30 August, 2014

Cortiina Yoga Studios

Today was hotel yoga in Munich.

I've practiced yoga in The Cortiina Hotel's rooms so many times, it is almost like one of my regular studios. This time, they gave me a ridiculously large room, with more space than some yoga studios I've visited. It felt absolutely amazing to do the yoga today. I shouldn't sound so enthusiastic. I don't mean that my body felt wonderful, or that I was overly ecstatic about doing yoga. But I knew there were many things that were very tight, especially in my hips and hamstrings, presumably from being on the airplane all day previously. And I also knew that the yoga was going to address those things, at least to some extent. So I was looking forward to doing it and seeing how it helped. As I was practicing, I could tell that it was working, and it's nice to recognize that.

Not sure why I feel the need to correct myself for being too positive.

28 August, 2014

Last time before (another Europe) and first time (in a long time) with Nicole

Today was vinyasa with Nicole at Be Luminous.

I recall that I tried to do this last time I flew to Europe. Wanted to catch a noon class with Nicole, but discovered that she had a substitute. But this time, Nicole was present, and we had a really nice class. It was good to get in there, knowing that I will be practicing on my own for the next 2 weeks. I don't mind practicing on my own. In some ways, I prefer it, actually. But I am becoming increasingly aware that both ways have their benefits. There are times where we should guide ourselves, and other times where we should allow ourselves to be guided. There are different lessons to be gained from each.

The low back still seems to be holding up pretty well. I had no idea how it was going to be, after the rather sharp pain that I was experiencing only 9 days ago. Actually, I am a bit surprised it went as well as it did.

Still must be very careful and not complacent about it.

26 August, 2014

Made it, barely

Today was vinyasa with Carley.

After yesterday's 75 minute drive home, and the miserable fail at making it to a studio yoga class on time, I left work 10 minutes earlier today, figuring I'd beat the rush and actually make it to class. The traffic was just as bad, due to some highway closures, and I barely made it (but I made it).

I was looking forward to a long class, since it had been a long time since I have taken one. I was also looking forward to Carley's class, since I can't even venture a guess as to when the last time was that I took her class (June 10th, on inspection of the history). Interestingly, looking at my last entry from one of her classes, it would appear that I have many positive things to say about them, and that continues today, of course.

The energy in class today must have been a little bit dragging for everyone, and Carley sensed it, and went relatively easy on us, focusing more on grounding work, spending a lot of time in deeper stretches. At one point in the class, after standing balance poses, where the teacher will normally bring the class into Triangle and Pyramid, it was like something clicked in her mind regarding our energy level, and she brought us to the floor, doing half splits, and then pigeon and double pigeon (i did gomukhasana instead of the latter). It must have been obvious that we were all done standing.

In a couple of days, I will begin another 2 week stint of time zone shifts, long days, late nights, hotel yoga, and general state of external unbalance. I will do my best to keep centered. In fact, making a conscious effort to do better than usual, but I know it will still be a shift. So it's good to cherish these last couple of days where I can be guided by an expert voice through a safe and special practice.

25 August, 2014

Not even close to making it

Today was supposed to be vinyasa with Michel. But it was vinyasa at home.

Reason was that it took 75 minutes to drive 4 miles. Actually, it took 50 minutes to drive 2 miles and then 25 minutes to drive the other 2 miles. The important part was the first part, since I had given myself 45 minutes time to make it to class, which is usually far more than enough. But there's construction in the city right now, and it has created total pandemonium on the downtown roads.

I couldn't get too upset, though, because this is what's happening, right? Once I realized the extent of the traffic, I actually started hoping that I would miss it by a long shot, because I didn't want to end up in a situation where I was almost making it, and feel like I should be anxious (since I shouldn't), or try to rush, or wonder if I can walk in late. If you're going to miss something, it's much better to miss it solidly.

So, instead of yoga at the studio, I sat in traffic and talked on the phone with my father, which is probably better in the big picture of things.

When I arrived home, I decompressed from the drive (you'd think that yoga would be the perfect decompression, but sometimes it's necessary to pre-decompress, rather than plop right down on a mat and try to bring it back to zero).

Practice was decent, intense, lots of heat in the house right now, lots of sweat. I did a pretty intense Baptiste flow, with very few exclusions (skipped Dancer's, Wheel, Floor Bow), and did extra long holds in Pigeon pose.

Practice is what's important. It doesn't matter where it is.

24 August, 2014

After a rare two days off

Today was home practice.

I had wanted to do yoga on one of the two days, but the schedule just didn't make it possible, with traveling out of town for the weekend. My mat was with me, but I didn't make the time. It's hard for me to feel like I didn't do a bad thing by skipping the extra day. But sometimes it happens. I worry that if I did that more often than rarely, it would start a new pattern.

