Friday, June 4, 2010

The 20th Day of 20 Days of Hot Yoga!

My 20 days of Bikram Hot Yoga are complete.

I did 20 sessions in 25 days and this is my 20th blog post.

The class this morning was great. Not nearly as hot as the class last night. When I was done, I felt totally normal. Not dizzy or light headed.

I am not even close to mastering anything about this yoga. I have a long way to go. I guess that's why I like it. Because it's not easy. Even after 20 sessions, I still can't balance through a pose for a whole minute. I'm not even close to being stretchy, but I'm more flexible than I was 20 days ago.

I am certainly stronger from top to toes. And I've lost some fat. Not lots, but I didn't have lots to lose to start with. I've lost about 5 pounds even though I've gained a lot of muscle.

Am I a changed person? Yes. I have a new experience of "calm" that allows me to be more present in my life. I get that the notion of "presence" is a "new age hippie" sort of thing, but think about it. How often are you suddenly brought out of your head and into the moment by a horn honking or a brightly colored flower? How much time do we spend on auto-pilot? Making coffee, taking a shower, going to work, blah, blah, blah.

It occurs to me as an absolute miracle that instead of just ignoring the cat when she meows good morning, I would choose to pick her up and pet her, feel her fur, put my ear on her back and listen to her purr. Just for a moment.

I'm not present all the time. I'm not sure we can be. But we can choose to break up the routine of our lives by paying attention to the details that make it beautiful daily. There is so much to notice. And yoga and the presence that it brings me is a vehicle to do that noticing. It makes my life more joyful. And that's a good thing. After all, as far as I know, we are only here once. I'm choosing to enjoy it.

And, breathing! I breath deeply more than I ever have. It feels good. Paying attention to your breath is another way to bring yourself into the present moment. Not really doing anything different, but just choosing to feel the air go in and out. Try it. If you really pay attention, you can feel the cool air go way down in your lungs.

I encourage you, if you haven't tried yoga, to give it a shot. Or, if you have tried it, I encourage you to try it again with the idea of the "long-term now" in mind. In other words, seeing your "practice" as something that serves and will serve you, both in the moment and for years to come. You don't even have to attend a class. There are great videos available. I've written about some of them in an earlier blog called "It Does a Body Good".

I have the short evening yoga routine on the Yogaworks Beginners AM/PM DVD memorized. I do it most nights right before bed. It takes maybe 10 or 12 minutes and I sleep really well. Even on nights when I have a big event or important meeting the next day. It was a huge revelation for me to discover that I could have some control over my quality of sleep. What a god-send!

Of course, attending a class is great. There are like-minded people there to meet. You can ask questions of the instructors and other students, and there is a group energy that is inspiring that just can't be generated at home. Unless you invite the neighbors over, of course. Now there's an idea. Neighborhood yoga parties. . .

If you want to try Bikram Yoga at the Seacliff studio, your first class is free. Tell them I inspired you and I get a free class, too.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 19. . . One day left of 20 Days of Hot Yoga!

I know I said I was going to go all mornings the last three days. Just didn't work out that way. Yesterday I didn't go at all. Went to dinner with a friend who was in town instead. A social priority.

Today I went to the 6:30 p.m. class. It was crowded as usual. There were a lot of new people and it was darn hot. The instructor was a female that I haven't had before. She was good. Of course, they are all good. Lots of people left class during and lots of people were sitting through some of the poses. It wasn't exactly a high energy class. I felt good at the end. Just getting through class is an accomplishment.

I got some great pointers tonight. The biggest one was, when your pulse rate is up and you are breathing hard, breath into your stomach. It keeps you calm. Breathing into your chest causes your fight or flight mechanism to go. She said this just as I was wondering, in my head, why I was feeling panicky. I was sucking air - something I do regularly after difficult poses - but didn't seem to be calming down. The second I breathed into my stomach, my whole body calmed.

