30 July, 2014

Lots of lunges

Today was vinyasa with Meghan Smith at Live Love Flow.

Last class in a studio, probably, for a week, since I am traveling again. I decided to do this one because the time worked, even though I had never taken a class with Meghan before. It was a one-hour class, and the heat was not very high in the room, which was good. But the class was one endless string of Crescent Lunges, including all of the moves that I hate, sweeping the arms back, and low-flying chairs (a bunch of things that I tend to say are "not part of real yoga").

In spite of it... Meghan was a decent teacher, and the class had a decent pace. Just a trying class for me, but it was over before I knew it.

Still finding myself more interested in taking classes on my own now, than in the hot studio. I am also finding myself eager to get back into class with some of the teachers who have influenced me the most.

But now, I go to Boston.

28 July, 2014

More more home practice

Today was home practice. Again.

Just not finding my way to the studio, but still finding my way to the mat. That's what's important, I guess? Nothing much interesting to say about this one, other than that my heel continues to give me problems, perhaps slightly more than in the recent past. I have had several injuries that have lingered but this one seems to be more of a defect that just isn't resolving.

27 July, 2014

More home practice

Today was vinyasa home practice.

Practicing in the heat of the bedroom. Probably about 85 degrees. It was a short 32 minutes, but pretty intense. Did most of the Baptiste sequence, with very little in the manner of breaks or stops, and very little intermission between repeats. Didn't have time to practice at the studio today since I had things going on various times during the day, all of which conflicted with regular practice times.

Not much to say. I wouldn't say that I'm depressed, but I'm definitely a little off. Energy is decent, body feels good, motivation to practice is reasonable. But I guess my brain is still in Europe.

25 July, 2014

Back home again

Today was vinyasa home practice.

Not much to say. The studio options didn't work for me today, especially with my favorite 4pm teacher in Disneyland. So I did the home practice. Had hoped to do at least 30 minutes and it ended up easily being closer to 50. Variation on the basic flow, with a little more stretching, but still reasonably intense.

Still having a bit of a hard time reintegrating after the trip.

24 July, 2014

Known quantities

Today was vinyasa with Tina.

It was a difficult class, excruciatingly hot. But it's Tina. And it was exactly what I expected. Class was crowded but, again, it's Tina. So you know what to expect. Somehow, regardless of the conditions, whether it be heat, crowds, whatever... a Tina class is still a Tina class.

I don't have much to say, still.

Being back is a tough adjustment in some ways. The glory of the vacation is fading. I've been sleeping funny. Getting really tired at 9:30pm and then not sleeping solidly from the middle of the night onward. I suppose that will fade pretty soon. Just in time for me to go 3 hours forward next week, and then 3 hours back the week after that, and then 9 hours forward 2 weeks after that.

Life is a constant series of adjustments.

22 July, 2014

One extreme to the other

Today was gentle yoga with Jackie.

Yesterday fried me with the super-intense 90 minutes of Michel. Today was the opposite extreme of super-mellow, where I was left feeling like I hadn't moved enough. It's interesting coming back and making the adjustment to being "instructed" instead of just doing a practice. I am starting to understand why people move toward doing a self-guided practice as they get more advanced.

Since I returned from the trip, I have found myself a little tired, and a little depressed. It's hard to come back from the freedom of a vacation schedule, where everything is fun, and everything is new, and you know what I mean...

So I am trying to assimilate myself back into normal life.

21 July, 2014

Being told what to do

Today was vinyasa with Michel.

I was very grateful that my first class back in Seattle was with Michel. I knew that it would be challenging being back in the heated studio again, and doing a much longer class than what I have been doing on my own. But what I had neglected to consider was how difficult it would be having someone telling me what to do, and when to do it. I've really become used to calling my own shots. And it was hard finding that Rag Doll was not as long as I wanted it to be. The flow was just a little faster than my natural rhythm. It's nothing that is really that earth-shattering. But it was more obvious after having this month of being the boss. The heat and humidity did get to me a bit, but I don't think that I was actually physically incapable today. I just reached a point of resistance, probably around the 1 hour mark, where I pretty much didn't want to do anything else that she said. I know when I am being resistant, because it usually happens during the floor part of the class, when the intensity has already been reduced, but I still find myself unwilling to do the poses. I guess you could say that I granted myself permission to take this early check-out.

