Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 28 = Rockin' The Awkward...Sort Of

Day 28 - April 28, 2010 - 6:00AM with Peter

It was great to have Peter back for the 6:00AM.  It has been a while since he taught the first class of the day.  It is a treat to have him as he makes it a point to correct you.  When you think you've been a superstar in some (if not all) of the postures, guess again.  Peter will notice something that's off in your alignment and will let you know.  So, I thought I was rockin' the Awkward Pose, in all three stages.  I nailed the first stage, then during the second while I had my heels up and knees up and legs steady, he corrected me as I was not leaning back far enough.  What?!?!?  So I made the adjustment, and the legs started shaking, and that was it.  I had to get out of the posture.  I was brought back to earth, humbled.  But thank you, Peter!  I can always count on you to keep me on my (Awkward) toes!

I just love the Awkward.  It keeps my legs strong and toned.  I have no problem balancing on my toes as my feet are quite wide :)  I know there's a positive side to having wide feet.  They may not look great in summer sandals and flip flops, but they sure keep me grounded during Awkward! :)

So, two days to go and the 30 Day Challenge is over.  I will continue with another 30, making it a 60 Day Challenge which Bikram recommends to every new student.  It would be interesting to find out what happens beyond the 30...stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 27 = Much More Awake This Time! :)

Day 27 - April 27, 2010 - 6:00AM with David

It's nice that it's getting much lighter out at 5:30AM, when I leave home for my yoga studio.  The energy in the room was great this morning; there were more people today than yesterday.  I guess the hangover from the weekend has lifted and we're all back to the yoga swing of things.

I have been contemplating on whether I should try a different spot during the 6:00AM class, just so I can have a change.  I love change in any facet of my life.  But this morning, I've decided to stay put where I usually am--right next to the door for a speedy exit right after class.

I entered the hot room about 10 minutes early to acclimatise my body to the heat.  As I lay there, there were 2 voices beside me chattering away.  As you know, there is no talking inside the room, in respect to those who are meditating.  I felt the need to shush them, as a friend and I have been shushed when we were newbies.  However, I thought I should just try to block them out of my head.  Put my meditating powers to use.  It's very challenging because by nature, I am a stickler for rules and I expect everybody else to be the same.  The chattering went on, and much to my relief, David entered the room to start the class.

I was determined to do better in Pranayama today.  It's not my favourite exercise, which is a shame because it is very important, very crucial to how your practice will turn out.  It paid off as I am much more awake today than yesterday!  So today being Day 27, with 3 more days until the 30DC is over, I wanted to be more conscious in pushing my limit a little bit further.  There are some postures that will take me more time to properly execute them, like the Standing Head to Knee, and Standing Bow Pulling.  I have improved greatly in the Eagle, Balancing Stick, and Triangle.  For Tree Pose, I am now able to hold my right foot underneath my belly button with both hands in Namaskar, while I still have to work on the left foot staying put.  I am also able to balance with both hands in Namaskar for both sets in Toe Stand.  My Cobra and Full Locust have also greatly improved--I could feel that my lower back has developed much more strength with practicing everyday.  My Camel Pose is slowly getting to the point where I can keep my thighs perpendicular to the floor.  My knees still tend to open up during the first set with the same distance as the second set.  David made us hold the asanas a few seconds longer than usual (I think, anyway), which is great because a challenge here and there will do us all good! 

So all in all, I have noted a lot of positive changes in my body since I started the challenge.  I have decided to extend my challenge to 60 days.  I look forward to many, many more surprises coming my way then!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 26 = Going Through A Practice While Half-Awake!

Day 26 - April 26, 2010 - 6:00AM with Jacqueline

I did not want to get up at 5:00AM today.  Hubby nudged me at 5:20AM so I won't sleep in and miss my class.  Somehow, I wasn't my usual perky self.  My body seemed to want more sleep this morning.  I was restless just before class, I just couldn't psyche myself to be in the yoga moment.

Pranayama was a chore; my arms were heavy and my elbow joints were tight.  Needless to say, the first set was a write-off.  I did make the effort to engage my legs and inhale until I could see my rib cage in the mirror.  Towards the end of the second set, I was awake, sort of.

As much as I love the 6:00AM classes as they give me a great start to my day, I am simply just not flexible enough to execute some of the postures well.  Which is why my floor series are way better than the standing series.  I have 2 consecutive days off this week, and I am again toying with the idea of going to the 9:30AM class.  But then again, I may not, as I have a lot of chores to do and with the 6:00AM class done, I would have more time to do accomplish other tasks.

