30 January, 2015

Drop ins

Today was vinyasa with Tim at Urban Yoga Spa.

I'd decided to go take a class at UYS because my studio is closed this weekend. The goal was to take Cassandra's class, and I'd checked the schedule, but the schedule must not have been up to date. So it was Tim instead. Very strange being at the studio with only one or two faces that were vaguely familiar, compared to years ago, when everyone was familiar. The class was interesting, but a little complicated. Very humid, but not that hot. I guess I still have 18 more passes to use. It might take me a couple of years to use them...

29 January, 2015

Too interesting to bother getting tired

Today was vinyasa with Zak.

A level 2 class, and that means unusual sequences, interesting, challenging, but engaging. Not your garden variety Baptiste flow, in any sense of the imagination. The class may have been physically less demanding than yesterday's because there were fewer Chaturanga sequences, but there were many stretching poses, and things I've never done before. So, I expect once again I will be very sore tomorrow, as I was today from last night's class.

There are teaching styles that engage me to the point that I become almost obedient... like I couldn't imagine not following the instructions, no matter how difficult or intricate. And there are teaching styles where I check right out and spiral into my head (but we aren't complaining anymore, right?).

Zak is just amazing.

Life won't always be as enticing as a Zak class. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it and seek it out whenever possible.

28 January, 2015

Slow, intense

Today was vinyasa with Zak.

Very deliberate, intense practice. As he put it "Here's where things get real." And it's true. The class was very hard. But it was within my limits, and I stayed within my limits as it approached them. The practice is going pretty well. I might have more to say about it. But now I am just making sure I don't forget to write anything at all.

26 January, 2015

Being without reaction

Today was vinyasa with Tara.

It was similar to the last class. I found myself thinking about talking with her after class about the aspects that I wish were different than they were. But I find myself asking myself whether it's really necessary that I try to control everything. A million different ways that I try to wriggle around the lack of control. I tell myself that it's feedback that I should really give. But why? Why me? This is what it is. This is what's happening. I can choose to go to the class and practice. I can choose not to go to the class. There are some elements of the class that I find really amazing. Things that hit home. And there are some things that I wish were different. How is that not like life? How is that not the perfect place to practice with what is? Don't change it. Learn to be with it. Don't avoid it. Don't complain about it. Don't even describe it. Just experience it and experience what it feels like to experience it.

I'm not saying it's going to be easy.

25 January, 2015

Coming in heavy

Today was vinyasa with Rob.

Still feeling major effects of my "Curling Day" on Friday. I know that sounds pathetic, because you wouldn't think curling is a physically demanding activity. But my muscles are really tight, and I just feel overall fatigue. Maybe there are other factors contributing. I took a long walk yesterday and today as well, so that might be it.

I was able to make it through the class, but just felt like I was moving through molasses. But still, I am glad that I went, and I am glad that it was a familiar face teaching.

Not much to say today.

23 January, 2015

Right side, low lunge

Today was vinyasa with Chelle.

For my sake, I was thankful that, at no point during the class did she utter the words "Right side, low lunge," or "Right side, crescent lunge," or "Right side, lizard pose," or any other variant thereof. The reason for this is that I tried curling today at a team event at work. For those of you who have curled, you probably catch my drift, but if you haven't, the sport pretty much consists of being somewhere between low lunge and lizard pose on every throw, while sliding along the ice to launch a 42-pound stone. So I was really fatigued and sore, and only on one side (since I'm left-handed, that means it was always "Right side, low lunge").

It was a great class, and it was also my first time making it into the studio in a few days, since Monday, in fact. And it was the first time that I have taken two consecutive days off in I don't know how long... weeks? Months?

The class was surprisingly gentle for a power vinyasa class, and I am definitely thankful for that.

It's been an up and down week of emotions. In the past 5 days, I've traveled to California to meet a new team, put my old house for sale, attended a team event that was pretty intense and, oh yeah, lost my cat (but we found him). It was one of those weeks that pushed me way outside my comfort zone, and I flexed, adapted, bent, broke, you name it. I did a little bit of everything. But what I am proud to have done was to have grown, and to have kept returning to center, even when I drifted astray. It's hard. When things get hard, I often find myself getting into an evasive mindset that leads me to want to jettison everything: the good, the bad, the unknown. Get rid of it all! But these feelings don't last forever, no matter how real they seem in the moment.

