What I’ve Learned So Far

Days FORTY ONE to FIFTY

Well friends, so much can happen in 9 days that it amazes me to think how much can and will happen in the remaining 51 days of this challenge.  Let’s see where to begin…

Comments on my practice:
My right knee no longer feels pain.  Once in a while, my left knee feels like I applied icy hot to it after some classes.  I feel strength in my quadriceps in a way I’ve never felt before.  All parts of awkward are strong and I’m even managing to kick my heels up even higher in the 2nd part.  The right knee feels strong.  I am so happy.

I always seem to lose the 10-fingered bikram grip especially in standing forehead to knee.  Otto called me out and instructed me to keep the heels of my hands together.  It worked for the second set in standing forehead to knee, I nailed it with a firm grip.  Three days later, he saw me losing my grip again and called me out again by saying, “Same thing as the other day my lady…you’re losing your grip.  You gotta break that bad habit.”  I haven’t taken a class with Otto in months and this week, I’ve taken three.  He has greatly improved as a teacher and for that I am grateful.

Out of nowhere, an emotional release occurred after the first set of camel in Corrine’s class.  I sobbed and my chest heaved.  My neighbors could see I was bawling but I didn’t care.  For second set, I stayed in savasana while others did the sit up but during the set up, I heard Corinne prod me in her firm but gentle way, “ActionJoJo, second set.  You’ll feel better, yeah?”  When a teacher…especially of Corrine’s caliber, asks you to do something, you do it.  I did it because I trusted her even when I couldn’t find the strength in me to trust and believe in myself.  In the second set, all I could do was kneel and put my hands to the back of my hips and push forward.  I was still bawling.  It was a powerful moment for me as I reaffirmed the important fact that I need to allow others to help me.  I can’t do everything on my own, as I tend to like to do thanks to  my superwoman-complex (more on that later).

I feel more acutely and can physically see in the mirror, the imbalance between the right and left side of my body.  My right is tighter and therefore, shorter in the mirror.  I see it prominently when I sit Japanese style to set up for locust and rabbit, and in final breathing.  The amount of skin between the bottom of my shakti top and the top of my shakti bottom is less on the right than on the left.  Crazy!  I hope these next 50 days will help in balancing me out. 

My spine is changing and I can feel it.  My spine cracks when I straighten up in half moon, both sides.  My lower back cracks and then slowly releases as I set up for the first set of standing forehead to knee.  I am entering a new phase in the spine strengthening series.  In rabbit, when I start to pull on my heels, I can feel my spine cracking and realigning itself.  I now am beginning to fully grasp why Bikram says, “You don’t have to chase the chiropractor, chiropractor will come to you!”  When I look in the mirror these days, I don’t recognize my back.  My thoracic spine has become more prominent and I see a slight curvature in my upper back whereas it was quite flat in the past. 

Update on Life:
We signed a contract on the house and this last week has been spent negotiating with banks to find the best deal on a mortgage and the lowest closing fees.  We admittedly lost sight of the fact that we needed to plunk down another $20,000 on closing costs in addition to the money we set aside for the downpayment.  It definitely freaked The Husband out, which led him to asking what else have we’ve forgotten to budget for.  Thankfully, The Husband is focusing on this part of the process:  finding the mortgage, dealing with the lawyers, and reading the fine print.  I dealt with the front end of this process by contacting the realtors so I feel we have divided the task of home buying that plays up to our strengths.  In fact, he negotiated so well that today, we got a bank to agree to lock in an interest rate of 4.75%!  Woot!!!!  Now we go through the application process and sometime in the next 4-6 weeks, we close.  That means we move, which means we pack!  Acccccccccck!

I am up to my ears with work.  I come in to the office and there are piles on my desk.  I leave and there are old piles and new piles on my desk.  I am grateful to have a temp helping me who is smart, quick, and self-sufficient.  I am planning for our upcoming board meeting and planning for my own three week business trip to South Africa in mid-April through early May.  Regardless of when we move, April is going to be mad mad crazy. 

The Olympic athletes have inspired me to re-visit the bigger question of what it is that I want to do in my life, a life full of passion and fulfillment.  There’s something stirring in my heart…yearning to accomplish what I dream about in my career:  one that involves travel and being in front of the TV.  But how am I to fulfill this dream now that I have a mortgage?!  Am I stuck now that I have such adult responsibilities?  When is this career shift going to happen?  We need to renovate the house:  where are we going to find the time?  the money?  How about expanding our family — when will we start?  HOW AM I GOING TO GET ALL THIS DONE?  HOW?!  HOW?!  HOW?!

Without this challenge, I think my mind would have been spinning its wheels worrying about how to accomplish all the goals in my life during this huge period of transition.  But these last 50 days have shown me that like my body, my life will open up and unfold at precisely the right time.  Everything will fall into place and when they do, I will be ready to embrace them.  All I can do and all that I can be responsible for is today.  Yes, I can dream of the future but I can only focus on the task at hand.  Like our challenge, if we focus on accomplishing 101 days of straight yoga, it could paralyze us.  But we take it one day at a time and the challenge becomes manageable and less daunting.  Similarly, my body was not ready to have my forehead touch my knee on day #1 but with patience, surrender, and hard work, I am starting to do it on day #50.

So what I’m saying is that despite the craziness, the unknowns, the doubt, and yes, the fear, I have hung on to my faith.  I am teaching myself patience and surrender despite my Aries tendencies of craving instant gratification. I can happily say that I feel peace and contentment and believe in my core that all will work out:  a beautiful marriage, an expanded family, a renovated home, a fulfilling career, and a passion-filled life.  All the pieces will fall into place and I really don’t need to know how.  I just need to work one day at a time, trying to fulfill my dream in the best way I know how. 

I’m surprisingly okay with that.

