Monday, March 21, 2011

Bad Blogger

So apparently, it is really hard to find over an hour each day to devote to attending a yoga class when you have a full time job and a life. Possible, I have proved, but really friggin hard. What's even harder is to find that time to practice, and then find even more time to write a blog about it. Oops.

Overall I have been doing really really well. Since the journey began on March 2nd I have only not been on a mat at the Yoga Room for 2 days. On March 11 I spent an hour and a half at a guided meditation at Three Jewels Yoga (more on that later), so I'm counting that one as a successful day. March 16 has been my only fail. I got smacked with a detrimental cold, a sniffling, sneezing, energy sucking cold. The night before  I hadn't completely succumb to congestion yet so I hauled myself to a vinyasa class and completely freaked out the poor girl with the mat next to mine with all of the sniffling and reaching for tissues. By the next day my voice sounded like that of a Muppet and I decided it would be best for me, and everyone in the yoga studio if I spent the day at home taking long baths and watching Disney movies. I was disappointed, halfway through my 30 days and I would have to take an "Incomplete" but there was nothing for it. I am contemplating doing 2 classes in one day to try to make up for it.

Other then that, I have been successful with my quest! Every single day, there I sit, on my mat increasing my flexibility and strength, a little bit every day. The first week was not big on the achievements, it was a week where my body was getting used to the new way of things. My skills were not improving that much, but my muscles hurt less day by day so that was a win. The last week though has been packed full of pleasant surprises in my practice. For the first time in my life, I can grab the outside of my feet in forward bend. I actually kicked fully into a handstand last Saturday instead of ineffectively hopping up down like I had been for the last few weeks. I am starting to get somewhere near Wheel position, though only for a few seconds and I can't get my heels to stay on the floor and my arms to straighten at the same time. I have finally gotten into a crow pose that I could hold for more the 3 seconds (more like 10 seconds now!). Last night though was exciting. Last night, for the very first time, I pulled myself into something that resembles full seated Lotus.
Lotus is that meditation position where you sit cross legged and you get both feet, soles pointing toward the sky, to sit on your thighs. It was not comfortable, and I couldn't hold it long, but I got there and have been telling everyone who listen (including you dear blog readers) about it all day. You probably aren't supposed to brag in Yoga. I'm probably supposed to pull myself into the position and then sit there serenely and say something really modest if anyone complements me on it. But I can't help it, I'm too exited! I made it my Facebook picture!

Okay, don't look at my hair in the picture. But look at my legs! I'm going to keep working until it gets comfortable. I've also discovered a wonky leg problem with my Warriors that needs some work. And I'm still experiencing hip pain in the half moon pose. Alright I have work yet to do. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


OK, I know what you're thinking. She's not writing, she must have dropped out after Day 2. It hurt a little, and she quit completely. WRONG. I have been dominating this goal. I am 6 for 6. Because I am a champion.

I would tell you all about the last 4 days, except it is really early right now. I was so confused when the alarm went off at 10 of 6, I kept trying to convince myself that it was really Saturday and I had set the alarm wrong. Nope, it is only Tuesday, and I have plans to go to the 7am class so I can make it to a meeting of the Queens Co-op tonight. I am super tired but determined, so I sit here munching on toast prepping myself to face an hour fifteen of downward facing dogs and standing splits. Dear god don't let me fall asleep in Savasana.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ow (Day 2)

After yesterday's hot yoga, I was wary of how I would feel this morning. Since your muscles are externally warmed in hot yoga, you tend to go deeper into positions, which is part of the appeal. If you are not used to this, however, you will be stunned by how sore you are the next day. To be honest, this first week is the one I've been terrified of. Once my muscles get used to doing Yoga every single day I think they'll work with me more, but for the first week I was expecting my muscles to protest at every turn, screaming for me to return to a life of sloth.  Surprisingly I wasn't too bad this morning, a little tenderness in the lower back and forearms, but nothing like the "I am never going to be able to move again" kind of soreness I have experienced in the past. I smiled to myself as I packed up the yoga mat. "I'm going to breeze through this month!"