That's got to be a lot like yoga.

22 January, 2015

Not gonna not do it

Today was home practice.

I really didn't have the energy after a long day. But after missing two consecutive days, which I really hate to do for whatever reason, I was determined to make this day happen. We'd had plans for a team dinner after work, and there was no missing that, so I knew I'd need to do yoga late, and on a full stomach. Neither of those are optimal. And it was a bit of a crazy stressful day. My house was going on the market today, which is panic-inducing for even the calmest of minds. This morning, there was some sort of a glitch that caused my listing to not initially be posted correctly. Not all the information was showing. And it made me panic thinking "People are going to see this messed up listing and they aren't going to be interested in my house! I am doomed! My house will be worth nothing! I will be destroyed! This is a disaster!" It turns out (and I can say this for certain since I am writing this two days after the fact) that this was a very minor issue, and most of the potential buyers never even noticed the glitchy listing. But it was REAL DANGER in my mind and I was fuming.

Somehow I made it through the day of work activities, and then the team dinner. I didn't even drink any alcohol at dinner, because I knew that I wanted to do yoga, and was committed to doing it. But when I got home I was so tired, stressed, and just emotionally drained, I didn't think I could do it. I was horrible company. I almost fell asleep at 8:30pm. But somehow, around 10pm, I dragged myself into the living room, rolled out my mat, and did a pretty good practice of 45-50 minutes. My mind had quieted a bit, perhaps because I was too tired to obsess or be angry about anything at that point.

I ask myself, in hindsight, how could I have chosen to keep cool, and not panic, and not imagine that the sky was falling in that situation with the minor listing glitch? It was not major. It was not life-threatening and, even if it were, anger or panic was not going to solve it. And that's where I'd say there's still someone in me that likes the drama. Someone that likes when a circumstance arises that is culturally acceptable to lose my shit. Because, who wouldn't agree that having your home sale not go smoothly is a BIG DEAL? So who would question me for losing my shit? Right? But the thing is, it's not about being justified. It's not about "Who wouldn't?" It's about what I want my life to look and feel like. I subjected myself to stress, and I also subjected others to that stress in smaller ways. And it didn't change anything.

What will I do the next time this type of situation occurs?

19 January, 2015

Getting to know you

Today was vinyasa with Tara Dyberg.

Tara was one of the few instructors at Shakti whose class I hadn't yet taken, so I'd been looking forward to what it might be like. I like to have a good sense of all the instructor's styles so that I can plan my class schedule during the week, since it really does matter who the instructor is. And, as you all know, it's not just that there are "good instructors" and "bad instructors." Different styles and energies work better for different days.

I'm reflecting back on this class, which was actually now about a week ago since I failed to do my yoga blogging this week, so my memory is foggy as to how I felt. But I do recall that this was a class with a lot of instructions. There are teachers who say more and teachers who say less. And sometimes less is more. And sometimes more is less. And sometimes more is more. It kind of depends. But I found myself having a little difficulty staying with the flow today because I was doing a lot of anticipating, and often guessing incorrectly. That happens some days. I think I felt a little bit rushed in the class because I knew I'd be going to the airport to fly to California later. That can make it difficult for me to just be in the moment. So I think I should give the class another go (or two).

18 January, 2015

Slippery slopes and mixed feelings

Today was creative flow with Jodi Boone at Shakti.

Having done yoga 2 days in a row, I wasn't sure I wanted to do yoga 3 days in a row, especially since last night's class really took a toll on my body. But there's a possibility that I will have no way of making it into a studio for 3 consecutive days this week (but somehow I will do yoga), and I opted to get it while I can.

Today was a day where I had originally thought I might be spending the entire day watching football. And I had mixed feelings about that. I've probably written elsewhere about how I have great difficulty allowing myself to support "corporate sports" and to watch all the ridiculous advertising-infused fanfare and hype. About how I find it baffling that people claim a sense of personal satisfaction and victory from watching a bunch of random people wearing uniforms that happen to be playing a game in the name of the city in which they live (or, more often, a city within several hundred miles of the city or town in which they live). I could go on and on. But the mixed feelings come because I really enjoy watching the game, and a part of me, from my youth, has the enthusiasm for my home team.