For the purposes of my own record keeping, day:

  • #41 Thurs, Feb 18 – 7 am w/ Danielle – class was uneventful
  • #42 Fri, Feb 19 – 5:30 pm w/ Corinne – bawled during camel – great release
  • #43 Sat, Feb 20 – 10 am w/ Caroline – “In this yoga, you should struggle, not suffer.” – Felt light afterward
  • #44 Sun, Feb 21 – 4:30 pm w/ Mark – first time taking his class…I enjoy the cadence of his dialogue and his NY Italian-American accent.  He sounds like he is singing!
  • #45 Mon, Feb 22 – 6:30 pm w/ Mark – super juicy – if I wasn’t in the front row, I would’ve taken a knee – but pushed myself…I think I was acting too proud in front of my fellow yogis.  Half a$$ed some sets in the spine strengthening series. 
  • #46 Tues, Feb 23 – 6:00 pm w/ Otto – strong forehead to knee thanks to a correction in order to  maintai the classic bikram grip; “Vera Wang, Vera Wang!” Otto yelled during tree pose.  He later explained, “Act as if you are wearing a Vera Wang gown, all $10,000 of it.  Proud.  Chest up, stomach in!”  LOL — I’ll never look at tree pose the same way again.
  • #47 Wed, Feb 24 – 5:30 pm w/ Otto – mind was like jelly today & had to sit out one set of separate leg stretching and balancing stick.  It also probably didn’t help that I had a pastrami sandwich & french fries (which I never eat) for lunch; they sat like a stone in my stomach
  • #48 Thurs, Feb 25 – 6 pm w/ Becca – strong class and felt light afterwards
  • #49 Fri, Feb 26 – 5:30 pm w/ Otto – another strong class although there was a moment in pranayama when the women next to me where holding back giggles from something Otto said and I was getting affected.  Found myself inhaling and giggling and exhaling and giggling at the same time. LOLOL
  • #50 Sat, Feb 27 – 4:30pm w/ Alina – drenched by pranayama but stayed strong

What I’ve Learned So Far

Days FORTY ONE to FIFTY

Well friends, so much can happen in 9 days that it amazes me to think how much can and will happen in the remaining 51 days of this challenge.  Let’s see where to begin…

Comments on my practice:
My right knee no longer feels pain.  Once in a while, my left knee feels like I applied icy hot to it after some classes.  I feel strength in my quadriceps in a way I’ve never felt before.  All parts of awkward are strong and I’m even managing to kick my heels up even higher in the 2nd part.  The right knee feels strong.  I am so happy.

I always seem to lose the 10-fingered bikram grip especially in standing forehead to knee.  Otto called me out and instructed me to keep the heels of my hands together.  It worked for the second set in standing forehead to knee, I nailed it with a firm grip.  Three days later, he saw me losing my grip again and called me out again by saying, “Same thing as the other day my lady…you’re losing your grip.  You gotta break that bad habit.”  I haven’t taken a class with Otto in months and this week, I’ve taken three.  He has greatly improved as a teacher and for that I am grateful.

Out of nowhere, an emotional release occurred after the first set of camel in Corrine’s class.  I sobbed and my chest heaved.  My neighbors could see I was bawling but I didn’t care.  For second set, I stayed in savasana while others did the sit up but during the set up, I heard Corinne prod me in her firm but gentle way, “ActionJoJo, second set.  You’ll feel better, yeah?”  When a teacher…especially of Corrine’s caliber, asks you to do something, you do it.  I did it because I trusted her even when I couldn’t find the strength in me to trust and believe in myself.  In the second set, all I could do was kneel and put my hands to the back of my hips and push forward.  I was still bawling.  It was a powerful moment for me as I reaffirmed the important fact that I need to allow others to help me.  I can’t do everything on my own, as I tend to like to do thanks to  my superwoman-complex (more on that later).

I feel more acutely and can physically see in the mirror, the imbalance between the right and left side of my body.  My right is tighter and therefore, shorter in the mirror.  I see it prominently when I sit Japanese style to set up for locust and rabbit, and in final breathing.  The amount of skin between the bottom of my shakti top and the top of my shakti bottom is less on the right than on the left.  Crazy!  I hope these next 50 days will help in balancing me out. 

My spine is changing and I can feel it.  My spine cracks when I straighten up in half moon, both sides.  My lower back cracks and then slowly releases as I set up for the first set of standing forehead to knee.  I am entering a new phase in the spine strengthening series.  In rabbit, when I start to pull on my heels, I can feel my spine cracking and realigning itself.  I now am beginning to fully grasp why Bikram says, “You don’t have to chase the chiropractor, chiropractor will come to you!”  When I look in the mirror these days, I don’t recognize my back.  My thoracic spine has become more prominent and I see a slight curvature in my upper back whereas it was quite flat in the past. 

Update on Life:
We signed a contract on the house and this last week has been spent negotiating with banks to find the best deal on a mortgage and the lowest closing fees.  We admittedly lost sight of the fact that we needed to plunk down another $20,000 on closing costs in addition to the money we set aside for the downpayment.  It definitely freaked The Husband out, which led him to asking what else have we’ve forgotten to budget for.  Thankfully, The Husband is focusing on this part of the process:  finding the mortgage, dealing with the lawyers, and reading the fine print.  I dealt with the front end of this process by contacting the realtors so I feel we have divided the task of home buying that plays up to our strengths.  In fact, he negotiated so well that today, we got a bank to agree to lock in an interest rate of 4.75%!  Woot!!!!  Now we go through the application process and sometime in the next 4-6 weeks, we close.  That means we move, which means we pack!  Acccccccccck!

I am up to my ears with work.  I come in to the office and there are piles on my desk.  I leave and there are old piles and new piles on my desk.  I am grateful to have a temp helping me who is smart, quick, and self-sufficient.  I am planning for our upcoming board meeting and planning for my own three week business trip to South Africa in mid-April through early May.  Regardless of when we move, April is going to be mad mad crazy. 

The Olympic athletes have inspired me to re-visit the bigger question of what it is that I want to do in my life, a life full of passion and fulfillment.  There’s something stirring in my heart…yearning to accomplish what I dream about in my career:  one that involves travel and being in front of the TV.  But how am I to fulfill this dream now that I have a mortgage?!  Am I stuck now that I have such adult responsibilities?  When is this career shift going to happen?  We need to renovate the house:  where are we going to find the time?  the money?  How about expanding our family — when will we start?  HOW AM I GOING TO GET ALL THIS DONE?  HOW?!  HOW?!  HOW?!

