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Yoga: The Return

June 20th, 2011 No comments

Friday, after a “light” break of 95 days, I returned to Sunstone Yoga to kick my practice back into gear.

I honestly never intended to let my practice drop by the wayside, but sometime things just happen. It really started for me back in February when I got just about the worst ear infection I think I’ve ever had. The mere thought of going into a hot and humid room with the pain and pressure going on in that ear just makes me shudder. Coupled with a new relationship and a new job and yoga was just an afterthought.

Sooo, here I am three months later and my body was just screaming at me to get back into the routine. When I first took a break of a couple of weeks, going back was really hard. I got really really frustrated with the fact that my body had changed so drastically in such a short time. My flexibility was gone and my stamina was totally shot.

Now, however, I knew that I was going to be starting from square one. I knew that Triangle Pose was going to kick my ass and that I would probably have to entertain the possibility that I might just puke during Camel Pose. Sure enough, Triangle Pose was freakishly hard and if I hadn’t gotten into Child’s Pose, there might have been a bit of a mess on the floor during Camel Pose.

All-in-all, it was a pretty good return. My poor body probably could have done without spending the next day pulling up carpet, but the soreness was a welcome old friend.

Today (Monday), I went and did it again and it was even better. I went into the class with one of those anticipatory feelings that I just wanted the whole thing over with ASAP. It’s not that I didn’t want to be there, it’s just that I let the hectic aspects of my life get in the way of what I “needed” to do. I liken the feeling to wanting the opening band at a show to hurry up and finish so the headliner can go on. Even if that opening band is damn amazing and you really enjoy their set, there is just a little part of you that wants them to hurry up and finish so you can watch the headliner. That’s the way I felt about class going into it.

Five minutes in, I knew I was in the right place doing the right thing. Yeah, it’s corny and very “one-with-the-earthy,” but it all just felt right. I know that my practice is nowhere near what it was when I bailed on it, but I, once again, can see that it can get back there.

It’s all very exciting; like rediscovering how to ride a bike again (note to self, look into getting a bike).

Hell, if I can do it, anyone can.

Categories: monkey, Yoga

Yoga Class 50: The Half Century

January 29th, 2011 No comments

Yup, this crazy monkey is still going strong with his practice. Today I hit the fifty class mark (woo hoo!) and it’s really caused me to look back on this past twenty-five classes with some introspection. First, Camel Pose (Ustrasana) and Rabbit Pose (Sasangasana) are now my bitch. Yeah, that’s bold to say, but both of those were some of the hardest for my inflexible spine to get into. For the first thirty or so classes, Camel made me want to throw up almost as soon as I went into the first part (hands at base of back leaning back). When I finally decided to move my hands to my heels in class forty-five or so, everything became clear and calm. Who would have thought that the full pose was that much more comfortable than the beginning motions?!?! I was totally amazed.

With Rabbit, my issue was getting my damn hairline on my damn knees. As my flexibility increased and my gut decreased, it just kinda happened. Rabbit used to make me feel really claustrophobic and those “tiny sips of air” verged on hyperventilation. Now, however, I comfortably move into the pose and watch in amazement as my belly goes in and out with normal full breaths. It just goes to show that the personal journey of one’s practice really is it’s own reward. Yeah, that’s yogic and obscure as all get-out, but it’s one of those personal victories that make me give myself mental high-fives.

So, now that fifty is in the can, what’s next? My hips are still extremely tight (damn you soccer, you sweet sweet game) and, while I can touch my toes pretty regularly in Tibetan Sit-ups, I still have a lot of problems touching my toes without bending my knees in most of the standing series. That’s something I have to work on and haven’t felt like I’ve made a lot of progress with over the past couple of weeks.

Additionally, I have apparently lost some of my focus in Triangle Pose (Trikonasana). My knees have been giving me fits for a while (one of the disadvantages of getting older and already having crappy knees), so I think I really have to focus on keeping my quads engaged to really protect my knee-caps from popping off towards the side mirrors in the room.

As I am reminded in every class, a person’s practice changes every day. I, just like everyone, I imagine, have fantastic days and some crappy days. On fantastic days, I need to push that motivation into the continuation of my practice; on crappy days, I need to borrow from those fantastic days and move on. Over this past fifty classes, I’ve really focused on doing Sunstone’s Fire class with a few Earth and Wood classes thrown in there to mix up my routine. For this next fifty, I was challenged to throw some Metal classes into my mix. Metal scares the crap out of me, but I agree with the people who challenged me that I’m ready for it. I think I’m ready to attempt King Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana) and not crack myself in half.