But today, I was back to the practice, glad to be doing yoga, especially after a very long drive in horrible traffic today. It felt good to do it, and I was rested. The pain in my low back seems to be subsiding, and I am moving away from the constant ibuprofen. But still, I will be extremely careful over the coming weeks, with the upcoming travel, time zone shifts, long international flights, etc. It's important to be careful always. But, after a mini episode like last week's. I need to treat every practice as if I am nursing that injury, whether it is hurting or not.

21 August, 2014

The wonders of Ibuprofen

Today was vinyasa with Farzeen.

I didn't really know how today would go. Had been expecting Tina's class, and there was a substitute. Had been completely prepared to be "having a hard time" due to the low back injury that has spun back up again. I even told Farzeen before class about my limitation, and that I might not be doing any upward-facing dogs today. But it turned out that I was able to do pretty much the entire class. I had to be very careful in those poses, and in the Warrior I and Crescent Lunge, to not arch the back too much, and not over-torque the hips. And to not drop the hips all the way to the floor in upward dog. But, aside from those modifications (all of which were pretty subtle), I was able to make it through the class, pain free, and without further damage. I attribute this, of course, to the Ibuprofen that I have been dosing at the rate of 2400mg a day for the past 3 days. Inflammation is the enemy right now. Therefore, anti-inflammatories are the friend.

It was somewhat fortunate, as well, that Farzeen opted for a rather mellow class, at a very deliberate pace, without any crazy stuff. No jumping, flipping, tossing.

Universe, inside and out, somewhat cooperative.

19 August, 2014

Almost private lessons

Today was gentle yoga with Elizabeth McElveen at The White Studio.

There are distinct advantages to taking class with a teacher who is your friend, in a class that has only 3 students. The "distinctest" of those advantages is that, when you tell the teacher that you just injured your back and may not be able to do Warriors or Crescent Lunges, she says "OK. Today, we won't do any Warriors or Crescent Lunges!" How's that for first-class treatment, right?

I hadn't expected that, of course, and was mostly just trying to make her aware of my limitations. But Elizabeth, amazing as she is, decided that we could craft a class in a different way (easy to do, when not beholden to Baptiste, or Bikram, or any of these demi-gods). Instead, we did Half Moon against the wall, and we did Moon Salutations, and we did plenty of stretches on the floor.

Day 2 of my back episode is worse than the first day was, because inflammation has got my body saying "No!" to back bending. Even such things as Upward Dog went from uncomfortable, on the first or second try, to verboten from there on after.

It's hard to say no to something as fundamental as Upward Dog. But why? It's just another pose. If it doesn't serve my body, I should say no to it, without feeling shame, frustration, or whatever. If I am careful, and do not do this pose that hurts me, it will be crystal clear, at some point to come, when I find myself able to do it again without pain.

18 August, 2014

That old friend, the herniated disc

Today was vinyasa with Chelle at Be Luminous.

The last time I had a "flare-up" of the lurking low back problem was about one year ago. That's not a bad run, really. I can't complain. Here and there, over the past week, I have experienced tiny hints of discomfort in the low back, but not what I would officially refer to as "an episode." I've come to know its nature quite well. But today, on our first Sun Salutation B, immediately upon coming into Warrior I on the right side, "BAM!" It gave "The Twinge." If you've ever had low back problems, you certainly know about "The Twinge." When "The Twinge" occurs, you know that you have, once again, entered "an episode." It was relatively minor enough that I was able to do most of the practice, but I had great difficulty with all of the Warriors, and pretty much anything that required me to bend backward. So I did what I could, trying not to exacerbate anything. At an appropriate moment in the class, I let Chelle know what was happening, so that she wouldn't be wondering why I was bailing on all kinds of things that she was calling out.

So here I am, again, with what I guess you'd call an injury, but I'd say it's more like a condition.

I don't expect that I will ever be free of the episodes. I have this condition, and it will periodically flare up. I hope it does not progressively get worse, but I know that it either will or won't, irrespective of my wishing. I try to take good care of my back, though probably not through all means possible.

The injury's return is not a plague. I prefer to see it as an opportunity to practice with what is. This is what is happening in my body now. I can like it. I can hate it. But it doesn't change it. So why bother with the judgments? I have no real option but to embrace it, and see this as a time to be "extra present" in my practice, because now it's not business as usual. I need to notice what hurts, what doesn't hurt. I need to not do further harm. I need to understand the nature of it, and then (as will undoubtedly be the case), observe as it gradually improves, returning me to the physical state that I was a few days ago before this bout began.