Without this challenge, I think my mind would have been spinning its wheels worrying about how to accomplish all the goals in my life during this huge period of transition.  But these last 50 days have shown me that like my body, my life will open up and unfold at precisely the right time.  Everything will fall into place and when they do, I will be ready to embrace them.  All I can do and all that I can be responsible for is today.  Yes, I can dream of the future but I can only focus on the task at hand.  Like our challenge, if we focus on accomplishing 101 days of straight yoga, it could paralyze us.  But we take it one day at a time and the challenge becomes manageable and less daunting.  Similarly, my body was not ready to have my forehead touch my knee on day #1 but with patience, surrender, and hard work, I am starting to do it on day #50.

So what I’m saying is that despite the craziness, the unknowns, the doubt, and yes, the fear, I have hung on to my faith.  I am teaching myself patience and surrender despite my Aries tendencies of craving instant gratification. I can happily say that I feel peace and contentment and believe in my core that all will work out:  a beautiful marriage, an expanded family, a renovated home, a fulfilling career, and a passion-filled life.  All the pieces will fall into place and I really don’t need to know how.  I just need to work one day at a time, trying to fulfill my dream in the best way I know how. 

I’m surprisingly okay with that.

For the purposes of my own record keeping, day:

  • #41 Thurs, Feb 18 – 7 am w/ Danielle – class was uneventful
  • #42 Fri, Feb 19 – 5:30 pm w/ Corinne – bawled during camel – great release
  • #43 Sat, Feb 20 – 10 am w/ Caroline – “In this yoga, you should struggle, not suffer.” – Felt light afterward
  • #44 Sun, Feb 21 – 4:30 pm w/ Mark – first time taking his class…I enjoy the cadence of his dialogue and his NY Italian-American accent.  He sounds like he is singing!
  • #45 Mon, Feb 22 – 6:30 pm w/ Mark – super juicy – if I wasn’t in the front row, I would’ve taken a knee – but pushed myself…I think I was acting too proud in front of my fellow yogis.  Half a$$ed some sets in the spine strengthening series. 
  • #46 Tues, Feb 23 – 6:00 pm w/ Otto – strong forehead to knee thanks to a correction in order to  maintai the classic bikram grip; “Vera Wang, Vera Wang!” Otto yelled during tree pose.  He later explained, “Act as if you are wearing a Vera Wang gown, all $10,000 of it.  Proud.  Chest up, stomach in!”  LOL — I’ll never look at tree pose the same way again.
  • #47 Wed, Feb 24 – 5:30 pm w/ Otto – mind was like jelly today & had to sit out one set of separate leg stretching and balancing stick.  It also probably didn’t help that I had a pastrami sandwich & french fries (which I never eat) for lunch; they sat like a stone in my stomach
  • #48 Thurs, Feb 25 – 6 pm w/ Becca – strong class and felt light afterwards
  • #49 Fri, Feb 26 – 5:30 pm w/ Otto – another strong class although there was a moment in pranayama when the women next to me where holding back giggles from something Otto said and I was getting affected.  Found myself inhaling and giggling and exhaling and giggling at the same time. LOLOL
  • #50 Sat, Feb 27 – 4:30pm w/ Alina – drenched by pranayama but stayed strong

Inspiration

Days THIRTY EIGHT, THIRTY NINE, FORTY

Have people been watching the Olympics?  I have been so inspired by all the athletes but in particular, I marvel at Shaun White and the kind of pioneering moves he demonstrates on the halfpipe.  My mouth just hangs open as I watch his height and the speed of his rotations.

The ice skaters are another group I simply have a new appreciation for now that I’m doing bikram yoga.  I see lots of beautiful backbends in many standing spins and tons of foreheads to knees in sitting spins.  Gosh.  The struggle I have doing these backbends and foreheads to knees just standing still much less balancing and doing this while spinning on ice?

And last but not least, I have a newfound respect for Apolo Ohno and his zen attitude on the ice during competition.  When he first came on the scene 8 years ago, I thought he was such a cocky kid but 8 years have made him grow and gain maturity and experience.  He seems more confident now and just so at ease whenever he races.  When the gun goes off, he starts but holds himself in the back off the pack and then watches and observes serenely.  When you think he’s not going to make his move, he jumps and gracefully glides by his competitors, passing them as if it was no big deal.  It is so beautiful to watch him because he makes it look just so easy and natural.  I kinda think I have a crush on him now!  LOL

What these athletes do to push their bodies and train for these games is just incredible.  Some are healthy and some are injured like poor Lindsay Vonn who manages to still win gold despite the severe shin injury.  As someone who is injured, I wonder where it is you draw the line between pushing your body and taking care of it?  I am happy that this yoga is teaching me where that line is.

#38, Alicia

Off for President’s Day but The Husband and I decided to still go to 7am yoga and then off for a breakfast date to reward ourselves.  We are happy we did.  We were done with yoga, grocery shopping, and our breakfast by 11am and home by 12noon.  Lots of chores on my list such as laundry and cooking for the week.  We decided to indulge instead and took naps and ditched all the shores.  What luxury — all this time!

Class was solid although it wasn’t as hot as it could’ve been.  On days like today when the heat isn’t up and in the morning, I focus on alignment and use more strength since I lack the flexibility of evening, juicy classes.  The knee continues to bother me but somehow it feels better.  I don’t know…the tightness in the knee especially when sitting in Japanese style doesn’t bother me anymore.  I suppose it is less painful but maybe it’s because I’ve learned that my knee sorts itself out eventually and the tightness goes away.  Maybe I’m just becoming more accepting of my pain as part of myself, and coming to love it as part of me, rather than being disappointed and frustrated everytime it shows up.  I don’t know…

#39, Danielle

I had to drag my a$$ to class because the thought of doing another 61 days of bikram just was a little depressing.  I am feeling a bit of lack of motivation…perhaps because the long weekend made it hard to get back into gear.  What got me through a relatively uninspiring pranayama was thinking about those Olypmic athletes and the determination they must’ve had to training every day.  Apparently, Apolo Ohno trained 12 hours a day for these Olympics!  Insanity.  Their hard work motivated me to stay focused and determined…as if these classes were preparing me for the yoga championships or even an Olympic yoga competition!  It was a neat way to find new motivation.   My legs felt like lead in awkward…so heavy but I tried to stick with it and managed to do the best I could today.

