29 May, 2014

After-effects of eyes shut

Today was vinyasa with Tina.

It turns out that there is a consequence of practicing with eyes shut. It would appear that one uses more muscles to maintain stability and balance, when vision is not part of the picture. I was sore today. My legs were tired, my chest was tired. Tina's class was difficult. But I find my energy on the mat to be very good lately. Talk about obvious ebbs and flows... a couple of weeks ago, I wondered when I would ever feel good again, and now it's one of those periods where the practice seems tolerable, no matter how difficult.

I've been working on the Half Moon looking up to the top hand, and getting closer to doing it on both sides, regularly. I've been including Wheel in every practice, and not just a half-assed Wheel. Really trying, and holding it for longer than I think I can. And I have been not slacking of at the end of the class, as I have always had a tendency to do.

Not sure where this is coming from, and I certainly haven't been feeling splendidly "off the mat," so it's not as if I am just experiencing some sort of period of exuberance. This wave of "something" is coming from the mat first.

The question is: Will this wave translate, gradually, into life off the mat?

28 May, 2014

Eyes Shut

Today was vinyasa with Sean.

This 90 minute class starts with 10-15 minutes of meditation, followed by the yoga. For some reason, it occurred to me that I would do this class with my eyes closed, as much as possible. So, from the start of the meditation until the end of Savasana (which ended up being more like 95 minutes, since class ran a little long), my eyes remained shut, with the exception of a blink here and a check there, which could not have amounted to more than 1 minute, in total.

I have never done that before. I was in a class once where the instructor (Troy) told us to close our eyes for a portion of the sequence. But I mostly did not heed his instruction, because I was not comfortable. But today, it was just the obvious thing to do. I have been struggling with ambiguity, and becoming so anxious and stressed about things that I either do or do not have control over (mostly related to the fear that I don't or won't have control). What would happen if I did the yoga without knowing how I looked, and without the barometer of vision to guide me? It just felt like it would be instructive in some way to the issues I have been facing off the mat.

As the class progressed, I found that my focus was pretty good. It's difficult to come up into Warrior I or transition into Warrior II with eyes closed. It's very difficult to come into Crescent Lunge, and going in and out of a twist was challenging. I noticed that my feet tend to drift toward the left of my mat during Chaturanga when not monitored. Not sure why this shift to the left happens, but found that it nags at me, and it was the place where I wanted to keep making quick glances. Remaining perfectly centered holds great importance to me for some reason. It is actually uncomfortable for me to just "let it be."

I realized at a certain point in the class that we would eventually get to balancing poses. There would be Eagle, Tree, Dancer... what would happen? Would the wheels come off the bus? Would I choose to open my eyes? Or would I choose to fall out of the pose? The odd thing that happened was that we never did the standing balance poses. They never happened. And neither did Pyramid or Triangle, two of the other poses that might have been tricky. I hadn't bothered to worry too much, because I had made the commitment, and was going to just let it be what it would be. And, then, strangely enough, I was never confronted with the challenge.

Sean noticed that my eyes were closed and commented on it after class. It was a small class, so it was easy to notice. He said he hadn't consciously decided to skip the balance poses, nor had he forgotten them. It was just the way today's class happened to go. But I can't help but wonder if there's a subconscious connection there... "I wonder what's gonna happen to Bob when we get to Dancer's Pose?" Of course, it would be vain if I believed that he consciously was thinking about that. But subconsciously... who knows? It is rather odd for all of those poses to be absent from a 75-90 minute class, especially with Sean, who has a reputation for being tough.

The point here: the world didn't come crashing down around me because I let go of extreme control. And many of the things that I was aware could be greater challenges never came to pass. But, had they come to pass, I would have taken the as they came, and I didn't need to have a game plan in advance. I also didn't burden myself for the first 45 minutes, thinking "What the hell am I going to do when it gets to Dancer's Pose?" And the reason was because it wasn't really that important. It would be what it would be, and I would do what I needed to do.

