I’ve been in a hot yoga phase lately. There is a great studio in my new neighborhood with classes at the right time for the right price. The people who attend, for the most part, are just there to work out their own mental junk.
This isn’t the studio that looks like an Athleta catalog. There are women and men of just about every size and shape, and when the room hits 104, we are all sweating and huffing in just about the exact same way.
I try to get on the mat 4-5 times per week. I could write extensively about how good hot yoga is for my head — my attitude, self-esteem and general happiness. I like seeing triceps forming and the sheer amount of water I have to drink to keep up before and after a class.
Last week, I was running into class to beat the bell. I usually get there a few minutes early for time to adjust to the heat of the room. But as it happens, time got away from me and I was lucky to make it in the studio before the door was locked. I raced into the room to find one space open and left in the upper right corner of the room. Mercifully, I spread out my mat and got into child pose as the class began, feeling my hip flexors ache and moan with the stretch.
It wasn’t until pose three or so that I noted the woman next to me. More specifically, I wondered why she was out of synch with the class. This studio has several classes, but the most popular are a 60 or 80 minute version of Sutra yoga. That means that every class will have the same series of poses. It is yoga etiquette to listen to the teacher’s cues as you transition from pose to pose. (I find this helpful because my challenge with vinyasa yoga is keeping my breath in the appropriate rhythm. If you listen to the teacher, you’ll hear when you are supposed to be breathing in versus exhaling for your life.)
The woman next to me was already in the next pose when we were still in downward dog. Then, she rushed through the next pose to do stairclimbers… while we were in downward dog. It didn’t take long to realize why the spot next to her was open. This was particularly rude behavior considering everyone faces a giant mirror and we cue our movements from each other. Imagine trying to get into dancer when the person next to you is doing this. She was trying to show off to 40 people who had intentionally entered a dark, hot room in stretchy clothing — quite possibly the most vulnerable exercise environment behind a Brazilian beach. It made me angry in a flash. There was a back row of new yogis, the resolution crowd. The studio has lots of these folks this time of year and anyone with compassion realizes how recently you were the new person in the back row, praying for a water break. I wanted to reach over and grab the woman next to me mid-nonsense and scream, “KNOCK IT OFF, JERK.”
So, pretty much the exact opposite of what yoga is about.
It was a long 80 minutes of trying to focus on my balance and ability to listen to the teacher through the circus next to me. At some point, likely in a state of dehydration, I realized how this class was a metaphor for life. There is always going to be the attention seeking person who wants to disrupt your flow, those who go against the grain because they find others’ discomfort entertaining. I dislike these people, but not enough to ruin my day — or coveted weekend yoga class. Instead, I kept repeating to myself: IGNORE.
I got out of the class without saying anything, but I did realize a few days later why that spot was once again open. Instead, I started a middle (third) row and made sure she was out of my sight.
Fool me once…
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I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately. A ridiculous amount, really. Someone once said, “When in doubt, take more yoga.” So be it. I’ve even had one or two of those Elizabeth Gilbert moments toward the end of practice when I’m in savasana and tears are pouring down my face.
Why, hello emotion I’d completely forgotten. So glad you’ve arrived at this very public moment.
I got myself into a pickle last year with my church when I wrote a note to the congregation’s national magazine defending yoga as part of my practice as a Christian. Let’s be honest — if there are two things in this world that I’ll never simply “be,” it’s a Christian and and a yogi. I’ll always be practicing — each day with a new twist and turn. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it blows your mind and pumps your system full of so many endorphins, you run outside sweaty, exhausted and completely oblivious to snowy weather.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying yoga is a great as God. I’m saying God is so awesome, He gave us ways to connect with the holy spirit — if we so choose. For me, one of those is yoga. Deep in the pigeon pose when I feel like my hiney is en feugo and it is all I can do to take one more breath to stay in the stretch, with sweat pouring down my brow, and then BAM. Grace. Everything releases. My muscles stop spasming. My eyes stop twitching. My breath flows. My heart sings. Doves release and Prince comes out of a cloud to sing one of my favorite songs.
Okay. Maybe not the last part. But I can say regularly practicing yoga (and my faith) means there are days I grind my teeth to get through it and there are others when I feel like I’m soaring. It’s effortless. I walk away feeling like my life is full of meaning, and this yoga/faith practice has something to do with it.