Despite the blase start, I was thrilled to discover that I can get my forehead to my knee in standing separate leg head to knee pose on both sides especially my tighter right side!!!  I can’t do it in the morning, but these evening classes, I can.  Hooray!  My front leg is totally bent but I don’t care…I can finally get the forehead to my knee.  And in head to knee pose, I can do it too.  I am noticing that I can flex my toes even further back in this pose, in standing forhead to knee, and all the sit ups.  I have also noticed that my spine/back cracks as if it is realigning itself in the first set of rabbit.  When it does this, I feel such a great release that I actually look forward to rabbit these days rather than the dread I used to feel.

I also notice that the hair clip at the top of my head, although small and flat, managed to get in the way of some poses so I’ve started to take it off, beginning at fixed firm.  In rabbit, this small adjustment has allowed the pinching sensation at the top of my head to go away and I can really focus on keeping the weight on my legs and keeping the tops of my feet down and my heels together.  Isn’t it amazing how the removal of even a small barrier, in this case a hair clip, that we create can make a world of difference?!  Huh…who would’ve thunk.  

#40, Kara

Super juicy class and I managed to set my mat up directly underneath a fan blowing hot air on me.  In the mirror, I could see my hair blowing in the wind.  I panicked and said to myself, “Sh*t.  Is hot air going to blow all over me in class?”  And then I laughed it off and enouraged myself to think that I was in the middle of the Sahara but more humid with a constant wind.

The Olympic athletes continue to motivate me so I had strong determination and focus in class today.  By the end I was losing steam but managed to push myself and got my forehead to my toes in the third part of head to knee pose.  I managed to get a compliment from Kara as a result.  Another fantabulous day of touching my forehead to knee and both parts of awkward were okay.  No pain.  Hallelujiah!

It is Ash Wednesday today and it is my favorite time of the Roman Catholic liturgical year.  These next forty days are a period of reflection and introspection, of giving more of ourselves to others, of fasting, in order to culminate in the joyous celebration of Easter.  There are so many commonalities between my Catholic faith and my practice of bikram yoga…perhaps one future post will be about this.  For now, all I will say is that the season of Lent and Easter remind me that every day we start anew, that we have an opportunity for rebirth.  We die and are reborn metaphorically each day.  With each new day is a clean slate, to be a better person, to live life passionately and peacefully, to forgive ourselves for past shortcomings, and to do the best we can.  It is all we can ask of ourselves.  I learn these lessons in the yoga room and they are further reinforced by my faith.

Everything Is Happening So Fast!

Days THIRTY FIVE, THIRTY SIX, THIRTY SEVEN

First, Gung Hei Fat Choi!!!!  Happy Chinese New Year!!!  Welcome to the Year of the Tiger.  All these holidays have come together so nicely that the color red works for both the Chinese New Year and V-Day.  

So much is happening with our house purchasing process…negotiations happen quickly and lawyers want things now, now, now.  Our realtor works for us and moves quickly.  We have signed the contract and paid 50% of our downpayment.  Now the seller has to sign the contract.  It’s time to find a mortgage!!  We are hoping to close and move to the new house by March 31.  March 31!  The reason why we want to do this is because my job is sending me to South Africa at the end of April for two weeks — hooray!  But whoa, hello.  Lots to deal with in the next several weeks.  

I haven’t had much time to blog and I’m trying to be good to myself and only do the best I can every day.  If I don’t get to blog, then it’s okay!  I do want to say that I miss you all.  I haven’t had a chance to read everyone’s blogs and if I do, I don’t have time to leave a comment.  But I just want to let you know that I’m sending you all my positive energy for your practices and I know that I am receiving yours.  Doing this challenge at this very hectic time has made it easier knowing that an entire community is doing this with me.

#35, Friday 5:30pm with Corinne

A second straight day with Corinne, which is awesome!  Knee was clunky and it feels funny every time I go from bending it to straightening it.  I had planned to a double today — one in the morning and one in the evening but it didn’t happen.  I contemplated doing a back to back double in the evening but I just didn’t feel like it.  My legs and my knees felt totally off and I just didn’t feel like going for a second class even though I could’ve mustered the strength to do it.  Despite the instruction from Corinne yesterday, she said I still went too low today in triangle.  She also took the time to explain and demonstrate standing separate leg head to knee because apparently half the class’s hips were out of alignment.  I know I have this problem…so I found it helpful to hear her say that it was important, as we came down that halfway down, the hip of the back leg has a tendency to want to open up.  We have to really make a concerted effort to keep that back hip forward by keeping the back leg engaged and locked, weight on the front foot.  Even though teachers are not supposed to demonstrate, I always find it helpful when some take a minute from class to do so.  I get so much out of it!

#36, Saturday, 10am with Caroline

“I like your ice.”

“Excuse me?” I say.

“Your ice.  The ice in your water bottle.  I was staring at it longingly in class.”

One of two very sweet guys at my neighborhood studio said this to me.  He just completed a thirty day challenge and decided to keep going!  His name is Anthony and it’s been great fun seeing him every weekend.

First set of awkward was suprisingly okay and Caroline teasingly told me that I was such a faker.  I had told her before class about my knee pain that I’ve been experiencing this last week.  She was encouraging and said that as I go deeper in the poses in a challenge, I am starting to open up old injuries.  I told her how discouraged and unhealthy I felt and she told me that I was healthy.  It was nice to hear.  Well, by second set of awkward, my knee decided to scream.  It was awful.  Caroline told me to back off after she saw me grimace in pain.  She had a wonderful nugget of wisdom today.  She said, “In class, you should struggle in these poses but you shouldn’t suffer.”  I thought the distinction was important to remember especially as I deal with knee pain.

