Monday, May 31, 2010

Hot Yoga! Day 17 of 20!

I went to the early class this morning. 7:45 a.m. Susanne was the instructor.

When I started this journey I was going early in the morning. Then after the 1st week or so I decided to go in the afternoon instead. Since I only have three classes left, I'm going to finish the way I started - in the morning.

I was surprised this morning that my balance was much better. Certainly immensely better than when I started. I actually stood in bow pose on both sides. Not for the whole 60 seconds but for a bit. I can tell you that my lower back got a good stretch and is sore already.

I pushed myself pretty hard today and I can feel all the muscles in the backs of my legs. It will be interesting to see how the day goes. I do intend to go for a walk in the park a bit later, even though it's foggy today. Still hoping it will burn off.

The website where I get the little pictures of the poses has great descriptions of each one and the benefits that come with practicing them. It's the website for a studio in Texas. If you are interested in reading, here's the site. I am going to do some reading to deepen my practice. I am one of the people, when I start something new, who just dives in and starts, then, later, I figure out the details and specifics. I'm ready to read about Bikram.

Bikram Yoga = No Inflammation. I have always had issues with inflammation. I figured it was just part of being female. It was a rare day when I would wake up and feel "thin" - which, sadly, translates to not bloated. I didn't look swollen, but my ring that I always wear would be tight and my joints would be stiff. This is a different stiffness than comes from exercise. Sometimes I would wake up that way or sometimes it would build over the course of the day, but, especially when it was hot outside, I would feel "swollen".

I discovered that riding my bike long distances would take the inflammation away, which was great. But it didn't last and I can't ride my bike 40 miles every day. I haven't had a day when my body has felt inflamed since I have been doing this yoga. I noticed the difference after the 1st day. Fabulous. I feel so much better.

There has also been a shift in my food consumption. If I eat too much, I feel horrible. Not just too full but stuffed and blah. This doesn't mean that I don't eat too much. I still do occasionally. Today, after yoga, I made a salad for breakfast and ate a piece of toast and that was enough. Heavy food is just not appealing. Neither is caffeine.

It's funny how our habits sometimes drive for us. Sunday morning I got up and had a cup of coffee. About half way through I was "buzzing" and realized I needed to dump the rest back in the pot or down the sink. Certainly didn't need the coffee. Made me feel slightly ill, actually.

I had pancakes with strawberry compote for breakfast. Then, in the afternoon around 2, I ate some leftover fried potatoes. I felt instantly stuffed. My mate made homemade baked beans later and I had a small bowl. I felt stuffed all evening. Still felt full right before I went to bed at 11:30.

My body is craving fresh food. Veggies and fruit. Hence, the salad for breakfast. If I can remember to let my body guide me, rather than my old habits, I'm sure I'll continue to feel better and better. I get that this is all about being present.

I'm going to finish my 20 days strong and do the last three days all in the morning. Then I'll decide what's next. . .

Here's to another day of yoga!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hot Yoga Day 16 of 20!

I went to yoga on Friday afternoon at 4:30.

It was a pleasant class. Not packed to the gills. I didn't push myself to the maximum, but still had the sensation of slight dizziness when I sat up from the final savasana. I wonder if this is just a reaction to relaxing deeply. The sensation passed quickly enough.

I haven't had a headache since day 3 and I don't take any sort of pain killers for muscle soreness anymore. My body is sometimes sore and the soreness shifts around as different parts of my body get stronger.

I think my balance has improved as much because my feet and ankles are stronger as that my mind is stronger. I am determined to be able to do the standing poses without tipping. This hasn't happened yet, although I can now do the opening part of Standing Head to Knee Pose without falling over, which is the standing with one knee locked out and holding the other foot in my hands. The part before, in theory, I would kick my leg straight out in front of me. . .

Last week at some point one of the instructors said that the idea was to use your thigh muscle to hold your leg up, not your interlocked hands. I had only been flexing my leg muscles until I got my hands locked underneath my foot and then letting my leg relax into my hands, which was creating strain in my low back. Doing it correctly doesn't strain anything. Duh.

I'm doing well enough at staying in the moment that I am usually slightly surprised when the balancing poses are over.

The floor poses that are back and spine strengthening are definitely the most difficult (and so the most necessary for me) poses in the class. As I've said before, locust pose is the most difficult:

Looks easy, doesn't it? I'm not sure if there's something I'm not doing correctly, but I can tell you that whatever muscles in my back would pull my legs in this direction are basically non-functional. Weird. I have always been athletic and to discover that there is a part of me that is so weak is a strange experience. I'm looking forward to the day when I can feel that the muscles that make this pose happen are sore and getting stronger. 

And, by the way, if you are not familiar with this pose, the arms on this one are turned so your hands are palms down, pinkies touching and rolled under the body. Elbows should touch - under the body. Oddly, my arms fit perfectly inside my hip bones (yours probably do, too). I remember the second day I put my arms under my body. I thought for sure my shoulders would come out of their sockets and my arms would simply fall off. . . my shoulders are much more flexible now. 

During the last couple of classes I've gotten a much deeper (or would that be higher?) bow pose. Not sure what loosened up - could be my mind - but I can now feel my hip bones pushing on the floor. The idea after that is to roll forward onto my belly button. . . not exactly there yet. 

Funny, looking at this little illustration, I'm not sure that I consciously look up during the pose. Might have to try that, if I remember in the moment.