There's a lesson in here for me.

26 May, 2014

Unrealistic expectations

Today was vinyasa with Alice.

This morning, I started working on a music project. It has been many months since I found myself deciding to sit down and really work on something. It was just a cover tune, not an original, but I felt like I was motivated to do something. The plan was to work for 4 hours, and then go to yoga.

That's not what happened.

I started working on doing what was supposed to just be a "scratch vocal" (meaning, the vocal that you record just so you know where all of the parts of the song go, and then you work on the instruments, and then go back and record the vocals for real later). This is a song that I don't know very well. I hadn't ever tried singing it before, and didn't know the words. So I was trying to learn it on the fly, one line at a time. And, recall, as I said, it doesn't need to be perfect, since it's just a temporary track.

After singing the first two lines of the song, with moderate frustration, but a passable result, I got to the third line, and suddenly felt this major wave of embarrassment, inadequacy, shame, and defeat. All sorts of negative thoughts went flying through me. That devolved into asking myself why I am even bothering to work on these pointless projects.

My immediate reaction was "I need to get out of here."

Within five minutes I was out the door. And on my way to yoga class (fortunately).

Class was difficult, but it took me mostly into the present moment. I was glad to just have something I had to do. Commands to follow. After class, I drifted a bit back into the negativity, and found myself at home, lying on the floor for a while (partly because of the exhaustion from class, and partly... well, I don't know what else, but not great, whatever reason).

It could really best be described as wallowing in negativity lately.

But having a hard time stopping it.

I don't know why I would expect myself to be able to sing a song perfectly on the first try, without having any familiarity with it. That would be like coming to yoga for the first time, and being angry that I can't do Standing Splits with my leg straight up in the air.

25 May, 2014

How you treat your best friend

Today was home practice with Lesley Fightmaster.



Searched the web for classes today, since it is a holiday weekend, and saw that this instructor had a lot of classes that were full-length.

The sequence was slight variation off the usual vinyasa flow, but had all of the core elements of Baptiste in it. The biggest challenge was that she went very quickly. She probably did the number of poses we'd typically see in a 75 minute class, in 48 minutes. But it was good nonetheless, because she had a pretty good message and style of teaching.

The subjects that seem most relevant sometimes start coming at us in a barrage, when it's the message we need to hear (the universe gives, or something like that...). Today, at a point about three-quarters of the way through the class, she asked us to pay attention to what the voice inside of us is saying. Is the voice kind? The point of reference she gave was "Ask yourself if you'd talk to your best friend the way that you're talking to yourself right now."

Well, that one hit me, because I have been noticing lately how negative that voice is. I am not my own best friend, it would seem. Because I cut myself down like I probably wouldn't even do to a sworn enemy. I could spend a whole bunch of time asking myself what that's all about. And I could call that therapy. Or I can just stop doing it, and like every other form of "losing focus" that can happen on or off the mat, just notice it, and bring the focus back. It's one of the things I do.

Can I choose to stop doing it?

Will I?

23 May, 2014

Thus ends another week

Today was vinyasa with Elizabeth.

I raced out of work to make sure I arrived at this class on time. It has been a difficult week, with lots of ambiguity and churn, which are exactly the types of things that throw me out of balance. Somehow, in the midst of the off-the-mat chaos, I have been starting to find a good place on the mat again. The yoga, which hurt for several weeks, and was finding little focus, and less motivation, is making a comeback. I find myself wanting to go that extra day rather than taking that extra day off.

Today, there were some strange sequences in class. She did it on purpose, and it was about taking us out of the expected. We spent a lot of time on one leg at a time, and I could really feel the fatigue in my standing leg. On the second round of Eagle pose, which I guess I hadn't expected, I found myself really start to lose my balance, and the wrapping of the parts was becoming unraveled. All of a sudden, a wave of emotion hit me, and I started to cry, and really felt myself coming apart. I don't know what the trigger was. I think it might have been this sense of being unable to hold it all together. The Eagle pose is all about keeping things so wrapped up and focused, and it was just disintegrating. And the emotions of inadequacy, and self-disappointment hit me in that moment. It disappeared almost as quickly as it arose, and then I couldn't even get back to that feeling.