Overall, it was a good practice today; I just wished I was more awake!  I blame it on this cold, blustery, supposedly spring day in paradise we call Victoria! :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 25 = Eyeing the 60 with 5 Days to Go!

Day 25 - April 25, 2010 - 7:30AM with Niecia

I look at the 30 Day Challenge board and see my name with the long line of stickers marking each day of practice.  I see 5 empty spots and I look back to the day I decided to sign up for the challenge.  I remember feeling a little apprehensive at the time, wondering if I would be able to keep up the routine.  30 seemed like a big number to me.  30. Straight. Days.  I made up my mind that I will NEVER do doubles.  It goes against the purist principle of practising yoga EVERY DAY for 30 straight days.  A missed day means you have to start over.  It IS a challenge.  We all have lives outside of yoga.  Kids, spouses, work, life.  The Boss said that you SHOULD make time for yoga, everyday (well, except Sunday; I read somewhere that he says only fools practice yoga on Sundays!).  For me, it is possible.  Thank goodness for the 6:00AM class on the weekdays!  I could have started the challenge months ago.  I was reluctant to commit myself to getting up at 5:00AM.  Now, it is second nature.  Now, I am kicking myself for not signing up for the 101 Day Challenge!  Once I am done with the 60, it's 101 time baby!

So how did today go?  Well, the Chinese food from yesterday's lunch has gone, thank goodness!  I expected to be less flexible this morning.  Proof was my Standing Head to Knee.  I didn't feel as light and fluid as yesterday's practice.  I take consolation from my Awkward Poses which rocked today.  I was able to stretch my arms and legs straight and keep them engaged for Balancing Stick.  As for Tree Stand, I was able to balance with both hands in Namaskar with my right foot high up underneath my navel, and same with Toe Stand for both sets.  I was very pleased with my standing series; still lots to improve upon but certainly getting there.  I have all the time in the world.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 24 = What Not To Eat Before Hot Yoga

Day 24 - April 24, 2010 - 3:45PM with Anastasia

Make sure you practice hot yoga on an empty stomach.  Have your meal 2-3 hours before your practice.  Hydrate well during the day and the night before if you're attending an early morning class.

So I made sure I had my lunch break at noon, so I would have enough sustenance for the 3:45PM class today.  The thing is, I had Chinese food:  fried rice, chicken wings, and dry garlic pork.  I drank mug after mug of water throughout the day.  I thought, perfect!  I'd be all set for my class.

Boy, was I ever wrong on this one.  The thing is, I still felt that Chinese food in my belly 3 hours later.  I knew from Pranayama breathing that it's going to be one hell of a class today.  I'm telling you, I couldn't stretch my belly well enough; it hurt to do so.  It was like a brand new elastic band that hasn't been stretched before!  My monkey mind was now telling me "Uh, oh, how are you going to survive the first back bend, and the Camel (the mother of all back bends)?  Maybe you should just lie down and take it easy."  Yikes!  It was such a brand new sensation for me.  I've never felt that way before.  Oh, by the way, I still don't drink water during class.  Can you imagine if I still did?  My belly would feel like it's carrying a boulder in there!

But you know, as much as I felt so uncomfortable with the heat and the heavy belly sensation, I tried my best to breathe normally, to concentrate, to focus, to adopt the British Bulldog determination in order to overcome this challenge.  My monkey mind was telling me to give up, and take it easy.  Well, what I did was I listened to my body and backed off when necessary.  But the highlight of today's practice was that I was able to execute the Standing Head to Knee quite well.  I concentrated on locking my knee and keeping my upper body relaxed while my leg was extended.  I was able to bend my elbows down for a few seconds.  The room was pretty hot today, and I think this was a huge plus for my flexibility, especially for this pose.

Towards the end of the class, I felt really tired.  I felt pretty weak during the Kapalbhati breathing.  After class, I relished my Emergen-C fortified water like there's no tomorrow, and that shower, oh that shower with Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap felt sooooo gooood!  Yes, Virginia, there's heaven after hell.

PS:  So what to eat before hot yoga?  Lots of fruits, I particularly LOVE oranges and grapefruit.  In hindsight, I should have opted for Spicy Tuna Sushi from Mutsuki-An for lunch.  Next time...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 23 = Just Like Morning Coffee

Day 23 - April 23, 2010 - 6:00AM with Abbey

A lot of people wake up and have their morning coffee.  I have my morning yoga at 6:00AM.  I've been practising without water during class for over a month now, and my body has gotten used to it.  After class, I down my Emergen-C fortified water first, THEN I have my morning coffee with the much anticipated breakfast of an orange or grapefruit with spelt toast and maybe a scrambled egg or two.  I am set for my day.