Another pose that I am just getting started on is Fixed Firm Pose. It looks like this:

If you are thinking, "Good God! That looks like it would kill your knees!" You would be correct. I have good knees. I am one of the lucky few who make it through high school sports and adult soft ball league with my knees intact. And, I have discovered, my knees are pretty tight. I can do the 1st part of this pose where you stick your butt between your feet and sit down - almost. I can also lean back on my elbows, but the 1st part of the pose is to actually sit on the floor. . . I am now playing it safe and working on that since, really, I'm not sitting on the floor. My whole upper body is being held aloft by my not-stretchy knees. Scary. I'll continue to work on sitting on the floor.

One of the huge benefits that I have received since I started this journey is I have a ridiculous amount of energy. Yesterday I volunteered at the CUESA breakfast from 7:30 until 2:00. We ran around and set stuff up, bussed tables, reset the whole thing twice and generally were on our feet the whole time. It was great fun. I came home and went to the beach. Then I stayed up until 11:30 watching movies. In the past, this day would have had a serious nap in it somewhere.

I like this new normal.

I have a decision to make soon. I have to figure out if I'm going to continue this adventure. . . at the regular price. I have to admit that even the least expensive option of $89 per month does not fit into my budget at all. . . and I get that it's worth it. Here in SF a basic gym membership costs about the same.

I get that a yoga practice, established now and continued indefinitely, would serve me well.

I listened to a futurist speak a while back and he said that we can expect to live until well past 100 and we should plan our lives that way. I'm 47. My children's generation - those that eat healthy, anyway - can expect to live to 120. My grandchild's generation (yes, I'm a grandmother) can expect to live to 150.

This yogi, Swami Yogananda, is 99. He travels the world teaching yoga, is learning English and hopes to write a book about yoga. 

Now that's flexible. . . 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

20 Days of Hot Yoga - Day 15 - INtense!

I attended the 6:30 class this evening. It was HOT!

The class was beyond full. Had the same instructor as last night and I still don't know his name. Whoever he is, he's great.

It was an intense session. I worked really hard. All that deep stretching leaves me sore when I wake up in the morning, though. I think tomorrow might be a kinder gentler day - if I can remember. I get so involved and inspired that I really push myself and then at the end, when I sit up from the last shavasana, I'm dizzy and can barely pull myself together.

I have to take my glasses off for some of the poses because they get in the way. The instructor almost stepped on them tonight as he was walking around the class. I heard his toe pop as he realized what he was doing. I hope his foot is OK. He checked with me after class to make sure he hadn't bent them. Nice guy.

I found myself thinking ahead a couple of times tonight. It's much better if I just stay in the moment and deal with what's going on right now (or "in the now" as they say). Thinking ahead makes the class a tiny bit torturous. Staying in the moment is much better. For both the body & the mind.

There were a few people who were clearly over-heated tonight. The instructor talked about mind over matter and how a yogi can walk on hot coals simply by telling himself that they are cold as ice. I spent about the last third of the class, during shavasana, repeating "my body is cool, my blood is cool" in my mind, over and over, and it really helped.

Another thing I'm working on is calming my breathing. You should be able to go through all the poses with the same calm breathing. I am still sucking air on some of the more intense ones. It's not easy. As Shaun says, if you come to class and it's easy something is wrong.

There is something else that has happened to me in the last three days. Somehow, I am attracting people who want to talk to me. I've had great conversations. On the bus with a Korean woman who's learning English (her English was a good as mine). With an older gentleman in front of the Castro Theater (he invited me to the movie with him. Too bad I had to go to work). With the female bus driver on the way home tonight (we talked about eating healthy and exercise).

This is definitely a shift. I have no idea what has brought it on. Is it the yoga? Is it the meditation? Is it just that I'm more present so I seem approachable? Or are people suddenly just friendlier? Whatever it is, it's fun. I like it.

I came home and ate a bowl of steamed carrots with parsley and butter (yum) and then ate a half of a tuna fish sandwich. I was hungry. Actually, I was hungry before class. My lunch salad didn't stay with me through the afternoon and I didn't think I should eat anything. Might need to figure out a way to drink some nutrition late in the afternoon. . .

Tomorrow is day 16. Wow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 13 of 20 Days of Hot Yoga!

Today I attended the 4:30 p.m. class.

It was full. Not quite as full as yesterday's class, but full enough.

It's interesting how each instructor inspires me in a different way. Today's instructor, who's name I don't know, inspired me to stretch deeper and not only was I able to pull my heels off of the floor again, but I also got a much higher bow pose (this is the upside down back bend where you lay on your stomach, reach back, grab your feet then kick with your feet and pull with your arms until your torso makes a bow).

There is one pose that I am a total failure at. It's called Salabhasana or Locust Pose.

Here's what it looks like when done properly:

That just doesn't happen.

Neither does this:

In fact, if my legs lifted 5 inches off of the ground, I'd be shocked. I'm not sure if I just don't know which muscles to activate or if my lower back is so weak that I can barely begin. There is definitely some serious room for improvement on that one. I'm not a very good Locust.

My balance was WAY better today! Finally I was able to stand for a full minute on my left leg with my right foot in my hands and then stand for a full minute on my right leg with my left foot in my hands! Also, I did a much better standing bow pose:

 I did fall out once or twice. And, no, it did not exactly look like that, but I did see my foot over my back in the mirror briefly, which is a Huge improvement. Yea!

On day 10 I was beginning to think that my body wasn't going to cooperate or progress. I am not known for my patience. I am learning. At 47, it's not to late.

The final shavasana of the class was good today. Often, I find that I can't let my mind be still and stay in the moment for more than mere seconds. . . and then I get frustrated. I read something this morning that helped. . .

"Feel the aliveness within your body. That anchors you in the Now."  Eckhart Tolle

Let me tell you what, after 1.5 hours of Hot Yoga, I can feel the Aliveness! The blood rushes around my body, sweat streams off of me and there is a general buzz that I'm pretty sure you could hear!

