Day 4 of #30DaysofFitness involved another Bikram yoga class and 10 pushups. I have 3 more consecutive days of classes before I start alternating days next week. What I noticed today was that I really need to give myself more time. I am improving of course and I have a long way to go.

I was unable to stretch before class so, with my tightening muscles, there were some postures that were difficult for me to get into. Today it was Standing Forehead to Knee. I have historically had a difficult time holding myself in the first part of this posture and today I could barely lift up my leg to get into the first part. I see stretching and epsom salt in my near future for real.

In other good news, I took extra care to get ready after taking class. In that hour I ended up looking less like a beaten, soggy mess and more like a peaceful, glamorous version of myself. I liked it. I had a business meeting after class and I was presentable. The lesson here is all you need to do is take the time and there are amazing results. I will make sure to take time before and after each class to take care of myself. Onward!


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.


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.

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.

Bikram’s Beauty

Day 2 of my 101 day Bikram yoga challenge was completed with no incident.  I had the pleasure of taking a class with Jennifer Pope, one of the owners of Bikram Yoga East Harlem and a newly minted Bikram teacher as of last year’s fall teacher training.  After my second day, I am encouraged that I chose the right studio to embark upon this journey.  So far it’s a haven of peaceful energy as I go through the highs and lows of my daily practice.

Bikram 101: Day 2

Today, I had less dizziness, but I did pay for my insufficient sleep–a persistent complaint–with less stamina and strength to hold some postures, particularly my favorite, standing bow.  I could hold it for 60 seconds on the left but not on the right.  I’m not worried though.  I have 99 more days to work on it!  Although Stephanie provided insight yesterday about standing head to knee, I had trouble pulling back from kicking out during the asana.  My knee is locked but I don’t have the strength to hold the posture.  I think I’ll work on building that strength instead of starting the posture late and rushing through it.

After class, I had the pleasure of spending some time with another Bikram yoga aficionado which brought me even greater insight into why I practice this form of yoga.  To many “purists”, Bikram yoga, with its mirrors, commanding instructors and trademarked, regimented postures,  is the bastardization–the McDonaldization–of yoga.  I have experienced other forms of yoga and I have enjoyed them.  Elements that irritate detractors of Bikram Choudhury’s 26-posture beginning yoga series are the very things draw and hold my interest after almost 3 years of practice.

I love that it is always the same 26 postures for an hour and a half in a room that is 105 degrees no matter where I go. This consistency frees me up to focus on the tiniest victories as I discover adjustments to improve my form.  The meditation and introspection of the practice finds me in my eyes in the mirror.  I am my greatest teacher.  Watching myself drenched in sweat in that mirror for 90 minutes melts away any and ALL body image issues.  I am strong.  I am beautiful.  I do not question how God built me.  I can do anything, maybe not right away but every minute and every day brings me closer to it.  All I can do is my best and that changes with every day.  I leave each class satisfied and spent.  I can’t say that about everything in my life!  Until that changes, Bikram it is!

Results, Not Resolutions…Again

Stop hoping, take the shot!Every year, at the close of the year, it seems like the world (or maybe just NYC) goes into a frenzy about where to drunkenly herald in the new year and  higher-minded souls dream up resolutions to make the ensuing year great.  And every year, at that time, I laugh in the face of those resolutions and tell the new year to hurry up and come on because we have some work and lots of fun to do.

I do not subscribe to the impotent resolutions culture.  The very action of coming up with a number of lofty things I will and will not do for the coming year neither inspires me nor does it give me what I truly need: RESULTS.

I should get it printed on a t-shirt, “Results, Not Resolutions”.  But before I go there, I’d like to ask you, after waiting deliberately two days into the new year, what of your resolutions at the turn of the previous year?  Do you remember them?  Did you keep them?  And what was the reward?

Resolutions have no steam because they spring from compensating for our failures in the year or years before.  “This year, I’m finally going to stop (or start) doing that thing that I need to stop (or start) doing…I hope”.  They, like so many other Jedi mindtricks we play on ourselves, convince us that we are somehow in action when all we are really doing is contemplating action but never taking it.

I believe that the secret to phenomenal success and happiness is simply, action–ANY action.  At least any action in the direction of what we say we want.  That action breaks down the inaction that not only robs us of our belief in transformation but validates our lack of trust and belief in ourselves as capable change agents.

This year, I invite you to take a look at your resolutions and ask yourself how will you know they’ve been accomplished.  How about transforming those resolutions into actions that will culminate in satisfying results?  Take those resolutions and make them goals.  Go even farther and make them S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals.   Turning your resolutions into SMART goals gives them a chance of surviving in reality, moving them from the plane of hope onto a plane of actualization.

When you add a “by when,” resolutions emerge from the undefined, unattainable goop of wishful thinking into actual possibility.  Aid yourself in making these goals reality with the exercise of reverse timelining.  Fast forward to the date/moment you have set to achieve the goal and work your way back to the present with events that make each following event inevitable.

For instance, if my goal were to get married in a year, I would visualize myself a year from now getting married.  Then I would look at what would have had to happen the month or a few months before to make that event inevitable.  I would say, the month before, all except a few last-minute wedding preparations were complete.  Then I would go to that event and look at what would make it inevitable.  I’d go back event by event, looking at what would make the next one inevitable.  Somewhere in there would be the proposal and telling the parents.  Before that would be the wonderful vacation together.  Before that would be dating each other exclusively and before that would be narrowing the dating field to three candidates.

I would jump all the way to realizing my goal and work my way back to today.  In the example above, I would look to see what I would have to do this week to create a dating field that I would eventually narrow and create an action to make this inevitable.  That would look like joining an online dating site by Thursday.  When you’re done reverse timelining, you will have a string of actions to take that will lead to the inevitable achievement of your goal or at least a great adventure in learning and adjusting your approach!

