31 December, 2013

Closing out the year

Today was Hatha with Gary at Ripple Yoga.

I had come for Cassandra's class but, due to the holidays, Gary had given her the night off, so it was Gary instead. And me. And nobody else. This is probably the first time I have taken a class where I was the only student in it. Under some circumstances, this could have been a very unique experience of having a "private class," But Gary's a new instructor, so we did stick pretty much to a standard class that he might have taught to a normal attendance, save for a few bits of conversation that would normally not happen when others are present.

The Hatha sequence was quite similar to what is taught at UYS, where Gary trained, with a few exceptions such as Crescent Lunge and Standing Splits being thrown in.

I had phenomenal difficulty balancing in the studio, which Gary noted may be due to lack of "Drishti" points on the walls of the newly painted studio, and a rather homogeneous coloration to the room. It might also be some unevenness on the floors, but I really could not tell for sure.

It was the last class of 2013.

This was a year that took me to studios in Boston, Detroit, San Francisco, Mountain View, Hawaii. I did yoga in such faraway places as Bangkok, London, and Munich. I had 204 blog entries this year, but I wasn't writing during the first 4 months of the year. It's probably a good estimate that I did at least 280 classes in 2013. Not quite the same clip as 2012, but there was no 108-day challenge this year, and I made a conscious move to give myself at least a little more rest than last year. As a result, I think I managed to avoid injury a little bit better than I did last year.

That's something.


30 December, 2013

Finding the energy when it's not there

Today was Vinyasa with Carley.

From the very first downward-facing dog today, I knew that I was operating on a near-empty tank. I've done a bunch of days in a row now. After getting into a pattern of taking a day off every 3-4 days, I went a little beyond, and I can feel it. Plus, not sleeping that great lately. In spite of the realization that it was not going to be an easy one, especially with the 90 minute agenda, I managed to stay in it through the class, and had a decent class.

I could say a bit about how the focus has been so scattered lately. But you've heard it before. The focus on the mat is okay. Focus at work, not great. Feeling a little disconnected in the social life. Is the winter with these short days a natural time to turn inward? Maybe I will emerge soon, one hopes.

I've been super-hard on myself lately. While others were enjoying the very prolonged holiday break from work, with many days off at my company, I opted to work right through most of it, with only 2 holidays actually taken. The thinking was that I'd save the time off for later. And I have berated myself for not getting more work done. And I have berated myself for not being more productive in my home projects. Lots of beratement. It doesn't seem fair to treat myself that way. Especially since I actually did get a good amount done in and out of work.

But apparently not enough...

29 December, 2013

Hallelujah...

Today was vinyasa with Kerry Armstrong on hitPLAYyoga.

I really did not want to do yoga today. I spent most of the day thinking about all the ways I could possibly not do yoga, and all the reasons why it was probably okay if I didn't. Already practiced 3 days in a row (though yesterday was yin). Stayed up really late last night (but I was in bed until 11am). The list goes on. But as the day wore on, and I found myself on the futon watching episode after episode of Breaking Bad, I finally began coming to realization that I did not have any good reason not to do yoga today other than inertia. The deal with myself was that I would do yoga when it hit 8pm.

So... 8pm rolls around, and I find the HPY class that I am going to take (this one). I go downstairs to grab my yoga mat from the yin class that I went to yesterday. And the yoga mat is not in the car. I immediately remember that I left it at the studio.

This could have been the easiest way out yet. I CAN'T DO YOGA BECAUSE MY MAT IS STILL AT THE STUDIO!!! Case closed. Issue resolved. But... it's never that simple. There is a crappy, thin, worn-out yoga mat lying around the house that isn't even mine, and isn't hardly ever used for anything resembling yoga. The last thing it was used for was protecting my carpet from the guitar rack that I built so that it wouldn't leave red paint marks when I was painting it. But if you want to do yoga, any mat is a mat.

And that's how I find myself here, now.

It was a reasonably leisurely class. And I do like this teacher, although I question her judgment in doing an a capella rendition of "Hallelujah" at the end of class. It's brave... I'll give her that much.

28 December, 2013

Going deep

Today was Yin with Cassandra at Ripple Yoga.

New studio. Old friend. When I saw that Cassandra was teaching at a new studio, it was pretty much automatic that I would go and visit. It's been quite awhile since I had taken her class, and Yin was really good for me on this day.

During the first few minutes of class, just listening to Cassandra's guidance, and recalling the familiar connection with her voice that brought me back again and again to yoga in the first place, I felt a strong wave of emotion. We never lose the special connections, even if there is time or distance or circumstance between them.

The real ones stay real.

Focused on the mat... but nowhere else

Today was vinyasa with Carley.

What a pleasure to have an unexpected substitute. I try to make it over for Elizabeth's Friday class whenever possible, which is now rare.

At the start of class, following Elizabeth's approach, Carley asked us all a question: what was the best gift we gave this year? I was surprised that most people's favorite were things like time, cooking, service... It made me feel a little materialistic for having my favorite actually be an object. I may have been the only one. Maybe that's a yoga crowd for you.

Class was good. Difficult but good. My focus on the mat has been decent lately. But I have been scattered at work. All over the place. Maybe I am being hard on myself. It is the holidays. But I feel like I don't stay on task for more than a few moments before wandering to something more compelling, whatever it may be.

On the news today I heard about a phenomenon called "highly superior autobiographical memory." People can't forget anything including things from childhood. It is all as vivid as if it just happened. It made me sad. Imagine. How can one possibly let go if anything if one can never forget with perfect recollection... Sounds painful.

Fortunately I do no suffer from this. If it were not for writing so much down, I might forget everything!

Well... Not really...

27 December, 2013

Good days

Today was vinyasa with Lara.

Another good day where everything felt in sync and my body felt strong. The class was very crowded and I felt a little frustrated that I had dirty feet three inches from my face. But I managed to forget about it and find the magic zone on my mat where outside things faded away.
Looking for more days like this.

26 December, 2013

All that is Gold does not glitter

I feel really badly saying this, because of the whole adage of "If you don't have anything nice to say..." but I really just can't help myself, so I will try to keep it as positive as I can.

I am not a fan of Steve Gold.

The blame may not reside solely in Mr. Gold's court, in that I think the major problem here is that so many yoga studios default to his music as the repeat backdrop for class, pre-class, post-class, you name it. that I have become totally burnt out on it. I have heard "So Much Magnificence" so many times, I don't think I am capable any longer of perceiving any magnificence should I actually find myself by the ocean, because I will only be able to think of his song.

Sure, it's a great thing that he's a non-Indian acoustic pop artist, and he has made a successful "career" recording and performing Eastern-themed songs. Sure. Great. We get it. But I feel (personally, and not humbly) that it is just as valid, dare I say, more valid, to play Eastern-themed music by people who are actually from the East. Even Krishna Das, who has been criticized by some for not being "East enough" is coming from a more authentic place.

The overplaying is probably at the heart of it for me.

Perhaps there is value in making Eastern themes accessible to the Dave Matthews-washed masses. Perhaps I stand alone in my harboring of silent rage toward the repetitiveness of such lyrics as "Let Your Heart Be Known." Perhaps we really did need to hear a dude from So Cal singing such traditional songs as "Om Namah Shivaya" or "Baba Hanuman."

Alternatively, perhaps this is just another good opportunity for me to practice relaxing with what is, and letting go of that which I cannot control. Because something tells me Steve Gold ain't going away from a yoga studio near me (or you) anytime soon.

Namaste :)

24 December, 2013

Dim light of Christmas Eve

Today was vinyasa with Erick Dannenberg on hitPLAYyoga.

I started the practice around sunset in my room, and the light transitioned to near complete darkness almost perfectly as the hour progressed. He has a good pace, and good set of cues. Reminds me a lot of Scott Francis from Be Luminous in his choices of words. The class was billed as a Gentle class, but it felt like a pretty standard Level 1 class, without many elements of gentle, save for perhaps a little more time spent in stretches at the end, at the expense of a standing balance series. Perhaps that is gentle.

Feeling peaceful, and glad that I did the yoga today.

23 December, 2013

Inspiration

Today was noon vinyasa with Michel.

It has been such a long time since I have had the opportunity to take a noon class (read: 60 minutes) with Michel, and I was very excited to have that opportunity today, being that it's a holiday week.

I don't know what to say about today's class other than that it was incredibly inspiring and joyful throughout. Michel is an amazing teacher. After class, in somewhat silly fashion, I walked up to her and told her it was the best class I'd ever taken, which might have embarrassed her a bit, I don't know. And her response was that she was glad that I had that experience today. The thing is, I showed up today knowing that it would be a great class, and that may be part of the reason why it was so great. She asked us to do a lot of things today that were challenging. We did four Camel poses. On a different day, I might have been very disgruntled about this. But not today.

Michel talked about how we can choose between whether we will suffer by resisting what is happening in our lives, or just find the freedom in accepting it. And I guess that message was working for me today.

What do I want for the next year? What do I want for all years to come?

I don't know what my life will contain, but I would like to show up for it from a place of positive energy. That doesn't mean "Saying Yes" to everything. And it doesn't mean "Smiles All The Time." But, for me, I think it means that the proverbial "mat" to which I will keep returning myself will a mat of positive outlook. At least show up on the mat (and in life) each day ready for good things to come out of whatever is in front of me. I am not saying, even, that I will expect the good things. Only that I will be open to the possibility that good may come. Too many days are started with dread or anxiety.