So, I am back now.

I dunno. Not a whole lot else to say today.

19 July, 2014

Last practice on the road... for now

Today was vinyasa home practice.

I did a standard Baptiste sequence, albeit only about 35 minutes. It's most of the poses, perhaps fewer repeats. It is really humid here in Paris. I have taken 3 showers today. After wandering the city for the middle of the day, we needed to come back and recuperate by vegetating in the apartment for a couple of hours, before I could muster the motivation to do yoga. Even without any added heat, it was a sweaty practice.

I feel pretty good about having kept up the yoga during the trip, as I mentioned before. I don't think I ever missed 2 days in a row, and there were maybe only two occasions that I didn't do 2 days in a row. I suppose I could go back and count how many practices I did since I left Seattle? Looks like the answer was 18. So, I left Seattle on June 18th, arriving in Munich on the 19th. That's 30 days and 18 practices. I can't complain, right?

I knew when I packed my suitcase light, with only 5-6 days of clothing, that it meant a lot that the yoga mat was one of the things that found space in that suitcase. On the one hand, I wondered if I was kidding myself thinking that I'd make time to do yoga on the vacation part of the travels. It's easy not to make the time for it. When I went to Thailand, I can't recall if I brought my mat or not, but I think I only did yoga once in the time I was there. In truth, I don't think that doing the things were committed to ever really comes down to "There isn't enough time." I think that commitment is defined by there being enough time. If you want to know what's important to you in your life, just look at how you spend your time, on average. You can't torture yourself and look at one stint of 3 days when you were swamped at work, of course. But look over the span of, say, a month or two. How did you spend your time? We can tell ourselves until the cows come home about "What's really important," but time is a really good indicator. And we might not like what it shows. About a month ago, I decided, for a couple of reasons, that I didn't like that I was spending so much of my free time playing Scrabble online. I didn't like that this is how my time was being occupied. I was complaining that I wasn't doing more with my free time, but I squandered the free time I had on something that I try to proclaim is "not important." But the truth was, my stupid Scrabble rating was important to me. I didn't want it to be, but when it went down, I got upset, and when it went up, I felt gratification. The choice I made was to stop playing, because I wanted to create space for other things.

I am glad that yoga has continued to be something that I create space for. There are other things I would like to prioritize, but have not lately. Music is a big one. About a year ago, I made the priority of recording a song-a-week. I did it for a couple of months, and then it tapered to less frequent, and then it became sporadic or not at all. It's true that part of that slippage was because I made travel for work, and a new relationship my priorities. And that's okay. But I also played a lot of Scrabble. And that's okay too. But now I don't want to put it off anymore.

So, I guess I will try to shift my focus a little bit, probably after these next couple of work trips, to take up some of that space that was Scrabble-space, and use it for music again.

These are the things on my mind lately.

Partners yoga

Today was home practice.

Today, my girlfriend said she wanted to do yoga with me. This hasn't happened before, though she's mentioned that she'd like to do it at some point. But today was finally the day. Since she does yoga less often than I do (rarely, since she prefers Pilates), doing the yoga together meant that I was playing the role of "instructor" for us. I have guided myself through practices plenty of times, and am very comfortable with that, and I have even done yoga with others where we silently followed one another. But this was the first time that I called out the poses, while doing the practice, like an instructor would do. It was actually quite difficult, figuring out how to do my own practice correctly, breathe, and give the appropriately timed instruction so that it was smooth for her as well. I think it went pretty well. It was more like a basics sequence, in that we did fewer poses, but it actually took nearly an hour to complete. We did it facing one another, since the apartment is longer than it is wide.

