Heatwave

Class 20 took place in the middle of a heatwave. Fortunately for us the studio is always hotter than outside. Unforunately, we stay in that heat for 90 minutes.

We had another student–a long time practitioner–pass out today. The culprit this time was dehydration. To have a strong practice, we need to drink water well before class. Any water we drink in class dose address the dehydration which this. This Student learned that the hard way.

In other good news, practice overall is improving. During standing bow, Jenn (today’s teacher) invited us to play “Last Man Standing”. It was a game to see who could hold standing bow without falling out. I won!

Advertisements

Lighthouse

I am lighthouse rather than lifeboat. I do not rescue, but instead help others to find their own way to shore, guiding them by my example.–Modern Affirmation

I took class today in the middle of what might be the hottest heatwave of the year.  It was juicy and satisfying.  My hamstrings aren’t a hundred percent yet but Stephanie skillfully guided me through Class 19 as I developed my mental toughness.

Everyone around me seemed to drop like flies, overwhelmed by the heat.  This was one of the rare classes where I maintained my stillness through most of the postures but I held on to some postures for a breakthrough.

I was able to hold both sets of standing bow on both sides without falling out for the entire duration.  Now that’s a miracle!  I held onto my leg without kicking out during the second set of standing forehead to knee on both sides.  Another amazing feat considering that I would rather–and often–assume the posture, fall out and then fiddle around until it’s over and never get back into it.

The heat was a bit much for everyone around me and yet it didn’t bother me.  Maybe these consecutive days are developing my tolerance for heat and humidity.

I included the quote about the lighthouse at the beginning of the post because two classes this week brought it to mind.  On Sunday, Kathryn mentioned this meditation while we were in savasana.  This was after a relatively new student just about fainted in the middle of standing bow.  It turned out that she had not eaten any food all day before our 2:30pm class.  If you don’t eat or hydrate, Bikram will bite you in the @$$.  Trust that.

When the student experienced difficulty, Kathryn assisted her, gave her over to another student to watch over her outside the room and then continued with class.  In that way, she guided the student and the class like a lighthouse.  She did not carry her or derail the class to attend to her.  Teaching Bikram is truly a guiding process by people who have been through everything that their students encounter through their rigorous training.

Today, in Stephanie’s class, there were a number of disruptions that made the practice for everyone even more challenging.  One of the rules of Bikram class is that you do not leave the room.  No one will restrain you or anything and you’re free to leave at any time and the agreement is that you do what you need to do to stay in the room for the full 90 minutes.  If you’re tired or dizzy, you can sit or lie down on your mat.  This is crucial for first-time students so that they can become acclimated to the heat.

When you take your first Bikram class and you are astonished by how hot it gets in there, keep in mind that it will always be hot in every class.  Barring some malfunction, the studio will always be 105 degrees and nothing less.  So when you begin, you might as well get used to it because the heat is going nowhere.

In class, a long time student decided to leave the room to use the bathroom in the middle of standing series.  The teacher is then placed in the highly difficult position of asking the student to forego the bathroom or allowing the student to leave and, in turn, begin a chain of events where everyone suddenly has a pressing need and will leave as well.

Fortunately most of the students stayed put.  Unfortunately, a first-timer, overwhelmed and uncomfortable in the heat, decided to leave.  Well if the first student left, then obviously she could leave too, right?  Not quite.  The first student knew better but didn’t care or her emergency superseded all yoga etiquette by leaving.  Her leaving took a wave of energy out of the room and caused a distraction that required other practitioners to find a way to focus on their postures again.

Then the first-timer who left deprived herself of the complete experience and the accomplishment of staying in the room the first time.  All you have to do when you take a Bikram class the first time is “Stay in the room”.  That is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.  I hope she will attempt to do that the next time.

Even more unfortunate, the disruptions did not stop there.  The person that came to class with the first-timer decided to leave the classroom in the midst of standing series when he realized she was not coming back.  He then proceeded to to come back into the room to retrieve something he’d left in the room.  At some point, the long time student returned.

I can only imagine how frustrating it is for a teacher to watch her class seemingly slip out of her control as students disregard etiquette and consideration of other people practicing by entering and leaving a space that is intended to be unbroken by egress for 90 minutes.

Yet Stephanie overcame that and continued to guide us and, in her ability to do that, we able to eventually focus on our practice and let the frustration fall into the past to power our way to the end of our session.  In that way, Stephanie and other Bikram yoga teachers are truly lighthouses.  They do not save us or carry us to the shore.  Their voices guide us to and through the healing and transformation of our bodies onto safer shores.  One day, hopefully, I will be a lighthouse too.

Are you thinking about taking your first Bikram yoga class.  It is critical that you prepare yourself so that you can succeed.  Lack of hydration, nourishment or rest undermine your experience.   For some great advice for people considering their first class, read tips on Heather Molina’s blog here.  Good luck!

Getting There

“You know, no matter how long you do this, it never gets easier.” One of my fellow students said this the other day and it rang true for all of us.