Remind me about this promise...

21 December, 2013

Getting through the heavy days

Today was vinyasa with Sean.

The moment I got on my mat, my body was telling me that it was one of those heavy days where gravity seems to be operating at twice its usual force. But my head was in a good place, and I found my way through the class, without too much struggle. Not a lot to say about this one, since it's been a few days since I took it.

20 December, 2013

Falling behind...

Last Friday was vinyasa with Sherrie Nguyen on hitPLAYyoga.

I fit in a home practice before my Friday evening plans. I only remember that it was a good class, with a good pace, and that I felt reasonably strong. My concentration was decent too. I once again let a few days slip before writing up the entry, so it is fading into memory. I am somewhat proud to say that I haven't let that happen much lately, especially compared to times in the past. But I think it is important to recognize that it is happening, and make the immediate correction, or else the purpose of this blog for my own growth starts to be lost.

This past week started off with a cresting of anxiety and worry about my life, and then progressively moved into ease, confidence, and a general sense of well-being. I see this pattern again and again in my life, and it has to do with the cycle at work. When I am in preparation phases, I worry, and when I am in execution phases, I thrive. And things always seem to turn out okay. So...

18 December, 2013

Yoga as a Hail Mary

Today was vinyasa with Alice.

I had planned on doing yoga at home. But I was having a hard time today. Head stuck in a bad place, and trying not to go to that old place of reactivity. Instead of just getting on the mat and letting go, I sat there in my room, ruminating, and barely hanging on by a thread from going into those places I try never to go. As time elapsed, I realized it was getting closer and closer to 8:30pm, the time at which Alice's class happens right down the street. I decided that I may as well go there and surrender myself to the heat, and to another person's words, and hope for the best.

It was a very good practice. Though my mind did slide off to the thoughts from before a few times, the class was definitely the right thing to do, and it took me from the brink back to a place where I was able to aim for what I really wanted, which was to feel better.

Alice has a consistency to her style, and a quiet delivery that I found incredibly grounding. Even though her classes are often quite difficult, the tone is so relaxing and, Live Love Flow, with their dim lighting and black ceilings, is a very calming environment.

Yoga is always there for us. We just have to choose it.

17 December, 2013

More thoughts about yes and no

Today was vinyasa with Laura Calcaterra on hitPLAYyoga.

Immediately after writing the entry for yesterday's class, I did a home practice Baptiste flow with Laura Calcaterra. It was a good class, very basic, and she has a message that does as good a job as any at keeping me in the practice.

At the very start of class, she was talking about how we should come to our mat to "check in" to our lives rather than to escape. And as soon as she said that, I started reflecting on what I had just written, and experienced in yesterday's class with Chelle.

The truth is, I always stay within my comfort zone. I play it safe. I don't take many risks. In my career, I have always done the "good job" on the things I know how to do, and rarely want to take on the Herculean projects that are career-makers. I fear that much commitment and responsibility, and always focus overly on the "What could go wrong?" approach. So, as it stands, I have a fair amount of success in my life but, for the education and opportunities I have had, one could say that I haven't probably met my potential.

The same was true when I ran track in high school. In all of the practices, I would be one of the fastest runners, and then, in the competitions, I would be middle-of-the-pack. Not meeting expectations. I wasn't willing to push myself to those limits where it might hurt, or feel bad. Instead I would stay in 3rd gear. And I guess one could say I kind of live my life in 3rd gear.

The question I still ask myself is whether it's good or bad that I operate there. Do I have to want more? Do I want more? Am I content? I go back and forth between lamenting that I have not accomplished more and not really wanting to even keep up the battle to maintain where I am now. I guess one could say that I don't really know what I want.

I am still a little unsure how I feel about being a yes, or being a no. It's so black and white. In that language, I feel as if Baron is saying that if we are not constantly adding new poses, and increasing the depth of our expression of the poses we already have, then we are getting nowhere. It may be true that the way I can become less fearful about taking those huge leaps in my career might be to learn to do Handstand. I fully acknowledge that.

But I still don't know if that is what I want.

And I seem to remember reading, somewhere, that it's okay not to know.

16 December, 2013

Is not being a yes being a no?

Today was vinyasa with Chelle Swierz.

Today's class really pushed me outside my comfort zone. Part of this push was because the class was very difficult, and had a lot of extra "stuff" in it, in terms of intensity. Seemed like every Warrior pose we did had some sort of folding forward with arms clasped behind our backs. It wasn't so much that it was beyond "Level 1" (whatever that means) in the poses that were called, as it was just an amped up intensity. For the most part, I met that challenge, except where I felt that my integrity was being compromised.

But there are some things that "I just don't do." And I know that the expression "I don't do that" has associated with it, especially in the land of self-help (which I consider yoga to be), a connotation of negativity or defeatism. For example, jumping into Crow from Downward Dog (3 times). Or doing Headstands. These are things "I just don't do." Chelle made the point during class today that we should "Be a Yes" (that is Baron Baptiste verbology).

But I pose the question back to... Baron: "What if I don't want to be a yes to that?"

I don't want to do headstands, really. Part of me feels I am not ready for it, and that part of me should perhaps be a yes for trying. But a bigger part of me really just doesn't want to do it. I do not aspire to be a big inverter, acrobat, yoga-to-the-tenth-degree kind of person. I come to yoga to take the energy down. I have never shown up to a yoga class thinking "I want to come here to be energized, electrified, awakened." I am quite aware that there are people who do come for this. And I respect that, though it does baffle me because it's not my disposition. But am I a "no" because that's not what I want out of yoga? It was interesting, because I felt, tonight, like the Baptiste language was excluding me from being okay with what I wanted out of the class. Part of me doesn't want to jump to Crow because I think about all of my feebleness with respect to wrists, shoulders, low back, etc. And I think, "Well, I could do this just for the sake of saying 'Yes, I was a yes'," but even if I surprised myself and landed a perfect Crow out of Downward Dog, I would not be thinking "I am glad I tried that!" I would be thinking, "Okay, so... I am sure glad I didn't hurt myself, but I am not sure I want to try that again!"

I have never been a thrill seeker, or a daredevil. The joy I have derived, in progress, in yoga, is noticing the subtle ways in which my body flexes a little more than it did before, and the subtle ways in which my mind or body are a little quieter than they were before. There are days that I experiment with things that push my boundaries, but acrobatics, save for an occasional close-to-the-ground arm balance, are not my forte.

Am I a no?

The sad part is that this pondering around whether I was a yes or no ended up making me start being an actual "no" in the sense of starting to resist and defy the instruction. I reached a point where I just found myself doing some other pose, or bagging on back bends because I felt like "I have had enough, and don't really need any more." I found myself thinking, "I don't really need 90 minutes of ass-kicking yoga. 60 was enough, so now it's time to spend 5 minutes in Pigeon." And it's probably true, at that point, that the rationalizations were being mixed together with the inner truths. And that will always be the case, on or off the mat.

What I want Baron Baptiste to teach is that "being a yes" means being true to whatever it is that you need in your practice, and not being governed by an external coach telling you what a yes or a no is.

All that said, I love Chelle as an instructor. As much as this class threw my mind into a tizzy, I would show up again for the same 90 minutes, and I would endure the same inner struggles (perhaps) that I did, without complaint. I think I would still not do the jumping into Crow, and I would still not do the Headstand. But perhaps I would not question myself, Chelle, Baron Baptiste, the students around me (for complying and making me look like a slacker!), and the universe, for not aligning perfectly with what I wanted for my practice on this particular day.

You know what I'm saying?

14 December, 2013

Didn't want to do it... but I did anyway

Today was vinyasa with Aylin Aydin on hitPLAYyoga.

I really didn't want to do yoga today. Woke up with my back muscles feeling really sore, and just decided straightaway that today would be no yoga. But as the day wore on, I noticed, indirectly, that my low back was not really hurting anymore. I still didn't want to do yoga. But, after having that argument with myself briefly, I decided there was no good reason not to do it, and plenty of good reasons to do it.

This was my first time with this teacher. It's a decent class. Pretty decent message, and good flow. She did forget Side Plank on the left side (I honestly don't know how the teachers who are posting their classes online don't make sure that the one they've posted is "perfect" - but that's the perfectionist in me talking).

Not a whole lot to say today. Now that the yoga is done, I am glad I did it.

13 December, 2013

Nothing like face-to-face

Today was vinyasa with Elizabeth Thomas.

I've missed her class. Having taken so many online classes lately, one thing I have been missing are the familiar faces and voices of the teachers that I know best. It had been at least a month since I took this class, so it was really nice to return.

I am still struggling a little bit, back and forth, partly being tired, partly having the moods from the dreary weather, and partly wondering what the heck is going to happen next in my life in THE BIG PICTURE. It's not like I am manifesting anything in particular right now, either, so I don't know why I would anticipate any changes.

I'd like to manifest losing 5 pounds.

12 December, 2013

Not here. Not now.

Today was vinyasa with Sharon Wells on hitPLAYyoga.

I shut off the class about 46 minutes into the hour long class. I want to blame the class for not holding me. But my head wasn't in the game from the start. It definitely didn't help that she did at least 3 different sequences in the class that absolutely required visuals to know what the heck she was saying, and that certainly did irritate me, because it's an audio class, and there should not be ambiguity about what the poses are.

But, of course, there's an opportunity for me to relax with what is.

