue to tolerate it, and hope that this tolerance is actually building character in a meaningful way, as opposed to just dessicating me.

The balance lately has shifted much more toward Vinyasa than Hatha. It has partly been because of the field trip to Be Luminous. I am not sure if there's something else in there too. My shoulder hasn't been hurting so badly, and I guess I find Vinyasa a little more fun. But maybe I should dial it back closer to 50/50 again just to be on the safe side.

02 August, 2012

Falling back on competitiveness

Today was Power Vinyasa with Kathy.

After two days in the 90 degrees it was back to 10? (where the ? was probably between 4 and 9). It was a very tough class, probably the toughest I have had with Kathy in months. Unrelenting is probably the word for it. And I noticed that the mode I went into was "fight" rather than "flight." I found myself feeling very competitive. I actually sort of showed up with that intention today for some reason. Not sure. But I was going to charge right at it all and then some.

No water. No rest until we went to the floor. I was not going to show any cracks. I wanted to kill it.

And a little voice inside of me says... "This may not be a good thing."

Yoga is supposed to be a place of humble, ego-free, quiet, inner peace. It's not a freaking football field. It's not a boxing ring. And competitiveness is sort of the anti-yoga.

I want to blame it on the hot room. But maybe I just showed up today carrying this load on me and brought it right to the mat.

For the most part I felt strong. That's something good. I still keep asking myself why it needs to be this hot. But I also could ask why not.

Or I could stop asking all the questions.

Argh.

01 August, 2012

Status Update: August 2012

Thought it would be a good time to make some notes about my body, my injuries, and my progress.

Today was my 67th consecutive day of yoga. I cannot recall the exact count, but I've taken somewhere in the ballpark of 200 classes this year. I have practiced in 6 different studios, and 2 bedrooms. I told myself I'd make it through the 45 day challenge, and then take a break. But that came and went, so I said I wanted to do 100 days and then I'll take a break, which I immediately modified to 101 days, because that just sounds so much more nifty. But I'm wondering, what is going to happen when I reach 101 days? Will I actually take a break? We shall see.

Progress...

Half Moon pose has become something I enjoy. I will credit this progression to really good instruction, especially from Kelley, who taught us the approach of entering the pose from the upright position, rather than starting with fingers on the floor. To me, Half Moon is really a pose the exemplifies "The Edge" because there's almost no way to be in it at all, without being on an edge. I have not yet got myself looking up at the top hand, but I feel like my body is strong, and my form is more and more solid. I am not dumping into the hip on the standing leg.

Dancer's Pose, over just the past few weeks, and I have no idea why, has become more solid again. There was some back and forth, one step forward, one step back, in previous months. Patrick's instruction on this pose was really what has helped me with it. And I don't think he was necessarily saying anything that nobody else says. But it happened to be that he was saying it at the moment that I was finally ready to listen. I think that's sort of the way "advice" works. We have a constant stream of input with suggestions, but until we're receptive, it's just noise.

In the past few weeks, I have become mentally much stronger. The big change for me was experimenting with "no water" during class, as a rule. Somehow, when I let go of the idea that there are water breaks, everything got a little easier. I was always organizing class, in my mind, around those reprieves. And that may have been taking my focus off a little bit. I had my eye on a "prize" of sorts. And it's impossible to be goal-oriented, and be completely in the moment at the same time. When the goal is taken off the table, everything settled down a bit for me. I have even found myself skipping breaks, even during tough classes. Instead of just going to Child's Pose, guzzling water, and panting on the ground, I stop and ask myself "Do I need to rest right now?" and if the answer is "No," then it's Dolphin Plank. Or Crow. Or a Vinyasa in a Hatha class. I used to worry, "Will I regret not taking this rest now, because I'll be hurting later?" But that's not really something to worry about.

Continuing (perceived) limitations...

I still feel like my hips are really tight, and the are fighting me from getting into the Warrior poses in the form I would like to feel in my body. I also feel that I have a hard time keeping the hips squared in most of the poses where that would be important (i.e. Standing Splits, Warrior III, Pyramid). I don't fully understand where the problem lies. If it's tightness, weakness, or not firming up the right muscles. But there are so many aspects to a yoga pose, and we can only learn a little detail at a time, and I have only been practicing for 10 months. Maybe I should cut myself some slack?