It's quite easy to maintain focus when you have the responsibility of someone else's practice, too. That's something interesting, considering the parallels in life.

I tend to not make myself responsible for others. I have never been a manager. I shun supervisory roles. But, interestingly, perhaps I am missing out on an opportunity to have a clearer focus. When others depend on me, I don't want to let them down.

I guess it's something to think about.

Generating heat

Today was vinyasa home practice.

It wasn't even all that hot in the apartment here in St. Remy, but I managed to break a sweat nearly like I might in a hot yoga class. Okay, maybe not that much, but I did a reasonably intense practice over about 35 minutes, and had a lot of energy. It was a good day and I didn't mind doing the practice. In comparison to a few days ago, where I had a lull in energy where I was so tired I could barely move (that happened to be on a planned day off from yoga, fortunately), today I felt strong. I think the factor that made me feel so weak and tired the other day was too much exposure to heat and sun. I have been told (and taken the quiz) to suggest that I have a lot of "pitta" energy, which I guess explains the ill effects of overly hot yoga studios and all that. Anyway, I have recovered from that, and am feeling reasonably great.

Today was another of those resistance-free days. No inner conflicts, no struggles or challenges, no logistical snafus. It again is interesting to me how this aligns with a struggle-free practice. It is almost like there's a relationship there!

Anyway, I have to say I am quite pleased with the fact that I have used the yoga mat that I packed on this trip just about as much as I would typically use it had I not been traveling for the past month. Not that I am one to be patting myself on the back. But for this, I think a nice back-patting is in order.

Don't you?

Breath can apparently overcome everything... even The Rolling Stones

Today was apartment yoga.

Today is Bastille Day. And I am in France. It's entertaining, because it's unlike anything I have ever experienced before, but it's also quite like other things I have experienced, depending on how you look at it.

Being that I am in a small French tourist town, and it's Bastille Day, there's lots of activity in the streets tonight. During my short, but intense 30 minutes of practice tonight, I had the opportunity try maintaining focus through a bad cover band playing Rolling Stones tunes and the start of the celebratory fireworks outside. Fireworks and Pigeon Pose are an interesting combination. But that's how life is, right?

At the start of the practice, with the music, I thought there was no way I was going to be able to focus, because my brain wanted to start listening to the band, and to find what was good or bad about them, and hear what they'd play next, etc. But I realized that this was the time I'd set for practice, and that I could overcome this distraction quite easily by just turning up the breath. And I did. And I can honestly tell you that, from that point forward, I did not hear another song well enough to identify it.

It was 5 Sun A, followed by 5 Sun B in increasing complexity (adding first Warrior II, then Side Angle, then Triangle). Then I did Eagle, Dancer, Tree, Pigeon. And that was my 30 minutes. I really wanted to get outside with Allie to watch the fireworks too, and I had started practice at 9:45pm so this was the compromise I made tonight.

Today, we tried to see the Arena in Nimes, which is supposed to be the best preserved from the entire Roman Empire. It was closed for Bastille Day. Of course, we did see the outside of it, which is probably the more impressive part. Then, when we arrived back in St. Remy, there was some bizarre traffic diversion due to events in this town, which made it nearly impossible for us to get back across to the side of the town center where we have been parking. After about 20 minutes of fumbling about, and using various maps and random attempts, we made it there.

Thing is, though I can't say that I handled these mini-misfortunes like a Zen God, I handled them a little better than some of the similar things that have come up during the trip. I've gotten much better at letting go of things after they're over. But the place I really need to work is on letting them go before or while they're happening, i.e. never forming the attachment in the first place. Today was a little better, but I am not sure it would have been noticeably better to anyone besides me.

But still... I guess that's something.

12 July, 2014

Moments outside of the moment

Today was vinyasa home practice. In France. Right?

It was a slightly less motivated day for practice. I asked of myself a half hour and ended up doing close to 40 minutes. It was a non-conventional routine, because I didn't feel like doing same same. So it was a lot of stretching type of poses to start, followed by one long flow, and then a couple more stretches.