And I chose not to.

Today I spun off into a land of anxiety and rumination about the minutiae of some elements of my job. This is a wheel spinning that I have done many times in the past. When presented with options about the little stuff, I end up spending all my energy worrying, obsessing, spinning over this little stuff, almost as an excuse (perhaps) to not deal with any of the big stuff.

Need to get out of it, because it does not feel good. And all that rumination devolves into negative impressions of self, and fairly negative attitude toward others as well.

Today is just one of those days.

I don't really want to complain any more than I just have, so I'll stop there.

10 December, 2013

Tired but present

Today was vinyasa with Kelly Armstrong on hitPLAYyoga.

Pretty tired. Not sure why, but the jet lag seems to have taken a second swing at me, a few days after returning to what I thought was normalcy. Didn't really want to do yoga, but I did it anyway, and managed to have a reasonably focused class. Not much to say about the class itself. It was a standard Baptiste class with no frills. Felt like my standing balance poses were very strong today, which is a good feeling. It is nice to do unheated classes part of the time, because the heat really does sap so much of my energy. I am curious if there are others for whom the heat does not remove energy at all.

Today we had a team-building exercise at work. One of those things where the group does some personality test and then we discuss how we are similar and different, and what the ways are of communicating with one another, blah, blah, blah. I like these types of exercises, because they tend to make me feel more connected, even if only temporarily, to those around me. Everyone, including myself, is usually on their best behavior.

At the end of the class, we were supposed to say something we want to do differently going forward, and I had made the claim that I would try to build stronger connection with the people whose types were most different from mine, and validate their approach. And as soon as I said it, I started to feel anxiety, because I am not sure it's a promise I want to live up to. I don't know if I want to take on the overhead of doing that, even though I know that it could potentially have value. I am skeptical. Would rather just stay inside my comfort zone of fostering the connections that are already working. But it was so weird, the strong feeling of "What the hell did I just say?!" It wasn't like anyone in the room would react strongly to what I said, and it isn't like anyone will be thinking, "I wonder if he'll keep that promise?" But I feel fear around it anyway. It involves me doing something different for two different types of people. There are the people who like structure and process, and try to create structure... I promised that I would try to do my part to validate their efforts, and to contribute in small ways that I can contribute. And then there are the people who are very direct, don't like to go through formalities, and need everything to be fun and exciting. To them, I promised that I would try to participate a little more in the "fun/play" aspect of being on a team. All of this is stuff that I dread, and I don't know why I found myself wanting to promise anything.

It goes back to a conversation I had with a friend the other day, which was actually about the very same topic. I think I have a tendency to believe that if I do the right thing, others will too. But the reality is, others may or may not reciprocate, and I need to make the choice about how I want to be without consideration of the behavior in return. Otherwise, I am going to be setting up for disappointment. And I am afraid, though. I don't want to put the bridge out there, and end up having it collapse with me on it.

Being tired, it occurs to me that I should probably not attach too much to the feelings I am having today.

09 December, 2013

Not feeling playful

Today was vinyasa with Michel.

It was a great class, but I didn't join in all the reindeer games. Michel did a lot of "Level 2ish" stuff in class tonight, with the "Donkey Kicks" and the headstands, and handstands, and playing up against the wall. For the most part, I just don't feel the desire to do these things. I am not sure why, but it's kind of funny that I was just reflecting on how I don't really like to get into the silly social aspects of workplace community, either. People in our office all have nerf guns, and silly battles often erupt. Or if it's not that, then people are posting ridiculous photos, video clips, and whatnot on the group chat network. And I don't partake, hardly at all, in any of it.

Am I just not a fun person?

It's weird, because I am definitely a funny person, but I am not sure if I am a fun person. It probably depends how much I have had to drink, in which case, perhaps I should start drinking at work and in yoga class.

Anyway, what I have been working on in my practice lately is "being okay" with the choices I am making. If everyone else "flips their dog" and that's not speaking to my body today, I am working on not feeling like I am sticking out like a sore thumb, and also not beating myself up, or assuming it's "letting myself off the hook." There are rarely days where I flat-out let myself off the hook, I am coming to realize. I might let my mind wander some, especially in the later parts of a class, but I rarely slack off the practice.

So, today, when everyone was doing their kicks, and flips, I did my thing... either downward dog, or dolphin plank. I mean, I don't sit down and play Angry Birds, but those poses just aren't speaking to me, and I feel like it's okay to make that choice.

Isn't it?

Back again

Today was vinyasa plus restore with Alice.

It is nice to be back again. Class felt reasonably strong and I adapted to time change in this direction much better. It is hard to stay in the moment when fatigue starts to set in. I wanted to focus on not thinking ahead or anticipating. But it is awfully hard.

Had a revelation that the thinking and complaining on the may are quite like that off the mat. I complain but usually deliver anyway. So why not skip the complaining.

That is where I need to work. It certainly feels better with no complaining. So why do I attach to it. Hard to say. Do I even need to know why in order to let go of it?

07 December, 2013

The difficult poses

They always say there’s much that can be learned from the poses that are difficult for us. The things that come up when we are in these situations often provide a much clearer picture of what we are probably doing in our lives, to a varying degree, at all times.

Today’s difficult pose was getting up to go to the airport at 5am after having only 2 hours of sleep. That was my choice to stay up late, because I wasn’t feeling tired. There are consequences to choices, but that’s not what this is about. The series of interactions I have had today in the wake of this lack of sleep made me realize something useful. My form of “reactivity” is to complain. I complain a lot. Probably every day, all the time. I complain even about the things that I like. To me, these are merely “observations” but they are often heard as complaints and it probably becomes tiresome to hear after a while.

The first interaction of the morning was with the front desk employee who called my room for the wake up call. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to anyone, so I was not pleased when, shortly after the wake up call, the man called again with some question about the logistical details of my trip to the airport. This person was trying to be helpful, but my internal reaction was “I don’t want to speak to anyone, and I want you to shut the fuck up before I scream.” Of course, I said none of this, but was merely curt with him. When I came to the lobby for checkout, the process took longer than I thought it should take, and there were again a lot of questions. Again, I wanted to scream. It caused such extreme rage in me.

When we got on the flight, there is one flight attendant who is an older man, formerly military, and he is going out of his way to be helpful, and polite, and conversational. I think anyone would agree it is a little much, but it was triggering such anger in me. I started thinking about how I plan to contact the airline and complain about him, and say he is annoying passengers too much and making mistakes because he’s too busy talking instead of doing his job. But then I caught myself, and thought, “What if the airline took me seriously, and decided to fire this person?” He would lose his job for what? For trying to do a good job, actually, for trying to do a great job, and be more than just passable as a service person on the plane. He would be penalized for trying, because some complaining asshole (me) had to express every feeling of discomfort.

I don’t stop in the middle of yoga class and tell the teacher I don’t like the pose, or that they don’t know what they’re doing. I also don’t write a letter to the yoga studio saying that so-and-so’s class sucked today. I wait a couple of hours or days, and that emotion is gone. Often in minutes. 

But there’s this reactivity.

My way of coping with discomfort is to complain. I started to recognize that there’s perhaps never a time where complaining provides value. There are times where it makes sense to be honest, and say that I am not happy with something (i.e. if the food is bad at a restaurant). I won’t go any further down that avenue.


I complain a lot, and I think it’s taking me away from where I really want to be going. 

Later on during the flight I discovered that the flight attendant was a very interesting man, whose "full time" job is coaching the German National Baseball team, and that he only flies once in a great while to keep his license active. He's an American, but lives with his wife and children in Germany. He served in the military for many years, including more than 1 war overseas. So, for him, the idea of being a flight attendant once every few weeks, or whatever it is, is a responsibility that he takes very seriously, and which gives him a pride in service. He doesn't experience the kind of burnout that people do who are doing this all day every day. So his enthusiasm is actually kind of refreshing.

It was me who needed the attitude adjustment, and once it happened, I saw his entire behavior through a different lens. That, to me, is one of the most interesting parts of these realizations... when nothing changes except how I see it, and that alone is enough to make all the difference.

Food for thought.

06 December, 2013

Running out of gas

Today was yoga in the hotel room, with no teacher, and no gas.

I waited until midnight again. And then a little longer. By the time I decided to do yoga, I was dead tired, and then there were problems with getting a good enough internet signal in the hotel room to do any sort of video or audio, so I was left to my own devices. I opted for a more restorative class, with gentle poses, staying mostly close to the ground. Moon Salutations, no Warriors, no Chaturangas. But even still, I was pretty beat, and when it got to around forty minutes, I petered out, and lost focus. It was past 1am.

What can I say? I did the best I could, and at least got onto the mat, and did some yoga.

There will be days like that.

05 December, 2013

Every emotion you've every felt... on your mat

Today was Vinyasa with Diana Hudson on hitPLAYyoga.

I waited until midnight to do the yoga, because I got together with an old friend this evening in Munich. It's a friend of mine from UW days. I visited her in Germany the first time I ever came here, and I have always had very fond memories of her. She's inspiring, a good person through and through. So we went to dinner, had a couple of drinks, caught up on all the news, and talked about all kinds of random things, including this new idea that maybe I want to move to Munich.

Yoga was left until midnight, but that was okay because I felt awake, inspired, energized by the time together. And it was a great class. Classic Baptiste at a good pace, with a good message. At one point in the class, the teacher said that we should be aware of all the emotions that come up, and just experience them, and recognize them. And, if we stay on our mats long enough, we will experience every one of the emotions we've ever felt in our lives. She's right.

