Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Class 45: The End of the Challenge

So then what happened?

Sorry I've been gone so long. I not only did not make it to the 4:00 p.m. class on Sunday, I didn't make it back to class until Wednesday. 10 days and a 90-minute deep tissue massage later, and I can still feel my tight left hamstring, a knot in my glute, and occasionally, a twinge in my hip and psoas. I did make it back to class last Wednesday. Kyle was teaching and I really wanted to get one last class in before the challenge ended. Finish on Class #45 and a better note than snot-nosed sobbing. Kyle was great. She took one look at me when I walked in and said "You look completely freaked out. It's going to be okay. Just enjoy being back in the heat. If it hurts, don't do it and I'll let you know which ones are likely to be tough. Go get on the hot side."

And I did, and she did and I felt MUCH better. There were many postures I couldn't do at all, but some that surprised me. The heat did feel good and so did being able to complete class #45. Kyle yelled at one point "That Pada Hastasana does not belong to someone with an injured lower back!" And that made me smile even though it wasn't my normal expression of the posture.

I was off for Good Friday and decided to return for a massage. I could feel the lump in my hamstring when she got to it and learned a lot about how all those muscles connect. It continues to ache though, so I am still contemplating a trip to the chiropractor. There is a stubborn part of me that continues to think "Bikram Yoga is supposed to fix everything. Why can't it fix this?" And maybe it can over time.

I returned for Kyle's Easter Sunday extravaganza, which was hilarious. Upon entering the studio, we were instructed to look for a yellow egg {complete with smiley faces}. Inside was a fireball {of course}. Kyle had on bunny ears and regaled us with rabbit puns and Easter stories throughout the entire class. For several postures we had to balance the egg on our bodies or reach for it with our heads. The second part of Awkward was a contest to see who could hold the position the longest. Viann's Awkward was a beauty to behold and she walked away with a gift bag of tulips, candy and yoga goodies.

The whole thing was fun and wonderful, but still very difficult for me. It seems as though all the postures that I'm good at {and therefore love} are the ones I struggle with the most now. Pada Hastasana, Standing Separate Leg Stretching, Head to Knee and Stretching Pose are all nightmarish. My body just doesn't want to do the forward stretches. I am learning to love the poses I can do. J.R. said to me {partly in jest} that maybe the universe wants me to learn to love ALL the poses. Lynne would say, "No expectations!" I am certainly being tested. When I was in class on Sunday, miserable because I hurt and I wanted to do Rabbit, I thought longingly of the days when the only pain was from playing the edge of the posture. But yoga is not about the postures. And this seems to be a point the Universe wants to drive home now.

So now what?

It's amazing how much more room my life seems to have inside it now that the challenge is over. I cooked dinner last for us last night and it was for the first time in over a month. This is something I normally love to do, but the 7:00 p.m. classes made impossible. I've been craving time to read, or to work late and now I can do those things. It's tremendously freeing. At the same time, I miss the yoga when I'm not there for two days in a row. Even though my class total for the 60-Day Challenge only turned out to be 45, I feel like a tremendous success. I never even thought I'd attempt a 30-Day Challenge and here I am, two months later wondering how I can make this yoga a permanent part of my life. I need it. And that was really the goal for me. It's good to be a part of something that stretches you every time you do it and I'm not talking about the physicality of it. The challenge is over but the journey is not.

I'll be back in class tomorrow night ready to try it all again! And I'll continue to post here, although not every night. Thanks to all of you for coming along for the ride. It does make a HUGE difference!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 53, Class 44 & 1/2: Testing My Limits

Despite my brave words from the last post, there was little smiling at the 9:00 a.m. class. Kyle announced that Sarah had a new studio rule. The front row was prime real estate and they were going to ask those in the front row not to sit down. If you needed a break from a posture and you were in the front row, you could stand. I was already a little nervous going in to class because I still hurt and I still planned to do a double, but I also thought it was fair. New people stand in the back so they can see what more experienced yogis are doing. When we sit down, there is a domino effect. And so often, we do give ourselves a break simply because we can.