What are you doing for your physical health?

If you'd like to try a Bikram Yoga class, Bikram Yoga Seacliff offers a free class for 1st time students. And, if you tell them that I inspired you, I get a free class, too!

Days 12 of Hot Yoga!

I ended up not going to yoga on Sunday. It just didn't fit in and I am not interested in creating stress for myself so I can go and reduce my stress.

I did go on Monday.

Yesterday I went to the 6:30 class which was totally full. I got there and there was one spot in the back corner and a few open spaces in the front row. I took the spot in the back.

The best thing that happened was I was able to stretch forward, grab my big toes, lock my knees and pull my heels up off of the floor. Amazing. I can't say that it felt fantastic, but it didn't really hurt either. It felt like an accomplishment. I wanted to shout "Hey! Look! My heels are off the floor!" Big smile goes here.

I am still sweating buckets in class. I know I've said this before, but, it's incredible. Actually, I think my sweating has increased over time. The stuff just pours out of me. Crazy. I can tell you it has improved the skin on my face greatly. I require less moisturizer and my pores are tighter. This is great!

I am working to finish the class strong. This is supposed to increase your energy. I am pretty wiped out by the time we get to the last three or four poses, so it's mind over matter. I just keep telling myself that my body is strong and getting stronger.

I was a bit light-headed after class. Actually, I'm generally light-headed after class. When I sit up in the room after the final shavasana, I usually sit for a minute and drink water, both to rehydrate and to allow my equilibrium to stabilize.

I finished all my water on the bus ride home. It doesn't serve me to sit for an extended period of time right after class. When I stood up to get off the bus my whole body felt stiff. I may have to stand up for part of the ride home in the future, which will look weird since there are few people on the bus at 8:15 p.m.

Not that I don't already look weird covered in sweat with my hair a mess.

I wear my hair in a ponytail. It gets so wet from the sweat on my back that there's no way I could comb it right after class. I generally just try to smooth it back and leave it as-is. I may have to start pinning it up in the back.

When I got home, I wasn't very hungry so I just had a salad with my new favorite dressing. Olive oil, a small bit of toasted sesame oil, a little honey melted in a a little hot water and ponzu sauce. Yum! I have no idea why this dressing does it for me, but it's so good that I drink what's left in the bowl.

I was watching a movie and at 10:15 I couldn't stay awake one moment longer. I slept like the dead and woke at 6 feeling fabulous.

When I got out of bed, the backs of my legs shouted, "Hey! Look! We're here!" Stretching that deeply the 1st time was bound to have its consequences. My legs did warm up and calm down over the course of the morning.

Please Note: I have no idea if people bend over backward as far as the illustration at the top of the page. I  can tell you that I don't. Although, I can now see part of the back wall when I do this pose. . . Guess I'll have to take a look around the room and see just how far people bend back. . .


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 11 of 20 of Hot Yoga!

Yesterday (Saturday) I did the last class of the day at 6:30. Shaun was the instructor. It was awesome.

There are so many things that are said or revealed in class that are important.

Just the one idea that you can experience the 90 minutes as 90 minutes of moving meditation gives such a different perspective on this form of exercise!

Here are some others:

It's all about you. There's nothing else that needs to be in the room besides you and your body. All the rest of the "life stuff" can be left at the door. There's nothing else to do in that 90 minutes except the poses.

You get from it what you give to it. You can complain in your head and wonder when it's going to be over and "try" or you can experience it moment by moment as a revelation of who you are and a joyous and energizing experience and "do".

What happens in class is the same every time. The thing that is different every time is you, so no two classes are ever the same.

The amount of effort you choose to put forth determines what you get from the class, whether it's a day when you push yourself really hard to the next level and feel exhausted and rewarded or a day when you just experience the flow of it all and come away feeling centered and energized. You get to choose.

And then there's:

The whole thing is about strengthening the spine. It is better than a chiropractic adjustment. If you go to a chiropractor, you lose the adjustment quickly because muscle memory will press your spine back to the way it was before. Muscle strengthening and spine lengthening retrains your muscles to support your spine and is a permanent part of the practice. The long term effect is a younger body. Who doesn't want that?!

Focusing on the "now" during yoga will bleed over into your daily life. You will be more attentive during conversation - a better listener. You will fully experience what is right in front of you, whether that is a cup of tea or a bird singing. You will have more Patience with yourself and others (this one is important for me!).

You will eat better. You will stop craving those "emotional" foods that are not so good for you. Trust me, this does happen. Normally on Saturday night I would eat something high-fat and have two glasses of wine. Last night I ate a salad and had a cup of herbal tea and that was what I really wanted. Like really. I'm as shocked as you are, believe me.

This practice still does "do me in" occasionally. It's kind of funny how what is sore shifts around after each class. I'm sure this is a strengthening thing. One muscle group gets strong which makes another batch of muscles respond in kind.

I'm not getting a whole lot lighter, but I can tell you I'm getting slimmer. Which feels fab.

I think later in the day may be better for me than 1st thing in the morning. I'm going to go to work early tomorrow and do the 4:30 class and see how I do with that. Today I'm going to do either the 4:30 or the 6:15 class.

You can try this yoga for free. Bikram Yoga Seacliff offers a free class to all new students. If you decide to go, let them know that I referred you. That way I get a free class, also!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 10 of 20 Days of Hot Yoga!

Wow. Half way through my 20 days already. . .

This morning my lower back was pretty sore from volunteering at an event last night. We carried a lot of stuff and some of it was heavy. It made doing the poses just that much more difficult. Even getting into shavasana hurt.