The soreness in my left knee continued and I really tried to figure out which poses may aggravate it.  I think triangle does and after paying attention today, I felt it after balancing stick!!  I must focus on keeping my left leg locked in this pose.   

In camel, in these last few classes, I feel like I am inches from seeing my feet.  I can see the middle of my mat.  So cool.  Every time I go into this posture, I’m excited to see how far back I can see. 

This morning before class, I woke up crying.  I had dreamt of my paternal grandfather.  He died when I was a child but he did visit us when I was very young.  It was so good to talk to him in my dream and find out more about his life.  And in my dream, my parents were talking to each other and good terms with each other.  I woke up sad that my dream wasn’t real, that I didn’t have a chance to get to know my grandfather, and that my parents have a very icy relationship.  I felt a big sense of loss and an appreciation for not taking life for granted.

#37, Sunday, 4:30 with Alina

Today at church is Worlwide Marriage Encounter so the couples at the 10am Mass got to renew their wedding vows.  The Husband and I decided to attend this Mass and when we renewed our vows, I was a mess.  I always get so emotional and The Husband lovingly calls me “a softie”.  We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day but it was wonderful to take a moment to re-commit ourselves to each other and to our marriage, recognizing God’s presence in our relationship.

 New teacher Alina led a small class today.  There must’ve been 6 of us in class, I think.  Awkward was difficult today abut no pain!  I could do both sets.  Yay!!!  It did briefly spasm after eagle and it still felt tight at the beginning of half tortoise but straightened itself out.

Solid class and I focused on my locked out leg in balancing stick and triangle.  Wouldn’t you know.  I focused on keeping the leg fully engaged and locked and I feel no soreness in the left knee

These last several classes, I’ve refrained from water in class.  I drink only after I set up to leave the room.  So awesome to find stillness throughout the entire class.  Not moving actually helps me calm my breathing faster rather than reaching for the water.  The progress I’ve been feeling in this challenge has been incredible.  My body is opening and releasing in wonderful ways.  It has definitely been a struggle these last few days.  Even though scheduling this challenge is getting harder, I know for certain that if it was not for this challenge, I would be far more stressed and high strung about this house buying process.  I am happy that these 90 minutes gives me a chance of to decompress and to take things one breath at a time. 

Everything Is Happening So Fast!

Days THIRTY FIVE, THIRTY SIX, THIRTY SEVEN

First, Gung Hei Fat Choi!!!!  Happy Chinese New Year!!!  Welcome to the Year of the Tiger.  All these holidays have come together so nicely that the color red works for both the Chinese New Year and V-Day.  

So much is happening with our house purchasing process…negotiations happen quickly and lawyers want things now, now, now.  Our realtor works for us and moves quickly.  We have signed the contract and paid 50% of our downpayment.  Now the seller has to sign the contract.  It’s time to find a mortgage!!  We are hoping to close and move to the new house by March 31.  March 31!  The reason why we want to do this is because my job is sending me to South Africa at the end of April for two weeks — hooray!  But whoa, hello.  Lots to deal with in the next several weeks.  

I haven’t had much time to blog and I’m trying to be good to myself and only do the best I can every day.  If I don’t get to blog, then it’s okay!  I do want to say that I miss you all.  I haven’t had a chance to read everyone’s blogs and if I do, I don’t have time to leave a comment.  But I just want to let you know that I’m sending you all my positive energy for your practices and I know that I am receiving yours.  Doing this challenge at this very hectic time has made it easier knowing that an entire community is doing this with me.

#35, Friday 5:30pm with Corinne

A second straight day with Corinne, which is awesome!  Knee was clunky and it feels funny every time I go from bending it to straightening it.  I had planned to a double today — one in the morning and one in the evening but it didn’t happen.  I contemplated doing a back to back double in the evening but I just didn’t feel like it.  My legs and my knees felt totally off and I just didn’t feel like going for a second class even though I could’ve mustered the strength to do it.  Despite the instruction from Corinne yesterday, she said I still went too low today in triangle.  She also took the time to explain and demonstrate standing separate leg head to knee because apparently half the class’s hips were out of alignment.  I know I have this problem…so I found it helpful to hear her say that it was important, as we came down that halfway down, the hip of the back leg has a tendency to want to open up.  We have to really make a concerted effort to keep that back hip forward by keeping the back leg engaged and locked, weight on the front foot.  Even though teachers are not supposed to demonstrate, I always find it helpful when some take a minute from class to do so.  I get so much out of it!

#36, Saturday, 10am with Caroline

“I like your ice.”

“Excuse me?” I say.

“Your ice.  The ice in your water bottle.  I was staring at it longingly in class.”

One of two very sweet guys at my neighborhood studio said this to me.  He just completed a thirty day challenge and decided to keep going!  His name is Anthony and it’s been great fun seeing him every weekend.

First set of awkward was suprisingly okay and Caroline teasingly told me that I was such a faker.  I had told her before class about my knee pain that I’ve been experiencing this last week.  She was encouraging and said that as I go deeper in the poses in a challenge, I am starting to open up old injuries.  I told her how discouraged and unhealthy I felt and she told me that I was healthy.  It was nice to hear.  Well, by second set of awkward, my knee decided to scream.  It was awful.  Caroline told me to back off after she saw me grimace in pain.  She had a wonderful nugget of wisdom today.  She said, “In class, you should struggle in these poses but you shouldn’t suffer.”  I thought the distinction was important to remember especially as I deal with knee pain.

The soreness in my left knee continued and I really tried to figure out which poses may aggravate it.  I think triangle does and after paying attention today, I felt it after balancing stick!!  I must focus on keeping my left leg locked in this pose.   

In camel, in these last few classes, I feel like I am inches from seeing my feet.  I can see the middle of my mat.  So cool.  Every time I go into this posture, I’m excited to see how far back I can see. 

This morning before class, I woke up crying.  I had dreamt of my paternal grandfather.  He died when I was a child but he did visit us when I was very young.  It was so good to talk to him in my dream and find out more about his life.  And in my dream, my parents were talking to each other and good terms with each other.  I woke up sad that my dream wasn’t real, that I didn’t have a chance to get to know my grandfather, and that my parents have a very icy relationship.  I felt a big sense of loss and an appreciation for not taking life for granted.