Here’s to the next fifty!

Categories: Awesomeness, monkey, Yoga

Yoga Class 25: Finding Foundation

January 2nd, 2011 No comments

Ugh, another damn yoga post? Doesn’t this idiot have anything else better to write about?

Today’s answer: no.

This morning I woke up extra-groggy and with a scratchy throat. Knowing that the creeping crud has been taking down friends left and right, I was very determined to find refuge in a nice hot yoga class to help burn out the funk.

In the past month my morning ritual has gone like this: alarm goes off, alarm gets ignored for about five minutes while I listen to NPR news, check email, pet and harass cats, eat breakfast, go to yoga. Sure, this whole mess takes about two and a half hours, but it’s a ritual. The only real difference this morning was that I got my grumble on because I could feel my sinuses revolting on me.

While I have skipped Sunday practice on a couple of different occasions, it was particularly important to me to make it this morning as it was my twenty-fifth class.

Class twenty five: quite the starting milestone. Getting through ten classes relatively quickly is the right way to start your practice. Pushing through to twenty-five is the best way to solidify your practice. I did it in less than a month (twenty-six days to be exact) and boy-howdy how I have changed in that time.

The most immediate change is the fact that I’ve dropped a chunk of weight. Sure, I’ve changed some other aspects of my life that have helped with that as well, but the yoga is definitely a major part of it. With every class I feel more and more like a rotisserie chicken just melting off fat into the fire (yes, I’m also rather tasty). The next major change is that I’m bendy as all hell now compared to where I was a month ago. Sure, all my years of playing soccer and/or doing nothing have really done a job at tensing up my hamstrings, and, as a result, I’m still horrible at attempting to do anything that requires touching my toes or feet whilst keeping a straight leg, but definite progress is being made. My nemesis pose Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) is still something that humbles me with every Fire class I do, but I’m very slowly beginning to lower my sit bones. Maybe at class one hundred I’ll be in line with everything.

My balance has improved and my stamina has done remarkable. I’ve been mostly doing Fire classes lately, so I’m sure a good Wood or Earth class will humble me a bit more, but I’m digging my roll. I’ve met some incredible instructors who have motivated me to keep with it and provided me with adjustments and encouragement to help get the most effective stretches out of my awkward body.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) is no longer the bane of my morning. While I still need a lot of work with it on my left side, I feel great on my right.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m even retaining a lot of the “real” pose names: something I thought would never stick after my first couple of days.

On to class fifty!

Categories: monkey, Ravings, Yoga

Yoga Day 5: Defying Earth

December 11th, 2010 No comments

Taking the various classes offered by Sunstone Yogahas been eye-opening. I can definitely see the differences between the classes and the intended foci that each class were geared towards.

Having taken Fire and Wood classes, I ventured into an Earth class this morning. The major difference between Earth and the other two is that music plays over the Earth class and the poses aren’t really held in the same way; rather a focus on flow and energy is prevalent.

Sun Salutations, familiar from my previous yoga practice experience, took up a good chunk of the first part of the class. Here was the Downward Facing Dog that I remembered from all those years ago. Lots of Warrior poses and a crap-ton of Chataranga.

This was one of the most rewarding classes I’ve taken so far, and it made me realize something about myself and my yoga practice: yoga is a weapon.

Now, when I say “weapon,” I don’t mean it so much in a harmful way: I mean that it’s my Sword of Omens, Infinity Gauntlet and Cosmic Cube all rolled into one. In the five mere days that I’ve been doing this, my mood has gotten better, my anxiety has subsided, my posture improved and I’ve lost a chunk of weight. I know I should have probably started doing yoga again a while back, but, right now, I feel I’m doing it for the right reasons and not just as something to do.

I’ve got my head in the game and that’s right where I need to be.

Unfortunately for others, I’m sure I’m much more annoying now that I have been for the past several months. I’ve got a new-found confidence that I wasn’t aware was missing.

At this point, it would not surprise me to look in the mirror and discover myself animated.

Over time, I’m sure this feeling will mellow as it becomes a standard part of my life, but, for right now, I’m happy to be the Trix Rabbit.

I gotta get me another Earth fix soon.