Today was a decidedly good day. The tide shifted. And it was because I had a big presentation at work, and it went very well. Finally, I felt like I matter, and like I am appreciated, and that what I am doing is providing value. That's all it takes for me to feel good.

I think the challenge for me is to consider the possibility that I am always appreciated, and I always matter, and I am always providing value, and that it is merely my perception and my inner critic that creates this story of something otherwise.

At any rate, better is good.

And now it's time for another midnight class.

03 December, 2013

Struggling

Today was vinyasa with Shelley Lowther on hitPLAYyoga.

Whenever I am having a really hard time these days, I find myself turning to the Baptiste sequence. It's something to do with knowing what I will be experiencing. There's a familiarity, and calm that comes with it.

It's been a hard couple of days. I have been struggling a lot with feelings of inadequacy in my job. And I know it's likely all just my internal talk. But I worry that I am not doing enough (while simultaneously not willing to do more). Some said to me the other day that there's a way of addressing stress. It involves a few questions you can ask yourself. It went something like this:


  1. Is there anything that I can do about the way I feel right now? If no, then don't worry. If yes,
  2. Am I willing to do whatever that is? If yes, then do it. If no, then don't worry.
I think I may be missing a question, but that's essentially the idea. And yet, I find myself worrying about things over which either I cannot take action, or over which I can take action, but am not willing to do so. If Baron Baptiste were here in the room, he would probably say "How is that working out for you?" It's obvious, I think, that it's serving some part of me that believes that I deserve to feel badly. Because that's exactly what happens.

Yesterday, I was feeling worse, and worse. Finally, I realized that I needed to do something to pull myself out of it (willingness, a hint of it anyway). I sought out a colleague here, and asked if they had some time to chat about the project. Immediately upon initiating the conversation, I started feeling better, and hopeful. What it told me was that engagement is what makes me feel better, and isolation makes me feel worse. I walked away from that meeting briefly feeling better. But then I started spinning into the "What am I going to do?" thoughts, and drifted down a bit again. Then, there was a plan for a social gathering here in the evening, going out to a Christmas Market with some friends here on the team in Munich. My first reaction was "I am not going." But after I had already declined, and they were departing, I realized that I was setting myself up for feeling even more isolated and disconnected. So I chased after them, and decided to join. Then, I went through yet another down mood at the market when I was standing in line, alone, waiting for food, and feeling like it wasn't even worth waiting. I am seeing myself depriving myself of having enjoyment. Finally, after more brooding, I got some food, and slowly the conversation opened up with the others, and I started feeling better, and more connected.

The rest of the night, including yoga, was not too bad.

What I don't understand is why I feel the need to do this to myself.

Perhaps I am tired from the traveling, and it brings my mood down. Or perhaps something else. I don't have the answers. 

I hope that if I just keep showing up on the mat, it will work itself out in time.

02 December, 2013

Yoga in München

Today was "Hips Flow" with Rachel Nelson on hitPLAYyoga.

I am left to do yoga relatively late at night here in Munich, due to work schedule and sleep schedule. But I am on a second wind at this time of night, so it's not really a problem. I had been feeling a lot of tightness in my hip flexors, perhaps from sitting on an airplane for 11 hours, so I decided to try this class that sounded like it would be about the hips. It was a good class. There were a few moves in this class that I hadn't seen before. I will give you one example. Sit into a half chair with one ankle crossed over the other knee. Then, jump or slowly hop back into high plank without changing the leg position. Not so easy. The flip to a side plank, with the crossed leg on the higher side of the plank (i.e. you'd do side plank with right hand down, when you have left ankle crossed over right knee). It was interesting, and a bit of a new balance challenge.

I am struggling a bit with the emotional state, battling those feelings of not mattering, of not being worthy of whatever it is. Feeling like I am a big fake, and will eventually be found out, and kicked out into the street, and never let back in again, to anywhere.

It's a bit of up and down. And I do keep trying to find ways to get back up again, when I am down.

But I will tell you about that later.

30 November, 2013

Gentle class before a long flight

Today was gentle yoga with Jamie Pearsen on hitPLAYyoga.

I made a choice last night to stay awake until nearly 2am watching the end of a Netflix series (Continuum). My rationale was that I would be so messed up from the 9 hour time difference flying to Munich today that it would not really make a difference. But this meant that I woke up uncertain about what my yoga plan would be. I could not really drag myself to an 8am class, because I was too tired. Then, I wasn't even entirely sure I had the time or energy to practice at home.

The choice was to find what I thought would be either a restorative or yin type of class on HPY and just get a really good stretch. It turns out that the class I chose, though designated as a restorative class, was mostly just a slow vinyasa flow, without any particularly restorative elements. It was a 45 minute class. Despite the fact that I didn't really want to do Sun Salutations or Triangle poses, I went ahead and did what she said anyway, figuring that today was a bonus day.

With packing for my trip still a remaining task, my mind was a little bit distracted. So I did the best I could. Sunday will probably be a day off, since I will be very tired from not sleeping at all on the flight (I never do).

29 November, 2013

A day of transitions

Today was vinyasa with Pam.

I haven't seen Pam for a long time - probably close to two years, from when she taught at UYS. I remembered her as being spiritual and calming, while simultaneously very challenging, and occasionally a bit unpredictable in her sequences. That held true to form today.

Near the start of class, Pam mentioned about how we should pay very close attention the transitions between poses, and also to pay attention to these transitions in our lives off the mat. This was not something new to me, but it landed on me particularly strongly today.

Later in the evening, I met a friend of mine whose background is in architecture. He was talking about how the greatest architecture is not necessarily known for the spaces it creates, but for the transitions connecting spaces to one another.

I found it interesting that this topic of transitions arose twice for me today, in seemingly unrelated ways. But they are more connected than they seem. It's really the same message. A transition is greater than a single pose or space because it needs to fluidly tie together things that are often quite different from one another. A poor transition looks bad, feels bad, and does not inspire. A graceful transition calls even greater attention to the individual components, but also gives the observer some insight into the intentions of the creator. When you observe grace in a transition, you know that the practitioner has taken these things into consideration.

I don't know how, exactly, this fits into my life right now. But I suspect that either it has, it does, or it will one day.

Transitions.

28 November, 2013

Cactus arms

Today was vinyasa with Jenny Noonan on hitPLAYyoga.

Being Thanksgiving day, I decided to look for a challenging class to earn those extra turkey calories. It turns out, I didn't overeat. But still glad I pushed a bit today. The theme in the class was cactus arms. Every pose. Warrior. Chair. Triangle. You name it. And we did it. The reason was to teach us what it feels like to really lay the shoulder blades down flat. And it worked.

The flow started very vigorously, and I was sweating almost as much as in a heated room. But it was good. My mind was reasonably quiet and I am trying to relax with what is... recognizing that everything that is is pretty great.

I'll be in Munich for a week starting Saturday. And the mat comes with me. Maybe I will seek out a studio as a sort of field trip. But I will be on the mat no matter how or where.

27 November, 2013

Am I doing enough?

Today was "Sweet Slow Flow I" with Audra Grady on hitPLAYyoga.

I knew that my body needed a rest. From the heat. From the "Power Yoga." So I applied the appropriate search criteria on the hitPLAYyoga website, and came across a few choices for mellow classes. And it was, indeed, mellow. I relaxed into the breath, never feeling overexerted (though, I must confess, I could feel the residual fatigue from two tough classes in the one Warrior pose that we did).

It was exactly what my body needed today.

But somehow, I feel myself nagged by the feeling of "did I do enough?" Was that class enough? Or should I have been pushing myself a little harder? Or a lot harder? Was that class anything for me? Or was it no different than just taking a nap?

I know the answers to these questions. The yoga is the breath. The yoga is being in the moment. Whether one does jumping jacks, or handstands, or fireflies, or an hour of Savasana, the yoga is not defined by the shapes the body makes. I know this. And yet, there's that dialog going on in the background, even as I breathe fully... even as I achieve moments of moments. Something that keeps asking the questions... am I doing enough? Is this the right thing? What about this? What about that? What about... Am I enough?

I look at my little belly that has been aggravating me by being a pound or two plumper than it was six months ago, if that. And I think about how if I pushed harder every day, and ate less, and made better choices, and... and... and... and... and... and... then... then, I would be better... happier... more peaceful... less anxious...

And I know. I know. I know. These thoughts are incorrect. I know, and yet it's still difficult.

The small victory, if I can call out one, is that I listened to what my body needed today, in spite of the screaming voices. I didn't do nothing. And I didn't do too much. I did what I needed.

That is something.

26 November, 2013

Sun in Vertigo

Today was vinyasa with Carley.

Another 90 minute class. Two of those in a row is not something I typically do, but I really wanted to take Michel's class, and then I really wanted to take Carley's class. For one reason or another, I started getting vertigo near the end of class. Carley thought maybe it was dehydration. That's a reasonable guess, but it sort of feels more to me like a recurrence of that strange periodic vertigo that I have had for several years now. The first time I got it was 2008.

Class was difficult but not unreasonably so.

I am having a hard time still with the motivation. I am struggling between what I want versus what I think I should want. And afraid to just relax with what is, partly because of my nature, but also because I think our corporate culture does not want us to relax with what is. That is the opposite of productivity.