No matter how long or how consistent your practice, Bikram yoga classes never get easier. Way for me to deter anyone interested in starting, right? The truth is that you might have a transcendental class where you breeze through, hit every posture & begin levitating (not!) every once in a while but for the most part class will be challenging every single time.

Even when you finally get a posture down pat there are always improvements and adjustments to be made and depths to reach for. For many of us with a lifelong practice, Bikram yoga will be never be “complete”.

To some this may a drag. For committed practitioners, it is heartening. There is nowhere to get to. If I give my all today, I can give all tomorrow and every other day. “My all” changes with the day and need not be compared with anything. I know when it was my all or just getting by. I find I’m more prone to injury when I rush or cut corners.

Since this is a practice I’ve prescribed for myself for the rest of my life, I have a new brilliant opportunity to reach for transcendence with every new day. The day before falls away and I step into the studio a brand new creature–a possibility.

Class 18 today with Jennifer was a marked improvement in that I moved even less than usual, maintained my focus and adhered to a higher standard of discipline. It was rewarding. I wonder what tomorrow brings.

Economy

Day 17 of my Bikram challenge came with a realization.  Britney taught and it was solid, strong class.

This was one of the first days where I didn’t pop up and down like a jack-in-the-box from mat to standing and back in between postures.  When I began this challenge, I was frustrated by my need to sit down at times.  I wanted to be strong and consistent and bending over or sitting down disrupted my practice.

Today I actually heard something that has been said in the hundreds of classes I have taken before.  I’m not even sure that Britney even said these words but I finally got them, “It’s what you don’t do between postures that counts.  Less is more between postures.  The less you move the more you get.”

It is this economy of movement that finally hit me today.  All the fidgeting that I do when practicing isn’t only distracting to me and others, it’s exhausting.  It robs me of the energy and strength to do the next posture.  For a stronger practice, I need to economize my movements before, during and after each posture.  By doing only what is necessary I will have the strength and stamina to pull through class powerfully.

Now it may seem like nothing to wipe my face, adjust my sports bra or fix my hair between postures but it all adds up to wasted time and wasted energy.  During that time, instead of fussing, I could be resting.  I could be recuperating.  I could be preparing my mind to give it all I have for the rest of the class.

When you realize you have but so much time and but so much energy for but so many movements, how you use them becomes increasingly crucial.  I can apply this to life outside of the hot room.  Less is more.  Only do what counts–what propels you to next breakthrough.  Namaste.

Beautiful Practice

I have good news for everyone: I did NOT attempt to practice in my underwear today.  I know you’re very proud of me. I did take class with Brian and he seems to bring out the best in me.

Today’s practice, Day 16 of my 101-day Bikram yoga challenge, was uneventful and fulfilling. I practiced between two men who sent me the energy to do my best without their even knowing.  In class, we inspire each other just by our determination to stay strong and be in the room.

I did my best and got the icing on the cake of my entire experience.  The man on the right of me told me at the end of class, as we dragged our limp, soaked bodies out of the room, that I had a beautiful practice and it was an honor practicing next to me.  His words have given me the boost to keep going.  The honor is mine.

Being Present

On Day 15 of my yoga challenge, I’m grateful that I’m halfway through the first 30 days. I also got a wonderful reminder.

Today, as usual, I was doing four much–not too much, not three much, but four much as my friend says. I was late for class and was running the risk of missing it altogether which would have been tragic because I would have had to miss a concert or go to class if I didn’t make it.

I rushed out of the house with tote packed, yoga bag slung & clothes yanked on. It was sprint from home to train to studio and I made it. I go into the locker room and take off my top and pants as I always do because I have my yoga clothes on underneath. I grab yoga bag, water, mat spray, wallet, and the studio’s towels and begin to climb the steps. I look down and I’m in my underwear!

Remember how you have those nightmares about going to school naked? Well, I almost did. In my hurry, I’d neglected to pull on my yoga shorts and I was aggressively skipping steps to barrel into class in my…striped panties. Thankfully I noticed before I reached the top, ran back down, threw on my regular shorts, told Stephanie, who was teaching about and made it through class without living out a nightmare.

With that incident came the greatest lesson yet: Be present and stay present. Focus or you’ll end up in underwear a long way from your yoga pants.

Class with Stephanie great. I had the honor of practicing next to people who inspired me to stay strong and deepen my form.

I also learned the difference between a stretch and pain. Where there is a stretch, I can push for more. Where there is pain, I must stop gently with deliberate movement. Pain = Pay Attention. In today’s class, Pay Attention = the difference between practing in your undies or shorts. Onward…

Tiniest Things

Today marks Day 14 of my 101-day yoga challenge.  2 weeks in and I walked into class exhausted with pain in my lower back and hamstrings.  After I told the teacher, Kathryn, about this, she wished me healing and the class that followed brought those words to life.