This is life. It will be full of twists and turns.

I am hardly fazed by it anymore.

Now, if I could only say the same for the unexpected setbacks!

17 August, 2014

Hot bedroom yoga

Today was home practice.

Hot outside, hot inside. I did about 30 minutes of a decent vinyasa flow, mostly following Baptiste, with okay concentration and energy, though I was distracted a little bit thinking about some unrelated things in the news, and how it is that we have so little clarity on what is true and what is not true.

I will leave you with that very vague, brief summary of this day.

15 August, 2014

Mini inner battles

Today was home practice.

I really, really, really didn't feel like practicing today. And I knew that there was no reason why I should not, other than wanting my Friday night to begin. I went so far as to get into Child's Pose on the mat, and continue to ponder whether or not I was actually going to practice or get up and bail on it. But a voice in my mind finally spoke up, and said "You're already on your mat. Just do the practice." So I did.

Today I was recovering from a difficult Tina class yesterday, which was really a little more than I needed, and I decided that this practice would be very much focused on stretching, and staying close to the floor, no Chaturangas, very little serious weight bearing, and just get things to relax and open. And it was not that bad after all. I ended up doing about 35 minutes of that, followed by a Savasana long enough that I almost fell asleep, but not quite.

Glad I did it.

14 August, 2014

Increasing intolerance for "fancy stuff"

Today was vinyasa with Tina at Be Luminous.

It was a pretty standard Tina class, though she mixed up the sequencing a little bit. There were a few spots where things got a little too fancy for my taste, and the intense part of the class stretched very close to being the entire class. This has, more and more, been triggering in me an "OK, enough!" feeling, because I sort of know when enough is enough.

So, when I felt like it was enough, I guess I backed off.

There are often poses near the end of the class, like shoulder stand, fish, table top... poses I don't really want to do. Maybe I should do them. Maybe I shouldn't. Who knows?

I don't know who I am cheating, if anyone, by deciding it's time for savasana. My guess is that no animals were harmed.

12 August, 2014

A sort of homecoming

Today was gentle yoga with Elizabeth at The White Studio.

It didn't take long on the mat in this class to remember why this was such a big part of what I looked forward to every week. There was never a time where I would think "Ugh... I don't know if I want to go to Elizabeth's class." It was something I always looked forward to, and that's how yoga ought to be. Though it was gentle yoga, it worked our muscles quite intensely, perhaps because of just how precise it is, even in its gentleness. And, again, that's how yoga ought to be. We should not need to throw our bodies around to get the work.

So, there was time away, and now I will make time for coming back.

The opposite of chaos

Today was slow flow with Jackie.

The antidote to chaos, as I knew it would be. Quiet. Peaceful. Deliberate. Simple. A wise follow up to yesterday's craziness.

As Jackie's classes go, it was a little tougher. We did some crescent lunge with standing twists. That always challenges my balance.

But it was so very welcome an experience. It matters much who you trust with your practice. If we choose a guide, that should be a careful choice, not a reckless or convenient choice. The same is probably true of all those we welcome into our lives.

11 August, 2014

Deep hip openers

Today was home practice.

I did about 40 minutes of pretty standard vinyasa flow, following pretty closely to the Baptiste series, right up until the part where you go to the floor. For the last ~20 minutes of the session, I did only one pose, and that pose was Gomukhasana. Ten minutes on each side. I did, I confess, grant myself the distraction of browsing the internet on my phone while sitting in the pose. But it was incredibly intense, and interesting to feel everything open and settle over the course of the minutes. The start is extremely intense on the IT bands, because they're the first thing to catch in this pose. As the time passes, it goes deeper, and into the hip. Eventually, things that were not touching the floor at the start of the pose are touching the floor.

I highly recommend it.

09 August, 2014

Maybe it's not me, it's you... or maybe it's still me.

Today was vinyasa with Jaime at Live Love Flow.

I don't know how to write this one without violating my nominal code of not criticizing a teacher. I will tell you about my experience, and leave it at that. 

I knew it would be a tough one, because it's been over a week since I have done a heated class, and even longer since I have done over an hour. And it was a morning class, which is never a great time for my body or my mind. And I haven't eaten since the equivalent of 3pm yesterday due to flight and a time difference. So I guess I was set up for challenges.

It was very difficult to find my breath today. It was shallow, not in my consciousness and, at times, possibly absent. I don't know for sure if it was absent, but I experienced a lot of distraction today, partly due to very loud music in the class, and partly due to there being (how do I say this) "a lot of verbal guidance throughout the class." It was just difficult to find a space to focus and hear the breath and turn inward. 