It occurred to me yesterday that I have been doing this career now for about seven years. I was a biologist for about seven years. And before that, I was an electrical engineer for about seven years. There's probably a reason why there's something called a seven-year itch. Though I don't think it necessarily was intended to be related to professions.

I don't know what's next.

I know I know I know that it is okay not to know. I know that in my mind, but I don't feel it. Or maybe I know it in my body but I don't think it. I am just not getting it. I don't know what will come next, but I know it will be something different.

I want to be doing something that matters. But I am also afraid to take on the commitment or responsibility of such things. My conflicting goals suspend me in this limbo.

25 November, 2013

Gratitude and sweat

Today was vinyasa with Michel.

Her class always has a very essential and magical feel to it. The only reason why I don't find myself there far more often is that I am a baby when it comes to enduring the difficult 90 minute class. At the start of class, she asked us to introduce ourselves to someone and tell them about a person for whom we are grateful. For whatever reason, I had just been thinking about my mother. Not sure why. She's not around anymore. It's been five years. I guess Thanksgiving is a holiday that I will always associate with my mom. Her famous(ly) unhealthy stuffing recipe (consisting of Ritz Crackers, Campbell's chicken with rice soup, chopped onions), the sound of the electric knife cutting the turkey, her Mrs. Constanza-like ability to emote, and the always-too-much food (yes, a potato dish, and a rice dish, and a cake, and a pie, and ice cream, of course).

Class was difficult, of course, but I am finding myself in a new phase where the only resistance that I am experiencing (when there is resistance) is not *wanting* to do something, versus feeling pain and heaviness like I had been feeling earlier this month.

That's a good thing.

The person who introduce herself to me said that she was grateful for her boyfriend and that he has been tolerating her lately while she's been "a brat." I kind of liked that sincerity. It's nice to think about people being aware of when they're being difficult, and then acknowledging it to a complete stranger.

That's what happens in yoga.

23 November, 2013

Bad choices and parallel lines

Today was vinyasa with Sean.

It was a free class. As such, it was absolutely packed. That brings me up against my desire to have space. I want my mat staggered with person next to me so I can sweep my arms out instead of the Baptistian sweeping forward that clearly evolved for purpose of packing studios. But as it got full I had to comply. And it raises the question of why am I more resistant to following those rules than others. I am seemingly defiant! Even after class started, I scooched my mat forward when I realized there was no one in front of me. Special treatment. Did my mother spoil me? Did she teach me I don't need to do anything I don't feel like doing? Heh. Who knows.

Class was tough. But good.

After class I met a friend for a drink, which turned out to be two drinks. Dehydrated from yoga. I became intoxicated. And the drinks were strong. The intoxication lingered through the evening and I spent the sleeping hours and most of Sunday headachy.

Not sure where my intelligence and discernment were with that one! But sometimes you have to go with the flow.

And color between the lines. 

Could there be a lesson for me in being obedient?

Friday flow at four

Today was vinyasa with Rachel Patterson.

I'd been expecting to take class with Elizabeth today but I guess she had a sub. It was a slow for with long deep holds. Somehow it again did not feel that difficult except for a little arm fatigue in those Warrior II poses.

My first time in Rachel's class. She had a good pace. The 75 minutes passed quickly and it was a small class.

That's all.

21 November, 2013

Time to Hit Play (Yoga)

Today was hour of power vinyasa with Laura Calcaterra on hitPLAYyoga.

Been thinking about giving this subscription service a try for a while, and decided to take the plunge today. Ali Kamenova's free YouTube videos have been great, but I am interested in having more variety available to me for home practice, and hitPLAYyoga has classes from at least 50 instructors from at least 30 studios. Can't really beat that.

I started off with Laura Calcaterra's 'Be With' Power Hour. She's a classic Baptiste-style teacher, and she got a lot done in an hour, at a good pace, with very little downtime between poses. Decent message, and enough inspirational words at the right parts of class to give that little extra.

Today, and for the past many days, I have been feeling easily triggered emotionally. Seems like just about anything could cause tears to come. Example: I was listening to a bit on NPR about how some doctors at Harvard just published a study saying that nuts make you live longer, with less incidence of life-shortening disease. And, somehow, this makes me cry... in the car... on I-5... driving home from the airport after a 2-day trip to San Francisco. Now, I'm sure it's not nuts that are making me cry. Just like I am sure it's not the fact that tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination (though, that made me cry too, when I heard about it on the news). And sitting in traffic, seeing the thousands of cars lined up in the darkness, there is just this overwhelming sensation of "What does it all mean?" Being down in San Francisco, and seeing a friend of mine, and walking around neighborhoods that still feel fresh and new to me, I wonder to myself, "How long can I just keep doing the same old things?"

I don't know what I am meant to do. And I know that it is okay. And I know that it takes patience. But sometimes I wonder if what I am doing while I am on that path is good enough. Above all else, I really want to believe that I am providing value to someone... to something. And sometimes I wonder.

The practice today felt perfectly strong, and pain-free. It was not very difficult, but I was also rested after a day off, and a few days away from hot studios.

Tomorrow, it's back to Be Luminous. Looking forward to it.

19 November, 2013

Today, my own class

Today was vinyasa home practice.

It’s been a long time since I have done a vinyasa class, self-guided. No studio. No video. No podcast. It’s not that difficult to come up with something on the fly. The Baptiste framework makes it pretty easy to “rough in” the basic structure. The Sun A. The Sun B. Then you need to find some way to work the Side Angles in there. And some Crescent Lunges. And some twists. Some triangle. Some standing poses. There are things that are sometimes in the sequence. There are things that are almost always in the sequence. And the relative ordering of poses follows some general guidelines, with a lot of leeway. You know that, in an hour class, there will be a tradeoff between things like Half Moon, Revolving Triangle, Twisted Chair (all skipped), versus Eagle, Dancer, Tree (all included). It’s kind of like improvising in music. There’s basic song structure, but then lots of different ways you can go with it.

One thing I find is that I am quite honest about giving it a good hard workout when I guide my own class at home, whereas I might waver depending on mood if I am doing a video or podcast at home (or perhaps even in a studio). If you ditch on a teacher’s commands, then there’s that mindset of being defiant. I am refusing to do what they told me to do because I don’t want to do it. It becomes oppositional. But if you ditch on a solo practice, all you are doing is being dishonest with yourself. There’s nobody to defy. Nobody to oppose. What does it mean to say to myself “Crescent Lunge…” and then decide not to put my arms up? Who am I fooling? It is true that I didn’t do a handful of poses that I don’t like, but that was today. If I did the solo practice every day, I would come around to putting those poses in, because, again, who am I kidding?

There’s a satisfaction in crafting my own sequence.


I wonder if there’s a metaphor for that in my life.

18 November, 2013

It's okay to not know...

Today was online vinyasa (podcast) with Adrienne Hengels.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/60-minute-baptiste-power-yoga/id409883173?i=89773761&mt=2

I really didn't want to do yoga today. I really, really, really didn't want to. I had a tough day at work for reasons that were almost entirely internally driven. Just having trouble focusing. After finding the positive last week, today I found myself plummeting back down into the darkness and blocked state. One meeting where someone was being obstructionist, albeit because they care about what they were arguing against, but it set me in a mindset of "I am never going to be able to get anything done around here." Then the "I can't do this" thoughts came in, along with the not knowing why I am here, and feeling rather useless. I ended up deciding to head home a little early just to get away from it (though I found myself still answering work emails and messages even after my escape). Plopped myself down in front of Netflix for one episode of "Continuum" which has been a pleasant vacation from reality the last few days. Promised myself "One episode, then yoga." But wasn't really sure how I was going to motivate.

It didn't feel like an Ali Kamenova day. Her energy is a little too sedate for me. So I thought about podcasts. Didn't think I could bear a fourth (or is it fifth) time doing the same Kinndli McCollum class again. Too tedious. Needed something new. Almost listened to one by Mark White but the first 30 seconds of it didn't sound like it was going to be the right vibe. So... after a tiny bit of poking around, I stumbled across Adrienne Hengels, and figured I would give her a shot.

It was exactly what I needed. I went from a state of "I don't know how I am going to make myself do yoga right now," to a state of complete focus (well, maybe not complete, but pretty darn good). I stayed in the class, with every pose, no major distractions or mind wandering, for the entire class, and felt strong the entire way too. She's a little quick with her flows for my breath cycle, but I really was willing to do whatever someone told me to do right now. Just wanted to resign myself to the practice and let it take me on the ride. Whatever she's got going on has to be better than the bats fluttering around my belfry right now.

It was pretty standard Baptiste, with a few nice variations, some of which I wasn't even sure I was doing what she was saying to do, but no matter. Did the best I could. Her message is really good, and she talked a lot about not letting the mind go to the next thing we need to do. Check. And about how maybe there are tough times or that we feel stuck, but that will pass. Check.

At the end, the podcast kept rolling during a relatively long Savasana (for a recorded class - they usually cut away before or during Savasana and leave you to your own devices). I might have normally shut it off, but I laid there and stayed still. And after about 5 minutes, Adrienne did a reading that really hit right where I needed it today. It was a reading about "Not Knowing."

I Googled it, and found the link to it. I share it with you here in a blog that is quoting "Journey Into The Heart" by Melody Beattie (who seems to say all the inspirational stuff).