I don't know why this is yoga blog material. It's just what was on my mind today. I decided that I didn't want to spend my day doing something that I don't want to believe in. I know it's not important, and that it's an old obsession that I've outgrown. I also know there would have been nothing wrong with watching it. I dunno. I suppose if I had cable TV this conversation wouldn't be happening, because I would have certainly watched if it had been easy.

Ramble ramble ramble. Blah blah blah.

So, the second part of my title related to the fact that I'd had a massage before yoga today. I don't usually do it in that order, but that's the way the schedule went today. I wanted to do yoga, and I had already had a massage. The downside of this is that my skin was pretty slick from the massage oil or whatever she uses. Thus, a few poses were hard to do because of not having enough friction in the places that it's needed. Tree, for example. I couldn't do Tree properly. And it made me angry. I got these really angry hateful thoughts toward myself. And I don't know why I had these thoughts because I knew exactly why I couldn't do the pose. It's not to say that I should be angry at myself on any other day that I have a challenge, but it was especially odd that I felt such anger even though the explanation was clear. And I think it's because I'm worried about other people seeing me not doing a "good Tree" pose. I am worried about how it looks. I am proud of my Tree, and I don't want anyone to look at me and think "Wow, he really can't do Tree at all." And I realize how ridiculous this is, because nobody is judging me, and they may not even be looking at me. But then I worry that I am "that guy" who is making it hard for other people to balance because I am wobbling all over the place and messing up their drishti.

It's about wanting to feel perfect.

And it's not going to happen.

17 January, 2015

Anticipation

Today was vinyasa with Ben Grieshaber at Shakti.

There are times where my mind wanders in class because I am worrying about what pose will come next, or dreading what I know is coming next, or thinking about what I will do after class. Those types of anticipation I am trying to address. Today's anticipation came via a different variety. For some reason, the cadence of Ben's instruction seems to find me anticipating transitions when they're not imminent. It's almost like when the quarterback in a football game plays around with the snap count to try to draw the defense offsides. And several times during today's class, I received 5 yard penalties (I'm trying to throw in some football metaphors, in honor of this weekend's playoffs).

So I found myself thrown off a bit, and that led to some frustration, and probably exacerbated my sense of fatigue. But it's all part of the practice. During class, I thought about whether or not I wanted to talk with him after class about the timing of the instruction, but I decided that I should wait and see how I feel about it next time, or the time after that, or the time after that, or never. Not really sure.

I expected it to be difficult to go back to hot yoga after a week away and it was, indeed.

16 January, 2015

Last East Coast yoga for now

Today was home practice.

I had an hour to spare before heading to the airport for the trip back to Seattle. Just enough time to get in the day's practice, and I didn't want to miss the opportunity. It was a decent practice, but it's still definitely weird doing yoga in my childhood bedroom, especially because the wall that I face is now decorated with family photos, so I'm constantly facing these images of parents, siblings, nephews, aunts, etc. It's a little nutty, to be honest.

Looking forward to returning to the blanker slate of Shakti's yellow walls and calming (and warm!) environment tomorrow. I am sure that the heat will be a bit of a slammer after being away for a week, but it will still be good.

The trips home are a source of validation for me because I understand what's important when I'm there. To be there for family and to fulfill responsibilities and give someone a sense of being loved. There are times where I forget about this, and I become snippy with my dad, but I am trying not to cling to the memory of the moments that I snap at him, and to focus on the majority of the time where he is grateful for me to be there. And I am grateful to have these times to connect with him as well.

On one hand, I had some sadness that I didn't do this fully 30 years ago, and that I did not have the opportunity to have this deep of a connection in my mother's later years, though I did have a strong connection with her when I was young (which probably explains most of my neuroses, but that's another deal altogether). But on the other hand, I feel glad that I did this at all. With my sister gone, and my brother up in New Hampshire, I recognize where and how I am needed.

At times where I am wondering what the point of it all even is, I should recall this.

14 January, 2015

So tired

Today was the day where the time difference caught up with me.