I stayed in the front row and I stayed standing but it was a class with a lot of hurt. Trying to push through was important to me. As I have said in numerous posts, I am a weenie. If it hurts, I tend to pull away and as J.R. remarked to me one day, "You aren't the least bit competitive." I'm not. I think that some athletes are and that state of mind helps them get through the task at hand. Pada Hastasana was hard, Separate Leg Stretching was hard, the sit ups were painful and these are all things I normally look forward to! And there were tears at certain junctures and the runny nose that comes with it and makes it hard to breathe.

I apologize to anyone who tried to talk to me between classes. I wasn't very good company, but I was determined. So I changed my clothes, put a comb through my hair, drank some coconut water, and went back in and laid in Savasana until Sarah flipped the lights on for the 11:00 class. When I got to my feet it wasn't pretty. The whole left side of my body from mid-back to ankle hurt and the act of standing up required some contortion. That should have been the ultimate sign to me, but of course, it wasn't. Sarah must have seen me though, because she asked what was wrong and when I told her she said gently, "Maybe this isn't the best day for a double."

Even that wasn't enough, I drew myself up and said I really wanted to get a few more classes in for the challenge and that time was running out. And so we began. Pranayama wasn't too bad, Half-Moon hurt, but Half-Moon frequently hurts, the Back Bend was awful but it's supposed to hurt, right? Pada Hastasana was brutal. Straightening back up I felt old and highly arthritic. Awkward was okay, Eagle was okay, even Separate Leg Head to Knee and Standing Bow were okay and then came Separate Leg Stretching and that was the end. I hurt so badly and I had a really difficult time coming out of it and even though we were almost halfway through the class, I knew there was no one way I could continue. I started to cry with huge wracking sobs and said to Sarah, "I think you were right about this not being a good day for a double." Then I picked up my stuff and fled.

Sarah asked Kyle if she could pinch hit for a while and then she came after me. I felt terrible about distracting the entire class and pulling Kyle away from her practice. Sarah was wonderful. She called me a "bruiser" and wrapped a towel around me, got me an ice pack and some pillows, and told me to lie there for as long as I needed. She checked on me again during the two-minute Savasana and told me to move the ice pack so I didn't "freezer burn" myself.

So there I was, lying on my back in the lobby, staring up at the halogens, listening to Aretha Franklin {I LOVE Aretha Franklin!} and thinking. As Sarah said while she was getting me set up, "It's so hard to know which voice to listen to." But I think trying was important for me. It was necessary for me to come to the 9:00 even though I already hurt. Understanding and learning to trust the voices around us and inside us is so vital. And it's good to stretch our expectations of ourselves as much as it is to stretch our bodies. I still hurt today, but I've stretched the boundaries of what I think I can do.

So my plan of accomplishing two doubles this weekend has been scrapped. Right now, I'm just kind of hoping I can make it to today's 4:00 p.m. class. If it hurts too much even then, then I'll plan to go to 7:00 p.m. on Monday. Happily, the yoga studio and its lovely people and its challenges are always there!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Days 50-52, Classes 42 & 43: Smile! It makes it easier.

Wednesday night was a terrific class with Kyle. She stopped to demonstrate Half Moon which was highly enlightening. Somehow, seeing the posture with a good explanation sometimes really can make all the difference. I felt really good about my floor bows because I did push and I felt like I went somewhere new. We had a funny conversation about my touching my ankle bones together during Stretching pose. I said that I was trying but that my fingers wrapped around my toes keeps them from touching. Kyle looked dubious. In her defense, lots of other people seem to be able to do it. I shall just have to try harder.

Last night I was too sore/exhausted from an all-day photo shoot at school. We were all over campus, up and down a million stairs, and lugging camera equipment, although I certainly had the lighter load. I returned home and immediately crawled into bed and passed out.