17 November, 2013

Hard choices

Today was vinyasa with Gordy at Urban Yoga Spa.

And I think it may have been my last class at UYS. And it is most definitely not because of the instructors, so many of whom I love. It’s just that I do not want to engage in my yoga practice in an environment that is physically punishing, and that is exactly what I have encountered time and time again at the studio. I offered my feedback, but I was apparently not a majority opinion. And I accept that everyone has different preferences. But I need to do what is right for my body, my practice. I will say more about that, but would like to talk about the class first, before I go too far astray on my rant.

As per Gordy, this was not a standard class, by any stretch of the imagination. One comes to expect that with Gordy, and that is part of the reason why I came this morning. I wanted to have a tough class, that pushed my boundaries a bit. We spent about 15-20 minutes at the start of class doing various types of core work on our backs. Then the class transitioned into the flow series, which was very interesting. The basic idea was to come into a low lunge and then engage in a series of variations around that low lunge. After making the way through the variations, we rotate to the rear of the mat and repeat the process on the other side. This filled almost the entirety of the remaining hour of the class, with the variations digging deep into side angle poses, and side planks, and various other poses that could be reasonably entered from the starting point of the low lunge. It was a good class. My experience the next day was that I really felt that I had worked my obliques, my abs, and deep in the hips. In contrast, it was relatively easy on the upper body, which is often not the case in a vinyasa class. 

I encountered a lot of those old demons that I experienced when I frequented UYS on a regular basis, in terms of the back of my mind echoing the things that “should” and “shouldn’t” be. And I completely recognize that there’s a metaphor in here. What happens when the heat’s too much? Do I get out of the kitchen? I know that is an interpretation one could have. And there are certainly situations where I experience the urge to flee, condemn, and never return, albeit fleeting, in much less extreme environments. But I know what my body tells me. And my body tells me that nausea, dizziness, weakness, and a kind of heart-pounding, distress are not “yoga” for me. Why not just practice standing on hot coals? If one could achieve stillness in that, would not one be more well adapted to the day-to-day life? 

I don’t know. I can admit that I don’t know if I just have a really low threshold for heat, or for discomfort. And I also know that I don’t really need to justify it or explain it. You don’t really care what my reasons are, and I am not really writing this to justify myself. Well, probably I am. I should at least acknowledge that. I want validation. God, of course I do. Of course, I want my 5 readers to come up the next time they see me and say “You’re totally right! It *is* way too hot there! You’re not *wrong* to decide to go elsewhere!” Yeah, maybe that’s really where my opportunity for growth is. To not feel like I need people to validate my choices.

I am also writing this because I want to make the commitment to myself not to keep revisiting the thing that I have made a decision about. I have made this choice before, but then I find that I miss it, and that maybe it’s worth subjecting myself to the conditions just to see the teachers whom I miss. But yoga practice is not social hour. I could make a social call on the people I miss. The practice is about an inner journey.


So here I am.

Gunshots and barking dogs

Today was vinyasa with Ali Kamenova.

A new video of hers that I had not seen. She did it on a porch near the ocean and there were all sorts of weird happenings like people passing through the background, dogs barking, and loud noises that sounded like gunshots.

Practicing at home to give myself a break from the heat. Still feeling pretty good. Focus was solid for a home practice.

Just trying to show up each day and keep a positive attitude.

14 November, 2013

Two for Two

Today was vinyasa with Tina.

And today was the second day of yoga since this new proclamation that I am "over the negative" state of mind. And today, I felt strong. And my body did not hurt. And class was not dreadful. And my mood remains more positive. There is no futility. Can it really be as simple as a choice? Can the choice to "be positive" really take hold "just like that?"

Apparently so.

There's not much else to say, so I will leave it at that.

12 November, 2013

Unfortunately, attitude is everything

Today was vinyasa with Chelle Swierz.

Before class, I had written that I plan to change the attitude, and that I can no longer allow myself to wallow in the state of melancholy that I have been drifting deeper into over the past weeks. I expected that this would have an impact on my practice. Not surprisingly, it did. Although it was an extremely difficult class, I did not find the same struggle, suffering, and negative emotion arising during the class. She did a very traditional "Journey Into Power" sequence. I am not going to say that I effortlessly "rocked" it, because that is also untrue. But I didn't add to my suffering by opposing everything that was presented to me.

I wonder how it is that merely setting the intention to "feel better" can make one actually feel better. It is possible, in some cases, to change the way we feel simply by a choice. I know this, and keep coming back to it. Though, it seems somewhat elusive. There is a tendency to want to cling to the stuff that induces more suffering. What does it buy us? How is that comforting?

Anyway, I think the worst may be behind me. If for no other reason than I am saying so.

Here is the time to bounce back

Today was home hatha.

I was in a mood. And I did not want to practice. But I knew I had to. And while I did all the poses with reasonable attention and did a full practice, it lacked compassion. It lacked intention. And there was unkindness toward myself.

It has to stop. I need to bounce back. No more dwelling. It is unfair to myself and those around me. And the season is not an excuse.

I am about to do a ninety minute class. Wanted to catch up on yesterday's entry before today because I want them separate. Yesterday is behind me as is the heaviness that came with it. I am moving forward.

Curious to see how it feels in my body. But I suspect I know the answer already.

10 November, 2013

This is definitely a down phase

Today was vinyasa with Alice.

I have to say that it's definitely a down phase. Hurting more often than not. Unmotivated about work more often than motivated. Feeling more socially isolated than connected. I suppose it is the season. November is not typically thought of as a "happy month." The days are getting shorter. And I have seen these cycles before.

And, AHA! If l look back one year, I was indeed in the exact same place. Things were hurting more, I was slogging through injuries, nursing it, struggling, and growing darker with the season. For reference, here's an entry that was typical of the period:

http://www.feebleyogi.com/2012/11/not-thoughts-i-want-to-be-thinking.html

A particularly relevant quote:

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

That is quite interesting, and perhaps exactly why I set out to write this blog in the first place. Merely having that data point to reference provides me with something that I can clearly point to, and say "Don't worry... this happens each year... it shall pass."

Alice has been doing a lot of Crescent Lunge lately. Maybe she has always done that, but I have been noticing it a more of late. I'm having a hard time with balance in Crescent Lunge. I don't think this was a problem for me a year ago. I would say that the pose is becoming more difficult for me. The reason this scares me is because it makes me wonder if something in my spinal cord is damaged that is affecting strength in whatever muscles are involved in the side-to-side balance. Outer hip muscles. And that is also consistent with what the physical therapist told me, about my outer hips being weaker than normal. I realize this probably just all sounds paranoid, but it's very evident in the poses.

As class wears on, I find myself longing for the end. My energy is off. Just want to be in one long Savasana. One long sleep.


08 November, 2013

The Yoga Tree

Today was Hatha with Lindsay Loeffler at The Yoga Tree in Fremont.

I signed up for some sort of class pack way back in July when I first joined Google, because I was concerned that I would not be able to keep doing yoga every day, now that I am working in Fremont. Fortunately, I signed up for a package that had no expiration date, because it has turned out that I can do yoga just fine at all of my usual places. But today, the schedule was such that it just seemed like a good idea to give this a try, since they had a noon class and it is just up the street.

Yoga Tree is not a heated studio, which has the added advantage of making it feel like a "gentle day" in comparison to the practices at other studios. There were only 7 students in class, and it was a bright, mellow studio. The Hatha practice felt a lot closer to Ashtanga, than to the Bikram-esque Hatha that is done at Urban Yoga Spa. In fact, now that I have taken Hatha at 3 or 4 different studios, I would say that UYS is the outlier in their Hatha style, not the norm. But it still has its place, and when you want a Bikram-esque class without quite the formality, it is an excellent choice.

Lindsay smiled the entire class.

My back hurt the entire class. I think I've just done a lot of hard work this week on the yoga mat.

07 November, 2013

Breaking the usual patterns

Today was power vinyasa with Tina Templeman.

At the start of class, Tina was sitting quietly at the back of the large room, facing the Buddha statue. The doors were open between the two rooms, so there was a lot more space than usual today. The room also was not as hot as it sometimes is, perhaps because of the extra time it takes to heat the larger space. When class started, Tina announced that she didn't have many words for us today. With that, we launched into a pretty intense practice. The intensity derived more from the unpredictability than the sheer fire of it. Among Tina's few words were some points she made about breaking our usual patterns. She spoke indirectly about Samskara, without calling them by their name. We started class on our backs with a very intense abs practice. She asked us what we do when things get hard.

I was in a pretty good space today, though my low back has been hurting a little bit more the past couple of days, and I am still feeling the residual effects of Jennifer Fu's Blitzkrieg from Tuesday.

I have been experiencing difficulty just setting myself down and getting shit done lately. Especially finishing things. And especially anything that just requires patient, methodical, slogging through things. I keep hunting for distractions. Anything to think about other than what I should be thinking about. And I don't understand why. I see this show up a little bit on my mat. When we near the end of a class, sometimes, I will just find myself dreading the thought of Pigeon, or spinal twists, and occasionally being defiant about them, and simply refusing. And these are not even poses that are challenging. I don't even dislike them. But I find myself resisting, and I wonder if it's related. The finishing stages of something don't hold the same attention as the heavy lifting.