My practice went well today.  I didn't have to rush out after class, so I positioned myself on my favourite spot up front.  Overall, I don't think there were a lot of significant changes to my execution of the postures today.  There were just some little adjustments here and there, like trying to touch my toes (but with no pressure) during the Triangle Pose.  That's a new challenge for me.  My arms don't seem long enough to do so, without having my upper body dip too low.

So tomorrow, I will not be able to have my morning yoga; it will be an afternoon yoga, right after work.  I hope I can get to the studio in time for the 3:45PM without having to rush so much.  I haven't been to an afternoon class since Day 3 (see my blog entitled "PM Hot Yoga Ain't That Cool"), so I am curious as to how tomorrow will turn out.  It's nice to have a change in routine sometimes.  Keeps me on my toes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 22 = Back "Home" Again

Day 22 - April 22, 2010 - 6:00AM with Laurel

Ah, I was back "home" at 6:00AM.  As much as I was so elated with my practice yesterday at 9:30AM, I was happy to be back to my early morning class.  I think I will continue this routine, even on my days off.  I felt a lot better this morning than I did several practices ago.  My body has recovered from the soreness, so now it is ready to be pushed and challenged again.  But as Laurel said at class today, yoga is not meant for us to suffer through it, or to be "killed" by it.  We must listen to our bodies, to know when to stop pushing and challenging it when it says so.

My Standing Head to Knee Pose was fine.  Not as good as yesterday's effort, but definitely better than most of the previous occasions.  I sometimes wonder if I am ever going to succeed in holding my leg parallel AND touching my forehead to my knee.  One day it will happen, I just don't know when. 

The highlight pose for today would be the Full Locust.  I felt very strong going into it as well as holding my chest up high for both sets.  My arms and legs also held up well.

As I left the studio, greeted by glorious daylight,  I was already counting the hours until I am back again.   

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 21 = The 9:30AM Experiment

Day 21 - April 21, 2010 - 9:30AM with Weronika

Today would have been a 6:00AM day, and as usual, my body clock woke me up at 5:00AM.  The night before, I had decided on attending the 9:30AM as I was curious to find out how my practice will turn out.  I had been sore for a few days, and I figured that it's probably because my body has not had the chance to limber up for a few hours before class.  Since I have another day off today, I will go against my routine and attend a later class.  As I was getting ready for the day (preparing breakfast for my hubby and daughter, walking the dog, and a little vacuuming), I was missing my 6:00AM practice.  I kept on checking the time and thinking, "We would just be going into the floor series now." 

So I got to the studio early enough to stake my spot next to Bettina at the front.  When I entered the room 5 minutes before class started, I was momentarily startled to see so many people present.  I also felt the room was hotter than usual.  At the same time I felt very strong and focused.  My Pranayama was a lot better than usual.  Yesterday, I had pulled a muscle just below my left shoulder and could hardly bend sideways during the Half Moon.  Today, my Half Moon, first backward bending, and Hands to Feet were great.  My Awkward Poses were very strong, as well as my Eagle.  The big surprise was my Standing Head to Knee.  I was able to extend both legs, one at a time, and hold the posture properly for a few seconds longer than usual.  My lower back and bum didn't even hurt one bit.  Wow.  I was also able to do a decent Standing Bow Pulling Pose by keeping my body down and kicking high at the same time.  My Balancing Stick did not hold up the whole time, though.  I was concentrating on keeping my hips square and not twisted while keeping my balance.

I don't know, but by the time we got to the floor, my towel was so sopping wet I could hear my sweat sloshing on the mat everytime I lie down.  The room is so hot that I kept thinking about my water bottle in the change room.  I had to refocus each time I hear my monkey mind telling me how hot it is, how uncomfortable it is, and how thirsty I am.  I hear the noisy sipping of water, the noise the water bottles make each time they hit the floor, and all I can do is breathe.

The class ends, and Weronika thanks all of us for a great effort, especially since the room felt extra hot today.  We break into a round of applause, very well deserved by each and everyone.  I enjoyed Weronika's class this morning.  She is very encouraging, always giving all of us a pat on the back for our hard work.

So what about the 9:30AM experiment?  I think it was a success.  My body at this time has warmed up, limbered up, woken up.  My standing series postures were definitely better executed today.  Tomorrow I am back to 6:00AM.  We will see what happens then.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 20 = Pulled Muscle Eclipses The Half Moon

Day 20 - April 20, 2010 - 6:00AM with David

My day started off on the wrong foot. As I opened the car door to get in, I pulled a muscle on my left side, under my shoulder. It hurt whenever I took a breath, so I thought, "Oh my, I'm done for today." True enough, my Half Moon was painful. I hardly made even a quarter crescent, or an eighth crescent. Standing Head to Knee was painful too. I tried to extend my legs but my body said, "Enough! Back off!" I was relieved that I was able to do the rest of the standing series. My Eagle, Balancing Stick, Tree and Toe Stand were great. Thank goodness.