Please Note - my lower back pain today had nothing to do with the yoga class and everything to do with the fact that my lower back is not as strong as it's going to be and I schlepped a lot of stuff around last night. And, it actually feels much better tonight, having done the yoga class this morning. 

I have to say that, being half way done, I'm a bit disappointed by my progress. . . it's my lack of balance that bothers me the most. It's slightly better, but still pretty pathetic.

I wonder how malleable my body really is.

At 47, can I really become flexible enough to do this?:

Can I get strong enough to do this?:

Can I actually get centered and catch my balance long enough to do this?:
You'll notice that his hips are level. When this is done correctly, it simply defies gravity. He should tip over - like I do.

I have a feeling that it's going to take a lot more than 20 sessions to get where I want to go. . .

There is some weird correlation between eating after class and suddenly feeling a deep desire to go to sleep. I drop into a food coma. It doesn't seem to matter what I eat. I haven't tried just fruit. I may try that over the weekend. Maybe I'm eating too much. I am really hungry by the time I get to eat. I need to figure this one out. I don't think it's going to fly at work for me to close my door and crash on the floor for 30 minutes every day. . .

I'm tired tonight. I'll sleep well and tomorrow will be another yoga day. Every morning I hear someone different say "my practice is different every day". So is mine. Sometimes slightly disappointing, sometimes fabulous.

Here are the benefits I am seeing so far:

Better flexibility.
A sense of calm. 
Consciousness and the ability to stay in the moment longer.
Increased ability to listen.
Increased strength and muscle awareness.
And, yes. I've lost some weight. Three or four pounds, which is great.

I do like having a regular yoga practice. It feels really good and like an accomplishment every day. 

Is it worth the time and effort? Absolutely! Can't wait to see what the next 10 days bring. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 9 of 20 days of Bikram Yoga!

Today was great.

It was all about being gentle. I have strained the inside of a thigh muscle on my left leg. I know exactly how I did it. Coming out of a pose. How dumb is that?

The instructor today was exactly what I needed and I'm ashamed to say I can't remember her name. She kept saying "gently and slowly" which brought a whole new perspective on coming out of the poses. I was careful with myself. Not pushing too hard, because all of my back muscles were pretty sore last night and I could feel the strained muscle in my leg.

Coming out of the poses slowly and gently allowed me to actually finish each one strongly and yet carefully.

I still worked hard and sweated up a storm, but I wasn't exhausted at the end. Also, my balance was remarkably improved. I actually did the "twisty pose" also known as Eagle Pose (below)

once on each side without falling out. I hope that sticks. Of course, I didn't do it perfectly, but I did my version of it!

I heard a women, after class, say to someone, "Every session is different." I'm hoping my balance continues to improve and that is the difference for me.

I wonder if my focus was better today because I had the day off and didn't need to worry about rushing off to work afterward. It will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow - on a regular work day.

Nine days has gone by quickly and enjoyably. I'm looking forward to day 10!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 8 (Wow!) of 20 days of Bikram Yoga

This morning was good. Still pretty intense. It was only 13.5 hours since my last session and I spent 7 of those sleeping! My upper back and thighs were a bit stiff and sore when I got out of bed. Took some "mind over matter" to get things moving.

 Susanne was the instructor this morning.

What I "got" today was the conscious choice to let go of what we had just finished, enjoy the moment of pause and then move on. In the past I would find myself caught up in the previous pose while starting the next one. Either thinking about how crappy my balance was or wondering if my posture was right, etc.

Today, when we were pausing, I was able to refocus my mind on the present. Literally by staring at one fiber of my towel. Susanne said, a few times, "Let go and be present". Good mind exercise as well as body.

I also "got" that one of the poses that I thought was about stretching my leg muscle is really about lengthening and stretching my spine. . . felt totally different to think of it that way. I also realized that I wasn't relaxing my spine during shavasana and was able to choose to relax more deeply.

So, for the last three sessions my focus has become more and more centered on my spine. Ever since I got that one good stretch. I don't think I've ever focused on my spine during exercise before. Like ever - my whole life. It is a pretty important part of the body. I'll continue to focus on it now.

I have spent years Not locking my knees. For all the sports I've played from baseball to volleyball, you bend your knees slightly. Aerobics? Bend your knees slightly. Weight lifting? Bend your knees slightly. Cycling? Make sure your seat is adjusted so your knees are always at least bent slightly. Even golf requires slightly bent knees!

I remember thinking, on the 2nd day of class, "She couldn't possibly really mean Lock Your Knees. You're not supposed to do that." I was going to ask after class and then I realized that she wouldn't be saying it if she didn't mean it! Duh! So I am know learning to lock my knees. It's not as easy as you might think. Especially locking your knee for a whole minute balancing on one leg. Not that I've ever spent a whole minute on one leg. . . I've spent parts of a whole minute. Possibly 30 or 40 seconds at one time. It makes my leg shake. I'm such a wimp! I thought my lower body was strong. Not so.

I'll be back in class tomorrow. If anything of note happens over the course of the rest of this day, I'll add it.

I am still consuming at least 64 ounces of water. I've had 32 ounces so far today and it's 1:00 p.m.

Time to refill my bottle!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 7 of 20 days of Hot Yoga!

Here are some basics and the benefits of Bikram Yoga from the Seacliff website:

Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class is a twenty-six posture series done in a heated room, designed to scientifically warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons, in the order in which they should be stretched. 

Bikram’s Hot Yoga systematically moves fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ and fiber, restoring all systems to healthy working order, just as nature intended. Proper weight, muscle tone, vibrant good health, and a sense of well-being will automatically follow.

I can tell you I feel great and I require less sleep than I did a week ago. My head is clearer. And I have more flexibility, which is good. It is important to me to maintain my flexibility as I grow older. I want to always be able to hike and bike and be physical.