Categories: monkey, Yoga

Yoga Day 4

December 11th, 2010 No comments

No, I didn’t give up after my bad day; I just got lazy. By lazy I mean I didn’t come home and do a write-up of the awesomeness that was my Day 4. Instead I tooled around town and got a whole lot of nothing done and then the day was over.

Here I am about an hour before my Day 5 class and I figure I better get my Day 4 off of my brain.

Day 4 rocked. I attended the second half of the two-part intro class which is really just a Fire class with more interaction. My big bonus for this class: I was the only one. So, I basically got a private lesson as part of my $10 for 10 days deal. It doesn’t get much better than that!

One thing that I really noticed in my horrific Day 3 was that the heat isn’t affecting me as much as it did on Day 1 or Day 2. I’m not sure I’ve ever sweat as much as have been in these classes, and I have definitely been sweating more over the past two days than the first two days, but I know that is just all the toxins in my body making a hasty retreat. At this point, I may actually be approaching a toxin to normal ratio that is lower than a WIPP site. There goes my Superfund grant application.

Going through the Fire poses with one-on-one attention made me very aware of all the muscle groups that I needed to be paying attention to. I discovered a few poses that I was doing “wrong” are actually a lot easier than I was making them.

The biggest thing I took away from this class was that I have a hard time pulling my abs in while doing most of the poses, and I think I know the mental block that is responsible for this: I’m lazy.

This morning I hurt. I’ve done more constant exercise of a wider variety of muscles in the past four days than I have in years. I enjoy running and I wait in anticipation for the day I can return to the soccer pitch, but this is some of the best all-over exercise I’ve ever gotten.

Four days in and my energy has spiked and my mood improved drastically. Sure, forty minutes into each class I’m screaming at myself in my head, but it’s not even an option to me to give up.

Who the hell is this motivated person?

Categories: monkey, Yoga

Yoga Day 3: in the losing team’s locker room

December 9th, 2010 No comments

For this first portion of this posting, imagine me sitting in front of a bank of microphones behind a press table with some terrible satin curtain or backdrop behind me.

Reporter 1: “What happened today?”

Me: “My head wasn’t in it and that’s got to be one of the most important things to bring to the game. I started out strong, but quickly realized that this was a long-haul endeavor and my mind just wasn’t on the prize.”

Reporter 2: “What would you have changed?”

Me: “That’s what is so frustrating:  I’m just not sure. Maybe it was the time of day, or maybe it was the barometric pressure. Hell, it could have been the traffic patterns on the way to the studio that threw me off. I’m just not sure.”

Reporter 3: “Is this going to affect you long term?”

Me: “I hope not. I’m chalking today up to a good learning experience. Nobody is 100% 365 days a year. Today is done and tomorrow is right around the corner. All that I can ask for in myself is that I remember what transpired today and use that to strengthen my resolve. Today wasn’t my worst effort, but it was definitely disappointing.”

Reporter 2: “What comes next?”

Me: “Didn’t you already ask me a question? Geez, give the junior reporters some space there. Either way, tomorrow comes next. It is unfair to make brash decisions based on one bad performance.”

Reporter 4: “Is this going to ruin the rest of your day?”

Me: “Definitely not. In fact, it’s already forgotten. Like I said before, it’s was a good learning experience and I’ll take that experience with me as I move forward. I’m goint to take some time today to figure out where my head was at and try and find a way to make sure such distractions don’t affect me in the future. Just making the effort is all I can ask of myself. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, but that’s all the questions I want to take today.”

Needless to say, today’s class wasn’t my best effort. I’m sure my body is a tad mad at me for doing three days of yoga in a row after a pretty sedentary lifestyle for the past two months. I shook out of most of the standing poses and my balance was totally shot to hell. While other students were going into the bow pose, I was working on just standing on one foot.

In the prone poses, I could just feel a lack of concentration in my core. It was like trying to pick up a dozen tennis balls:  I’d focus on another aspect of the muscle groups I was working and something would relax or fall out.

The instructor was really helpful in tweaking my poses so they would work for me and, of course, was amazingly non-judgemental as I flopped around my mat.  Hell, she was even encouraging as I was leaving, but I had disappointed myself a little. I guess disappointment is too strong a word for it, but the closest word I can think of. I recognize that I am making progress, and I realize that every day is going to be different — good or bad, but I know I didn’t give 100% today and that’s what I’m ticked about.

Oh well, pity party over. Tomorrow’s class is just twenty-four hours away.