The floor series postures were kind to me today. By this time, my pulled muscle must have had the time to recuperate. My Cobra is still very strong, and I felt my belly button staying put on the floor. My Locust, Full Locust and Floor Bow were good. I have more control of my Full Locust; I took a quick peek at myself and saw my chest and a little of my mid-section. Yay!

It was a treat to have David as our instructor this morning. I've only been to just one class of his and this was last year, when I had just made the commitment to Bikram Yoga practice. He made us hold a few extra seconds to some of the postures; some of us are so used to the dialogue that we would sometimes get out of the posture too soon. Those extra seconds kept us on our toes.

As I am typing this I hardly feel the pain to my side anymore. By committing to my practice this morning I now know that even with this kind of pain I can still do the postures albeit with some restraint. I still felt the same high after class as if I was 100% well. That's the beauty of yoga. Namaste.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 19 = One Day I Will Get There!

Day 19 - April 19, 2010 - 6:00AM with Jacqueline

We had a great class with Jacqueline this morning. She has a very calm demeanour, and the tone of her voice is very soothing, just perfect for Savasanas!

Whew! For some reason, the heaters were cranked up quite high today, or at least that was how I felt. There weren't a lot of people this morning either. Is it because I wasn't at my usual spot? I wasn't too far from the door, though, so I was still getting a little bit of a draft. I don't know, maybe my body was just a bit off this morning (after a lunch of medium hot potato and pea Naanwich and Espresso Chocolate Flake ice cream yesterday!). I was sweating right from the get go. Overall, my standing series was 50-50. I did well in some, I tanked in some. Hands to Feet was still rusty; until I get rid of the soreness in my hiney, it will be a while before I get back to my best form. I didn't dare extend my leg during the Standing Head to Knee. I just focused on keeping my standing knee locked. I thought I'd give my knees a rest on this one, and try not to push it. One day, I will get there...

I was very happy that my floor series postures held up well today. Highlights are the Cobra, Full Locust, Floor Bow, and Camel. I am trying to keep my hips glued to my heels when I bend forward for the Half Tortoise. My spine is still rounded when I bend forward so I have to "walk" my hands forward in order to stretch out fully, while keeping my elbows straight and hands in prayer. As for the Rabbit Pose, I still cannot lift my hips high enough so my thighs are perpendicular to the floor. One day, I will get there...

I am very tempted to attend the 9:30AM class on Wednesday. I am just curious to find out how my practice will turn out after I'd woken up and been up and about for a few hours before the class starts. Tomorrow I have no choice but to go to the 6:00AM again. I hope to be back to my favourite spot by the door. I wonder if it's going to be a hot one again tomorrow. Que sera sera...Namaste.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 18 = Not Even a Sunny Day Will Keep Me Away From the Hot Room!

Day 18 - April 18, 2010 - 7:30AM with Abbey

It's nice to practice first thing in the morning, that way you have the rest of the day to do other things, especially on a sunny day. Our daughter was away on a sleepover, so after hubby and I finished breakfast, we did our weekend cleanup before heading out to the hardware store (not my cup of kombucha tea!). We tried a Naanwich and had ice cream for afters. See how perfectly my day turned out, with yoga practice first thing?

Now on to the not-so-hot room (I meant the temperature). Abbey thought the room wasn't that hot today, and some of us agreed. I checked the thermostat after class and it was set at the same temperature as usual. Nevertheless it was a great class with Abbey. The room had great vibes, and it does wonders for everyone present. I was initially worried that I would not do as well, because my Pranayama breathing was not 100% today. Honestly though, it's not my favourite. But how you do this exercise sets the tone of your practice. The highlights of my practice today were my back bends. I tried very hard to lock my knees and keep my weight on my heels for the first one, which is very challenging for me. I still have to find that balance as I tend to lose an inch or so of depth whenever I lock my knees. I was very pleased with my Camel Pose. I am trying to arch my back more and more each day. I couldn't see myself in the mirror, so I don't know if my thighs are getting close to being perpendicular to the floor. My Eagle Pose was stronger today. I make sure that I align my hips squarely to the front (a reminder from Abbey a few classes back). After class, Bettina shared a helpful tip for the Hands to Feet Pose, while she's having her coconut water and I my Emergen-C water...ah, so refreshing!