In shavasana, after finishing a pose, I can usually feel my heart beating throughout my body. Even in my hands and feet. It feels good. I am shocked by how much I sweat during class. Even my ankles sweat! I drip. My shorts and top are totally soaked afterward. I'm sure all the sweating is good for my system. Toxins be gone! Also, the skin on my face looks better and my pours are tighter.

So today I decided to try an afternoon class. I thought I might have better balance later in the day. Or that I might be stretchier or that the class might be easier or more fulfilling - or something. Anyway, I was at the studio for the 4:30 p.m. class.

I finished lunch (a burrito) at 2:00. At 3:00 I was still feeling sort of full. At 4:00 I figured I was going to be fine - 2.5 hours since I had eaten should be plenty of time for me to be comfortable in class. Not so. Possibly I'm just used to doing this yoga on a totally empty stomach. I actually belched a couple of times during, and felt slightly nauseated near the end of the session.

This session was the second hardest I have done. Just barely better than day 1. I was dizzy and light-headed when class was over. I did balance a little better today. Not remarkably better, but somewhat better. I am so looking forward to the day that I can balance for 60 seconds on one leg with the other one over my head. . . someday.

The class was full and probably half actually sat down and didn't do all of the poses. I did all of it and wow was it intense. I was red-faced and shaky afterwards. It took a good forty minutes for me to feel normal again. Of course, the first day I didn't feel normal all day. . . I just got that today wasn't really that bad. Just different that I expected.

I'm going back to mornings. First thing in the morning.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 6 - Hot Yoga! Stretching Deepens. . .

I thought for sure if I went to the early class it wouldn't be crowded. I figured people would sleep in and come later in the day. Wow, was I wrong. The class was packed wall to wall. Totally different than any class I've been to. Probably 30 people. Everyone was kind and cooperative and it all worked out fine.

Also, overnight, they took out the carpet and replaced it with one giant yoga mat. Crazy. The new flooring is a little stiffer than a yoga mat, but very similar. It is a bit slick when you are all sweaty, and, as the instructor said, you have to work harder to keep your legs from sliding. I assume it's washable and they will be mopping it every evening.

Class was good. My balance gets a tiny bit better every day. Shaun talked about the link between body and mind yesterday - that a healthy body creates a healthy mind - that a flexible body creates a flexible mind. I'm hoping my body and mind will both get more balanced (and flexible) soon.

There is a pose called Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose) where you start sitting on your feet and then put your forehead against your knees and lean forward, all the while pulling on your heels. It's hard to explain.

It looks like this:

And, as you can read, it's really good for you. Anyway, somehow, today, I got a better stretch and I actually felt my spine stretch from the top to the middle and all the way to the bottom. It felt really, really good. Going to class was worth it just for that 10 seconds of stretch!

What else was good today? You have no idea how good it feels for me to actually be able to lean forward, wrap two fingers around each big toe and look up into the mirror with my legs straight. I've been working on this for quite a while but have made literally inches of progress in my 6 sessions of Bikram Yoga. I don't know when I heard - it may have been sometime this week, or at some other time - that forward bends allow for letting go of the past. I can tell you that being able to do a forward bend has almost always been difficult for me. It feels good now. I wonder what part of my past I'm finally letting go of. . .

I am consciously choosing to treat the class like a meditation and not get "scattered" in my head or check out. I do drift. A lot. And then I gently bring myself back when I realize I'm not really there. It's much easier to do the class on auto pilot, or half-consciously. And, I get that there is much to learn from choosing to be present every minute.

Am I sore? Not really. I am so impressed with how quickly my body recovers! What amazing and adaptable things our bodies are. If you think you can't change your body, you are mistaken. You can. As Shaun says, don't think about it, just fall in. If you think about it, you'll resist.

What do you do to keep your body strong? Walk, Slog, Jog, Run? Yoga, Dance, Swim, Bike?
I am sending you encouragement.

Onward. . .

Friday, May 14, 2010

Another Day of Hot Yoga! Day 5. . .

Day 5

This has been an interesting day. It started extremely early. . . 5 a.m. - I woke up and was just plain awake. I laid there and thought I might go back to sleep, but no, I was awake. So I got up.

And before I knew it, I was almost late for Yoga!

And then, before I knew it, I almost missed the Bus to Work!

And then. . . you get the picture.

The day went by really really fast. Somehow, my perception of time shifted. It is still shifted. I went to an art show with a couple of friends from work at 5:00 tonight and then suddenly it was 8:00! Weird. I think it's possible that I've slowed down. (There are those among my friends who will be shocked!) Or maybe everything around me really has speeded up. . .

Yoga was great this morning - lead by Shaun (Sarge). He's awesome. He talked a lot about what the poses do for your body. There is one pose, where you lie on your back and pull your knee up and I've always though it was weird because it didn't really seem to be stretching anything much and guess what? When you do that series of poses (right knee, left knee, both knees) you are actually massaging your colon! Makes sense.

He also talked about how important Shavasana is. Many of the Bikram poses create a tourniquet, literally cutting off the blood supply to different parts of the body. Then, when you lay down in Shavasana "corpse pose" the fresh blood rushes back in. The total stop is as important as the pose. I'm sure all the instructors have been talking about this stuff all along. Today I could hear more of it.

He also said that he only sleeps about 4 hours a night and doesn't really eat much food. He gets his energy from yoga. I am starting to feel it. I am also starting to get in touch with whether I am hungry or not and I'm eating less.

I felt good all day until I was on my way back from picking up my Bay to Breakers race packet. I was thirsty and didn't have my water with me. By the time I got back to work I had a headache coming on big time. I took a tylenol. By the way, I didn't take any pain killers of any kind yesterday. I consider that an accomplishment. Wouldn't have needed to take any today if I'd have had my water with me.