The class was a rather unrelenting series of flows, some of which were extremely complicated and not easy to move through, requiring (again) a large amount of verbal cuing. 

About 45-60 minutes into the class, I was getting to be toast, but the flows were not really letting up. It pushed right up to the last 5-10 minutes, which would have been hard enough if it had been the 75 minute class that was on the schedule. But, as is often the case, Jaime ran about 15 minutes long. At the very end of class, she apologized, stating that it's difficult for her to get her time management back in order, because she just got back from vacation. Well... a little hard for me to accept. First of all, her classes always run long. Second, if she's having difficulty with time management, she can bring a watch or a timer into the class, as almost every other teacher does.

I ask myself a few questions... 

Would it have bothered me if I had been better prepared for the class? 
Should I give feedback?
Or should I just "vote with my feet" and go elsewhere?
Is a class like this a perfect lesson in life, and I should embrace rather than run from it?

I think I know the answers to these questions: Probably, No, Yes, Yes.

I had a conversation with a friend and teacher of mine a couple of weeks ago, and we discussed whether one should go for those classes that drive us way outside our comfort zone in perhaps non-traditional ways. From that conversation, what I took away is that it's probably not in our interest to seek out situations that don't suit us when given other options that we know are better for us. But, when faced with such a situation, it is just another place to practice acceptance.

So, I write this as part of my documentation of my practice. And I accept it. And I'll probably let go of the irritation in a day or so. But I don't know if I'll go back to her class.

08 August, 2014

Quick one

Today was vinyasa home practice.

Last day in Boston. Staying at my father's house. Had work meetings through the middle of the day, with only an hour of space between each meeting. So I found a way to do the practice between meetings. It was only about 35 minutes, but it felt good, and the focus was good. Practicing on my own is becoming preferable to going to a studio, and I am not yet sure if it's because it's "my practice" or if it's because I don't push myself as hard. How do I get to the bottom of that?

06 August, 2014

Same same same same...

Today was home practice at the hotel.

I had dinner plans this evening, and had ~ 45 minutes to practice, and that's about how much time I used. It was a pretty standard flow, and felt pretty good. I have been tired lately, but the focus was still good, and am always glad to have done it.

Nothing much to say. Writing about it a few days later.

04 August, 2014

Late and distracted

Today was home practice.

It was a long day, and I started off tired. Work was a crunch, and didn't even have dinner until 9pm. Then, back to the hotel, waiting to get the urge to do the yoga that I'd promised myself I'd do. I never got the urge, but I did do the yoga. I think it was a respectable effort, but I didn't even look at the clock, because I didn't want to feel like I was aiming for 30 minutes just to say I got there. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn't. Doing yoga at midnight is never a great plan.

But it's important to keep the commitment if you make it.

02 August, 2014

Late but dutiful

Today was home practice.

Started at 11pm, but it was a solid practice, following pretty closely the standard Baptiste series. The balance issues of yesterday were much better today, which I do attribute to focus, rather than to the carpet magically becoming more level than it was yesterday.

Today was not a bad day. Family time. I went to dinner with my father, and it occurred to me, a little sadly, that I won't have a son to take me to dinner when I am his age. I was asking him about his social interactions, and about whether he's made any friends or connections that he sees. And he hasn't. So, save for the people he interacts with when volunteering, people in the stores he visits each day, and occasional interactions with family, he's alone. Except, of course, when I come to visit, and he has a string of days with extended contact and long conversations. Maybe I'll die before my partner, and I won't be in the situation he's in. I don't think he laments his situation, and certainly does not complain about it. But it makes me ponder many things. Will I even be alive in 43 years to be his age one day? Will there be anyone to care for me, or see me? I made firm choices about how I wanted my life to look, with respect to family. But it was a thought about life now, not about life later. I wish to live without regret, and perhaps I will. But there are little moments where it can be scary.

I managed to keep my mind unencumbered by thoughts of that sort during my time on the mat tonight...

01 August, 2014

Boston yoga... it continues

Today was home practice. In Boston.

Actually, in Stoughton, but you probably don't know what or where that is, so I figured Boston is close enough. It was a pretty standard practice, except NO CRESCENT LUNGES!!! And I focused on trying to stretch out some of the soreness from the difficult class the other day, and from sitting on an airplane.

My concentration wasn't fantastic, even though the practice wasn't bad. But the standing balance poses felt like I was trying to do them on a surfboard on rough seas. I am intrigued when I don't have the balance. Not sure if it was the nature of the carpet where I practiced, the time of day, the drishti view (of vertical blinds) or some other factor.

Who knows?

Back in Boston, and it's not bad being here.