24 September, 2013

American Mat... Canadian Class... British Studio

Today was Power Vinyasa with Kinndli McCollum online via podcast (in my hotel).

The YouTube options are not fantastic. Let's face it. I don't even remember what I did yesterday. What did I do yesterday? I did something. I don't know what it was. It wasn't Ali K. Was it Yogi Nora? I don't think it was her either. Oh yeah, it was weird, time-warp Bikram/Baron class.

So, I decided it was time to mine a new quarry. iTunes Podcasts. Turns out, this is a good place to go. I thought it was going to be important to have video, but I think it's better without, because then I don't even need to think about looking at a computer screen. I searched for "Power Yoga" because that's what I wanted today (for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, in my sleep-deprived state). And one of the first options in the ~1 hour duration classes was someone named Kinndli McCollum. I didn't know anything about her, but it said it was a Baptiste class, and that was good enough for me.

It was a really good Baptiste flow. She stuck to the book, but her talk and her cadence was just the right energy level. She's a teacher I would go to often if she were local.

For whatever reason (ibuprofen) my low back did not hurt at all today, and I found myself wanting to do twists and folds. It's probably ill-advised, but I am not even sure what is ill-advised anymore. There's probably as much downside to allowing mobility to go away, as there is for getting into that area. I don't know. Listen to the body, I guess?

After class, I looked her up online, and discovered that she's a pretty important figure in the Baptiste organization, apparently "cofounder of Power Yoga Canada" (whatever that means). I guess it means that I stumbled upon a good class.

There will be more Kinndli in my future.

23 September, 2013

Vintage Baron is a lot like Bikram

Today was online yoga (Vinyasa? Bikram? Who knows) with Baron Baptiste.

Searched the YouTubes some more today, and stumbled across this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfHyE9bXwkg

It's a "Level 2 Baron Baptiste Hot Yoga" class. It appears to be very old. It also appears to be illegally copied and posted to the YouTube. Part of the reason it seems old is that it's very low-budget production, and Baron is very thin and young-sounding. But the bigger reason why I am certain it is quite old is that it is absolutely nothing like the "Baptiste Power Yoga" that we know today. The class was equal parts of Ashtanga Primary Series + Bikram sequence. It had a shockingly large amount of Bikram content in it, even including the hand-clap that I have only experienced at Bikram studios to delineate the end of a pose.

It was actually rather disconcerting, because I had decided that what I wanted was a plain old Baptiste flow. I could just sign up for "HitPlayYoga" and I would find that, for sure. But I thought I found it on YouTube, and then it was this oh-no-it's-bikram experience!

Still distracted today. And it's still just because I choose to allow myself to be.

That's all.

22 September, 2013

Yogi Nora

Today was home/internet practice with Yogi Nora at the Park Plaza Victoria Hotel, in London.


I am operating on 30 minutes of sleep. Perhaps 45 minutes. Yet I am still doing yoga. Traveling alone makes me feel out of sorts. First I am okay. Then I start thinking about too many things that are neither here nor now, and suddenly, I am worrying and uneasy. It's so obvious that I could make this easier for myself by not allowing the mind to drift. And I still choose to drift, taking the consequence of less happiness. I recognize also that beating myself up about this doesn't help matters any. Right? Just return to the breath. Again and again. And for me, when even that seems to be failing, I return to the yoga mat, even on 30 minutes of sleep, because it will shift me in the right direction, even if only a little bit.

I knew that Ali K's classes were going to be way too out of control for a tired body, so I searched around and found this class, taught by "Yogi Nora" that claimed to be a Gentle Flow. It was indeed that. She goes very slowly, and there were no real Chaturangas in it, always substituting an unusual version of a Cobra transition. I found Nora to be a little bit smiley for my taste, and a little too slow, but the class served the purpose that I needed. More or less. She only has a couple of full-length classes online, plus a huge catalog of 1-5 minute tutorials about how to do particular poses.

