30 September, 2014

Company in the other room

Today. Home practice. Gentle.

Just what the doctor ordered. And the doctor was me.

I spent about an hour sitting at the computer, procrastinating, delaying the inevitable yoga that I had promised myself I would do. Today and yesterday I've had a bit of a cold, and really not feeling fantastic. Combine that with my entire body feeling like it went through a meat tenderizer (named Ali Kamenova), and the only option today was to do something very gentle. I was thinking "No Chaturangas, thank you."

So it was very much based on stretching the long muscles, opening up the sides, the hip flexors, the hamstrings, and keeping the practice mostly close to the ground. The only true standing poses I did were Warrior II, Side Angle, and Triangle, with everything else coming in the form of stretches starting from a Low Lunge.

It was actually a relatively long practice, and I found my breathing and my physical state improved quite a bit during the practice tonight, and my focus was not bad.

There was an opportunity to go out to dinner with some folks visiting work this week. But I really just wanted to come home and do the yoga and relax. I never used to be like that. I would always choose socializing over alone time. I think that, in some ways, having a significant other, especially when you live together, makes it a lot easier to thrive in down time or personal time. She's in the other room working on her projects. I'm in here writing, or doing yoga, or doing music. And I don't feel alone because company is right there within reach. I think that when there was no company within reach was when I would tend to grab at any chance to have connection. It's almost like a kind of hoarding of connection because I was afraid of being alone when I didn't want to be alone, so much that I would sometimes make myself be not alone, when I'd rather be alone. And that's paradoxical.

It's good to be okay with oneself.

And it's good to have company in the other room.

28 September, 2014

22 Chaturangas and I'm not even joking

Today was vinyasa home practice with Ali Kamenova.


It's true that the title of this class was "Sun Salutations and Cardio" but I didn't know that this would involve doing 10 Sun A and 12 Sun B plus a bunch of absolutely over-the-top intense moves. But that's what it was. In fact, she said it would be 10 Sun B, but it seems that she lost count, since I was damn sure I'd done 7 of them, when she said "5 more to go." OK. So that's what's happening. I referred to this as 22 Chaturangas, but it was actually closer to 30, because there were additional ones that were not part of the Sun Salutations.

It was mostly doable, with the exception, for me, of the jumps that are sometimes called "Donkey Kicks." I don't do the donkeys. Really worked up a sweat, and it was definitely intense cardio.

Two days later, I am still feeling the effects of this weekend's video classes with Ali K. I think my next home practice will be a gentle one.

27 September, 2014

Mixing it up a bit again with videos

Today was home practice with Ali Kamenova.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JRVKRN-IYY

It was kind of a wild video, focusing on hip strengthening by doing a lot of things that didn't seem much like yoga, but sort of worked. She's very much into non-traditional flows anyway. It has been a long time since I have done yoga to a video or podcast, but just felt like I should get out of the slightly abbreviated rut of doing the same thing or close to it every time I am at home. And also, figured it might be good for me to adapt to being told what to do, since the self-guided home practices have made me considerably less agreeable to others' instruction.


25 September, 2014

Unusual irritation with circumstances

Today was vinyasa with Tina at Be Luminous.

I've mentioned that I often have reluctance to going to Tina's class, because I know it will be very challenging, but that I always feel amazing after I go. This time, it was a struggle from start to finish, and I didn't end up as thrilled with the situation as usual. Perhaps it was a reflection of the energy I had at work the entire week, feeling like things were not in sync, and like my purpose was unclear, chaos high, and productivity low...

Class was crowded, because it was a free class. And there were several yoga teachers in attendance, including Carley. A guy next to me pointed out that he anticipated that Tina was going to crush us today because of all the teachers in the class. I was skeptical, but it turned out he was correct. It was an unrelenting class, with over-the-top rapidity of the flow sequences. She managed to fit at least a normal 75 minute class worth of material into an hour, perhaps even 90 minutes. That was accomplished by racing through some sequences, such as transitions from Revolved Half Moon to Half Moon at a rate that could not possibly have allowed very many people in the room to "land" either pose. All this with the music playing so loudly that I could not hear Tina's instruction for parts of the class, and I also could not hear my breath (and consequently never really had the usual breath control that I strive to have).

Near the end of class, I'd decided that I was done. Skipped the Wheel, the Tabletop, the Fish, the Spinal Twist. Did the Pigeon. You know... the usual for me. Tina seemed to notice that I was pooped out, and she came and massaged my shoulders for a moment. After class, she asked me how I was doing and if I was okay. And, it turns out, I was okay. Though I was starting to get pretty irritated during class, and having thoughts like "I'm not coming to a yoga studio anymore! I'm just gonna do my own practice at home from now on!" Those thoughts dissipated quite fast.