What does a yoga girl give as a holiday present? Pretzels, natch. What? It can’t all be symbolic.
Fold yourself into this recipe and enjoy. It’s simple, elegant and a great holiday treat. For the yogis, the Christians, and everyone in your life who is still practicing.
1 bag of chocolate chips — the better quality chocolate, well — the better.
1 tablespoon of shortening
1 bag of giant salty pretzels
Toppings of your choice. I went with coconut. And made a “Mexican spice” batch where I added a dash of cardamom, cinnamon and cayenne.
Directions: Melt the chocolate in the microwave with the shortening. Stir every 20 seconds or so. Remove while the chocolate is still a bit chunky. Stir until smooth. Add spices if desired. Dip pretzel by pretzel in the chocolate, stopping to dunk in your topping if you so desire. (Peanuts, kosher salt, sprinkles, bacon) Place on a cookie sheet covered in tin foil. Freeze for 30 minutes. Enjoy!
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- Happy Hippie, Heirloom Homestead, Recipes, yoga
I’m terribly shiny, but also very happy (cue REM song) in this photo: taken before my 60th bikram class. Yesterday I completed that challenge and it was worth every sweaty drop of frustration. A note of gratitude:
Thank you to my friends and family who’ve listened to me work yoga into just about every conversation I’ve had for the last two months. For your patience and kindness, I am very grateful. Thank you especially to Lisa, Kim, Juliann and the African for coming out for the final class.
Also, to Bikram Tempe — owned by two of the sweetest people — Elaina and Ben. The married pair have a staff that made showing up for class each day something to look forward to. Depending on the teacher, the class was to be relaxing, screamingly difficult or a happy medium. Thank you to the entire staff. You have my admiration.
I’d love to say I feel enlightened. Or just lightened. I’m a few pounds down and definitely more in touch with my spirit — but I’m far from either zenith. Instead what I feel for the first time in my life is a sense of balance. I’m happy. I’m not ecstatic and I’m not depressed. I’m in this great gray zone that is unprecedented. I’m also far more confident in my body’s prowess. It’s more than likely just a change in perspective, but now I look at my form with a sincere respect for what it is capable of accomplishing. I’m far more flexible and wonder if I’m even a bit taller from all that stretching. I certainly carry myself with more confidence.
I’m stronger in body and mind; that alone is worth continuing Bikram.
I’ve found myself recommending Bikram to friends and anyone who will listen. Can’t sleep? Take yoga. Feeling blue? Yoga. Angry, lack of purpose, unhealthy, antsy? Bikram. Simple as that. It isn’t about 90 minutes, or the heat or wearing Spandex in public (although all are painfully part of the package). It’s about surrendering. You check your ego, body image, social status and importance at the door and enter into a healing atmosphere where everyone and every body is of equal importance. It is more than fulfilling — it is life changing.
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- Celebrate!, Good to Great, yoga
I’ve been spending a lot of steamy time lately with a certain hot Indian. Not to be too politically correct, but the way my heart races! The fluttering in my stomach! The sweat pouring off my shaking frame!
That Bikram yoga challenge* is, in all seriousness, doing some good. Today was class 38 of 60. I’m down a couple pounds, have newly discovered muscles in my stomach and an empowered state of mind that I can imagine is highly annoying to those who spend time with me outside of the sweat lodge yoga studio.
1. If there is an instructor you truly dislike, it is probably because he/she pushes you to be better. Give in. Suck it up. Keep taking his/her class.
2. Figure out where the scapula is on your body and keep this in mind. I’ve taken plenty of science classes and had no idea . It’s pointed out as an area you should be thinking of about 10,000 times per class. Scapula = shoulder blade. Got it.
3. If you are taking an afternoon class, eat at least 4 hours prior. (Better yet, just take the morning class.) Otherwise, the first Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana** — Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose — will result in revisiting your lunch. I haven’t yet figured out the best timing, which means I’m eating less; nothing is worse than vomiting in public.
4. My car smells like yoga. My closet smells like yoga. The workout clothes I wore last week and have since washed twice smell like yoga. It is a particularly distinct combination of sweat, feet and incense. Sounds disgusting, but in a very weird way you begin to love it.