It was gentle yoga in the hotel room. No Chaturangas, lots of slow stretches. I half-thought I should just take a nap, but I didn't want to break the commitment to myself to do yoga. Just to wake up beforehand I decided to walk from work back to the hotel, across the Longfellow Bridge, in the frigid temperatures. It was enough to get me to the point that I was capable of practicing, but still not energized. Once again, I turned the heat up to 80 degrees, mainly because I could.

Not much to say other than that. It's hard to shift time zones.

13 January, 2015

Why is it so hard to stay in the moment?

Today was hot-el yoga in Boston.

I turned the thermostat in the room up to 80 degrees. I mean, why not, right?

Today's schedule left me no option but to do yoga after dinner, which is never a great idea, especially when dinner is heavy (Italian), and not completely without wine (Chianti). But you gotta do what you gotta do. I had the promise to myself that today was A YOGA DAY and that's just the way it goes.

Was pretty tired and didn't think I'd be able to concentrate. It's really shocking how constantly my mind wanders to other things -- anything! It could be coworkers, projects, my health, my family, what happened last night, what's happening tomorrow, whether I should go on vacation, booking work travel, etc. And that whole time, right in front of me is the entire practice. The pose that I'm doing that moment. The breath. The sensations in my body. And it's so so hard to keep locked into those things. I actually don't think it's that I am avoiding being with my sensations. I think it's that it has become a habit to "multitask." I (we) am (are) always trying to find ways of being more efficient. On the commute home it's the perfect time to plan the evening, or think about the day. On the treadmill at the gym (which I don't do anymore) is the perfect time to ponder all kinds of things. There's (supposedly) not enough time in the day, so I make it up by always doing two or more things at once. So, it's no surprise that I do the same thing on the yoga mat. Because it's the perfect time to focus on the same shit that I focus on every waking moment that I'm not fully engrossed in some mental task at hand.

Completely understandable.

But... not the practice.

And I'm working on how to remedy this. But it's hard. Because it's like an addiction. It would be so easy to say "I am going to try to focus 100% on whatever my task at hand is, from here going forward... when I am driving, I will focus entirely on the experience of the car, the road, the events in the visual and auditory field around me as I drive... when I am doing a project at work, I will place all of my attention on completing the task... when I am at dinner in a restaurant, I will completely immerse myself in the atmosphere, the conversation, the meal..." How could it not be great? But then I think, "You mean, I can't look at my phone? I can't check Facebook? I can't daydream?" And I don't know if I can do it.

So then the question becomes, "Well, perhaps if I work on doing it on the mat, I will become better at doing it off the mat." But one could also argue the opposite. But that's unlikely to happen, because the reason for "the mat" is to give us a (theoretically) simpler place to achieve these kinds of goals.

I am somewhat of a subscriber to the idea that if you want something badly enough, you'll achieve it. And that makes me wonder, "Do I not want to be present?" And if the answer is "No! I do want to be present!" then why am I not achieving it more quickly? And if the answer is "Correct. I do not want to be present." then why don't I want to be present? Why would I prefer to be all over the place but now? What is the goal?

What is the goal?

Huh?

11 January, 2015

Home practice: Version 2

Today was home practice.

Bedroom practice. Fortunately, today's football game was not quite as loud as yesterday's because my father opted to watch the television in the kitchen during the time that I practiced.

Yesterday I did a fairly energizing practice in the traditional Baptiste flow, with all the usual poses. So today I decided it would be more of the focus on grounding, stretching, lots of deeper poses, but fewer Chaturangas. It was by design, but probably also what my body was asking for.

I find when I'm not actively finding excuses to abbreviate or rush, the basic sequence of whatever I decide to do takes about 40-50 minutes, which is a good length for the home practice, I think. I could easily make it be longer, and know what and where to add, but I feel reasonably complete at that point. Before this recent reinvigoration of my practice, I was skimping down to 25-30 minutes, and it was truly conscious omission. It's not like "I have had enough yoga," but more a case of "I think I can get away with not doing any more yoga." There's a shift.

The home visit is good. I think I've only been particularly unpleasant to my father once :)

10 January, 2015

Focus... focus... focus...

Today was home practice.