Tonight was 6:00 p.m. with Abby. It has been too long since I took a class with Abby and she said something near the beginning of class {could it have been Awkward pose?} that I loved. "Smile! It makes it easier." And it does. It's a good thing she said it too. I was in the second set of Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, reaching mightily to touch my forehead to my towel and it happened. I felt a slight pop in the back of my left thigh (if my hamstring were a guitar string it would have let out a sour twang} and then felt a bit of pain and then we were out. In triangle I felt okay on the right side but oh, when I went to the other side I went down and then out! {Kyle I can feel you rolling your eyes. But really, it did just give way! And remember, I am a weenie!} And it HURT! I got through the rest of class {except for floor bow -- I grabbed my feet but when the kicking began I immediately stopped} and talked to Abby afterward. She's thinking that the terrifying bruise right above the back of my left knee is from pushing my hamstrings a little too hard.

I've been thinking about doing back-to-back doubles tomorrow and Sunday to get a little more caught up. We'll see. Abby said to ice it tonight, let Kyle and Sarah know tomorrow, and just see how it goes. Wise counsel, I think. I'd really like to do the doubles. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, smile, it really does make it easier!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Days 48 & 49, Class 41: Yoga for the Masses

At work today I logged in to Facebook to post a story for my school and saw that Lynne had indicated in her status that she was packing for her trip to the West Coast. I checked the schedule and realized that the 5:00 p.m. today was the last class she was teaching for a week so I left work a bit early so I could be there.


Now, I have no idea if they were all there because they also needed a Lynne fix or because 5:00 p.m. fit their schedule best or if the cold snap was driving people back to the 105 degree room, but it was crazy and wonderful and so, so hot and humid!

My friend Shelley came in when I did and when we walked in the studio to place our mats I walked back out because I thought most of the people in the room were leftover from a previous class. {Note: There is no class directly preceding the 5:00 p.m. Duh!} It was such a shock. The weather has been so beautiful lately, and I've been attending class at different times of the day because of spring break, that there just haven't been that many people there.

When I walked in the second time, I saw Amy waving to me from the front row. There was a sliver of space next to her, so I put my mat next to hers. There were new students, other 60-day challengers, folks who do the advanced class, and even Sarah, who owns the studio.

There's just a different energy in the room when there are so many people. It's immediately so much more hot and humid with all those sweaty people breathing and also a bit of a party atmosphere. Lynne began class with her trademark "Look at yourself in the mirror and have a GREAT class!" And we were off.

During Half Moon I was leaning so far into Amy's space that Lynne yelled, "C'mon Heather! You're so close! Just reach a little more and touch her!" So I did, and we both laughed. And I did it again in the second set. After that, there wasn't as much opportunity for mirth. It was just so hot. But it was good to be back in the room after another night off {this time for a work dinner}. I felt so tight in places. It will be good to have a bunch of classes in a row this week!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Days 45, 46 & 47, Classes 39 & 40: Gratitude

It's been a busy couple of days, including two yoga classes, an overnight trip to DC with J.R., friends from out of town, a dedication ceremony with my circle, cleaning, cooking and trying to get ready to go back to work. I had a moment at 3:00 p.m. today when I thought maybe I should skip the 4:00 p.m. class and just try to get my life together. I was tired, surveying the wreckage of my house while the sun poured through open windows and remembering that I hadn't picked up a prescription.

But I went. The house would still be there when I returned home at 6:00 and I needed to go. I was starting to make a big deal out of wanting to hold on to the last few hours of my spring break and then I took a deep breath and realized that there was no need to get stirred up. I just switched gears and went to class full of gratitude.