Foolish, foolish girl. I decided on a 90 minute Vinyasa class, no heat, just flowing poses and breathing. It was a little different then other classes I've taken, we started with some floor poses instead of going straight into the sun salutations. I was gliding along just fine. Then we got up, and flowed into Downward Facing Dog. Okay, I was feeling the tender parts, not too bad. Then the teacher (a lovely woman with a hard to place accent named Merav) instructed us to lift a leg off the floor, and rotate it back. Then sweep it in and touch the knee to our shoulder. Then sweep it out again. That's when I knew I was in trouble.

Apparently my muscles were just fine with going about the day to day activities, but hauling them into another yoga class was going to far. "This is bullshit!" they screamed, "we just did this yesterday!" Everyone else in class was a combination of people who were more skilled then me, people who had done this particular sequence before, and people that probably weren't on day 2 of a crazy plan. That's when I did something I haven't done for quite awhile. I dropped the pose. I let my knees come to my mat and for 5 seconds, I kinda quit. This is something I did a lot when I had first started yoga 5 years ago, when my shoulders and wrists had no strength or muscle memory to get into the kinda poses I was attempting. While yoga teachers will be quick to tell you that people shouldn't be judging each others practices and that everyone moves at their own pace, the truth is its friggen embarrassing when your in a room full of people with their fingers reaching to the sky, and your hands are planted on the mat while you try to catch your breath. "Get up," I grumbled to myself, and I did.

I was getting nervous. If I was collapsing on a few difficult positions in the first 20 minutes of class, what was I going to do in the other 70 minutes? But I stayed, and I worked, and miraculously, it got kinda better. I still felt downright spastic a few times (in case you were wondering, it turns out I am not ready for a full forearm stand) but my muscles kinda stopped trying to just quit and give up. They stuck with me. I breathed, they held on, we made it through class together.

I'm proud of myself, but I'm wary of tomorrow. In order to have as much of Friday evening to myself as possible, I've decided to hit the 1 hour 7am yoga flow class. Which means getting up at 6am and it means 2 yoga classes in 12 hours. Don't tell my muscles. They are never going to forgive me. I'm pretty sure my spine is going to be pissed too.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And We're Off (Day 1)

The Brand New Day 1: Accomplished!
After yesterday's misfire, I wasn't about to mess up again. The first class of the day was scheduled for 7am, and I was going to be there. Since I needed to fill out the new student forms and figure out where the changing rooms were, this meant getting there at least 20 minutes early.

Now, I have a job that doesn't begin until 10am. I have become very accustomed to my 8am wake up time, and blissfully unaware that many people do not share in this luxury. When the alarm went off at 5:30am, I was not happy. I immediately began scrambling in brain for a way around this, like taking an evening class even though this is the one night this week where my husband Will and my schedule's actually match up enough to have dinner together. Then I remembered that I was alone in bed because Will had already gotten up an hour earlier and left for work. The guilt of my laziness and the determination that I was NOT going to begin compromising on Day 1 (even if this being a revised Day 1 was already kind of a compromise) were the only things that dragged my butt out of bed.

I was headed for a hot yoga class, which meant the tiny yoga shorts and a tank top underneath my clothes. I shoved a change of tee shirt into my yoga bag and headed for the subway. Standing on the platform at 6:20am, I was struck by how many other people were there. What were they doing out of bed?

I made it in plenty of time, and found the studio after only walking past it once. The Astoria location of the Yoga Room is beautiful, lovely stained hardwood floors, practice rooms, and thank heavens, a changing room with showers. The teacher gave me my little swipe card, let me know I was welcome at both the Astoria an LIC locations, and sent me off to get ready. I stripped to my skimpy yoga clothes and headed in to get myself used to the heat.