If you have questions about this process ask me in the comments, read more about reverse engineering your future here and goal setting here and get started on a phenomenal new year!  This year is set to be a great one.  If you don’t believe me, check out the Chinese zodiac, it’s the year of the Dragon, the most lucky of all years.  There are scores more “signs” of the impending greatness of 2012, so go get results and make your dreams come true this year.  Good luck! You have nothing to lose…except resolutions!

If I Were Something That I Am Not…

Earlier this month, Gene Marks, over at Forbes.com, wrote a “provocative” (read that as “deliberately controversial to garner page views”) piece entitled “If I Were a Poor Black Kid” and set off an internet firestorm of heated responses. In it he notes he is a privileged middle aged white man with none of the hindrances he seeks to help this unknown “kid” overcome.  You can read it yourself here..

I responded on Facebook and light years later, here’s my blog response:

This piece is well-intentioned AND incredibly condescending and insulting. It appeals to the dream of meritocracy that says people are where they are because of “hard work”.

Let me tell you why I’ve had a pretty successful life:

a) I was born to Nigerians for whom education is the Holy Grail,

b) I was a smart and pleasant kid,

c) My public school teachers adored me,

d) Because they loved me, those teachers looked out for me like I was their own child,

e) When they found out about Prep for Prep, they made sure my mom knew about it and I applied,

f) That’s where the challenging work started–during the rigorous admissions process,

g) I got into Prep and completed their tough academic program,

h) I entered an all-girls private school in the 7th grade upon completion, thanks to Prep,

i) School was easy as pie compared to Prep and I did well there (mind you, this school is quite academically challenging but school has NEVER been hard for me–get the picture?),

j) I gained acceptance into an Ivy League college and so forth and so on.

I could go on about what happened in my life but I’d like to point out the following: I got to where I got because of luck and circumstance.  I’m bright, great.  I worked hard at times, but I didn’t do any of the things this individual suggested a child do.  I had the good fortune of strategic opportunities and a supportive community.

I’m not arguing about what it takes to be successful.  I’m interested in why this individual overlooked the classism that rules the fate of so many people in this country regardless of race.  Also, why does he look past the glare of his own privilege that would allow him to write such a thing?

People aren’t poor because they don’t work hard.  Poor people work harder than any set of people I know.  There are a multitude of factors and lost opportunities that leave people stuck in poverty.

The construct of classism is dynamic in its ability to keep people working hard and getting nowhere to the point where some people don’t bother.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It is only by the Grace of God that I have the parents I have.  I’m Nigerian.  Messing around in school is not an option.  I have the best friends in the world.  I have always been surrounded by people who support me.  THAT is the difference.

No amount of condescension from an out of touch beneficiary of the very skewed system that deprives “Poor Black Kids” of resources and opportunities will galvanize generations of disenfranchised youth of any race.  Instead, I call for the ones that “made it” to reach back to those that making their way.  A conversation and compassion go a long way.  I wonder if Mr. Marks can find that at the library.

As we come to the close of 2011, let us commit to being grateful for who and where we are in life and giving back to those who aren’t quite there.  Happy New Year!

Gratitude Day 20

Day 20 of 30 Days of Tessism has gratitude in something that can’t always be seen.

Gratitude:  Today I am grateful for what I don’t have.  I guess that’s probably an odd thing to be grateful for but it’s quite liberating.  Being grateful for that allows me to strive for things and let go of things that I don’t need.  I find it freeing to be grateful for what I do have and what I do not have and how that shapes me in my journey.

No matter how much I amass materially, nothing is more important than the family and friends that I will have no matter what.  I really don’t need much more.  That makes me really consider anything I desire to see if it’s worth the effort.  Does it symbolize something?  Is it something I already have in another form?  Do I really need it?  I am grateful for conscious connection to the things that fill my life and freedom from the unnecessary.

Gratitude Day 7

Today, Day 7 of 30 Days of Tessism, I’m thankful for what didn’t work out.

Gratitude: What I’m grateful for today has been difficult for me to appreciate and I’m glad I finally can.  I am grateful for my failures.  Without them then I could not say that I have lived.  They have provided invaluable lessons that are the foundation of much of my success today.

We don’t like to fail but failing can be a good thing.  It tells you what doesn’t work and points you in the right direction toward what does.  Now, I’m hurrying to fail so I can get on with my experiment in success.  I’m grateful for failure because it is my path to greatness.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Day 5

On Day 5 of 30 Days of Tessism I am counting my blessings.

Gratitude:  Today, I am grateful that I have finally learned to accept the gifts people give me.  For the longest time I was convinced that being a strong woman meant doing it all alone.  I could always give because that was the nature of my heart but I could never sit back and receive.  Surely, that would undermine that strength that I was developing.  Right?

Not quite.  Strength is an elusive thing with as many different definitions as there are people in this world.  Some of the things we call strength are used to mask the fear of the appearance of weakness.  Accepting help or anything from others appears needy to the untrained eye.  In reality, it is a gift to allow others to give to you.

I find great pleasure in giving to others and making a difference in someone’s life.  All those times that I strove to “do it myself” lest I be a burden on others actually deprived someone of that exact same pleasure.

Allowing people to contribute to me allows others to see the difference they can make in my world.  Doing so, I give myself another gift as well: acknowledgement of my self-worth.  Receiving without worry, limitation or concern is my declaration that I worthy.  I deserve all the generosity I encounter especially when my heart moves me to be generous in that same way with others.  I am grateful I can revel in the gifts that others give me and compound them with the gifts I give myself.