I am not sore tonight, which is surprising. My lower back was sore after class today, but it's not now.

Planning to go to class early tomorrow and then take Sunday off since I'm slogging the race with some friends from Boise. Who knows? Maybe I'll pickup a class late afternoon if I have any energy left.

Watch for me at the race - say "Hi!" - I'll be the woman with the recycle symbol in a circle on her chest - I am "Sustainability Girl"!

Onward. . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hot Yoga at Bikram Seacliff! Day 4

See that pose? I fall over when I do that pose. . . Not Pretty.

Ok, so my arms feel like they are going to fall off. I guess it's more my shoulders than my arms. They are pretty sore and just plain weak. I am a little sore all over, actually. Nothing serious, just aware of it all the time.

The class was good today. Strenuous. It was lead by Susanne, who also taught my 2nd day. I was thinking "Oh, I'll just take it easy today" but it's impossible not to get sucked in by the encouragement so I ended up working really hard again. . . that and I looked in the mirror yesterday. I have little muscles showing below my ribcage along the sides of my belly. (big smile goes here). How could that be after only 3 days?! Is it my imagination? Nope. I saw them again this morning.

My balance is still not great, but it is getting better. I actually did stick pose (bended stick pose?) on both sides without falling out. Yeah! There were two new girls in front and off to the right of me. Every time I lost my balance, they did, too. I wanted to tell them to ignore me! 

Funny, the 1st pose is a breathing pose that uses the arms and neck. My arms were burning long before we were done! This is the 1st day that this has happened. Something was definitely different.

I didn't go to bed earlier last night like I said I would. In fact, I probably didn't really fall asleep until almost 11. Surprisingly, I feel fine. Actually more clear-headed than yesterday. We'll see how I am around 2:30 when my energy seems to slowly grind to a halt. Is it my lunch? I'm not sure.

I'm drinking less water both in and out of class. I talked to a woman in the dressing room who has been doing this for years and she said that when she started she was encouraged to not drink during class because the body has to process the water. Makes sense, I suppose. I don't think I'd be able to get through a whole class without at least a few sips, but we'll see.

There was something that Sarge said yesterday that stuck with me. He said it was OK to feel a little dizzy during the poses and to just go with it. This caused a shift in perception for me. Dizzy = Panic in my world. It's a whole new thing to feel dizzy and just notice it and let it go.

Suzanne said today that Bikram yoga was invented to get Yogis ready for meditation. I'd like to try that. Just doing the yoga and then sitting in meditation. I feel "meditative" when I'm done with class. My being wants to move slowly and purposefully, which is at odds with "Shower and Get On the Bus!" I do enjoy the walk from Divisidaro to my office.Lots to look at with heightened awareness.

Breakfast was a tuna sandwich. Lunch was bulgar wheat salad with lots of little veggies cut up in it and a piece of apple cake - think big pieces of apples, raisins and dark cake. I get that a banana or apple would have been better for me. The cake was delicious. I have an orange in my bag that I'll eat later.

2:25 - I think I may have pulled a ligament in my left upper thigh. At one point during class it hurt, but felt more like a muscle cramp. I just let it relax for a minute and it felt better. Now when I stand up from my chair, I can feel it again.

3:45 - Ate half an orange. It was so sour that I couldn't finish it. Too much like torture.

5:00 - Riding my bike home. Tired of looking at it in my office.

6:30 - Made garlic pasta for dinner. Was definitely hungry! Didn't overeat.

7:40 - Surprising that riding my bike home wasn't that big of a deal. I expected to be exhausted. I'm fine. I do have some sore spots on my body, though. Mostly tendons and ligaments. Interesting.

My arms and shoulders feel better this evening. This is good.

Looking forward to tomorrow. Onward. . .

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 3! Hot Yoga in San Francisco!

Hot Yoga!  - Day 3!

Tonight I am going to bed earlier. It's hard to wake up at 6. I am dreaming when the alarm goes off and it's all I can do to keep my eyes open. I literally hit the snooze and woke up from a dream again five minutes later. I either need to go to bed earlier or wake up a little later.

Made it to class a bit early. It felt really good to go into the warm room and lay down on my towel-covered mat. I love to be warm. As those closest to me know, I prefer heat to cold. I am often referred to as being "like a lizard". I need a heat source (a warm rock or direct sunlight both work) in order to be warm.

Today's instructor was male. He didn't tell us his name. Today's session was like yoga boot camp, so we'll just call him Sarge. I'm not complaining. I really pushed myself (and he pushed us all) this morning and it felt great. My balance is still crap, but Sarge offered a bit of advice that worked. If I concentrate on my straight leg being planted like a lamp post - literally meditate on it and look at it in the mirror, I can catch a moment of stillness and it's if time stops, and I feel my body in the pose, and I hear the encouragement, and I go deeper. It's very sensuous when it works. And then I fall out and stumble around.

Sarge kept saying that we were playing it safe and to push ourselves and that our minds were holding us back. So, during tree pose, I did more of the pose than before. Yesterday I watched as people leaned forward, put their fingers on the floor and then sat, bringing their hands to prayer position. I thought "That looks Painful". I did it today, except for the last balancing act, because Sarge was saying that none of us were taking chances, and it was a hell of a lot easier than standing there trying to balance and keep my opposite foot stuck to the front of my leg! I'll be doing that pose more completely again tomorrow.

Another cool thing that happened - during bow pose, I actually felt my hip bones against the floor. Improvement.