I was really worried about arriving in London and feeling a sense of emptiness. When I arrived, I didn't actually feel that. I felt a sense of openness. I wandered around the streets, with only a loose intention of navigating past some of the important sites. I was tired, but still felt the energy to roam around. And even though I didn't experience the sense of emptiness that I had been dreading, I kept waiting for it. Anticipating it. Hell, it's almost as if I will the emptiness to come. Counting the days until I return. And this is a good place to be! I chose it! I wanted this! But now that I am here, I just think about when I can get back to the comfortable routine of home. And I know it would all be different if I were not traveling alone. Though, then I would probably be worrying about the exact opposite! How many days do I have left? Did we do enough?

Cassandra often talks about how we wait all day to go to yoga, and then, once we are on our mat, we can't wait for it to be over.

Is this human nature?

I have been practicing for just about 2 years now. I am better at recognizing "what I do." And sometimes I go through periods where I am more present. But I haven't shed these patterns yet. Apparently, it doesn't happen magically, overnight.

Bedroom yoga with Ali K

Today was "Hatha Vinyasa" with Ali Kamenova on YouTube.

Just couldn't bring myself to do the heat again today. Not as if I don't do it every day, but today just wanted something mellower. The class was not that hard but it was odd. No sun salutations. No warriors. Lot of lunges. I stayed reasonably focused but really was just phoning it in today. There will be those days. No pain but I'm back on ibuprofen so...

Tomorrow I get on a plane to London. I am packing my yoga mat.

Please mind the gap between your mat and your life.

20 September, 2013

And just like that...

Today was vinyasa with Tina.

Super intense class. Hot. Crowded. Unrelenting. But, for reasons unclear to me, I felt fantastic and pain free. I even did the forward folds. All of it. And it all felt good. I did take a boatload of ibuprofen. Hm. That's probably why. But where is truth? Is it what we feel or what we believe? I believe my back has issues but today I felt like it did not.

I have had some struggles off the mat lately.

Not keeping perspective. Getting riled. Getting drawn into drama. Reacting. I see that I am doing it. And I have not been exercising good judgment. And have been making questionable decisions about trusting people. Push and pull. Keeping isolated but also reaching out in weird ways. I am probably just being hard on myself. Surely.

But why?

Probably because I am outside my comfort zone. That's what I do. Or at least what I have done. I am not doomed to repeat. I have a choice.

I noticed that I have a tendency to mirror people. That often works well in communication. But not when the person you are communicating with is confrontational. Mirroring them pretty much makes for an instant fight. Being adaptable means being able to detect these things and modify on the fly. I see it. So now it's incumbent upon me to do it.

Blah blah blah.

19 September, 2013

Hatha day

Today was hatha with Cassandra.

It just seemed like the right thing to do today.

Near the end of class I caused myself major pain by doing a seated forward fold. It was actually a side bend from seated tree. Going in was fine. Coming out I felt it all in my low back and there was no way out except through. I laid down after that and moped. Worried about how my spine will last another 50 years. Saw a woman in a wheelchair and wondered if that will be me. Then I thought about some of the not-so-nice things I have done in my life and wondered if this is karma.

Best not to dwell in that place very long.

18 September, 2013

Substitutes

Today was vinyasa with Chelle.

Thought it would be Michel and I had come to get my butt whipped after a day of dark and stormy mind. Turned out there was a sub and I still got what I came for. It was a little more mellow than it might have been but the effect of quieting and clearing my mind was the same.

The weather change is making my mind cloudy too. Plus work stress coming and going. Trying not to be pulled into others' drama or create my own. Easier said than done.

Back still hurts.

16 September, 2013

Restorative...

Today was vinyasa plus restorative with Alice.

Alice is 20 weeks pregnant. The last time I took her class I didn't notice. But it has now reached the point where the mystery is gone. That makes two of my favorite yoga teachers. It is a small way or a big way that we get to observe change in our teachers whom we don't often know outside context of class.

It is a 90 minute class with about a half hour of restorative. And I could not wait for that part of class. I was dragging again today. Still achy and waiting for it to feel better. It will. Soon. Just not sure when.

She didn't hit us with as many long flows as usual but still a lot of crescent lunge and that always drains me.

