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.

The mark of progress

It's been two years since I started doing yoga in earnest. Oh, and yesterday was vinyasa with Ben Rae.

I can see the mark of progress. I am still me. I am still reshaping the dunes of my Samskara. But there is a subtle difference. Yoga has taught me that we can keep returning to the present moment. The intention of now. I used to live life like a child who, if they didn't like the first brush stroke, would tear up the entire drawing, and cry and then hate myself for tearing it up. I still get stuck in that thought pattern when things don't go the way I wish they'd gone. But I have become a little better at delaying the reaction. I can pause and ask what I really want. On a bad day I may struggle mightily. But my worst is probably better than my best used to be. I can also recognize much more quickly when the problem resides inside myself. Good indicator is if I have an extra hard time letting go if whatever it is. A colleague joked with me the other day at work, when he could see me getting worked up about something; he knows I do yoga. He said "Bob, you're falling out of the pose." Yep. Wise observation and wiser that he chose that metaphor, since he knew it would resonate with me.

This is the yoga.

It was weird being at urban today. Nice. Nostalgic. But also a little sad. Crowded. I am a visitor now. It's not home. I feel welcomed, but a little out of place. It was my community but I shied away from it. It is still nice to return. There were lots of familiar faces this night and I had a wonderful conversation with a fellow student with whim I'd previously in exchanged brief hellos.

Class was hard but not too hot. And Ben sure makes it interesting.

I will keep visiting. It is the place I discovered my mat. And it holds a special place in my heart (center).

06 October, 2013

Trying to find the intention again

Today was vinyasa + restorative yoga with Alice Harper.

Alice talked about how she's heard a lot of people say they're feeling scattered as the season is changing, and anxious, easily distracted, all that jazz. It makes me feel a little better to know that, perhaps, it's just something in the air. I am holding on, and perhaps I will emerge from the dragging my feet in the mud that has been happening for the past few weeks.

Today's class was very difficult, and I think everyone in the room must have felt it. Alice didn't have us spinning around in circles like we often do, but it was a never ending series of knees to noses, stringing together every flow with these, and really wearing me down. There were scarcely any twists, but lots and lots of lunges, and chaturangas. I guess it is a vinyasa class. I don't know why I'd expect anything different, really.

For what it's worth, my back hasn't really been hurting much, and I have been doing less and less to favor it. Whereas I was told by the physical therapist that I shouldn't be doing forward folds only a few weeks ago, I am slowly approaching my original routine. I don't know if it's prudent or not. I really don't. But I am listening to my body, and I don't think I am doing harm. We shall see.

I don't know if my practice is advancing or plateaued. That was a discussion with Elizabeth T. the other day. I hadn't really thought about it, but I guess that's what is happening here. Given my various physical limitations, I don't really know how my practice will advance. In what direction will it grow? I am still tight in the hamstrings, and limited in some of the opening that I can do because of back issues. I am not inclined to do inversions, for whatever reason... they just don't appeal to me. I suppose there's the working on the inner focus and quieting the mind? That's the place I have been struggling more lately, and it is one thing that does not require any special physical capabilities.

Or I could just wait until I naturally slide into the next phase of growth. It's hard to say whether it's more efficient to try to pull oneself forward, or just wait for the season to change again.

Unexpected day of gentleness

Today was vinyasa with Elizabeth Thomas.

It was supposed to be Scott's class, but Elizabeth was substituting. I hadn't expected this to amount to a "break" - rather, just a different kind of challenging class. But, for whatever reason, Elizabeth was in an apparently unintentional mellow mood, and the class was quite gentle. The temperature was never hot, and everything just felt kind of peaceful. It's a good thing, I guess, because I was not (and have not been) feeling like pulling out the stops and doing high intensity lately.

In addition to being mellow, Elizabeth's message was getting through to me today. A lot of emotion on the mat. I don't know why it's been such a rut lately in terms of my passion for the practice. I am tired. Tired, tired, tired.

I have been vowing to myself that I will start putting a little more thought into these entries, and into capturing what was happening when I was in the class. To do that, I would need to do a better job of writing shortly after class, instead of two days later, trying to cram in the entry before I get backlogged by the entry for the next class, which I am about to take in like 15 minutes.

Speaking of which... I should probably get ready for that.

04 October, 2013

Elizabeth on DVD

Today was vinyasa on DVD with Elizabeth McElveen.

She gave me this DVD a few weeks ago. It's from some time in her past. Seems to be pre-Troy and pre-Ashtanga. The style was different. The pace was different. Even the form of her sun salutations was different. The only thing familiar was the voice and the words. Elizabeth in my exercise room. Strange!

It is interesting to note how people evolve. She's not the same teacher she was. I am probably not the same student I was. We are constantly changing. Yet we will always retain a certain essence of who we are no matter what experience or teaching we receive. Self.

Keep the best parts.

More yoga

Today was vinyasa with Yoshi.

It was a really hard class. Humid and struggling for air. Very short breaks between sequences and my head still has not been entirely in the game. Not sure why really. I go through phases of more or less connected to the practice. Right now I guess other things are more interesting so I am fighting against the current to keep the commitment to both practice and writing. Life is good. Sometimes I lose the drive when I am down. Better to have this problem. But I know the consequence of slacking off. So I am pushing through.

That's all I've got.

01 October, 2013

You call that restorative?

Today was vinyasa with Jaime Schmitz.

Normally it is a vinyasa plus restorative class with Alice but Jaime was subbing. We still did the restorative but the flow was really hard and class ran a little long so it was more than I bargained for. Still feel heavy and tired physically. No surprise.

Also still not much to say. I like Jaime's class. It was a good flow and I had somewhat more energy than yesterday. But the tank is not refilled yet.

Back home and tired

Today was power vinyasa with J. Politi.

I am used to taking his basic class and this was a lot harder. And surely the time shift back from Europe made it worse. The regular flow series had my legs burning so bad. I survived. Best I can say. Tried not to get angry and just get through.

Not feeling particularly talkative. It was tough slogging through yoga while traveling a whole week. Part of me wants to be lazy now and I am pushing through while not overdoing it.

But if I am not interested writing it I don't imagine you're interested reading it...