Today was one of those days where I had one of those moments where, best as I could put it, I couldn't resist the urge to create drama. We were driving into the town of Arles, and I had a mini freak out over the parking effort. I will save you the details. Everything turned out better than fine, and we ended up with free parking, but not until I had got really anxious, frustrated, and panicking that I was going to slide off the surface of the earth. That's the type of catastrophe that must have been imminent in my reptile brain for me to react the way I did. Again, it was nothing but 5-10 minutes of the uncomfortable situation, but I chose to make it so much more painful than it needed to be.

And I know this. Right? How many times have I called this out? Of course, I recognize, also, that berating myself for it here does not help matters. But I am really curious, why it is that this lesson is so hard for me to learn. Why do I want to suffer? Why is this pattern one that I continue to service, though it doesn't serve me?

I recognized today that it was definitely an element of fear. I wonder, actually, if it's worse because there's someone else there with me, or if I would freak out just as badly alone? I am not sure. I think that there's something of shame for having not executed every move perfectly, with a "witness" (who actually is not judging me -- it's me who is the judge). There's something to that. It's about the witness.

But the witness is always me.

Yoga in France

Today was vinyasa in France.

Another country on the list. I can't recall if I did yoga in England, but I think I did. So that would make, let's see... well, at least 5 countries, if I am not mistaken. Maybe six. Wow-wee.

Anyway, felt pretty rested, and felt reasonably positive about making the time today. We took it slow today and had plenty of time to relax. Went back to vinyasa, and didn't feel like anything was too much. Even did Wheel, which I usually find lots of excuses to avoid, home practice being one of those excuses, for reasons that are not clear (maybe it's that I don't usually do it if nobody is telling me to do it).

Today was a reasonably centered day. Whereas the last several days of this blog have had a really central theme of "off-the-mat" elements, today, there's really not much reflected that is worth noting. Unless you want to consider the fact that today was a pretty harmonious day, without much struggle, conflict, resistance, anxiety, what-have-you. And, on the mat, today was... um... let's see... a pretty harmonious practice, without much struggle, conflict, resistance, anxiety, what-have-you.

I don't think things always mirror one another like that, but perhaps there's something to the correlation when it does exist. I wonder what it means when the mat becomes an especially faithful microcosm of what is happening off the mat? Is it always? Or have I ever had times where things have been god-awful in life, and blissful on the mat.

An interesting question, to which I do not have the answers.

Hatha for a change

Today was Hatha.

I know, right?

It's been a long time since I have done Hatha. In fact, so long that I was having to think really hard to remember the sequence. I only did about 35 minutes, so it was all the standing poses and just a few of the seated ones. Today just felt like a day to do something less heat-generating. I didn't even really feel like doing the yoga, and put it off until pretty late, though not as late as I usually do yoga when in Europe, since I have now pretty much adjusted fully to the Central European Time.

In spite of not really wanting to do it, I had a decent practice with good focus.

For whatever reason, I feel like there is a bit of an emotional lull in the trip right now. It has only been for about a day, but perhaps it's just a normal ebb and flow of energy. Trying to just go with it, and not get into the even more destructive thinking of "We shouldn't be having these kinds of days on a vacation..." because, no matter where we go, we're still ourselves, so why wouldn't there be ups and downs.

I feel a small victory for having practiced when I really didn't want to do it. It wasn't because I was too tired, or because my body hurt, or because there was simply no time. It was just not wanting to do it.

09 July, 2014

Yoga in the 5 lands

Today was vinyasa in Cinque Terre.

We did a hike yesterday and a hike today. Yesterday's was not as much elevation as today's, but the combination of both, with lots of downhill, definitely made me sore. The goal today was to do that minimum acceptable 30 minutes but, again, I managed to do more like 40 minutes without really needing to endure any unpleasantness in the process.