It has been a while since I have done a sequence influenced by what is known as Bikram Yoga. Bikram is a copyrighted sequence of poses (controversy in and of itself) that must be done in an hour and a half in a room of an exact temperature and  humidity. I have never practiced in a licensed Bikram studio, but many studios do their own variation on "Traditional Hot Yoga". This class was 75 minutes, and many of the poses seemed similar to the official list. While I truly do like practicing in the intense heat, I have more experience with Vinyasa विन्यास classes, both in hot and normal studios. To be honest, I'm not a fan of the more "traditional" hot yoga sequence. Vinyasa flows, there is a poetry to it, a focus. Hot Yoga is more of an "okay, now we do this, and its challenging, now hooooold it" kinda feeling. More stops and starts, it is hard to connect with the breath and you end up reaching for the athletic exercise rather then that moment of peace. I was assisted, however, but the back of the sports bra on the girl in front of me. "Breathe" it read. I was entirely amused. There I would stand, struggling to hold an Eagle pose, and there it would be, directly in front of me. "Breathe." Oh. Okay.

I made it through the class, and even managed to find a few moments of peaceful concentration. I rinsed off, dashed back to my apartment to change and do my hair, and was off to work, with this huge thing already out of the way! One down, 29 to go...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 1: A Swing and a Miss

March 1 was the day. The day my journey of yoga and self reflection would begin. I woke up this morning, packed my yoga mat in its bag, wrote down the classes I might be able to attend... and never made it. I had a grad school interview in the afternoon which required looking groomed and wearing a suit, so morning yoga was out, and then they held a Q&A session in the evening, which let out to late for me to make it to Astoria in time for the day's last class. Since my card is not activated until I take my first class, I am lucky the misfire happened on the first day, so I still have a full 30 days to use it. It was super awesome lugging my yoga mat around all day though, along with the use purse full of makeup and grad school information, all over Manhattan. While wearing heels and suit. I must have looked like some kind of whacked out ex-corporate new-age bag lady. Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthday Yoga at Sun Dog

This past weekend I was home in PA for my birthday and Will and I decided to drop by my very favorite yoga studio. I have spent time in and out of studios in Princeton, NJ, New York, and a few other places on road trips but I always come back to Sun Dog Yoga. The classes have a very local feeling, the teachers often know the students names, they remember us each time we return to town, and there is always a very comfortable feeling in the sun filled room. While I have taken a number of rather fitness driven classes, the classes here have worked me harder, but never made me feel like that was the goal. There is a spirituality to the place that is very calming and centering, there were some trips home that I took while wedding planning that if it weren't for Sun Dog I may have melted down completely. They always start with an Om and a chant, and you always end with a meditation about being filled with Loving Kindness.

This weekend's visit was to fulfill a dual purpose. One, I've been stressed as hell with making grad school selections and if I hadn't suggested going, I think Will would have dragged me there by the ankle and stapled me to the yoga mat. Two, they are very, very good at looking closely at your posture and correcting your poses. Going into the upcoming month of yoga, I want to make sure my poses are as strong as possible, because if the Yoga Room teachers are not as good at this I'm going to get very used to standing in these positions incorrectly. The last thing I want is to do a whole 30 days of yoga and then end up with a wonky Warrior One. People will talk.

We arrived in Doylestown on a very windy Saturday to discover half the town, including the yoga studio, to be without power. Luckily Sun Dog's immense windows made this not a huge issue, and there was heat enough. Halfway through a sun salutation, finger pointing in the air, the lights popped back on about 15 minutes into class. It was the second time I had stood in that room and had felt like a collective effort of good energy had brought something amusingly good to pass. Halfway through our Thanksgiving day yoga, a light snow began to swirl outside the windows, the first of the season. Given how the rest of the snow season played out, I may not want to be too proud of this.