Not every class is going to be to my liking. I am sure there were many people who absolutely loved that class. We all have preferences, and we don't always get to be in control of how things go. Especially when participating in a group activity. I can run the other way, or I can recognize that this was yet another situation where I had to find a way to keep my cool when the situation around me felt chaotic. I think I create less drama for myself in these situations than I used to create. But not zero. Will I ever get there? Do I need to get there?

23 September, 2014

Trying to reconcile the fire

Today was vinyasa with Elizabeth at The White Studio.

I thought this was a one hour class but it turned out to be ninety minutes (actually, 75 minutes but it ran a little long). Was not sure what was going on there, but it was fine with me. With no heat, my durability is pretty good. We focused on lengthening the body in all the poses. As always, Elizabeth's words were a welcome part of the practice.

At one point during class Elizabeth said something that really resonated for me, but then I wondered if I was just looking for excuses for my slackings. She pointed out that backbends are "Fire" poses, and forward bends are "Water" poses. And according to the Ayurvedic medicine quizzes, I always test as "Pitta" which is supposedly the fiery one, if you believe any of that stuff, which I am still not sure I do, and also not sure I don't...

So, I've already attributed in the past my dislike for heat, especially hot yoga studios, as being related this (supposed) Pitta energy. And then, when Elizabeth mentioned the point about backbends, I started thinking maybe that's why I don't really like backbends either. I always avoid Wheel, Fish, Tabletop, you name it. I don't usually resist Camel, but I also don't seek it in my own practice at home. Maybe it all makes sense? Maybe I don't need heat and I don't need all the backbends, because I already have enough fire? And what I really need is cooling things, forward folds (which I love)?

But then there's the part of me that kicks in the judgment and says "You're just looking for excuses for weaseling out of the backbends at the end of class..." And the teachers certainly place more emphasis on a pose like Wheel than they do on any other pose in the class. It's almost like Baptiste decided that the entire practice is about getting to Wheel, and if you don't rock it, then you get zero benefits... at least that's how they make me feel sometimes. That's when you really hear the teachers with their "If you can then you must" speech.

Fact is, I can. But I don't know that I must.

I talked about it with Elizabeth the other day. She agreed with me. Of course, she's also Pitta, and also isn't a huge fan of heat or backbends. So maybe it's a thing?

I dunno. I dunno. I dunno.

22 September, 2014

Mostly ready for the 90 minutes

Today was vinyasa with Michel at Be Luminous.

Figured I was rested enough, and missed Michel's class. Joked with her before class about how it's getting more and more difficult to allow someone to tell me what to do, but that I still miss my favorite teachers. So there's a balance there.

It was pretty reasonable class today, and I only eased up on a few things, but still 90 minutes is a long time, and it had me quite sore and dehydrated after.

Michel has two different kinds of energy that appear during class. Sometimes there's the exuberant, intense voice, pushing us to dig deep inside and work super-hard. Then there's the other voice, which is the quieter, super-contemplative voice that asks us to search inside and find something essential. It's the latter of those two voices that keeps me coming back, even on days where I'm not sure I can handle the difficulty of her classes.

20 September, 2014

Better once you get started

Today was... Home practice.

Was really not wanting to do yoga today, but I found it wasn't too bad once I got going. Focused on the deep stretching but not without the regular salutations. Just did a bit more hip opening, instead of standing balance today.

This weekend felt good to be solidly back in town and rested after so much travel and time zone shifting. It takes a long time to adjust and I am probably still adjusting.

I may need to think about whether or not I want to keep traveling for work as often as I have. The music pursuit is becoming more interesting again, and it is necessary to create lots of space to feel the motivation to spend time on it.

19 September, 2014

Yet more home practice

Home practice again today, even though I am not traveling.

I don't miss the heat. I miss the teachers, because I like the teachers, but I don't miss the heat, or the crowd. And I also don't miss being told what to do, when it's things I don't want to do. I recognize there's a lesson in there somewhere.

Today I did a pretty intense, full Baptiste sequence (which, at this point, you can assume implies that I skipped things like Wheel and Fish, because I never do those). Longer than my usual home practice.

Even am contemplating whether it makes sense for me to continue spending $1000 a year on a yoga membership, because I don't know that I really need it. But then I start doing the math of how much it would cost if I only went 1-2x/week, and it still comes out to about $1000, so it's kind of a toss-up...