It's hard to focus when the Seahawks game is on in the other room. And it's not that I care about the Seahawks, but just knowing there's a game and the noise, and hearing the television. I managed to dial up the breath to the point that it was barely detectable, but then there's a kind of distraction of "I know I need to keep breathing this loud or I'm gonna hear the announcers, and then I'll really be distracted."

It's also hard to focus, believe it or not, when I am doing yoga in my childhood bedroom... it's not a place that I associate with my yoga practice. This house isn't. It's not a bad place, but it's a place that has my mind already elsewhere (The Past). Perfect place to practice, right? I find myself getting into the mindset of "I just have to make myself do X minutes, and just get through this, and endure it." But that's not really practicing. That's something else. To really practice would be to say "What is the yoga right now? What is it to practice right here?" I was able to reject the thoughts that came up about "I just have to get through this. I don't feel like doing this." But that's not being with those thoughts. It's suppressing them. I was forcing myself to be in a practice that I am accustomed to, rather than really experiencing what it means to have the same presence that comes so easily and naturally in a yoga studio. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I did a basic Baptiste series. It amounted to about 42 minutes. That's all I have to say. For now.

08 January, 2015

Hard... real hard

Today was vinyasa with Zak.

This was a Level 2 class, and it was one of the occasions where there was a clear difference in difficulty between this and the Level 1 classes. There were many creative sequences, and many long holds, and few rests. The crowd was smaller than yesterday, for which I was thankful.

I do the best I can in such a class, in terms of maintaining focus and not getting discouraged when fatigue sets in. And also making sure that I stay in "my practice" regardless of whether I need to modify. No checking out. No giving up.

Pretty happy with the shift that has occurred with me coming to classes more. It's strange how I went through a phase where I thought I might be done with regular studio practices, but now I feel that it's very important for me to go there. Not sure if it was that I am just following what I need at different times, or if I had a lapse in my commitment. It's hard to know, and it probably doesn't matter which it was. Now I am here.

07 January, 2015

40 Days to Personal... Space

Today was vinyasa with Zak.

Just when I'd come to be pleased and contented with the relative space and peace of Shakti and it's relatively sparse classes, we now have 40 Days To Personal Revolution. The result, along with all the New Year's Resolutions, is that there were about 70 people in class yesterday. We were mat to mat, with little room to move, starting late, with people shuffling in after class started, and little noises and disruptions. Everyone's gonna get their yoga on. But that's the way it goes. In 40 days, it will likely be back to the peaceful surroundings. In the meantime, I shall endure!

Zak taught a great, if extremely challenging class. My body was really burning. Not from the heat in the room, but from the intensity.

But I must be getting stronger with all this yoga, right?

05 January, 2015

Someone to blame

Today was vinyasa with Ben Grieshaber.

Today's class was tough. And while it was a good class, there were a few moments where I wasn't sure what was coming next, and got a little twisted up. Not because of expectation, but because of timing. There is definitely a time where you're flowing, and you do need to know what comes next. And, in my fatigue, I started to get irritated. An off-the-mat analogy might be appropriate.

Then when we were doing our balancing series, I was finding it harder to stick the poses. My legs were definitely very fatigued, and I do have to recognize there are days where, for whatever reason (possibly not even physical), the balance will be off. It happened to be the case that Ben was moving back and forth in the front of the room, passing through my "drishti" and I started to get angry at him, like "C'mon! How am I supposed to focus if you're moving all over the place?!"

But then I realized that this was the PERFECT place to practice. Because it's so bloody true off the mat. When things are shaky, or uncertain, or challenging, or not going exactly the way I want them to go, I tend to look outside myself for someone to blame. Someone is causing this. It's not my fault. And the flip side is that I turn it back inside, and blame myself as being inadequate at my core. What is wrong with me? Why can't I do this? I am worthless!

Neither of these extremes is the right path. And neither is necessary. Neither of these is walking the middle path. And I think that recognizing and enduring these feelings is precisely what it means to walk that middle path.

04 January, 2015

One big distraction

Today was vinyasa with Jodi Boone.

I had kind of expected that today's class, though 90 minutes, would be on the mellower side. I don't know what gave me that idea. Maybe because I'd never taken a class with Jodi before, and I knew that she might teach one of the gentler classes? Though I may be wrong about that as well.