5. Coco water is just about the most refreshingly powerful thing I’ve ever drank. After class, I sip one of these 60 calorie containers and it’s like someone plugged my battery back in. The potassium is high so you don’t cramp and it is all natural.
6. Aside from the physical and flexibility stuff I can do all of a sudden, the mental side of this challenge has been a bit of a roller coaster. There are weeks where I am so fired up. I race in the door, throw my sticker on the 60-day challenge chart and burst into class ready to namaste it like the best of the spandex-clad monkeys. And there has been one week in particular where it took sheer grace to get my completely exhausted frame to class each day, pushing through one sore pose to the next. Thankfully, I didn’t give up.
There are stickers.
And a chart.
And if there is one thing this type A spandex-clad monkey loves, it’s public accountability and a challenge that seems pretty insane. Even if I have nightmares where people randomly shout “LOCK YOUR KNEE!”
yogi in training,
* I almost titled this post, “Namaste that, Bitches!”
** Trying saying that three times fast. Jeez, Bikram. I bet you rock at Scrabble.
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- Good to Great, Journal, yoga
Morning pose between classes this morning; I feel much more graceful in this pose than this appears. I’ve got 16 classes and 4 pounds down. I am feeling strong and really tired.
Regardless, this pose does make me feel warrior fierce.
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This week I’m being stretched in a variety of new ways; the yoga has gone well. I feel like I’ve got a rhythm to it now, but the first few back-to-back days weren’t easy. Then, I took a class and noticed we were almost done. We were getting out of camel pose and had 10 minutes left; I wondered how that had happened. I was present; I simply wasn’t in pain.
Bikram apparently tells a tale that when you are in pain during his class, it is a reminder that nothing can take away your happiness. One silly 1 minute pose standing on your toes with all your weight pushing forward? It is still just one silly minute. Breathe and before you know it, you won’t remember the pain.
If you are interested in reading more about Bikram yoga, Oprah Magazine has been featuring it for the last two months. My studio sent out these links and I thought her story was sad and empowering. Month 1. Month 2.
My Bikram tip for the week is to remember to always wash your face before class. There is nothing more frustrating than being in a pose and fully concentrating when you have to stop because mascara has run into your eyes and is screaming for attention. My studio provides face wash in the bathroom and I’m sure to use it now before each session.
There wasn’t a whopping weight change on the scale this morning, and to be honest — that’s okay. I know I am stronger this week with 8 classes under my belt so far than I was last. Plus, the sleeping issues have me over-compensating with food, as I’m prone to do when I can’t figure out why I feel gross. Granted, mint chocolate chip doesn’t give me extra rest, but it certainly does give me a smile.
The stretching professionally and personally continues too; it’s in these times, when I feel a bit uncomfortable, that I know I’m learning something.
Sometimes I’m learning I need another scoop.
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- Journal, yoga
This morning I started a 60-day challenge at my Bikram studio. I’ve got 1 class down and 59 days to complete the remainder. I also weighed myself for the first time in months: 168.3.
How’s that for transparency? To be honest, I’ve been staring at these blurry photos, shot in my bathroom this morning bleery eyed before class, and debating whether or not this post crosses some silly line of over-sharing. It probably does. If my white belly bothers you, look away. I’m sure we’ll be back to crafts and baked goods soon.
Like most women, I’ve long had a love-hate affair with my figure. Lately, we are on good terms. I don’t mind that my weight is in the 160s or that my belly jiggles a bit when I fold in half like a “japanese ham sandwich.” My legs are strong from running. My shoulders still carry muscle from a dozen years of competitive swimming. My feet are the same gigantic size 11 they were when they stopped growing in 5th grade.
I’d love to tell you I’m doing this challenge because I expect to lose 20 pounds and have some sort of miraculous six pack to emerge from the pasty white mid-section above. I’d also like to have a 5-acre garden to feed unicorns on rainbow-filled days. The unicorns are scheduled to arrive far sooner, carrying George Clooney and a winning lottery ticket.
I will be posting how things are going once a week or so — including weight and flexibility changes. More than anything I want to conquer that ever-so-frustrating tree toe stand pose and show myself this is a challenge I am strong and dedicated enough to rock.
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