It troubles me a bit that I have so little to say these days. I don't know if that means I am lacking insights, not going deep, or maybe I just have less to say when I am not troubled. Or maybe I am just tired and don't feel like writing. I should at least be able to explain why it is that I am not the philosopher.

17 September, 2014

Mellow yinny flow

Today was hotel yoga, with a focus on stretching.

The traveling, even when it's not very far, makes me tired. Today, I really felt like what I needed was to focus on stretches, and did not particularly have interest in warriors, or chairs, or pushups. So I didn't do any of those things. I focused on just about everything that involves stretching and not exerting.

In spite of the fact that I've continued practicing consistently through my travels, I feel like my hip flexors are ridiculously tight. It is hard to even get into a proper warrior pose these days. I don't know if traveling is tightening me up, or if something else is changing. Or, perhaps, the opening in those areas is significantly aided by the heated practice? Or maybe I haven't been doing enough practice, even though I practice regularly. These things I do not know.

And I may not.

16 September, 2014

Rushing in a partial practice...

It was only about 25 minutes -- the standing part of a vinyasa series.

I left myself not enough time before going to the airport today. I had toyed with whether to just wait until I arrive in California and do it at the hotel later tonight, or squeeze it in. I decided earlier is better. But not enough time to do it all. Maybe there was. Maybe I just am being lazy and gave myself an excuse.

In any case, I have sort of promised myself that I would get my mat out and do some long Pigeon poses when I arrive in Mountain View.

There, I put it in writing so I guess I'd better do it.

15 September, 2014

A little less resistance

Today was home practice.

I was happy to practice in the "not heat" again, after a day off. It wasn't even particularly a chore to do it this time, and I felt pretty motivated to do a rather complete Baptiste sequence. Still it only totaled about 45 minutes. Not much to say, other than I am not sure why my hip flexors have been so tight lately. It's been very difficult to do Warrior I and Crescent Lunge for the last couple of months. It seems to have been progressively worse since having gone on my long trip to Europe, which probably means that I was not getting as deep into the poses as we normally do in the heated studio, and probably have not been consistently doing the poses that get deep in there.

Wondering how long it will take for my body to open again in those places where it has become tight.

14 September, 2014

Overcoming huge resistance and accepting good things

Today was home practice.

Man, oh, man, I really didn't want to do yoga today. I wanted to lie around and do nothing. In fact, I did a bit of that. I had a massage today (which is a separate story to be told here). And then I napped, which is something that virtually never do. My back ached, my muscles were all fatigued, and I just felt drained. I think I am still dehydrated from Thursday and Friday's hot yoga classes. Those were the first hot yoga I had done in weeks, and they took a toll on me. And it seems to be still lingering. We went for a walk this afternoon, and I was dragging all the way through that too, feeling that feeling of not wanting to walk too far from home, because I knew that we'd have to walk that distance back. Lamenting each downhill, knowing that there would need to be a corresponding uphill on the way back.

So today, I really didn't want to do the yoga. The only reason I did do it was because I don't like to not do what I plan on doing. I like my days off to be intentional, rather than out of laziness. For not wanting to practice, it turned out to be a reasonably good practice of ~40 minutes, and it was good to get into the hips a bit.

The interesting thing today happened not on the yoga mat, but on the massage table.

As I may have mentioned in some other post in the past, I decided to start getting massages not that long ago. I had a membership for a few years, but I never attended, so the massages piled up, to the point that I had 12-15 massages already paid for but unused. So about a year ago, maybe a little less, I started going. After a couple of months, I found a therapist who I really liked, and have been mostly going to her ever since.

Today, when I was getting the massage, after having not been for about a month (due to travel), I found myself dipping deep into negative thoughts. I was thinking about the past, from times where I was unhappy with myself. I was thinking about parts of myself that I do not like, and about karma, and about whether I am really a bad person. And even though some of these memories date back 15 years, they felt real again, and very present, because I was holding them in my consciousness.

It was really bringing me into a bad place, when I finally managed to ask myself the question: "Why?"

And it wasn't very difficult to figure it out. I have a hard time allowing nice things to come to me. I have a hard time receiving kindness, or gifts, or comfort. And this is especially true of doing the nice things for myself. So my brain automatically starts constructing justifications of why I should not have these things, when I try to allow them to myself.

Understandable, but damaging.

I need to stop doing that.

12 September, 2014

Difficult questions

Today was vinyasa with Elizabeth at Be Luminous.