I'm grateful for:
  • all the caring, interesting, magical people in my life.
  • my steady yoga practice.
  • the return of green shoots in my garden.
  • the 60-Day Bikram Challenge card Amy brought me back from Chicago!
  • work that I love with people that I love. It will good to see them again tomorrow!
  • the beautiful pink roses and gerber daisies that Dave and Justina brought and for the iris James added to them last night.
  • fresh air pouring through the bedroom window.
  • the funny class on Friday when I was able to use laughter to climb a little higher during full Locust.
  • the two beautiful pink flowering heather plants I bought.
  • Mirabilia & Eleuthia
I could go on and on, and I thought of all of these and more while I was laying in Savasana before class began. Today was #40 and although I have had/will have to skip some classes, I truly feel that it has begun to soak in; that I am finally at a place of steady practice and steady growth.

Blessed be!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 44, Class 38: Back to Basics

Today was 9:30 with Sarah and I felt a little nostalgic. When Sarah opened BYH 5 years ago, I was one of her first students. The basics of my yoga practice came from her and the two other teachers at the time, Jen and Monica. So it was fun to be in a class today that had few students {St. Patrick's Day hangovers?} and to hear Sarah say "Feet nicely together. Look down and make sure your toes are in a straight line. Sometimes one foot likes to sneak forward a bit." I looked down and one of my feet was slightly out of alignment. I corrected it and immediately felt more solid.

The rest of the class was like that. Lots of corrections and compliments, explanations of certain postures, and little Sarahisms that open a window into Bikram's dialogue, making it easier to understand. In Savasana after Camel she explained that while the deep compression in the spine is the same in Floor Bow and Camel, that in Floor Bow we work against gravity to make us stronger, but that in Camel we work with gravity to make us more flexible. As often as I've done these postures, I hadn't really thought of them in this way and I like seeing the connection.

I'm going to the 9:30 class tomorrow and then I won't be able to make it to class on Saturday as J.R. and I are going to DC overnight. There may not be a blog entry until after the 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Just a heads-up!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Days 42 & 43, Classes 36 & 37: How are your expectations?

Sorry I have become a sporadic blogger. Life keeps intervening but I keep telling myself that the Challenge is the yoga {which I am doing} and the blogging the icing on the cake!

Monday night was class with energetic Lynne. After class, she sat down to talk with me for a while about the Challenge and certain postures, and how I felt, and then she asked, "And how are your expectations?" And I realized that they're mostly gone, which surprised me. I said, "I just show up for class and try to do what I'm told."

It's amazing how freeing this is! I've known for a long time that I am the cause of my own suffering. We all are. We dread things, we put them off because we dread them, or we fight with ourselves over them, we become exhausted and then, WE STILL HAVE TO FACE THEM ANYWAY! Why not just let go of this purposeless struggle and clean the house, do the taxes, tackle the work project, have the difficult talk, replace the kitty litter, and do the yoga? In addition, why don't we change our attitude while we're at it? I'm grateful I have a house to clean, a tax return to put in the bank, a job I find challenging, relationships I cherish, kitties I love, and yoga that fixes everything! Why not show up with no baggage, be in the moment, let it go afterward, and move on to the next moment with the same lightness of being?

A friend who had borrowed my copy of "Start Where You Are," by Pema Chodron, just returned it to me. Perfect timing!
Don't worry about achieving. Don't worry about perfection. Just be there each moment the best you can. ... Everything is changing all the time, and we keep wanting to pin it down, to fix it. So whenever you come up with a solid conclusion, let the rug be pulled out. You can pull out your own rug, and you can also let life pull it out for you.
Having the rug pulled out from under you is a big opportunity to change your fundamental pattern. It's like changing the DNA. One way to pull out your own rug is by just letting go, lightening up, being more gentle, and not making such a big deal.

I'm big on making a big deal out of everything; but life {and yoga} are better served by just showing up and meeting what happens as it happens. The labels can fall away and movement can occur. This is as much a practice for me as the postures and is even more beneficial.

Thank you Lynne and Kyle {see her comment on my last post} for being teachers that help me find the path through the postures AND the philosophy!