I find myself not even keeping the commitments to focus when I make them. I say "I am just going to finish doing this task" and then 3 minutes later, I am off having a look at something completely unrelated. Surely there are people who would decide that they have adult ADHD, and try to get a prescription, or that maybe it's due to anxiety or depression, and there's a medication for that, etc. But I don't think this is something that requires "treatment" from Western medicine. It requires hard work. I became stuck like this in the past. And I am not truly stuck on all channels. Just some.

The two things I would like to address are:

  1. Why am I stuck on these channels? How can I understand it?
  2. What steps can I take to redirect?
It is entirely possible that the first question does not require answering.

California slammin'

Today was vinyasa with Jennifer Fu at Yoga Belly.

You can say one thing for sure about California. They know how to turn the dial to eleven. Super intense class. I thought I was gonna be able to hang with it the whole way but I faltered toward the end. It was unusual flow with lots of time on one leg. Oddly no chair poses but she found other ways of completely toasting us.

I was in a good head space and glad to be practicing at a studio while traveling. That's good.
She was a good teacher too.

I just don't know how California gets a reputation as being laid back.

04 November, 2013

More taking it day by day

Today was vinyasa online with Ali Kamenova.

I really never know what's coming. And it's really best to never start to expect trends to continue. Hurting for days, and didn't even really want to do yoga today, but I found that I was able to focus and have a good "class" even with all of the challenges: hurting, typically have hard time focusing at home, getting ready to go to airport tonight... these "should" have all been impediments to a good practice, but that wasn't the case. Who knows why, really? Why is one day different from another?

This is a pretty good class, this one. I am still liking Ali's classes, probably because she doesn't get too crazy, and she doesn't go too fast or too slow. There is challenge, and I can find internal heat without even being in a hot yoga studio, when taking her class. I am also just in awe of the generosity she has for posting so many free videos online. She could (and perhaps will) make a site someday where she gets paid for access to these. But for now, namaste.



03 November, 2013

Practicing patience with others, but not self

Today was vinyasa with Alice.

I spent the day working on music. I've been doing some recording of a neighbor who is much younger than I am. He brought a friend over to do some additional parts on the song, and the friend had a very different energy than "what I had signed up for." The guy I have been working with is very mellow. This guy seemed like a great candidate for ADHD medications. My initial reaction was that he wasn't going to be a good drummer, based on the first few minutes. But I was also feeling a bit anxious because I had never recorded drums before, and wasn't sure we really needed to do it. And, as we started listening to what had already been recorded, this guy had lots of "opinions" and "ideas" about how the song should sound. Bit by bit, it was coming clear that he thought that everything that I had recorded should be removed, and that the only parts worth keeping were the ones that were not played by me. This could have been, and sort of was, a little bit hard to hear. And he was having some noticeable influence over his friend's thinking. They asked my opinion, but I decided that my role in this situation was "recording engineer" and that I should defer to their preferences, or at least save the debate for when it was back to being just the two of us.

I didn't lose my patience, though it was a little tough. And after the drummer guy left, we ended up discussing further and coming to a balance that was a happy medium from where we started. It was a balance that I think was indeed in service of the best interest of "The Music." And much of what I had recorded remained in the mix.

So the lesson was to be patient, hold the pose, not react, and things will likely be better than the negative reactions that impulsively bounce about in the mind.

It feels counterintuitive, then, that I should walk from that experience onto the yoga mat, immediately be brutally harsh with myself the entire class, berating myself with negative thoughts about my physical inadequacy, actually angry at myself for being in pain. My knees hurt, probably due to the change toward colder weather. And my low back was really aching, most likely from the tough class I had taken the day before. And the amount of tolerance I had for my own limitations was exactly zero.

Why?

The whole point of the practice is to accept. So what was going on?

Perhaps, after all that "holding in" of reactions to the guys when I was feeling like my efforts were not appreciated, or my ideas were not good enough, there was a residual echo of inadequacy that hadn't been addressed? Yoga teaches us not to be reactive in life, but is it really a valid practice to save it all up for self-torture on the mat?

There was a lot of Crescent Lunge in today's class, and it made me frustrated because of how fatiguing that pose is for me. Everything hurts. Things that don't usually hurt are hurting. I kinked my neck when sleeping, and felt the effects of that too. My quads felt like someone had hammered on them with a tenderizing mallet.

Practice patience. With yourself first.

02 November, 2013

Happy child baby thing

Today was vinyasa with Sean at Be Luminous.

It was a funny class, with Sean's comments ranging from "I don't know anybody who doesn't sweat doing hot yoga... do you? Maybe Vanessa Garibaldi..." to referring to "Happy Baby" as "Happy Child Baby Thing." It was definitely a class with a lot of levity.

But that's not to say that it wasn't difficult.

Got to practice next to my friend Emily again, which was nice. Second time in a week. I dunno. I guess that's all I have to say today. I've been feeling a lot of low-level anxiety lately, as evidenced by the various nervous behaviors I use to cope with said anxiety. I don't know where it's coming from, but suspect it is probably due mostly to work anxiety. But, again, who knows...

Shoulder rest day

Today was hatha at home. Self practice.

Budgeting the days on and days off to afford proper rest. The last two days killed me but I didn't want to practice Friday so Thursday home hatha was the compromise. It was a reasonably focused practice though I found my balance to be abysmal. So far out of whack that I needed to pretty much acknowledge that was where I was today. Not sure why. It felt like the floor wasn't flat! That's how bad it was. Falling out of tree, one of my favorite poses.

One must try not to metaphorize in such situations. At least not prematurely. Where in my life am I out of balance? Anywhere?

Maybe I am just tired...

31 October, 2013

How hard could an hour be?

Today was late-night vinyasa with Alice.

Decided to wait for the 8:30pm class so I could get some other things done earlier. And it's only an hour. Should be a relief after yesterday's bomb. It felt really good to be in a hot room, coming in from the cold. In the early portion of the class it felt like it might be a gentle one, and the perspiration had a relatively delayed onset.

But I was wrong, because she turned up the intensity after a few minutes and worked us incredibly hard for nearly the entire time.

Maybe it's me?

Maybe these classes have been normal intensity but I am fatigued. I am never sure. Carley didn't think her class was hard yesterday. So who knows.

My right heel hurts. I've mentioned it before. Warrior poses are a problem now. Not sure how to modify to avoid pain. Since it feels like bone and soft tissue, not muscle, I am concerned that I am doing harm.

Ibuprofen to the rescue...

Turkeys and piggies

Today was vinyasa with Carley.

It must have been the longest 90 minutes I can recall. I guess I was tired from staying up late the night before. But it still felt like she was quite intentionally amping up the intensity compared to a normal day. At a couple of points I could only laugh too myself about the unrelenting waves of chaturanga and various forms of standing on one leg.

I did the best I could. And I survived.

It is not always going to be tulips and bunny rabbits. Or turkeys and piggies, for that matter.

29 October, 2013

Unexpected ease

Today was vinyasa with Alice.

It's almost always a tough class. I can't say it was easy but relatively so. Maybe my mind was easier today and the class was the same. Who knows.

I keep wanting to have more to say but it is a quiet time.

26 October, 2013

Sharing the heart

Today was Vinyasa with Maren.

I was glad to be able to share my practice with Maren today. It was a good class, and I am glad that I was there.


25 October, 2013

Hard to get moving

Today was Vinyasa with Kinndli McCollum at the hotel.

I decided to give myself the "sort-of-day-of-rest" by not doing yoga last night, and leaving it to the morning instead. But that's a deal with the devil, since my body doesn't really like to get up and go at 7:30am. So it was Kinndli's podcast again at The Domain Hotel in Sunnyvale. Same class I have done two previous times. There are pros and cons to knowing exactly what's coming next. The positive is that I didn't need to think about what was coming next. The negative is that you know exactly what's coming next, such as a really long hold in Warrior II near the end of the class, with Kinndli playfully mocking the class, saying "I know I'm holding you in this pose for a long time - I am well aware of it. So what happens when you're stuck in a position you don't want to be in? How do you react? Because what you do here is what you do everywhere in your life..." (paraphrasing). And of course, she's right.

I am proud of myself for doing the yoga on the road, at odd hours of the morning, of the night, or instead of other more fun activities, because of keeping this commitment to myself. It's neither trivial, nor obsessive. Commitments to self are never easy. But there is always a great reward in doing the hard thing.

23 October, 2013

Fiji McAlpine... I am not making that up

Today was vinyasa with Fiji McAlpine on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MArFYWcP_ns

There really is a teacher who goes by the name Fiji McAlpine. I am not making this up. And her class is pretty good. She's standing on top of a rock in some nature spot, and her mat is not even positioned on even or smooth ground. I honestly don't know how she's able to do yoga in that arrangement, but she is. The class started off seeming like it might be very mellow and dreamy. Then, suddenly it becomes one of the most intense core classes I have done. Really challenging.

I was getting ready to fly to California tonight, and this class was just before my flight. I can't say that my concentration was 100%, for some valid reasons, such as chaperoning a load of laundry from washer to dryer. But I did the best I could, and still think I had a decent practice, all things considered.

That's all. Video is worth a try if you want a tough one at home.

22 October, 2013

Mellifluousity

Today was vinyasa with Carley Ewert.

Mellifluousity is not a word. But it should be, because it's the word that comes to mind when thinking about Carley's classes. Not only does she summon harmony in a chorus of "Oms" more effortlessly than any other teacher, but she also has the capacity to make a very challenging class seem grounded, peaceful, even dreamy. You forget how hard you're working, because her words, few that they are, keep the mind in the moment.