In class today, I found myself able to do Half Moon, looking up toward the ceiling (on one side) for the first time in a long time. I had practically stopped trying to do it, for a long time, because it had not felt like an option.

I've also been pushing myself more to do Wheel poses lately. And trying not to stop doing the work near the end of class.

It's too bad that "better on the mat" doesn't translate directly into "better off the mat." I am seeing low correlation between the two.

22 May, 2014

Another good class

Today was vinyasa with Tina.

I am now starting to anticipate the class with Tina with enthusiasm, rather than apprehension. The medicine works. It has been clear to me, every time that I attend, that I come out of there feeling better than when I went into the class. So why keep the old story alive about being apprehensive about how hard she's going to work us?

For Tina, it was not the hardest of classes today. She did a few things differently, though I can't really remember what.

This is a time where I need to keep the focus on the practice, the connections to what is happening off the mat, and the commitment to this writing. I let this entry slip for 3 days because of this or that reason, and I no longer remember exactly the feelings that I wanted to capture when I walked out of class.

20 May, 2014

It doesn't get any easier

Today was vinyasa with Carley.

It hasn't been a fantastic few days. There should be nothing wrong, but I find myself in anxiety, withdrawal, and generally negative outlook. Work should be great, with new things starting. But instead, I have been wrapped up in the frustration of the ambiguity, and in how much people annoy me. Even on my drives around the city, I find more frustration with cyclists running red lights, than I find joy in the blue skies that keep on gracing us.

In short, I am finding a way to make the worst of things.

The same is true at home. Withdrawing, alienating. It's not a new story. This happens to me. If you look back through the archives, it's in there. I guess it's my pattern. And it's very contradictory.

Anyway, not to dwell on that, I arrived at class with my head in a buzz from the anxiety of work, and the various people and situations there. And I was thinking at the start of class "How am I going to let go of all this and be present for a 90 minute class?" And I was also keenly aware that, to not let go of all that, I would be subjecting myself to torture.

The actual class was not quite torture. It was not the longest 90 minutes of my life. And I didn't end up spending the entire class thinking about work. But I did spend a large portion of the class feeling strong negative thoughts about myself, and not even really trying to stop feeling them. I was almost wallowing in them, as if it's a dose of some poison that I must believe I deserve. I'm in there, half-naked, because that's where we are, and I am taking myself down a notch throughout the entire class. Occasionally, I would allow my mind to drift to the fit gentleman a few rows ahead of me, to further amplify my self-dissatisfaction through a bit of comparison.

Why would I do this to myself? (because I must believe I deserve it...)

Why do I feel like I deserve it? (that, I don't know... perhaps because I recognize the ways that I am flawed, and am unwilling to forgive or accept myself for these things?)

Why am I so unwilling to forgive or accept myself for being flawed, which we all are? (because I somehow have come to believe that I am more flawed than most, and don't deserve forgiveness or acceptance)

And that's where the logic starts to become circular. How do I go deeper than asking the questions, and coming back with the answer "you deserve to feel bad."

The strange part is that I think I am happiest not when life is any better or easier than it is now. I am happiest when I forget that I deserve to feel bad!!!

On the bright side, Carley forgot to do abs today, and that was a tiny gift.

19 May, 2014

Low-Energy Vibrations

Today was vinyasa with Jaime.

It was a strange class, yes. We started off with "yoga music" and ended up with "Dave Matthews." Because it's an hour class, and it's advanced level, the intensity is pretty much at 100% through the entire class, and we ran overtime so we were left to do winding down and Savasana on our own. Yeah, a little strange.