In any case, it was intense, and I spent the entire class distracted at a low level by the things that were on my mind before I came to practice. I have to say, in some ways, being distracted by one specific thing is less of a distraction than being generically distracted by whatever wanders through my mind. At least with one big distraction, it's easy to stay focused on that distraction, and that's almost like being present. Heh. Presence via singleminded absence. There's a new concept.

The flow was a little bit different from the standard, hence the class being called a "Creative Flow." I think the time passed reasonably fast, even for 90 minutes, and it wasn't overly hot.

Regarding the distraction. Well, I won't go into it, other than to say that the issue has to do with letting go. I recognized myself unwilling to let go. I knew that what I needed to be willing to do is let go of the thought... let go of the frustration... let go of control of all my situations. And it's hard when I really don't want to let go. There's a child inside of us (me) that seems quite resistant to reeducation.

That's why there's a good reason for practice every day.

03 January, 2015

A dislike for consequences

Today was home practice.

The schedule didn't really allow me to go to the studio today. Actually, turns out, it would have allowed me to do so, but someone who was supposed to come by my house and talk to me at 4pm ended up not showing up due to a miscommunication. It was a contractor who was going to do some work for me. I ended up deciding that I didn't want to work with this person because of their no-show. I will spare the details, except to say that I felt badly deciding to "penalize" them for not keeping an appointment. I felt guilty like maybe I didn't give them a fair chance. But the facts (that I am sparing you) would probably have you feel the same way I felt. I guess it's in my nature to feel badly about exacting consequences on people. Though there are surely contradictions to that.

Anyway, the commitment today, in this home practice, was to do an honest, full class, not an abbreviated form. I even turned the heat up a bit to get things on the warmer side. And I did about 54 minutes, which I consider to be acceptable. It was nothing out of the ordinary, just followed the Baptiste flow, but I didn't want to cut it short out of laziness or boredom.

There's a lot of work that I need to be doing, both internally and externally, and I don't feel like I am doing it. I am uneasy about that. I am also uneasy about traveling for a week that is coming up soon. It's not a good time for disruptions, and I feel anxiety when I think ahead to it.

02 January, 2015

First class of the year

Today was gentle yoga with Sharon Lightfoot-Pound at The Yoga Tree.

I don't often go to this studio. I'd bought a 10 class pass when I first started working nearby, and have only used 3 of the passes to this day. It has the advantage of being close to work, but I haven't found myself drawn to the place yet. Today's class was called Hatha 1-3, but it was not much like the Hatha classes I've taken elsewhere, and the intensity level was very low. Thus, I'm "categorizing" it as a gentle class.

Today's attendance here was to accommodate evening plans I had that would conflict with after-work yoga. I didn't attend the New Years' Day workshop at Shakti yesterday, because I got off to a late start, and didn't really feel like doing yoga right after waking up (yes, at 10am). So that put me in the position of not wanting to miss 2 days in a row to start 2015. And, hence, this.

It's hard to set intention or resolutions when I am not really sure what I want from the year. I can get scattered scrambling thoughts like "I am going to pursue these hobbies" or "I am going to do these improvements on my new home" or "I am going to spend more time with these friends" or "I am going to focus on being more relaxed and attentive to the moment" or... the list goes on. Those are all really easy intentions to clutch at. But the (slightly troubling) thing is, I don't don't really know what I want to intend or resolve to do. I've got everything I could possibly want in my life, with the possible exception of infinite vacation time, and infinite funds to spend on said vacation. But I don't really know what comes next. Nothing's wrong. It's not a rejection of status quo. I mean, could it possibly be that my intention or resolution is to just keep doing the same thing? Or perhaps to become more content, accepting, or whatever, that doing the same thing is an acceptable thing to do?

If I have a thought "I am bored" then my mind always races to "What am I going to do next?!"
If I have a thought "I am not creative enough" then my mind pressures me to try to create.
If I have a thought "I should be in better shape" then I start worrying about that.

But what if, instead of all these judgments triggering reactions, I just resolved to look at my trajectory from the outside, recognize that it's all pretty hunky-dory, and just sit with those thoughts and not react?

It's not that I don't have any resolutions or intentions to set. Some of them are right there. But they're hard. Things like "Be nicer." Things like "Be more patient." Things like "Be more accepting."

And with that, I will say no more.