I haven't taken her class nearly as often as I should, of late. Partly because of it being a 90 minute class, but also just because schedule has made it less likely for me to be there on the right day at the right time. One way or another, I will find my way in there more often, braving the crowd, the heat, the long class. Because it's quite transformative once you get in there.

Okay, that's all.

21 October, 2013

Extra junk

Today was vinyasa with Kinndli McCollum on podcast.

This was my second time doing her podcast hour of Baptiste power yoga, and I think she is definitely one of the best instructors. I also am coming to realize that the Baptiste series, when done as intended, is really a fantastic and optimized sequence. There are a lot of ways to "get it wrong," when it's done too quickly, or too hot, or trying to get too creative with the sequences. But when it's kept simple, and the instructor's monologue is kept essential (while still adding the right measure of inspiration), it really works well. This class had me in a decent sweat in a 70 degree room, without really doing anything beyond the standard set of poses. Being a solid Level 1, it did not even include poses like Half Moon or Standing Splits, but still had a perfect intensity.

One of the things Kinndli talked about in the middle of the class, which I recognize is classic Baptiste, was the idea of "What extra junk are you bringing along into the pose?" She was noting that a lot of students will do a half dozen extra steps between poses, itching, scratching, adjusting, drinking, getting out of the moment. I remember that time in my practice. After two years of yoga, I have become physically quieter on the mat. But I still carry a lot of mental junk into the poses. The thoughts about the way my body feels. The thoughts about what I have to do later, or what will happen later. The thoughts about what pose is coming next. The thoughts about how long we're going to be in this pose. The thoughts about hoping that she doesn't make us do Dancer's Pose right now because I really don't feel like it today, etc. All those thoughts. And that's my junk. She noted, of course, that this is exactly what we do "off the mat" as well. I recall a manager (and friend) of mine once saying, with respect to a particular situation at work, "Why are you complaining if you're going to do it anyway?" What he meant was, he knows that I will do the task, and do a good job, so why do I need to waste time and energy complaining about having to do said task, rather than just getting down to business and doing it. That's the extra junk. Hoping, lamenting, worrying, complaining.

Last night, I was cleaning the refrigerator, which is something that I have probably done twice in the five years I have owned it. And, as I was cleaning it, I was reminded of The Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi did well to teach whathisname that whatever task he was doing should command full attention, as if it is the most important task one could possibly ever do, and to do it with love, care, and pride. There are obviously many different practices or disciplines that offer this lesson - interestingly, they all seem to come from Eastern philosophy. Not sure why that is, but I imagine that it's a culturally important difference that may underlie many of our shortcomings as a culture.

Kinndli. Good stuff. Add her to your "Free Home Yoga" queue.

20 October, 2013

Starting to feel recommitted

Today was vinyasa with Ara Gibson at Live Love Flow.

Another new instructor for me. She must be relatively new to the studio, and she was subbing for my usual Sunday evening with Alice, of late.

I am recognizing that I am starting to come out of the dragging my feet through the mud phase of the practice. There is more enthusiasm. I am also finding it easier to write again. I really don't know why it was that I felt "in the muck" for weeks and weeks. Not sure if it was work, or emotional, or physical, or what. I am not even sure it is necessary that I figure it out. Only that I recognize its passing. It's one of the interesting things about getting on a mat and checking in (nearly) every day. You notice the shifts from one day to the next. As I heard in class recently, "Every day is a new day on the mat." And so it goes in life as well. If we were to lock ourselves into the expectations of past experience, it would be really hard to ever escape a rut. There lies the essential nature of practice.

Ara's a good teacher. Good pace. Good flow. Another class I can recommend. She seemed very "Baptiste" in nature. I am on a Baptiste gung-ho phase right now, for whatever reason. Funny how things go in these cycles. I remember, months ago, when I was starting to cop an attitude about it.

It's funny how these things happen.

18 October, 2013

New one from Ali K

Today was vinyasa with Ali Kamenova on YouTube.


A new one from Ali K. Good class. I seriously cannot believe she keeps posting these for free online. One could say she's disruptive to the market of any sort of pay-per-class or subscription model of online yoga. She's a good instructor, with lots of variety, and excellent tempo to her sequences. The only complaint I could possibly make is that she uses the same soundtrack on most videos, and I would personally rather have no music at all. But the music isn't bad, or loud.

I felt pretty strong today, in my bedroom. A good recovery from yesterday's emotional meltdown (exaggerating). I knew I didn't want another day in the heat, at least until I adjust to it again. My concentration is getting a little better. I had talked, last week, about how it is difficult to stay focused at home, and that distractions come frequently, especially the phone. Getting better. Whatever's going on inside me must be quieting down, enabling me to get back to where I want to be. In the moment.

Who knows why it ebbs and flows... could be all sorts of reasons.

17 October, 2013

Defiance comes from the inside

Today was vinyasa with Valerie Kardonski.

Had been planning on taking Tina's class, and there was a substitute. I looked her up online, and it said she was from Shakti, which is a Baptiste studio, so I made the incorrect assumption that she'd likely do a very standard Baptiste flow. What we got instead was a really unusual series of flows, rarely doing any of the sequences that I would expect. I had a really hard time following her instructions, and often had to look up to even figure out what she was telling us to do. I became frustrated. Long, complicated flow, and it was brutally difficult, and then we had to repeat the entire long complicated flow again, only at a pace that was even more difficult. Wah wah wah. Hear me whining?

As class wore on, I found myself becoming increasingly defiant. First, I didn't want to do Humble Warrior, which is somewhat justifiable, because it sometimes tweaks my low back (though I did it at home the next day when Ali K. called for it, because I do not feel defiance toward a teacher who is only present via YouTube, perhaps). It ended up extending to other sequences later in the class. She called for Child's Pose, and I sat, defiantly, in Hero's Pose, as if to say "You're not breaking me. I don't need a Child's Pose." But really all I was doing was fueling my own frustration.

It was also the first hot class I had taken since my many days off, so I was feeling the effects of heat and humidity in a very crowded room, and also lamenting the fact that Valerie never purged the humidity once during the entire class. Grrrrrrr! Looking for ways to not be in the moment.

I made it through the class, and realized during, and after, that the defiance comes from me both on and off the mat, when I don't feel comfortable or in control. When people do things in a way different from how I would do them, I can become defiant. "I'll show you!" But really, I am only making myself a spectacle, and making myself angry.

I can't say I will seek out her class again, though maybe I should? Maybe it was just a bad day for me, and I need to show up with a different attitude. I remember having the same battle with Ginger's classes and, to a lesser extent, Scott's. And I overcame the conflict which was mainly an internal one. I had to learn how to adapt myself to the class. Scott helped me see that it is easier to match the rhythm of the class than to try to stick to my guns.

Ugh...

The pose you hate the most is the one you need the most... the class you hate the most is the one you need the most. Can it really, always be true?

15 October, 2013

Returning from a long break

Yesterday was vinyasa with Philip Urso via iTunes podcast.

For the first time in I don't know how long, I took a lot of days off consecutively. I was sick, and missed a couple of days. Then I went away, and chose not to practice during those days away. I brought my mat with me, and I could have done it, but just decided that this would be a vacation from all routine. I don't want to associate guilt with that choice, and it took some effort not to do so. Probably it helped that the break started with me being sick, since that at least could be categorized as taking care of my body. You can hear that I feel the need to rationalize.

First class back was in my bedroom, as schedules required, due to a flight to California in the evening. I did feel rested, and a difficult class did feel quite manageable, since I had more rest than I have had in at least a year. I really couldn't tell you when the last time was that I took 5 days off.

Philip Urso is a Baptiste teacher in Salt Lake City. He's good. I liked the class. He came recommended by a friend, and it was a good recommendation. The aftermath of that class, having taken the break, is a body that is a lot sorer than I usually get from doing yoga. Now it's 10pm and I committed myself to doing yoga today, even though I am tired. I don't want my first day back to be followed immediately by another day off. Especially since I know that I can't do yoga tomorrow... unless I were to get up and do it early, which is even less appealing. I am trying to make sure I get right back into the routine again. This is the kind of spot where one can lose their commitments if one is not careful.

So, rather than sit here and write about yesterday, which is gone, I will find a spot in this hotel room to roll out my mat and be here today.

Hotel Hatha

Today was hatha at the hotel in mountain view.

Really sore after the five days off but in a good way. Decided to do hatha to rest the shoulders a bit. Felt good and focus was good. It's definitely easier to keep focus when practicing silently as opposed to a video.

I had dinner plans with my team which meant I didn't get to do yoga until 10pm. But I kept my promise and didn't drink at dinner and did a full serious hour practice. Feels good to follow through.

Then I fell asleep on my mat during Savasana. And that's just fine.

09 October, 2013

Bedroom yoga takes a little more focus

Today was vinyasa with Ali Kamenova online.

It takes more discipline to practice at home. You can't easily check out in egregious ways in the studio because there's a teacher and other students to keep you honest. At the worst one can slack off. But at home there are no such safeguards. So it is that I often grant myself indiscretions like looking at my phone. Repeatedly. My head isn't in the game. I actually find it may be worse with a guided home class than when I do self practice because I at least feel like I carry responsibility of teacher when I self guide. The real work is obviously keeping the head in the game. When I decide to practice at home I don't want it to become a faux practice.

Mental notes to self.