I was a little cotton-headed after class. I made a half of an avocado sandwich at the bus stop and ate it while I waited for the bus. Wished I had salt. Made it to work 5 minutes later than I would have liked to. Made and ate another half sandwich with salt. Yummy.

11:04 - Definitely a headache coming on. I've consumed 32 ounces of water so far today. Taking a Tylenol - with more water. Maybe the Heed isn't the answer. Maybe I was just being a wimp yesterday.

12:00 - Not starving today, but hungry. Brown rice salad and a banana. Tasty and no processed sugar!

12:40 - Tired. Could literally lay down on the floor and go to sleep. . . hopefully green tea will help.

1:20 - Green tea helped a tiny bit. . .

4:30 - Went to a meeting at 3:00 - about 3:15 I could feel my face was flushed. It stayed hot the whole meeting and when I went and looked in the mirror, sure enough, it was red. Not terribly red, but red like a mild sunburn. Interesting. Not very pretty, but interesting.

Left work on time. Mr. Green took me out to the Kabuki for a glass of wine and a bowl of shared crab ramen. Yum.  Still thinking that I should go to bed earlier. Or maybe I just need to get up earlier. . .

The yoga was great this morning. I am a little sore. My shoulder muscles are sore if I push on them (so don't push on them) and I can feel my thighs and mid-back.

I'm surprised by how hard I can work in the moment and how not-sore I am later in the day. The body has an amazing ability to recover. So, tomorrow, as Sarge says, No Fear!

Definitely going again in the morning.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hot Yoga! Day 2

Day 2 of Hot Yoga at Bikram Yoga Seacliff, San Francisco.

I slept well last night. Woke up at 6 with the alarm. I was a little tired, but not bad.

Getting ready to go to class is complicated. I have to take everything I need to end up at work dressed and groomed appropriately. Managed quite well today.

Made it to class early, but not as crazy early as yesterday. There was already a class in session. It started at 6:00 a.m. - the same time I got out of bed - Who ARE Those Bendy People?!

Anyway, class was great today.

I realized, after about 10 minutes, that I could actually hear the instructor. Yesterday there was so much internal noise between the voice in my head and breathing and my body, that I couldn't hear a thing. Today, I could hear everything. Consequently, I was able to concentrate more on the poses and really stretch. It felt good. Except for the falling-over part. The first balancing pose was a total joke. I was the example of "uncenteredness". I'm sure other people found it hard to balance with me falling all over the place. It did get a little better as the poses went on. There is hope.

I was only slightly light-headed at the end. I think this has to do with two things.

First, I drank a cup of decaf chai tea with a large spoon of honey in it when I got up this morning. There is still a tiny bit of caffeine in decaf tea and the honey served as a little "food" in my system without adding any solids. One is not supposed to eat for two hours before yoga for many good reasons. Stomach cramps are no fun and, trust me, you don't want to be the one who rips one during downward dog and belches every time you stand up. I'm not eating breakfast until after class.

Second, I put a full scoop of Heed in my water bottle this morning. Heed is an electrolyte powder by Hammer Nutrition. Cyclists use it. It doesn't have any of the nasty ingredients that Gatorade has - no HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), no artificial colors. It doesn't taste like much, it's sweetened with stevia and xylitol, and it keeps your electrolytes in balance while you work out. It's great on really long or really strenuous bike rides. Worked perfect for intense yoga.

We spend a lot of time looking at the ceiling. It's made of a beautiful deep red cloth that looks like quilted silk. It's quite beautiful, actually.

9:45 - On the bus. Munching stems of broccoli from a zip-lock bag (it was what was easy to grab out of the fridge). Not starving, but definitely hungry. Had an interesting conversation with an Asian woman about food. She wanted to know if my broccoli was raw or cooked and if I eat salad dressing. We talked about making dressing from scratch. And there was this baby on the bus! A blond girl. Not more than 14 months old. She made eye contact and said "Hi!" and waved to Everyone on the bus - one person at a time! It was Great! Wow! What will She BE when she grows up?! Maybe her whole generation is that outgoing - what a change That would bring! She was so Present. Very Cool.

10:15 - At work. Feeling good. Neck is a little stiff. Ate the salad that I brought from home - various lettuces, raisins, some shaved parm. No dressing.

11:30 - Hip Flexers! Wow. They totally seized up while I was sitting at my desk. Makes walking to get a copy a whole new adventure! And suddenly I am aware of my posture. I can hear my mother reminding me to stand up straight, so I do.

12:05 - Lunch. Brown rice mushroom salad - Fabulous. Flan for dessert. Yes, I know I should eat fruit instead and get totally away from the white sugar. Not today. Sorry. The rest of the broccoli stems. Am aware of my neck and upper back. Feels kind of good, actually.

2:54 - Suddenly tired. Thirsty. Drinking lots of water. Slight headache, so I'm taking an aspirin.

3: 59 - Better. Maybe I just needed some human interaction. Went to a meeting. Hip flexers are working without pain. This is good.

5:00 - Now I get to decide whether I want to ride my bike home or not. How much exercise is too much exercise? The wind actually isn't blowing 20 miles an hour for a change. It's sunny outside. I think I'll ride home. Leisurely. Or maybe I'll take the bus. . .

9:31 - Stayed late at work and took the bus home. Stole a piece of string cheese out of the work fridge - will have to replace it. Got here around 8. Made dinner with Mr. Green and ate (cauliflower pasta). Ate too much. Still learning to not overeat. Crazy how we are programed to "pig-out" when food tastes good. Also, why eat at 8:45 p.m.? There's really no reason to. I would have been fine with a piece of fruit or some veggies. I eat and learn. . .

I'm a little sore this evening - back, legs and the muscles along the sides of my neck (weird). It will be interesting to see how I feel in the morning.