I breathed, I stretched, I had a tutorial on getting my hips to point at the damn wall. I breathed. I chanted. I tried to not let my mind drift. I failed a few times. Something surprising was happening too. Positions I used to need the strap for, leaning over and holding onto my toes, for example, I found I was actually able to get into without assistance. I have been taking a class in Cirque Style Fitness at the Art of Fitness in Queens, and I think I've inadvertently been strengthening parts of my body while I was paying attention to not falling over. Go me. I left feeling more confidant about my upcoming plans. Sheri, the teacher of this class and owner of the studio, suggested I do 40 days of yoga instead of 30, as doing something 40 days in a row apparently has some sort of transformative power. I'll consider it if I survive the 30 first. One week till go time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Very Bad Idea

It's all Groupons fault. My addiction to this discount website now lingers on the brink of insanity, and a few weeks ago they posted deal, 30 Day Unlimited Class Card at the Yoga Room, a studio I've been meaning to try for awhile now. The way these deals work you have a while to activate your new deal, and the 30 days starts from the point of activation. Enter my Very Bad Idea. Every once in awhile you'll see a studio post a 30 day challenge, where they get people to buy these class cards and see if they can go to yoga every single day for 30 days. I think at the end you get a tee shirt. "If I bought the Groupon, I could do it," I thought. I could go every single day for 30 days. Ignoring the alarm bells in my head that usually are clanging away when I have a Very Bad Idea, I clicked Buy.

I am, at best, an occasional yogi. I've been going to yoga on and off for nearly 6 years now, never more then a few times a month. This is enough that I've learned the basic positions, and picked up some beginners Eastern philosophy, but I never get any better. In every single class there is that girl in the front of the room with the Yoga Body, slim, perfect posture, and she's in the advanced modification of every single pose. I sit there, barely able to get my fingers around my big toe, the mind goes to a very un-yoga place. A jealous place. An occationally petty place. Then the teacher says something about breathing and how we all move at our own pace and I try to move back into the calm mindset. I breathe in through the nose, and out through the nose. I gaze down to my toes. This is usually about the time I start noticing that I need a pedicure.

Once in awhile I get ambitious and decide I'm going to start a daily practice. "Screw the girl in the front of the class," I think, and then cringe at how far off course this thought puts me. "I will practice a little every morning. My muscles will stretch and adapt with this daily practice. I will get more flexible and centered. I will begin to cultivate infinite patience. I will slowly become better then the girl at the front of the class." It always starts at the noble goals and ends at the petty ones. Dammit. The daily practice goes well for a few days, I get up a bit early, go through a few sunrise salutations, a balance pose, a spinal twist, and a Boat Pose just to work on the abs a bit. Then comes a morning where I've slept terribly, and the choice becomes get out of bed for 20 minutes of physical activity, or lie here and sleep for those 20 minutes. The inner struggle does not take long. Usually I promise myself that I will do the daily practice before bed that night to make up for it. I try, I do. But somehow, standing on my yoga mat at 11pm, my balance poses are not quite the same. I sigh, roll up the mat, and tell my husband to make sure he cleans out the cocktail shaker before he comes to bed or the lemon juice will make it sticky.

Eventually the daily practice falls away, and I end up dealing with my own lazy attitude again. This is of course, the over arching problem. If you don't do yoga on a fairly consistent basis, the progress melts away, not to mention you fail to build up any muscle memory. Well no more. I have purchase 30 days of yoga, and dammit, I'm going to do 30 days of yoga. My husband has been put on notice, I will not be home by 7 every night, I'll be doing yoga. I may very well spring out of bed at 6am to make it to the 7am class, because there is yoga out there and I'm going to do it. Starting March 1 I am going to march my butt into the Yoga Room, slam down my Groupon, and begin my journey to a more toned body, inner peace, and a spirit that can accomplish something. This is my gauntlet. And I am NOT going to think about the girl at the front of the class. In through the nose, out through the nose.

But I definitely need to get a pedicure before I do this.