I haven't touched inversions. Shoulder Stand is as close as I get, and I do it because I feel safe enough. On one occasion, I tried the setup from Crow into Tripod Headstand, but only so far as resting my knees on my arms. I never went further. I am honestly afraid to be upside-down. It is not comfortable for me. I know that's got to be representative of something about me. And I also know that I should be confronting this greatest fear straight on. But I haven't been ready yet. I tell myself I'm worried about hurting my shoulders. But I think I'm making excuses for now.

Old injuries...

The changes I have made to my Chaturanga over the last few weeks have started to mitigate the damage I was repeatedly doing to my shoulder. I had never been keeping my elbows close to my side. I have found that orienting my hands so that my index finger is the one pointing "True North" has me moving in a better direction for my shoulders than with the middle finger straight ahead.

Finally, after months of the right knee hurting, it feels like the injury is subsiding to the point that I may be close to normal mobility. But I'm still not there yet. Looking back through history, my first mention of knee pain was April 9. Almost 4 months ago, and I think I only started writing about it after it had been an issue for a little while. The first time I wrapped my right foot in Eagle (my suspected culprit pose) was beginning of January. So it took me 3 months to get hurt, and over 4 months to recover. There's some sort of mental note to self in there.

New injuries...

The left groin pull that started in Boston (mental note, that was mid-June) started to get a little better, but has taken small turn for the worse this week, and I think I felt it doing Hatha in my bedroom in lower temperatures. But it's a hard one to nurse, because lots of poses have the potential to tweak it. Especially Warrior II, Crescent Lunge, and any sort of Twisted poses down in the legs. Just being mindful, but I haven't really started doing explicit modifications yet to accommodate it. I wonder if this is when that should be happening?

Right hip. It's not injured, exactly. But it feels so achy and tight all the time, any sort of rotations like Butterfly, Warrior II, or Tree, and I am totally lamenting the lack of mobility in that hip. I almost feel like it's something that needs to be worked on through massage, or PT, or something. Like, if someone could aid me in stretching it out, I'd get there a lot faster. Always have this urge, during Reclined Butterfly, to ask the instructors to come over and push down on my knees to get it to open more.

Tracing the outline of a star

Today was Power Vinyasa with Carley.

"And if the attention becomes scattered
Follow the line of the breath
Like tracing the outline of a star
Allow it to be interesting..."

This is what I'm talking about. Allow it to be interesting. I feel, sometimes, like I need to write a thousand words to say something. And then, someone comes along, and says everything in 5 words. I think we were in Triangle pose when she said it. She knew we were all tired. It was a pretty intense 60 minutes, and even for 90 degrees, the humidity had the air feeling a bit rarefied, since class was crowded. Triangle comes late in the series, when you think you're almost done, but there's one more Downward Dog... one more Warrior II... wondering, forgetting, "Are we doing another flow?" Nope. Just the setup for Triangle, followed by Pyramid. But our legs have done a lot by this point. It probably calls itself a stretching pose. It probably calls itself a resting pose. It probably calls itself restorative. But Triangle is still freaking hard. Basically, it's Side Angle pose, with the burden on your hamstring instead of your quadriceps. Not much of a break.

But right when my mind is ready to start spiraling off into the distractions, wishes for Savasana, and the typical "anywhere but here" wanderings, Carley snaps us back like a rubber band on the wrist: Allow it to be interesting. Where you are, here, now. It doesn't have to be torture. It doesn't have to be something you want to run away from. It can be interesting, if you only just allow it.

I'm sure I've belabored the deep philosophical meaning of a tiny snippet that breezed barely through the tip of Carley's consciousness, among a long series of instructions and inspirations, during a long series of classes (she started class by telling us she'd taught 11 classes in either 2 or 3 days, and that she didn't have a whole lot of words -- but you don't need a lot of words when you've got the knack she's got for the right words). Fleeting through one person's mind, and imprinted on another's.

All day today, my hips, ass, and trapezius muscles have been really sore. Something about yesterday's class got in there deep, and gave me a different kind of workout. That's a good thing. When we do the same routine every day, there's always a question as to whether we're getting into new places we haven't been. Whatever Carley did yesterday explored recently uncharted territory.

Tomorrow will be back to Urban Yoga Spa. I'm going to keep checking out Carley's classes, and using Be Luminous as an oasis from the super-hot. Ultimately, I maybe decide to do that dual membership I have been mulling.