Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

The Yoga Challenge: Day 14

June 20, 2009

I did it. I went to a yoga class everyday for 14 days straight. How do I feel?

Completely defeated. 

2 days ago, I was on a high about my good prospects for finishing. I had hoped I would just coast through my last few days in the challenge, thinking I gotten through the worst. But distracted by admiring what was behind me, I little prepared for what was ahead. 

I’m pretty sure today’s yoga instructor hated my abs. 

Not that she had any reason to. They were unacquainted. Nonetheless, she led us through a series of poses of such concentrated strain on my midsection that it felt scornful.

I flopped around on my drenched mat, trying to hold onto everything I learned in the past 2 weeks, trying to breathe, trying not to look like the complete mess I was becoming. 

Maybe it wasn’t personal. Maybe she was (probably) 16 and didn’t realize the abuse she was meting out to the plus 30 crowd. I know it’s antithetical to be competitive in yoga, but she won.

And how do I respond to defeats?

Another challenge. I have vowed to make this my summer of flexibility and core strength.

I will take a few days off while heading back to Chicago. But I purchased another set of classes and will be back on the mat very soon.

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The Yoga Challenge: Day 11

June 18, 2009

Today was my first attempt at forest Forrest yoga at the Lotus in my self-imposed challenge to make the most of $20. (Am I putting myself through this just because I’m cheap?)

Forest Forrest yoga has a lot of the same poses I’ve been doing for the past 10 days.

However, one of the main differences with forest Forrest yoga: you hold the positions for much longer. There isn’t a lot of the “flowing” movement as in the Prana and Ashtanga classes I’ve taken. Instead, you spend a lot of time holding still in a warrior stance, or in a crunch with your feet by your ears, breathing to different parts of your body.

I imagine you’re meant to hold these poses as still as a tree (thus the “forest”?).

Picture 8

At best, I managed a very trembling tree.  

Also, the new (and really helpful) forest yoga instructor didn’t use possessive pronouns in his instructions. It was a lot of “put right elbow past left knee” and “place left hand in front of left foot.” Distracted me more than once. Insufficient attribution throws me off every time.

Nonetheless, it was a nice change from the flowing class. Limited flowing meant limited sweating. I wasn’t leaving a pool of my secretion as has been my wont.

I finished feeling pretty good, even feeling as though I wasn’t challenged enough. 

6 hours later, something in my lower back is telling that I was challenged enough. Tomorrow could be a disaster.

The Yoga Challenge: Day 10

June 17, 2009

I was a little pessimistic about my chances of making it through class today, even though I would only have 4 more days to complete my self-impose yoga challenge

Thankfully, it was a basics class and it was crowded. Meaning, I would do only 60 minutes with no handstands and moving at a slower pace. 

Also, as I fumbled to stand on one foot, hook my forefinger around the big toe on the other foot while straightening that lifted leg to the side, the yoga instructor said, “As long as you’re taking a step on the path, that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter how big a step it is, because the path is endless.”

Hearing this in any other context would have frustrated or confused me. At this point, it was great comfort and encouragement. It gave me the will to get through another class.

There are many instances when the instructor gives instructions or encouragement that I don’t fully understand, but nonetheless get. There’s the instruction to “open the heart,” which I do somehow (I think). And there’s talk of “breathing to” different places in the body. Don’t know what this means, but it feels like I’m doing it.

It could just be the exhaustion wearing down my rationality and demand for complete comprehension. Yoga is a zen koan for the body?

Tomorrow I try forest yoga for the first time. In a 90 minute class. It will be a rough 4 days. But yoga-rough.

The Yoga Challenge: Day 9

June 16, 2009

Things are not looking up, yoga-wise.

Today was my most difficult day. It was up to 82 degrees in Madison. I was (probably) the oldest and (definitely) the malest member in class. Having never taken a yoga class before, I have been doing 60 to 90 minutes of yoga a day for 8 straight days. 

We begin with some aerobic-type dancing, which … aside from the weirdness of being the oldest dude bouncing around a room of ladies … has me in a sweaty downpour 5 minutes into class. I can usually enjoy the first 15 minutes in relative dryness.

And then we happen go through the most difficult poses for me: back bends, handstands, dolphin pose, handstands from dolphin pose. No big deal really, since I can’t hold any of them on the slick my mat quickly became. 

The good news: Only once I felt a cramp coming on. Maybe I am getting more flexible. Although I am feeling some new sensations in my shoulder I probably shouldn’t.

There’s something in my self-imposed challenge that is not exactly in keeping with the spirit of yoga practice.

Overzealous ambition and deadline pressures are the very things you’re supposed to leave behind during practice. I’ve constituted my practice of them. I invoke what I should be detaching.

And perhaps it’s just that yoga practice is not exactly in keeping with my character. I’m competitive, driven, goal-oriented, etc., and it doesn’t seem yoga rewards monomaniacal rigor. I tend to be more in mind, than body, and I’m to seamlessly connect the 2 in yoga practice. 

These are probably the very reasons I should be doing yoga, even though it’s getting tougher. 

But I just got to make 5 more days …

The Yoga Challenge: Day 7

June 13, 2009

I’m on day 7 of my self-imposed 14-day yoga challenge.

It didn’t start as a challenge. I’m in Madison for a few weeks, and the yoga studio Jewel in the Lotus has this great introductory offer: $20 gets you as many yoga sessions you want for 2 weeks. 

I had done some yoga with my eastern-philosophical, mixed-martial-artist Bulgarian friend. But these sun salutations where just used as a warm-up to fighting each other. And in any case, it was difficult to get my breathing down knowing I would soon be eating Eastern European foot.

Nonetheless, I could unbeautifully get my way through a Sun Salutation A. But I’ve never done the poses longer than a half hour. The sessions at Jewel run anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. 

Still, I do a daily run of about 5 to 8 miles. I have a pretty good and regular weight training routine. I thought this would be a good way to break up my days in Madison. 

An uncomfortable personal detail: I sweat a lot. Always have. Even when in tip-top shape in high school when I managed to go through both football and soccer conditioning back-to-back. My sweat pores just open up at the slightest provocation of exertion. It’s an inheritance from my overheated polish peasant farmhand ancestors.  

So although I expected some sweat, I wasn’t expecting the ensuing downpour. It’s already difficult to properly hold a pose when starting off, and it’s not any easier when your yoga mat becomes a (kinda gross) Slip ‘N Slide.

Picture 35Try holding a downward dog on this.

Day 1 was a bit of a humbling disaster.  And I’m not one to taking humbling disasters lightly. So I retroactively posed the challenge: do one session a day, every day for 2 weeks. 

I’m on day 7 and I can say I exist in a state of the euphoric soreness. Core-related parts of my body that I never really focused on are getting a new undivided (and perhaps unwanted) attention.

The Jewel in the Lotus teachers have been extremely patient and helpful. I can’t imagine they look forward to dealing with a sweaty dude everyday, but they’ve done a ton to improve my posing, movements, flexibility, and breathing.

At the beginning of this morning’s class, I had the sudden fear that I was not going to make it. My lower back was still warm from the evening class and I just felt like I had no juice. 

But today was the best. I managed back bends, hand stands, and for the first time, a bakasana.

Picture 36I’m sorta able to do something like this now.

I even got a compliment on my progress. Things are looking up, yoga-wise.