Categories: monkey, Yoga

Yoga Day 2: I can haz wood

December 8th, 2010 No comments

After surviving pretty much 24 hours after yoga, I thought I’d celebrate with another class. I thought I’d do a nice “Fire” class to follow up with my “Fire” intro, but, in my yogic euphoria I misread the schedule and ended up at a “Wood” class. “No problem,” I told myself, “Core strengthening and stamina are things you should probably work on.”

Yeah, that was a rookie move.

“Wood” started out great enough. Lots of active muscle stretching and poses that didn’t make me look like the new guy in class, but then it really descended into a dark place.

Beware the lift-legged crunches. They are pure evil.

Because it was a 90 minute class, these crunches went on for eons. Honestly, how the hell am I supposed to keep my legs up in the air while I try and do 128 things that I haven’t been doing in years?!?!?! Yes, that was 128! We did ‘em legs together, we did ‘em legs apart. Rather, the class did them and I tried to keep up. I probably did about 55% of the 128, but I’m not sure. I was too busy listening to my brain tell me that I was a moron for torturing myself in this hot room.

I learned a lot about my limits in this class. I also learned that I have a tad more flexibility than I thought, but not much. Poses that were familiar to me from way back in the day came easily, and new spins on “stand on one leg and do this” failed horribly as I apparently have terrible balance.

That will all change with time.  Hell, even the instructor fell out of a few of the balance poses: that’s just human.

All-in-all, great but gruelling class, and I’m damn glad I did it. Now I can say I tried out something different before retreating back to the “Fire” regiment to get my comfort level back up with how my body is adjusting to these new strange things I’m doing to it.

Tomorrow will either bring “Fire” or a rest depending on how my lower back and abs feel. My shoulders already hate me as a result of yesterday’s efforts, but it’s that good kind of burn that makes me feel satisfied with what I was able to accomplish.

Categories: monkey, Yoga

Yoga Day 1

December 7th, 2010 No comments

The last time I took a yoga class, Bill Clinton was just starting his Presidency and I had no concept of what working out in a “hot room” was about.

Today, I returned to yoga and lived to tell about it.

Because I have managed to fill my active time with other activities for the past couple of years, I basically shunned yoga. In the past few months, many things in my life have changed and I reached a point where many signs were pointing to me initiating a yoga practice for a variety of my physical and mental needs.

So I did it. I jumped right on the internets and signed myself up for the wonderfully frugal “$10 for 10 days” special at Sunstone Yoga. After all, the hardest part is just committing to yourself that you are actually going to do it.

Fortunate enough, there are quite a smattering of Sunstone studios around Dallas and one right down the way from one of my favorite watering holes. My brain being determined, I looked up the schedule and set about planning to attend the first of the two-phased introductory classes offered.

I fretted a bit; I even got a bit anxious in the time leading up to actually walking out my door and heading to class. I was going to be putting my body into poses I knew I couldn’t hold in a room set to around 98.6°F for ninety minutes. That’s pretty intense. Pretty much the only thing I had going for me before the class started was that I’m really good at keeping myself hydrated (one of the most important things in life) and I knew that I wouldn’t be judged when I passed out.

It turns out, that’s all you can really ask for. My class consisted of me, one other student and the instructor: serious one-on-one attention. We started out by just doing savasana (I excel at this pose) which basically consists of lying flat on your back and focusing on your breathing. It’s not as easy as it seems in a room as warm as you are. After acclimating to the temperature for a while, the instructor took us through the basic poses of a “Fire” class at Sunstone. Sunstone has their classes broken into elemental designations. It makes it quite easy to see on the schedule and the outline of each element gives a good rundown of what will be covered for each class.

The class was intense, but went along pretty quickly. Before too long, I was attempting to work on my balance (my feet are constructed horribly and were probably first intended to be flippers) and then the lengthening of my spine (did I mention I have a freakishly long torso?). Adjustments to poses were made and, after no time at all, class was over.

The basic progression of the class went: standing poses, savasana, lay on your back poses, lay on your belly poses, savasana. Lots of twists and tweaks and shaky muscles happened somewhere in the middle along with at least a gallon of sweat.

Coming out of the class, I felt very rejuvenated. I felt a couple of inches taller and, remarkably enough, my horrible hearing was definitely better.

I know I’m going to be as sore as hell tomorrow morning, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying out another class. More benefit comes from new students keeping at it than not and I’m really liking the progress I made with my old broken body.

There might just be some new tricks in this old dog. Oh, and, Namaste.

Categories: monkey, Ravings, Yoga