It's been a long, long, long time since I took her class. June 13th to be exact. Wow. That was definitely not by design. But my travel (extensive), and some of Elizabeth's schedule changes led to me not attending what would normally have been one of my go-to classes for the entire summer.

She likes to start the class by asking people to answer some simple question for the group. It's usually something that I can immediately answer, without even thinking. But this time, it was a difficult one. She asked us to describe a person in our lives that always makes us feel energized and good when we see them, and why that is the case. It was not something that immediately came to mind. I know there are a few people. They're mostly people that I don't get to see very often. I ended up arriving at a friend of mine that I used to work with. A guy who has similar way of seeing the world to me. The thing that makes me feel good when I see him is that's very validating to know that someone will understand what is important to you. I always feel like I am heard, and that my views, no matter how crazy they are, make sense to him. Maybe he's just really good at making people feel comfortable. But it's something I appreciate nonetheless.

The class was difficult, and I found myself skipping several things (Low Flying Chair -- because, as I have said before, that's not a real yoga pose). Still pretty tired and sore, and yesterday's first day back in the heat actually landed me feeling headachy and practically hung over this morning (it didn't help that I drank just a little wine after class last night).

At one point in the class, she had us do a rather strange sequence that began from a wide-legged straddle forward fold, and ended up in the makings of Bird Of Paradise. That's not a pose I have ever tried before. Normally, I would have completely ignored a request for us to take a variation into that pose. But the entry method she used was so interesting that I found myself going along with it, and actually trying it. It sort of goes to show you that, if you trust someone, you're more likely to do whatever they tell you to do.

I lost steam at the end of class, again, and let myself come down a little faster than the rest of the class did. It was 75 minute class, which feels long for me right now in the heat.

I think that's okay...

11 September, 2014

Abrupt adjustments

Today was vinyasa at Be Luminous with Liandren.

It was my first time taking class with her, and I had thought it would be Tina's class. It was also my first class back into to a heated studio, since leaving for Munich 2 weeks ago. So it was 60 minutes of yoga (when I have been doing 30-40 lately), heat (when I have been practicing at a hotel), and a new teacher who didn't follow the same "rules" that I expect.

There was some resistance.

I just had a hard time adjusting to the pace, which was fast, and the sequence, which was not my usual. I hung in there, but definitely had some of those old emotions of getting angry at the teacher. Instead of actually getting angry, though, I just did my own thing. There was a point near the end of the class, where we had just finished doing Pigeon, and it stood to reason that the class would probably end with spinal twist and Savasana. But instead, she asked us to go back to hands and knees and do Cat/Cow. I was like "No. Cat/Cow does not go here. There will be no Cat/Cow here. We don't do that now, and it makes no sense, and I am not going to arbitrarily go into the 'Integration' phase in the last 45 seconds of class." After the non-sequitur Cat/Cow, she then had the class go to Savasana. I was already in Savasana, because I was a stinker and refused to do the Cat/Cow.

I know that I should let go of expectations, and just do what the teacher says.

But I'm sorry.

You just don't do Cat/Cow right before Savasana :)

09 September, 2014

Tired and ready to come home

Today was hotel yoga. For the last time. For now.

I wasn't even so much exhausted as just... tired of the trip. Emotionally. Physically. I am ready to be home. Tonight was supposed to be a team dinner, and I am usually all about going to such things. But I couldn't imagine going to a group setting, in a loud place, and needing to be "on" for 2-3 hours. All I wanted to do was come back to the room and vegetate. I didn't even want to do yoga.

But I did.

It was a pretty mild practice, with not a lot of heavy lifting, so to speak. Spent a lot of time in just a couple of seated poses toward the end of the 30-35 minutes. And that was enough.

Tomorrow I go home.

Maybe Thursday will be Tina's class...

08 September, 2014

Blurring together

Hotel yoga. Again.

I have been dragging. Managing to do the yoga, but it's slightly lethargic. The benefit is the stretching aspect, which always feels good, even on a tired body. But scraping by.

That's all.

06 September, 2014

I know I did yoga today

Hotel yoga.

Writing about this far after the fact. I know I did yoga on this day. And I know that I was low energy, because I have been exhausted for most of this trip. It was the standard minimum vinyasa flow to not feel like I am being a complete lazy slob.

Yes. That's a decent summary.

05 September, 2014

Coming back from the nadir of sleep deprivation

Today was hotel yoga.