I have a trip and a study coming at work. That often gets me a little riled up. Need the quiet mind more than usual. And that is when it is hard to motivate. I recognize that my motivation for yoga is pretty stellar and I should cut myself some slack. But it's the conflict inside.

15 September, 2013

Feel and breathe... Breathe and be...

Today was vinyasa with Scott.

It was a tough day. My back is aching a bit more and I think it may be the change in the weather. I have resisted taking ibuprofen yet but probably will need to when I head on my trip to London.

Scott had a small class today. The pre-class was punctuated by two fellow yogis coming up to me to ask if I has heard that Elizabeth's Tuesday class is going away. I hadn't heard and was surprised. But I haven't been able to attend it since moving to my new job.

The energy for me was slow and labored. I kept up with Scott's pace but it was hard. I am starting to wonder if my weakness in poses like Crescent Lunge or Airplane is due to inexperience or something caused by my spinal injury. I don't like the thought of the latter. But I do seem to be weaker in those than I was a year ago which makes no sense unless it is from injury.

The cycles between easy and hard are quite short now. A few good days. A few bad ones.

11 September, 2013

Crack of dawn

Today was Hatha at home.

I knew that today was not to be a day off, because I was trying to jiggle my schedule around known days off. But I also knew that I didn't want evening to be the yoga time, so it left me with a first: early morning yoga at home. Work up at 6:50am, and barely had my eyes open, never mind free from the morning glazing, and I was on the mat and doing Hatha. Initially, I thought it would be sufficient to squeeze out a 40 minutes of practice, but I ended up doing essentially the full hour, because I got into it and didn't mind practicing after all, once I started. I was surprised to find that some of the balance poses like Dancer's and Balancing Stick were as achievable in this sleepy state as they were. It was a pretty good practice, actually.

There's been an ebb and flow of feeling anxious, feeling great, feeling sleepy, feeling energized, sleeping solidly, having wild dreams. It's just been one of these times. Who knows why. But that's what is happening. And I am sure it will stabilize.

In a little over a week, I will spin around the globe, 8 hours into the future, and find myself practicing yoga with an English accent. We shall see how that goes.

Okay, that's all.

10 September, 2013

Having and sharing

Today was vinyasa with Carley.
At the end of class she did a reading. It said "having experiences is living... sharing experiences is loving."
I liked that.
Opted for another 90 minute class to take Carley and keep an early schedule. More tired than yesterday understandably. Room was humid. Emotionally I started off with lots in my head just distractions. Noise. Planning future. And I was able to quiet much of it down.
Not much to say tonight.

Back on the mainland

Today was vinyasa with Michel.

This weekend was the first time I have taken consecutive days off in longer than I can recall. Months for sure. Maybe the entire year? I went to the Olympic Peninsula and yoga was just not on the docket. A sort of planned holiday. I almost did a self practice Sunday but that didn't happen and it was fine. The result was that I was very rested for Michel, which was a good thing.

As 90 minute classes go this felt relatively speedy. I was modifying a lot of forward folds and doing chair with my feet apart per recommendation. Michel took notice and asked if I was okay. It is nice to be noticed. Her message felt resonant and I was still riding the wave of peace and love that's been flowing for a while now.

I have seen another cycle of the practice getting harder and then easier again. These cycles will repeat. On and off the mat. The mat is a great reminder that cycles exist. It helps prevent spirals or nosedives.

The practice...

09 September, 2013

Solitude and bees

Today was vinyasa with Elizabeth Thomas.

I came to class in a great mood today. Happy for the weekend. Happy to be in class. Elizabeth started by asking us to name something we are afraid of. It was interesting to have that question on a day where my energy was so positive. As usual I wanted to find some way of being both amusing and honest.

I'm afraid of bees and being alone, I said. That got a laugh. While it has been true for much of my life, neither of these are plaguing me at present. I think either in large quantities would be scary. But the edge has come off a bit over the years. I have learned to cherish the things I can do with time alone, a lot of the time. And still not go to a place of reactivity when it does hit me. Bees... Well. I can say I no longer avoid places where there may be bees.

Class was hard. As always. I knew it would be challenging after two days of tough classes. So I did the best I could.