I am starting to slow down, and get out of the mindset of always needing to be on to the next thing. That takes me a surprisingly long time. Maybe it does for everyone, I don't know. It's been just about a week -- tomorrow will be a week, but it seems to take me this long, perhaps longer, to slow down.

Yesterday, my ATM card didn't work. At first I thought the machine was broken, but then I saw other people successfully withdraw money, so I figured it must be that my card was blocked due to international usage. That didn't seem right since it had worked previously in Germany, but you never know. I called the bank, and they told me they'd get everything straightened out for me, but the call got cut off before we could completely tie up the conversation. Then I figured out how to do the forms online. But my card still didn't work. Then I spoke to another representative, who told me that there's no reason why my card shouldn't work, other than that the ATM may not be part of the network that my bank accepts. That became the most likely explanation.

Anyway, I am telling you this whole long story, because it was another example of how I felt this reactiveness... this urgency... I needed to figure out what was wrong immediately. It couldn't wait until after breakfast, and it couldn't wait until another day. I guess you could say I obsessed on it a bit. I didn't freak out, and I didn't become a psycho or anything, but I don't like to let things not be okay, even for a little while.

A good metaphor for this might be the wrinkles in the yoga towel during class. I have a really hard time letting the towel be wrinkled, either near my hands nor my feet during class. If I return to Downward Dog, and see the wrinkles, then I have to use my foot to brush them out. I don't like to think of myself as uptight, but the fact is, I have to fix those wrinkles.

I have even asked myself, "What would happen if I kept practicing, with the wrinkles in the mat?" And the answer is, of course, nothing. But it would cause me a great deal of anxiety, and it feels not right.

There's work to be done... but I still don't know what it's going to take to do it, or what the benefits are of doing it.

Tired but determined

Today was... you guessed it. Yoga in Firenze.

I was really sore and really tired from having walked a ton. That is going to be par for the course for most of this trip. But the yoga will happen. I told myself that I would do 25-30 minutes, and focused on slower stretches, only doing one long flow that included all of the Warrior stuff. I figured it would be short and sweet, but it was closer to 38 minutes, so that's good.

On the inner work notes, it appears that I continue to snag a bit on "logistics." I worry about them. I worry about things going perfectly, and if there's any indication that they will not go perfectly, I autopilot into some sort of self-deprecating pattern. I get obsessive and negative, and take on a tone inwardly and outwardly that doesn't even sound like me. I am choosing to create drama when I can't find the answers immediately, even if it's for something fairly low stakes. I don't know why I do it. But I recognize it, and it doesn't suit me. Yet I guess some part of me feels like I deserve it? I don't know.

It's happened a few times. When we were leaving Florence, we had an issue where we couldn't print our train ticket. We had so much time to spare, because I had allowed for this type of time in our plan. But it turned out that the one machine we were trying to use had run out of printing paper for the specific type of ticket we were printing. So it gave a weird error message like "This service is not possible at this time." Or something even more vague. I started to worry, and feel like I hadn't planned well. Hell, I mean, I left an hour of time for just this purpose, and we still made it with time to spare once we figured it out. But I wanted to start blaming myself instead of just solving the problem rationally. And when I do this, it makes me a far less effective problem solver.

I made a vow to myself that I would not let work preparation make me anxious and crazy anymore. And that's pretty much all about logistics. So why am I still letting things like vacation planning do it? There's a groove in the sand deep in the bottom of my lake that really wants to keep fostering that pattern. I guess it's a step in the right direction that I am recognizing it, and that I am feeling it does not serve me.

The recognition is not worthless. But the action after the recognition is another level of work.

And I am working on it.

06 July, 2014

Yoga Firenze

Today was home practice at the B&B.

My legs and feet and just about everything were tight and sore from walking miles and miles the past couple of days. So I knew that the yoga would start off feeling rough, and then feel better and better as it went along. My body needed it. I spent time focusing my concentration on relaxing the places that were sore, and it definitely helped. The yoga occurred during an afternoon break, between walking all over the place sightseeing (Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio) and dinner (La Cucina del Gorga -- highly recommended).