I have been experiencing what Jaime would probably call low-energy vibrations lately. Having a hard time getting out of them. I haven't really been motivated to pursue my passions, to the point that I don't even really feel passionate about them. Haven't really felt like reading. Haven't felt like doing much besides forcing myself to do yoga, resting, eating, playing Scrabble on my phone. Drinking wine. You could call it "Taking it easy for a while" or you could call it "Being in a rut." I am not sure if one is more true than the other.

There were a lot of handstands in class today, and I didn't do any of them, because that's not in my practice. So I did my best to find alternatives during those times. It was a tough class.

Even though the energy was weird, and the class was phrenetic, I still felt like I had an okay practice.

I seem to have snapped out of my physical funk. But now I am still caught in an emotional funk. Will these funks ever be fully in remission?

18 May, 2014

Yoga versus a workout

Today was vinyasa with Jackie.

Sometimes in a slow flow class, I need to remind myself that the yoga is not primarily for a workout. That's definitely a benefit I seek. But it should not be the primary focus. Nonetheless I find myself sometimes feeling like I didn't work hard enough when a class is mellow.

There will be plenty of difficult classes that fulfill the desire to get a workout. There are also classes where it's just about relaxing.

That said, a crescent lunge was awfully hard today. And she like to make us straighten our front leg, which is almost impossible for me without falling over.

Okay. That's all.

16 May, 2014

Unexpected visitors

Today was vinyasa with Rob at Be Luminous.

Yes, Rob Bracco, doing his first substitution at Be Luminous. It was a nice surprise, and good to see a teacher whom I hadn't seen in a long time. My energy was still good today. The class was pretty much a standard "Journey Into Power" series, with a few minor modifications. It wasn't too crowded, being a 4pm slot, and it's always good to have yoga finished early on a Friday evening.

I'd been idly considering the idea of going over to Urban Yoga Spa to see some old friends... in particular, feeling a bit sentimental about Cassandra, and thinking it may be time to pay a visit to her class, now that it's not an option at the other studio where she taught briefly. This class with Rob gave me some sense of the connection to UYS, but it also reminded me that regardless of where the studio is, or who the teacher is, the practice is actually my practice, and mine alone. It's always a personal practice, no matter how many others are there. Getting too attached to the location or the instructor is getting wrapped up in the drama of things.

So perhaps I will stay the course I have been on lately.

15 May, 2014

Coming out of the pit of despair

Today was vinyasa with Tina.

I've been feeling weak and out of sync for a while now, but today was the first strong evidence that I am swinging back up to the positive side, at least from a physical perspective (perhaps emotional too?). Tina's class has a way of being transformative, and I am not even sure why it is. But it works. Felt stronger, and had the energy and will to stay focused through the entire class.

Perhaps this will continue.

13 May, 2014

Unconventional

Today was home practice with Ali Kamenova.

And a strange one it was.


She's always a bit unconventional. But this one was particularly odd, starting off with Warrior III in the first minute. I went with the flow, and it was not bad. Ali has a bit of a habit of narrating in a way that's a little hard to follow because she does voice over after the fact, so she's actually calling out the pose a little bit after she's started transitioning to it, which is the opposite of how people tend to teach. So, when you look up at her, she's already on to the next thing.

Today was a day where I just didn't want to do a 90 minute practice, or wait until 7pm to be done with yoga, or pay for a class that is not part of my membership, or deal with the heat, or motivate myself to do a self-guided practice. Yeah, lots of constraints, huh?

There were no Warrior I or II poses in this class, nor Crescent Lunge, nor Triangle. This may have been a good thing for me, since that little bone in my right heel is still nagging away as it has done for months.

Another day. Another practice. The 50 minutes went by pretty quickly, and I am glad I did it.

12 May, 2014

Something new for Mondays?

Today was "Formless Flow" with Carie Martin at Live Love Flow.

Yeah, what's that, right?