06 September, 2013

Good days

Today was vinyasa with Chelle Swierz.

It is nice to have good days. I am fortunate to have a few in a row. There are ups and downs. The weekend was tough and now it has swung back the other way. The practice was tough. The thoughts were tough. Now it is flowing. Things feel easier. Taste of success. Taste of joy. Taste of power.

Best to enjoy it. There will invariably be ups and downs. On and off the mat.

04 September, 2013

Let's start off in Chair perhaps...

Today was Vinyasa with Ali Kamenova on the Internet.


Ali is not messing around. She starts off by saying that it will be an intense class, and then launches right into Chair pose. Very intense, indeed, and mostly focused around the very core of the flow sequences. The class goes about 40 minutes of standing, through some intense Warrior series and Lunge series, with lots of add-ons, and then goes to the floor for some deep stretching that is often missing from the 60 and 75 minute Vinyasa classes. She achieves this by pretty much skipping all the standing balance poses. But believe me, you would not want to be trying to do Dancer or Eagle after what she puts you through in the first 40 minutes.

Today was the home practice because it's available to me. I don't know if Ali has any classes that are not on the high end of the difficulty scale. I've done two so far, and both were tough, with this one having me completely pouring sweat after about 20 minutes, in an unheated "studio" (my bedroom).

I wonder is this the next transition in a growing practice? To be able to motivate to do the work at home without the added power of community there to pull me along? It's certainly more convenient to do it anytime, anywhere, with the help of the internet.

All of the (okay, most of the) anxiety that had crested over the weekend in Boston has dissipated, and I am feeling rather chipper.

Happy to be home.

03 September, 2013

Yoga in the noisy mind

Today was home practice.

My mind has been noisy. Lots of activity up there. Even some anxiety. It's work. It's life. It's family. It's travel. To use a phrase I hate: "It's all good" - but it's messing with my peace of mind. Last night, I went to bed, and actually could feel my heart beating. Normally my heart rate is a calm and easy 50-something beats per minute. But it was up there. I don't know how much. But it was adrenaline that was doing it. The force and speed of contractions both elevated. Anxiety. I don't give myself credit sometimes that there is "a lot going on." Instead, I go straight to "What's wrong with me?" 

So, this morning was yoga in the noisy mind. I was aiming for some quieting of the buzz. And I did get some, but it brought me from way above normal to somewhat above normal. It was an awkward way to do yoga, though I have done it before. In my small bedroom, on a plush carpeted floor, situated between a closet, a bookcase, a bed, and the door. A little more than mat's worth of space available. In the past, I have done Hatha in this setting, and it's fine. Today, I did a flow. It was somewhere between a Baptiste series and an Elizabeth/Ashtanga-based class, with my Pilates exercises thrown in for good measure. I opened with 5 Sun A and 3 Sun B, in the Ashtanga style. Then there was a Warrior II to Side Angle to (gently) Twisted Crescent Lunge. I think I hit Lizard Pose in there. There were some Knee-to-Elbow repeats, to each side and to the nose. Then I did the Triangle and Pyramid. Eventually, standing balance with Eagle, Dancer, Tree. Then to the floor for a seated version of Pigeon (Gomokasana, I think it's called?). Locust. Then the Pilates business, which consisted of breaststroke-prep (which looks exactly like Locust, give or take), a set of "hundreds," some sort of hip rotation strengthening thing (I should just look up the names), and a swimming type of deal not dissimilar to other stuff we already do in yoga classes.

And the mind was not quiet. 

Interestingly enough, as I sit here on the airplane writing this, the energy seems to be cooling down already. I am going home. I am getting away from some of the anxieties and stresses of family visit. And I am returning to the people I have been missing. I got some great news at the airport from a friend of mine. I have been getting work done that was hanging over me and making me feel guilty because I didn't want to do it, but knew I had to do it.

The movement forward, tiny shifts, shaking free the stuff that was amping me up. And much the same as each little brick was weighing on me, now the lifting of each little brick is making it easier to get back out from under the others. And the energy is slowly returning to normal. 