Onward to Day 3!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hot Yoga!

I bought 20 sessions of Birkram Yoga at Birkram Yoga Seacliff from Groupon for $20. What a deal!

If you don't know Groupon, you should check it out and sign up. It's a great way to get deep discounts on fun experiences around The City! I've purchased manicure/pedicures, belly dance classes, restaurant discounts and more.

Back to the Yoga. I decided, after reading the info on the Birkram Yoga Seacliff site, to do the 20 classes basically in a row. I am going to take next Sunday off to participate in the Bay to Breakers run. I think a seven mile run and 90 minutes of yoga would be a bit much. Besides, I want to hang out in my Sustainability Girl super hero costume as long as possible! I am leaving myself the possibility of two other days off, so, when I'm finished, I will have completed 20 yoga sessions in 23 days.

Here goes. . .

Day 1
I arrived way too early to the center this morning. I knew there would be paperwork and I wanted to have plenty of time to ask questions if I had any. One never knows what traffic is going to be like, but at 6:55 a.m. it was an easy drive from the Outer Sunset to Seacliff. The class started at 7:45 a.m. and I was set to go by 7:15. The woman at the desk (who's name I don't remember, although it started with a T and was sort of like mine. Tanya? Tamaya? - I hate it that I can't remember names!) was eating a banana when I walked in. She was friendly and helpful and Real, which I appreciate.

The space is comfortable and appealing. There are benches and a fountain in the front, cubby holes in the hallway to hold belongings and restrooms in the back. It is all clean. The restroom/dressing room area is good-sized and has a shower (yea!). I didn't know if there would be a shower and my plan was to bathe in the sink at work, if not, so I was thrilled to see that there was one.

After I was all signed in and oriented, I sat and flipped through a magazine which had an interesting article about the fight against CODEX. If you don't know about Codex Alimentarius, inform yourself. If you want to continue to have real food and real supplements in the future, you will want to pay attention to the madness that is Codex.

Soon people with yoga mats started showing up. After three or four people went into the back, I went back and took my shoes and socks off, stuffed my bag into a cubby hole and sat on a bench outside the room. I had a great conversation with a woman who also had purchased 20 sessions. She was on day 12 and said that she loved it and was totally hooked. She encouraged me to come back tomorrow no matter how I felt after class. I told her that was my plan.

When I entered the room, it reminded me of a sauna. A wall of warm air hit me and I had to adjust my breathing a little to accommodate the heat. It is supposed to be 105 degrees and I'm pretty sure it was over 100 at that point. The room was dimly lit. I threw my mat out in what I hoped was the back of the room (opposite the mirrored wall) and watched others put their towel on top of their mat and lay down. I followed suit.

As it turned out, the instructor was the same person who helped me at the counter. She was great. She encouraged me and praised me when I managed to do a pose fully. It was not easy. There are a lot of balancing poses and my balance sucks. Especially early in the day. I learned some new poses and really enjoyed being in the heat for about the 1st hour of class.

Right before we moved to floor work I started to get light-headed. I drank a bunch of water and kept going. I finished the class feeling light headed and a bit dizzy. I moved out of the room and into the dressing area slowly, got the avocado I brought out of my bag and ate a few bites of it.

When I got out of the shower and looked in the mirror my face was bright red! Yikes! I dressed and mashed the rest of the avocado between two pieces of bread. Wished I had some salt. They even have a blow dryer which means I ended up looking a lot better than I thought I would today. That makes me happy. Off to the bus. Arrived at work later than I wanted. Will probably have to do the afternoon class tomorrow. Showing up at 10 all week isn't going to fly.

10:00 - I wouldn't call this state light-headed. It's more like head-stuffed-with-cotton. Feels weird. I'm sure it will pass. Drinking lots of water. Have finished my 1st 32 ounces and refilled already.

12:04 - Must Eat Now. I'm starving. It's pouring rain outside and I get to go down the block to the cash machine before I can go next door and buy lunch. We have a fabulous cafe next door that has all kinds of fresh veggie salads all the time. Head is starting to ache a little. I'm taking a Tylenol. Not a good idea to let it go, as I could end up with a migraine. . .

12:30 - Lunch is served - Salmon Salad  "Protein good" and a banana. I read on the Birkram site that light-headedness and nausea is caused by lack of potassium and salt. I sprinkled sea salt on my salad, wolfed it down and then ate the banana. Felt better in about 10 minutes. Amazing.

2:30 - Fading. Could literally put my head on my desk and sleep. Am going to have a cup of green tea instead. Co-worker is going next door to get a snack. I go with her and end up eating a piece of honey cake. This is one of my favorite treats and it instantly gives me a sugar high. Not a good idea. Feel nauseous. Blah.

3:19 - Head is starting to ache a little. Feeling rather tired. Think I'll take an aspirin and a multi-vitamin and see how that is. Funny how the headache goes away so quickly when I take a pain killer. I get that that's what they are for, but wow. Thought the green tea would help (caffeine) but it didn't really. Tasted good, though.

3:30 - Feeling rather normal now. Finally. I've consumed 64 ounces of water. . . think I'll back off on the water a little at this point.

7:24 - Ran errands after work. Stopped at Nirvana for lettuce wraps and a pink cucumber. Didn't need the alcohol or the cookie from Hot Cookie for dessert, but they were good! Probably a better food day tomorrow.

Overall - made it through. Didn't fall asleep at my desk. Feel great right now. Will probably sleep well. Ready to hit it again in the morning. . . one drawback - There are going to be a lot of dirty towels and clothes. Even though I hung my shorts & bra top on the back of my door all day at work, they were still soggy. Gross.

I am not the least bit sore and I'm darned happy about it. This is good.