#37, Sunday, 4:30 with Alina

Today at church is Worlwide Marriage Encounter so the couples at the 10am Mass got to renew their wedding vows.  The Husband and I decided to attend this Mass and when we renewed our vows, I was a mess.  I always get so emotional and The Husband lovingly calls me “a softie”.  We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day but it was wonderful to take a moment to re-commit ourselves to each other and to our marriage, recognizing God’s presence in our relationship.

 New teacher Alina led a small class today.  There must’ve been 6 of us in class, I think.  Awkward was difficult today abut no pain!  I could do both sets.  Yay!!!  It did briefly spasm after eagle and it still felt tight at the beginning of half tortoise but straightened itself out.

Solid class and I focused on my locked out leg in balancing stick and triangle.  Wouldn’t you know.  I focused on keeping the leg fully engaged and locked and I feel no soreness in the left knee

These last several classes, I’ve refrained from water in class.  I drink only after I set up to leave the room.  So awesome to find stillness throughout the entire class.  Not moving actually helps me calm my breathing faster rather than reaching for the water.  The progress I’ve been feeling in this challenge has been incredible.  My body is opening and releasing in wonderful ways.  It has definitely been a struggle these last few days.  Even though scheduling this challenge is getting harder, I know for certain that if it was not for this challenge, I would be far more stressed and high strung about this house buying process.  I am happy that these 90 minutes gives me a chance of to decompress and to take things one breath at a time. 

I. AM. HEALTHY.

Day THIRTY FOUR

Omigosh!  An awesome, unexpected surprise awaited me when I arrived at the studio for 7am class.  Corinne was teaching because Danielle got stuck in the blizzard in Atlantic City!  Loveee Corinne!!  How funny that all the students who walked in the door had the same reaction as me.  She definitely one of the favorites here at our studio.  :)

I explained to Corinne about my knee pain and how I think it may be emotionally induced.  She also said that if if there was a lot going on in my mind, I may not be always present in my practice and without presence, there is a lack of engagement in our bodies.  I thanked her for her last week’s correction on my triangle, which helped ease the pressure off my knees (she told me I was coming down too low).  She then came around the desk and showed me how to set up for triangle properly.  In order to ensure that the weight is on both legs, she told me to imagine a finger is pushing at the hip of my extended leg forward, forcing me to to bend my knee and come down.  This way, my extended leg remains contracted, knee locked, butt tight, foot flat on the floor.  Instead, I was bending my knee to get my hips down, putting most of the pressure on the bent leg and my knee.  Setting up for triangle in class definitely helped take the pressure off…and I discovered that doing it this way, keeping that straight leg locked and engaged.  Whoa!  Totally different posture.  My weight was evenly distributed and hello hips!  You are opening! 

My right knee today was okay.  It is definitely getting better.  I managed all parts of awkward, both sets.  In the third part especially as I came down with my knees pressed together, I breathed and my mind said repeatedly, “RELAX, RELAX, RELAX.”  It did briefly spasm after second set of half tortoise and during the forward bends in half moon, the back of my knee wanted to lock out in pain.  After class, both knees, felt like I applied icy hot or tiger balm to them!  There was a hot ringing coming out of them.  Was that a good thing?  I don’t know.  The feeling went away after 30 minutes.

This is my second class where I didn’t drink any water except at the end after final breathing.  I think I will try to refrain from drinking until I leave the room next time.  In final breathing, Corinne threw out what kept her going during teacher training.  She said that final breathing was so long during teacher training (similar to how long we do it in our studio) and by that time she wanted to die.  So during each exhale, she would chant in her head, “I. am. strong.  I. am. strong.  I. am. strong.” to the beat.  I decided I would follow-her lead and instead chant, “I. am. heal-thy.  I am. heal-thy.”  In these last few days, I am finding these mantra, tied to my breath, have really been my saving grace especially in parts of my practice when I feel discouraged, frustrated, or afraid.  These mantras leave no room to focus on the negative thought patterns or any thought patterns for that matter.  There is only room for affirmation and breath.

I.  AM.  HEALTHY.

Moving Meditation

Day THIRTY THREE

Greetings from blizzard stricken NYC!  Well, at least this isn’t the second blizzard we are experiencing within a week unlike the cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC.  My office closed at 12noon but I decided to stay since the place was empty and I got tons of work done uninterrupted! 

5:30 class with Kara.  She looked sad and when I asked her about it, she confirmed that there was stuff going on in her life but didn’t go into great detail.  She said that she was looking forward to teaching the back-to-back evening classes because once she gets herself teaching in the hot room, she manages to take a break from the reality around her.  Isn’t it amazing how both teachers and students have that shared experience in the room of being present?  What I love about Kara are the little nuggets of wisdom or encouragement she occasionally throws out during class.  At the end of one exhalation in pranayama, she said, “keep exhaling…keep exhaling…push everything out that doesn’t serve you.”  With what I’ve been working through emotionally these last few days, her words were just what I needed to hear.

If this is the mental part of the challenge, then today my mind really was out to test me.  I was going along just fine in class, strong and solid.  And today is the first time I ever managed not to drink any water during class!!  I did gulp down water just after final breathing although I’m sure I didn’t need to do so.

I even managed to do all parts in the first set of awkward even though I couldn’t sit too far down in the second part.  In second set, my knee was screaming in the second part and I kept with it.  By third part, it was in such pain that I couldn’t even drop down and put my hands on the floor so I stood there with my arms up and tight.  My standing forehead to knee was rock solid both sets (!!!!) and it totally made up for a tough awkward pose.

By the floor series, my mind started to crap out on me.  I admittedly half a$$ed wind removing pose and started to half a$$ cobra but tried to fight it off.  By half tortoise, my mind said, “QUIT QUIT QUIT.  YOU ARE TIRED.”  I really was about to give up and it took all my mental determination to force myself to stick with it.  What was bizarre was that the desire to quit left as quickly as it came.  When my mind wants to quit, I find that it helps a lot to have a mantra.  I did this last night.  On the inhale, I thought, “Just.”  On the exhale, I thought, “Breathe.”  Repeat.  Sometimes, I simply count.  Inhale, “One, one, one.”  Exhale, “Two, two, two.”  The latter technique is something that Ben taught us.