The other thing I heard was, during Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose, to put your hands in prayer position even if you knee isn't straight. Totally different stretch.

And, if you have your hands in prayer position, it's also a balancing pose. Also a much deeper stretch, even if your knee isn't straight. Mine isn't yet. The important part is keeping your head on your knee. Let me just say that I can feel that stretch even now in the very tops of the backs of my thighs - right under my glutes.

My balance wasn't as good today as it was last time I went. I'm not judging it. It will be interesting to see how my balance is as I finish my 20 days tomorrow at the crack of dawn. I totally get that more than two days off a week does not serve me. I don't feel like I progress unless I do three days in a row. They rhythm of exercise that has always worked for my body is three days on one day off. Four days on is doable, but my body gets overly exhausted if I do more. Less is just maintenance.

For lunch I had a half of a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, thanks to a co-worker, and a multi-grain chocolate chip cookie. I get that an organic apple probably would have been a better choice, but that cookie was mighty good. They make them at the cafe next door to my work and they have oats, flax seed and nuts and a bunch of other "grainy things". I ate about 1:00 because that's just how my day went. And guess what? No digestion issues during yoga! I didn't feel nauseous at all.

I'm not crazy about going to the 6:30 class, not because it's crowded, but because I don't like eating late at night. I get home around 8:20 and by the time I throw some food together, I'm eating at 9:00 p.m.  That's way too late. It's much better for my digestion and my sleep to have all the food consumption wrapped up by 7:00. And not eating isn't a option. I'm hungry after 90 minutes of yoga! I don't need a lot of food, but I definitely need some.

I've been thinking about how to get more liquid nutrition. I think that might work better than eating solid food late in the evening. I'm not a huge fan of smoothies made with ice. They make my core temperature drop too low and I freeze. I'm going to have to figure out a way to make them without the ice. It has to be pretty hot outside in order for me to be interested in something icy cold.

I only have one more day left in my first 20 days. I definitely am going to continue. I don't want to lose the benefits that I have gained so far and I want to go further. I want to be able to balance for a bunch of classes in a row. I want to be able to hold a standing pose for an entire minute on both sides. I want to feel my strong lower and mid back flexing as my feet lift off of the floor in locust pose.

I have a long way to go. I don't want to stop now. How cool would it be to feel stronger than I feel right now when I'm 60? 80? 100? That's possible. I'll keep going.

Day 18 of 20 days of Bikram Hot Yoga!

Twisting feels SO good. At this point, I can turn all the way around and see the back corner. I have no idea why it feels so good, but it does. The more I sit up and the more I twist, the better it feels. Sort of like wringing yourself out like a washcloth. Rumor has it that you can twist all the way around and see the wall you are twisting away from. . . seems a bit "exorcist-esque", doesn't it?

Day 18 was a big learning experience. . .

I will Never eat white pasta before I do yoga ever ever again! I had pesto pasta salad for lunch. At noon. I attended the 4:30 p.m. class - 4.5 hours later - and I felt like I was going to wretch for at least two-thirds of the class. Yuck. It wasn't a big serving, either. I know my body doesn't do well with white flour anything, but I figured the pasta would digest by 4:30. I made it through the class, but I felt like crap afterward. I didn't ever get my energy back and I didn't sleep well. All because of one serving of white pasta. Crazy.

I did have pretty good balance during the standing poses. I'm starting to kick my leg out during standing head to knee pose. As long as I can keep my standing knee locked, I can kick out.

My leg doesn't go straight out in front. I'm not that stretchy yet. But I can kick it out some and still balance on my other leg. I get that being able to balance is as much mind over matter as anything else.

I was able to do standing bow pose enough that my standing leg was burning from top to bottom - a new sensation for me. It doesn't really hurt, but it's uncomfortable. Really feels like all the muscles are on fire. And I got a great back stretch again.

My lower back is getting stronger. And my feet and ankles are, too.

A good class. A good lesson.