I have spent so much time in future-thinking in the past 4-5 days. The thing that is most curious to me about it is not "the thoughts" themselves, because they're pretty obvious easy targets for "What can I worry about if I really want to torture myself and make an otherwise perfect existence seem tenuous?" The thing that I am curious about is what the trigger is that sent me into future thinking. I am not completely sure what it was. There had to be something about the present that I was trying to escape, beyond just the "There's somewhere else I would rather be right now…" It has to be more than that. I would go so far as to assert that the future thinking realm is only tangentially connected to the unpleasant present that I was trying to avoid. 

Family.

That's my first guess. Who knows if it's correct… going home, I recognize that I am not just paying a routine visit, but that I am "TAKING RESPONSIBILITY" for things. It's not like I am doing heavy labor or anything, but showing up actually feels heavy on my heart. We are all getting older. And there are things that will inevitably occur at some point in the future. And it's all a march toward everyone's end. That sounds morbid, but I think it's part of what weighs on me and creates anxiety. Going home reminds me of those I have lost… my mother… my sister… It draws my attention to those who aren't as able as they once were… It makes me ponder the logistics and the reality of one day losing my father as well. And of getting older myself.

And I don't want to go through this life alone…  

There. I hit the nerve, because as soon as I typed it, the tears started coming. 

My parents, for better or worse, had 60 years together. I won't get 60 years with anyone, barring radical changes in medical technology and human longevity. I am not pointing at marriage and long-term commitment and saying it's this magical wonderful happy campground. I know it isn't and I don't pretend to glamorize it. But I have always been about being connected with others. My friends are dear to me. I have always placed a strong value in working on relationships with significant others, even when I wasn't particularly well-equipped to handle the emotions that went along with it when I was younger. Sometimes, unfortunately, even in the face of incompatibilities that were fairly obvious. But it was still a priority for me. I want to share my life. 

Being around family brings all that to the surface. Makes sense, right? 


I'm glad you agree.

01 September, 2013

For you and for everyone you meet

Today was Vinyasa with Jaime MacDonald at Open Doors.

"The yoga is not just for you... it's for everyone you meet."

Last night was a late night with friends. Still operating on west coast time in the evenings but east coast time in the mornings. That happens when I come home. Regardless of whether or not it was a good idea, I set my alarm for the 9am class because it's Jaime. Just like yesterday was Bill. They're my yoga family away from home. I am exaggerating a little, of course, since they barely know me. But there's a magical power of even minimal familiarity in different contexts. I heard someone say once that if we see a coworker in the hall whose name we don't know, we might only nod or smile. In the supermarket we might stop and chit chat for a few minutes. And if we saw them in another country we might have dinner together. Context is everything and we are always trying to find something to identify as our "clan."

I am in Boston. Looking out the window of Starbucks I see torrential rain. Part of me keeps clutching to the fact that Seattle is perfectly sunny and lamenting that my Labor Day weekend is here not there. Just as part of me is wishing I were spending time with people in Seattle who are dear to me instead of with people in Boston who are dear to me... But the sun... the rain... It's not the difference between okay and not okay. I think we get so attached to "blue is good" and "gray is bad" but it's just the sky.

Class today was much better than yesterday. I didn't feel perfect. But I didn't feel heaviness like yesterday. I really wonder how much my internal state affects my physical state. It's all so tied together that either can pull the other up or down. And the yoga is helping to dampen the magnitude of these oscillations. But sometimes the yoga is part of the cycle.

And I am just trying to keep it going.

When I stopped writing because it got hard, it didn't get easier. It just took me further out of touch. When the yoga gets hard I am just weathering the storm.

Jaime said today that it will not always be progress. Sometimes we will feel like we are moving backwards. But she offered this quote, which I am paraphrasing: "Before the arrow can find it's target, it must be drawn back." And that sometimes periods of stagnation or loss of ground are necessary regrouping periods for us to make the next big leap forward. In that sense, even a loss of commitment can be optimistically viewed as a step in the process toward some future deeper commitment informed by the knowledge gained through experimenting with stepping away from the commitment.

We are always on the path. Not just for ourselves. But for everyone we meet.