In final savasana, somehow I started imagining myself on a beach and on the shore was a boat.  There were a lot of heavy boxes surrounding the boat, labeled “anger”, “resentment”, “rage”, “inflexibility”, “impatience”, “exasperation”, and “hostility”.  I started to pick up these boxes and load them, one by one, on the boat.  When I finished, I shoved the boat into the sea.  And then I imagined myself like Father Wind.  With every inhale, I sucked in the air and the boat came close back to shore.  But every exhale was more powerful than the inhale and the boat got pushed further out than where it started.  I kept doing that for several breaths until the boat slowly got smaller and smaller.  It eventually became a dot on the horizon and with another breath, it disappeared.  This meditation, which combined the mind, the emotions, and the body, was so powerful.  I really felt like I was on that beach…wind and sunburnt after doing all that heavy work.  I felt so light as I watched the boat disappear.  Tonight, my knee felt so much better, so much happier.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Day THIRTY TWO

A teacher with a good sense of humor really makes a difference!  6pm with Ben was a class where things just flowed.  He has a way of teaching that makes everything flow.  The way he delivers dialogue, the way we transition from one posture to the next or between sets.  It’s really nice.  He often doesn’t say “change” so taking Ben’s class means you really have to listen.

My knee was still expressing itself and the last two parts of awkward was just not happening for me today.  Tightness abounded still and in final breathing, the tightness finally released as I sat Japanese style.  The one improvement was toe stand, right side.  I was able to get myself upright in this pose whereas these last two days, I couldn’t even get myself to fully bend my knee and lift my heel off the floor. 

Despite the creaky painful knee, class today was energizing and smooth and strong.  Pranayama felt so great, I could’ve gone on doing it forever.  I nailed it on both sides of standing forehead to knee both freakin’ sets!  I couldn’t believe it!!!  I’ve never done that before.  ThedancingJ‘s post on creating a cramp in the kicking leg really helped improve this posture for me.  I heard it in the dialogue, for sure, but I think I kinda ignored it because it sounded counter-intuitive.  But after reading J’s explanation, which reminded me of the fact that this entire yoga is counter-intuitive, it made a whole lot of sense.  Thank you again J for your tremendous insight!  I cannot wait till I take a class you are teaching.  :)

Before class, I hugged my right leg close to my chest and kissed my right knee a few times.  I talked to it, asked it for forgiveness, and promised I wouldn’t judge it no matter what it decided to do in class today.  I was going to be compassionate towards myself especially as major life changes loom imminently on the horizon.  

I’m going to own my first house.  My mother is going to live directly above us in the upper apartment while we live in the lower apartment.  I’m going to have to pack up and move out of this apartment I’ve lived in for 8 years.  I’m going to commute longer to work and longer to yoga which means waking up earlier which in turn means sleeping earlier which ultimately means having less time.  I’m going to move to a more suburban neighborhood that is quieter and does not have the conveniences compared to my neighborhood now.  Our household budget will change thanks to a mortgage and the likelihood of purchasing a car.  Belts need to be tightened.  Dinners out, theater tickets, and shopping for clothes will all be a luxury.  Wait a minute?  I asked for this?!  I signed up to mow the lawn and rake the leaves and repair myself all the things that break in the house????

I was never one who feared changed.  In fact, I used to revel in it in my 20s…so much so that I think I was running away from something back then.  In my 30s, I settled down.  I became more comfortable in my own skin.  And I actually began to want to put down some roots. Change is still not scary to me.  Although I’ll admit, I’m beginning to find it inconvenient.  It’s amazing how living in the same place for 8 years can really cause serious inertia.  As thedancingJ wrote:

Change is always uncomfortable, and often painful.  It’s so much easier to stay the way we are.  Stay in the same posture.  Stay in the same job, the same relationship, the same apartment, the same city.  It’s easier that way.  But in yoga, we practice moving into discomfort, and we find out that it’s not such a scary place after all.  (You thought it was going to hurt, but instead it made your body feel better.)


In other words, we learn courage.

As I type, I acknowledge the silence before the storm of change arrives.  I will bring what I have learned in the sweat box to my life and remember those instances when camel brought forth nausea.  With breath, compassion, and determination, I will be fine amidst the chaos and the discomfort.  I will weather through this change step by step…or as thedancingJ put it, “One Standing-Head-toKnee at a time.”

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Day THIRTY TWO

A teacher with a good sense of humor really makes a difference!  6pm with Ben was a class where things just flowed.  He has a way of teaching that makes everything flow.  The way he delivers dialogue, the way we transition from one posture to the next or between sets.  It’s really nice.  He often doesn’t say “change” so taking Ben’s class means you really have to listen.

My knee was still expressing itself and the last two parts of awkward was just not happening for me today.  Tightness abounded still and in final breathing, the tightness finally released as I sat Japanese style.  The one improvement was toe stand, right side.  I was able to get myself upright in this pose whereas these last two days, I couldn’t even get myself to fully bend my knee and lift my heel off the floor. 

Despite the creaky painful knee, class today was energizing and smooth and strong.  Pranayama felt so great, I could’ve gone on doing it forever.  I nailed it on both sides of standing forehead to knee both freakin’ sets!  I couldn’t believe it!!!  I’ve never done that before.  ThedancingJ‘s post on creating a cramp in the kicking leg really helped improve this posture for me.  I heard it in the dialogue, for sure, but I think I kinda ignored it because it sounded counter-intuitive.  But after reading J’s explanation, which reminded me of the fact that this entire yoga is counter-intuitive, it made a whole lot of sense.  Thank you again J for your tremendous insight!  I cannot wait till I take a class you are teaching.  :)

Before class, I hugged my right leg close to my chest and kissed my right knee a few times.  I talked to it, asked it for forgiveness, and promised I wouldn’t judge it no matter what it decided to do in class today.  I was going to be compassionate towards myself especially as major life changes loom imminently on the horizon.  