Carie was filling in for Jaime today. This was my first time taking the class, and it was again part of the quest to avoid 90 minute heated classes. This one was a 60 minute unheated class, that focuses on arm balances, but also contains a reasonable amount of standard vinyasa sequences. Carie's not a bad teacher at all. There was not any spiritual angle here. Just calling it out in a straightforward manner. But that's really all I need.

That said, for all of her lack of woo-woo, she did almost get me to hiccup some emotion during the final moments of class (and the knowing look as we exchanged glances told me that she saw it happen). We were rolling over onto our side to come to a seated position. Carie said something like "Just notice that this feeling is here for you everywhere you go, if you want to have it." And for some reason, I snagged on that, like a loose shirt getting caught on a chain-link fence. Almost cried, but instead I let out a little laugh, because I don't really feel like that sensation is there for me all the time. I have spent so much time lately stuck in feelings of inadequacy, self-dislike, judgment. I don't know why, but it happens every so often. If I look back through this blog, I will find it again and again. The only thing I don't know, because I haven't plotted the curve, is the frequency of it. I've told myself many times that it would be interesting to track the trend. Ironically, I suspect that tracking the trend would change the trend, though, because the act of placing a score in a spreadsheet would make me ask the question, "Well, why is my mood a 5 today, instead of an 8?" I suppose that would be a good thing. But I don't know if I'd learn. And then, eventually, I would stop making the chart. And then, eventually, I would start having periods where my mood is a 5 or a 3, and I'd ask myself why it is that I don't make a chart to keep track of this.

Heh, right?

What's the ultimate goal? To understand what those patterns on the bottom of our lake are? Or to find a way to change them into new patterns that work better for us?

10 May, 2014

The Basics never get old

Today was Yoga Basics with Chelle.

This really never gets old for me. I like a slow practice, where you do fewer things, but hold them longer, and really settle into the poses. Sometimes I don't like knowing that the laundry list of everything that is a Baptiste sequence needs to be crammed into 60, 75, or even 90 minutes. It always feels like a lot. When I do a basics class, I feel like there's time to really think about what the proper form is.

I dunno. Maybe I am just lazy?

I dunno. Who knows, right?

I certainly broke a sweat like it was a "regular" class, so I must have been doing something.

There goes the inner critic again...

Two steps back

Today was vinyasa with Elizabeth.

I didn't really miss that many days overall. But the time I was away from travel and illness seem to have added up to my body feeling like I have been set back years in my practice. Especially the warrior poses. Maybe it is partly in my mind. But it all feels so tight.

Class was difficult today and the sequence was slightly unpredictable which added more challenge.

It will get easier again.

09 May, 2014

Needed easy

Today was vinyasa with Lara.

This is normally Tina class but there was a sub. I desperately wanted to have a better class than the other night. I was ready for whatever. But fortunately it turned out to be a surprisingly mellow class.

I will take them when I can get them.

08 May, 2014

Down down down

Today was vinyasa with Carley.

It was a 90 minute class but I only showed up for an hour. Probably rationalized the early savasana. But that's the way it was. Felt pretty negative about myself. Body image issues for whatever reasons.

I was on the floor feeling reasonably relaxed. And that lasted right up to the point that everyone else got to savasana. And then, suddenly, it became almost intolerable to lie still. I was definitely aware of this but not clear why it was happening.

After class, I continued on in a down mood. Sad. Down. And all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep.

So I did.

06 May, 2014

Real German yoga

Today was vinyasa with... I don't actually know. I don't know what his name was. Guess I should figure that out!

It was an entirely German class. Not surprising, being in Germany. Very challenging, but it felt good. And was interesting to experience it in the foreign language. It's still yoga. And the phrases in German became clear after a few repetitions.

I am glad I made this happen.

Weaker than expected

Today was gentle yoga with Nicole.

I have been pretty sick for a few days and today was first day I felt well enough to come. Once I got here I discovered that I was actually weaker than expected. Class was not difficult but my body reacted as if it was a power class. It was good to be back at the studio in Seattle again. I felt rather emotional too.

Slow road back to the routine, I suspect...