So far, after practicing Bikram yoga for 14 days straight, I am experiencing pain that I can only call “diagnostic”.  My lower back was aching and my always tight hamstrings did not want to comply.  This discomfort forced me to look at how I hold myself through the postures and leave myself open to soreness and eventual injury.

To protect my lower back, I need to suck my stomach in during forward bends.  I have not been doing this with integrity.  I wasn’t really thinking about it.  Also, instead of being kind to my body, I’ve tried to force it be “perfect”.  Instead of bending my knees when my hams need a break, I pushed.  So we ended up sore hamstrings and lower back facing my 14th class.

With the wish for healing, I embarked on my 90-minute moving meditation with compassion.  I didn’t work any less hard than I do on my best days, I just made sure that I sucked my stomach in for dear life and bent those knees when I encountered any hamstring soreness.

Surprisingly, practicing with compassion produced one of the best standing head to knees during this challenge.  That posture, which I have difficulty with, was my strongest all because I sucked my stomach in.  Something so simple makes a huge difference.  Without it I have a terrible lower back and hamstrings.  With it I got the greatest gifts during today’s session, healing and strength.

Amazingly, my lower back felt great after class!  While the hamstrings stay tight and require finessing, the lower back was back to normal–better than normal.  Now, after class, I also realize that the chair that I sit on to type this into my computer isn’t doing my back any good either so I will have to adjust it.  That is the point of this practice–of this challenge–is to notice the tiniest things and improve my life and my body in infinitesimal increments.

To change my life or my body, I don’t have to barrel my way to breakthroughs.  Instead, using precision, one small step after another can produce huge results.  I’m looking forward to exponential, compounded miracles.

Privilege

Day 13 was a drencher. A guest teacher, Christopher taught us and he kicked our tails all over that hot room and we loved it! At least I did!

Christopher was visiting from German and this was his first class since completing teacher training. The thing about most new teachers is that they do not skim the dialogue. They keep you honest in ways you cannot imagine. Now I’ve worked with many skilled teachers who run incredible classes. It just that those fresh off of training bring the torture to the chamber and, guess what, I love it.

It’s days like today where I become so aware of the privilege it is to practice yoga at the studios and with the students and teachers that I do. Bikram yoga has changed my life, no doubt, yet, for me, anything doing is life-altering. If doesn’t make a difference for me or anyone else then I often wonder if it’s worth doing.

I am honored to have been part of Christopher’s first class. He challenged us and improved my practice with his corrections–as all teachers do. He especially energized me to push past this 13th day. Namaste.

In the Storm’s Eye

Day 12 was not bad at all. Jennifer led and it was intense but she seems to make the whole thing fly by.

I tried to hold off on water until after Eagle and ended up gulping it down after Standing Bow. I gave what I had to give today and it got me through to the end.

It wasn’t that way for some of the others in the room. Fidgeting, grunting and moaning are to be expected. Even the first timer observing way more than he participated. What was beyond distracting were the people in the back who gave up doing the series after the 3rd posture. Now you may be tired or have a trick “you-name-it” but checking out and chilling in the room for 55 minutes doesn’t cut it. It’s yoga not a sauna.

Then the strong practitioner in the front row in front of me caught that same “give-up” and she stop participating. At that point, I saw it was contagious and I had to concentrate to make sure I wasn’t criticizing them and was working on my postures. Being distracted in Bikram is a great way to injure yoursef and have a terrible time of it.

In the eye of the storm, be aware. Know where you want go and that because you started it, you can end it. You call the shots.

That goes for me now more than ever. I’m ready for 89 more days!

Drama Management

Day 11 with Stephanie was a good solid class. It was sweltering outside but the great thing about 90 minutes in that hot room is that when you escape 105 degrees, anything feels cooler.

I forgot to mention an insight I’d gotten in yesterday’s class. It seems that when I take my first sip of water after Eagle that it just zaps my energy. That’s right before Standing Head to Knee, a posture I find challenging 3 years into my Bikram practice. I’m already dreading the posture. I’m already sure it’s going to be a miserable experience. My heart rate is up from Eagle and the water just adds to drama, heightens the anxiety and makes the whole thing unbearable.

I’d skipped the water yesterday and I had a better time of it. Today I had the water and it was the usual not so great. So I will endeavor tp hold off drinking water until a later posture. One day I’ll be able to wait until Savasana before the floor series. Eventually I’ll do at least one class, I’ll go through the entire thing without any water and see how that goes.

Speaking of drama, today the person practicing next to me was a drama queen. Heavy breathing, grunting, fidgeting–you name it. While it may not seem like too much, it’s incredibly distracting…from my own drama. Haha!

As I was noting my fellow yogi’s drama, I had to, in turn, deal with my own. My hamstrings are sore, which is what happens when I practice regularly. They are tight. My lower back was tweaking but not as bad as usual. I think I’m getting better at protecting it. The secret is to clench my bottom for dear life. I remember a number of teachers at my last studio forever screaming “Squeeze your butt!”. It actually works.

I have exactly 90 days–3 months–left in my challenge. So far so good.