I’m going to own my first house.  My mother is going to live directly above us in the upper apartment while we live in the lower apartment.  I’m going to have to pack up and move out of this apartment I’ve lived in for 8 years.  I’m going to commute longer to work and longer to yoga which means waking up earlier which in turn means sleeping earlier which ultimately means having less time.  I’m going to move to a more suburban neighborhood that is quieter and does not have the conveniences compared to my neighborhood now.  Our household budget will change thanks to a mortgage and the likelihood of purchasing a car.  Belts need to be tightened.  Dinners out, theater tickets, and shopping for clothes will all be a luxury.  Wait a minute?  I asked for this?!  I signed up to mow the lawn and rake the leaves and repair myself all the things that break in the house????

I was never one who feared changed.  In fact, I used to revel in it in my 20s…so much so that I think I was running away from something back then.  In my 30s, I settled down.  I became more comfortable in my own skin.  And I actually began to want to put down some roots. Change is still not scary to me.  Although I’ll admit, I’m beginning to find it inconvenient.  It’s amazing how living in the same place for 8 years can really cause serious inertia.  As thedancingJ wrote:

Change is always uncomfortable, and often painful.  It’s so much easier to stay the way we are.  Stay in the same posture.  Stay in the same job, the same relationship, the same apartment, the same city.  It’s easier that way.  But in yoga, we practice moving into discomfort, and we find out that it’s not such a scary place after all.  (You thought it was going to hurt, but instead it made your body feel better.)


In other words, we learn courage.

As I type, I acknowledge the silence before the storm of change arrives.  I will bring what I have learned in the sweat box to my life and remember those instances when camel brought forth nausea.  With breath, compassion, and determination, I will be fine amidst the chaos and the discomfort.  I will weather through this change step by step…or as thedancingJ put it, “One Standing-Head-toKnee at a time.”

Forgiveness

Day THIRTY ONE

Wah wah wah!!! Reading my last two posts, you would think I was the biggest whiner on the planet!! Gad!!! Thanks for letting me vent folks.  I really needed to get all of it on my chest.

7am with Alicia was similar to last night’s class. My right knee still felt tightness and incredible pressure from within. Yesterday’s poses that gave difficulty gave me difficulty again today. One thing I decided to do differently was to sit through the tightness for both sets of final breathing. By the time I lay in final savasana, the back of my knee spasmed. Ugh!! It’s been spazzing out all day just like yesterday.

As I reflected on my recent knee pain and after re-reading my last two posts, I came upon an affirmation that The Healer once told me. My knee pain is not due to anything amiss physically/structurally/mechanically. In fact, it was emotional. My knees, he told me, were indicators of my emotional state of being. They are where I hold my stress and they express themselves, or whine, as a signal to me to pay attention to something that is wrong.

If The Healer would’ve told me this years earlier, I would’ve thought that he was out of his mind.  How can my emotions cause my pain? With his help, my own healing journey has made me believe that our bodies are like maps. They hold the histories of our life experiences in all forms: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. When we suppress negative mental states of being or emotions, they get trapped within our bodies causing pain and chronic disease. One time, The Healer was dealing with my chronic back pain issues and he used tui na to treat it. Taking his elbow, he plowed into the grain of my back from below the shoulder blade all the way down to my glute and down my hamstring all the way down to the back of my knee (our body is one muscle), the areas that were injured and causing me great pain. When he first did this, I was howling in pain. He marveled at my reaction because he said, “I’m barely applying any pressure. What the heck did you do to your back? The stuff that is stuck in here is old…5 years old. What was going on in your life 5 years ago?” I recalled back to 5 years earlier: it was indeed an awful time in my life. I felt like I was living a lie, living a double life by suppressing the truest part of myself and showing what others wanted to see from me. The treatment continued for at least 15 minutes and while I screamed in pain at first, the screaming eventually turned to crying, and then full out gut-wrenching sobbing. It was like a dam within me broke and the river of tears flowed freely. When The Healer was done, I said to him, “I felt like I should’ve cried those tears five years ago.” He simply nodded in agreement. After two more treatments of tui na on my back, I’ve never experienced back pain again.

Similarly, The Healer told me that pain in my knees may be caused by emotional states of lacking flexibility and compassion especially towards others but more importantly, towards myself. I’ve been feeling this way for a long time and it is no wonder, he said, that my knee injury started 19 years ago when I was just a teenager. A locked out knee means it is inflexible…it is solid, concrete, unbroken, like a lamppost, right? Well, the emotional equivalent of inflexibility can be expressed physically in a knee that has trouble bending.

It is hard to deny the strong connection between my recent knee trouble and the incident with my mother and all the emotions it stirred within me. It was further reaffirmed after reading lynxofsilver’s comment about the connection between emotional and physical pain. Like The Healer, Louise Hay has written a wonderful book called “You Can Heal Your Life” and she writes that every physical ailment in the body is attributable to some emotional or mental state of being. Read a review about it here.

Riding the subway home, I just focused on being more compassionate towards myself. I tried to forgive and love myself for all that emotions that I have felt these last few days. Why is it that we cannot forgive ourselves as easily as we forgive others? As I tried to go through the process of forgiveness, I started to cry on the subway. I didn’t care. I’ve learned not to care what other people think especially if I will heal from this release. On the walk, home I was bawling. I had a good cry for 10 minutes and afterwards, I made peace with the events of last week and my reaction to them. Wouldn’t you know? Hours after that cleansing cry, my knee feels a million times better than it did these last 48 hours.

Caroline, a teacher at my neighborhood studio once said during class, “Pain is a gift. It increases our self-awareness. It tells us that there is something wrong and that we need to pay attention to it so that we don’t hurt ourselves even further. So be grateful for your pain, for your injuries. They protect you from harming yourself further.” She is so right.

So thank you knees for being my emotional and mental barometer. Without you as my safety net, I would spiral downwards. Forgive me. I am learning to listen to you. I am learning to be kind to myself. Bear with me as I learn this hard lesson and I know you’ll let me know when I’m going in the wrong direction. And when you do, let me remember to be compassionate towards you and your message.