The particular places that were tight were hip flexors, calves. The things you use to walk. A lot. It seems that traveling in general seems to be conducive to tightening of the hips. I have been doing yoga just about as regularly as always, so I almost wonder if the hip tension is related to the emotional aspects of traveling; being out of one's element? I don't know. It could also be completely physical.

The trip has been good so far. The only thing I should mention, because it falls somewhat into the mindfulness and compassion category is the little thing that happened in the morning. We needed to take a bus or walk to the Uffizi, and we decided to take a bus, even though it would not be considerably less time than walking. Due to crappy phone signal here, it is hard to get good map GPS, so there's a bit of fumbling about to find things. The phone doesn't always accurately show what direction we're moving. I have my theories about why that is, but it's not yoga topic. So, we couldn't really figure out where the bus stop(s) were. There were like 3 different buses we could take, and I couldn't figure out where the stops were, even though my map was trying to tell me. I started to get pretty frustrated because I don't like it when logistics are not smooth. I started to blame myself for not having planned better. I started to implode in that thinking of "This is all a huge mistake... we shouldn't have stayed here where we need buses to get around..." You know the kind of thoughts.

But we found the bus, and we got there, eventually. Oddly, the stops that the phone told us the bus would make were inaccurate, and we ended up needing to get off late and backtrack. So, for your information, I would not trust Google to tell you bus routes in Italy. At least not with 100% accuracy. It ended up taking us longer via bus than it would have by walking. But it didn't matter. We still got where we needed to be and didn't have to wait long to get into the museum just after opening.

The other thing I noticed, which feels kind of yoga-related... I have found myself on this trip relying on Google maps instead of just lifting my head and looking at a street sign. It's become almost to a fault. And when the map program won't tell you where you are, you can spend all your time trying to figure out where you are, so that you can use the Google maps, or you can just put down the phone, lift your head, look around, use landmarks, read a street sign, use a real map, and figure out where you need to go the way that people did for thousands of years before Google made map software. I have been needlessly relying on it like a crutch.

That seems related to the idea of trusting our actual senses more than we do.

It's tempting to say "Ok, today is a no-phone day" and take a paper map. And it would be fine. And it's particularly intriguing that considering that idea causes a bit of unease in me. I don't want to give up that crutch, even though it's often not helping me. Often it's misguiding me. Often it's taking me out of the moment, rather than guiding me through it.

So many lessons here.

03 July, 2014

Another day of surprising over-deliver for myself

Today was home practice again, as will be every day for the next 3 weeks.

I resigned myself to morning practice because dinner and wine went too late last night. It seemed like it would be a deal with the devil, but it turned out not to be that bad. I figured I would scrape through 25-30 minutes of really basic practice. A bunch of Sun Salutations and call it good. Turns out, I felt a little more motivated, and quite focused, and went about 40 minutes, with 5 Sun A, 5 Sun B (including modifications such as Warrior II and Side Angle), then I did Low Lunges with some additional stretching for hip flexors and quads, Cow Pose, Plow. That was 40 minutes. Something was weird in my upper back today, the muscles were really tight along the thoracic area, and it made Plow difficult. I could tell it would be, based on how I felt in the regular forward folds. Almost like my back wanted to crack but wouldn't. But it wasn't pain. Just tightness. Maybe it's morning for me.

That's another day. Tonight, off to Italy. But I've done yoga there before, so I can do yoga there again.

01 July, 2014

Surprising amount of energy

Today was home practice.

I figured I would do a 30-40 minutes, and it ended up being about 55 minutes. I had a lot of energy, so did a fairly vigorous practice, generating a lot of heat, even in an air-conditioned room. I guess the lack of lack of sleep (i.e. sleep) has caused a slight bounce in my energy levels for the better.

Keeping up the practice so far. But pretty soon, we get to see what happens when I am in an unstructured (vacation) format.