Better than yesterday, where I hung on by a thread. Today was a day off from work. A retroactive Labor Day, decided upon this morning. Slept late. Had a relaxing day of wandering, relaxed and lounged some more (there may even have been a nap involved, if I recall correctly), and then I did a decent, moderate intensity vinyasa practice, pretty much following the Baptiste flow.

The energy definitely felt better than last night, and I was not experiencing pain in the joints, for sure.

I am not sure why I propel myself into these sleep deprivation modes when traveling. I don't think it's jet lag, because it becomes progressively worse after the first few days. Jet lag would be resolving itself. I think that when I am taken out of my normal environment, I do what is referred to in the mental health industry as "decompensation."

"decompensation (n): the failure to generate effective psychological coping mechanisms in response to stress, resulting in personality disturbance or disintegration"

It stands to reason. And my form of drifting is to refuse to go to sleep. I'm probably making it worse than it sounds. It's not like I stayed up for 72 hours straight.

04 September, 2014

Hardly could be called yoga, but I guess it was

Today was quite a feeble home practice, even for a feeble yogi.

I have been experiencing some trouble going to sleep lately, as often happens when I travel to Europe. Staying up later and later each night. I had many work meetings that carried into the night over video conference. I did not need to attend any of these, but chose to do so, probably related to my tendency toward sleep problems when traveling. My mind just gets busy and doesn't want to disconnect. It's a different environment, being away from home, away from my girlfriend, away from my regular routines.

I found myself having not done yoga yet, and it was 2:15am, but I had promised myself that under no circumstances would I skip two days in a row this time. So I practiced for a slow ~30 minutes. It was very focused on stretching, with probably some unusual and unconventional poses, because they were what felt good to my body. I was slow moving, tired, foggy, and sore. The one or two Chaturangas that I did were not feeling good. Sometimes when I don't get enough rest, I feel a pain in my elbow that could easily become a serious injury during Chaturanga. It never hurts unless I am tired. So I listened to that message and avoided them.

Probably it would have been better to skip the yoga. But I don't like letting myself off the hook, especially when I could have done the yoga at many earlier points in the evening.

02 September, 2014

Yin, more or less

Today was hotel yoga.

For whatever reason, my body was clearly saying that it was a day for focusing entirely on stretches. So I kept it mostly close to the floor, and focused on really getting the good stretches on every muscle that needed it, which was all of them. I did about 5 Sun A, but otherwise it was just the stretching. That's what was called for, and that's what I got. I don't know if I could quite call it "Yin" because there was a bit more effort than the yin practice usually has, but the goal was to really let go, and not to "power it up" at all.

Not much to say about it other than that.

01 September, 2014

The need to believe

Today was hotel yoga. That's going to be the line for the next 9 more days.

I did a pretty intense session, dialing it up by decreasing the pauses between cycles on the sun salutations. Kept it to only single breath between repetitions, and did 5 Sun A, followed by 4 Sun B, before moving on with the rest of the practice. Feeling pretty good.

I've been thinking a bit lately about how tenuously we actually cling to whatever we perceive to be the status quo in the world. There's a belief, I think, implicitly in our minds that things will always be more or less the way they are now. People in other parts of the world do not have that luxury, nor that delusion, I would imagine. Though I may be incorrect. Living where I do, and having always lived here, and my parents always having lived here, I have very little context for "things going bad." I heard stories from my family about how my grandmother supposedly hid in the attic while the Cossacks were pillaging. I don't know if that's true. It wasn't my grandmother who told me about it, and I should have asked her in great detail when she was alive. She died when I was 24, but I was way too self-absorbed and disconnected from family to take that opportunity to learn about our European past when I had the chance.

Nobody has pillaged in the United States. At least not for hundreds of years. But it may be a delusion to believe that it will never happen.

My father often uses phrases such as "I have to believe..." or "I refuse to believe..." regarding whatever topic of discussion we are having. Usually it relates to world affairs or my conspiracy theories. He chooses to believe is what it really means. I know that there are things that I also choose to believe, which I don't even consciously state out loud, but they're in my emotional DNA.

Yoga is helping me recognize the absurdity of "I refuse to believe..." or at least to recognize it as an area for exploration. To refuse to believe something is ultimately futile. It's not quite "hope" or "faith," but something close to it. It's clinging to something, in spite of evidence otherwise. In fact, those statements are often made in advance of possible future evidence. "No matter what you are about to tell me, I will refuse to believe it, no matter what evidence you provide..."

I would like to practice being with what is. That's neither clinging, nor accepting, nor rejecting. Simply recognizing. But I know that's a long road to get there.

But I have to believe it's possible...