Big things come in little packages. I'm aware that there are some little changes happening every time I show up at the studio. It may not be much but a little goes a long way. Some days I may take "two steps back", but that's just my body telling me to back off a little. As much as much as I would like to do well each time, the reality is I may not. Yoga is a reality check. It humbles you, it keeps you grounded, but at the same time, it also celebrates your talents. You are unique and special in your own way. Namaste.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 17 = Back to My "Other" Favourite Spot

Day 17 - April 17, 2010 - 7:30AM with Abbey

I woke up very early this morning in anticipation of Day 17 of my 30 Day Challenge. I heard the plink-plink-plink of raindrops on our roof, which disappointed me because I had planned on taking our dog for a walk before getting ready for the 7:30AM class. Scrapping that plan, I put on my contact lenses to get that chore out of the way, then I went back to bed to have a few minutes more of cuddles with the hubby. Then at 6:30AM, I was off to the races.

Arriving early at the studio, I had a few minutes to sit in the car and listen to the radio before Abbey arrived. Being the first student to sign in, I managed to secure my "other" favourite spot: upper right corner of the room with mirrors front and right side (the better to check my thighs during Triangle Pose with). On weekdays I always park my mat right next to the door for an easy and speedy exit as I need to rush home right away.

We had a great class with Abbey today. I appreciated her pointing out that I should not rise up too high during the Cobra Pose, so much so that my belly button is no longer plastered to the floor. I should make sure that it is touching the floor so that I can use as much of my lower back strength as possible to lift my chest up higher. During the Full Locust I made sure that I saved some strength (but still breathing) to lift up to the highest level moments before releasing the posture.

At the end of the class, I took advantage of the luxury of a longer Savasana. It is so nice not to have to rush out today! I took the time to sit down and savour my Emergen-C fortified water while chatting with my buddy Bettina. Then I had a shower before heading home to have a nice breakfast. My daughter and our dog greeted me at the door (hubby was still enjoying a lie-in). What a beautiful start to my day! Namaste.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 16 = Two More Weeks To Go...Until The 60 Day Challenge!

Day 16 - April 16, 2010 - 6:00AM with Laurel

Today is Friday, marking the end of my weekday 6:00AM class run. Don't get me wrong, as I do enjoy practising first thing in the morning, even if I have to get up as early as 5:00AM! I've come to know some of the 6:00AM "regulars", working ladies who, like me, make a bee-line for the showers as soon as we say, "Namaste" to our instructor.

It was nice to have Laurel teaching today. I've only been to her class only once before. It's "refreshing" to have different instructors as they each have their unique teaching styles and tips on how to execute the postures properly. Today, she also reminded us not to wipe our sweat off as this would make our bodies work harder (and generate more heat) to create more sweat for cooling down.

So how did today go? Well, the hiney is getting less and less sore, so I'm improving on my Hands to Feet Pose. My Triangle is still strong, and so is my Cobra. I'm very, very pleased with my Cobra in that I am able to hold my head up high with only my belly button touching the floor with very little support from my hands - it's all about lower back strength.

Two more weeks until the end of THIS Challenge. Notice how I emphasised "THIS"? It's because I am seriously moving on to the 60 Day, and my poor hubby exclaimed, "What?!? What if you have to visit your folks or something?" I told him that there is a yoga studio where they're at, so no problem! Although it is very tempting to take a break, you know, sleep in, at the same time I know that I will be missing it. Big time. Everybody says that, even the non-Challengers. Yeah, so why stop now?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 15 - At The Halfway Mark - You Win Some (Inches), You Lose Some (Inches)

Day 15 - April 15, 2010 - 6:00AM with Anastasia

Well, here I am, halfway through my 30 Day Challenge. I'm slowly getting back to my deepest forward bend for the Hands to Feet Pose. The soreness in the bum is slowly subsiding, although I felt some tingling sensation in my right hand (like it's going to fall asleep). Overall, I still feel terrific.

I am not going to go into the details on how I executed the postures today, whether I noticed some progress or not. I am just going to share some of my thoughts about the Challenge, if I may. Here are what stands out:

1. If it weren't for the Challenge, I wouldn't be coming everyday to practice. I would only practice on my days off, or when I feel like it. Although I noticed that I seemed to go deeper in some of the postures by not coming everyday, missing a few days does take its toll~I feel there's something missing!

2. If it weren't for the Challenge, I would not get used to getting up as early as 5:00AM to make it to the 6:00AM class. As this is the only class that would work for my schedule during the work week, signing up for the Challenge has forced me to JUST DO IT.

3. If it weren't for the Challenge, I would not be able to uncover the potential my body has yet to offer. I was flexible as a child, but at my age, I didn't know I COULD STILL be flexible.

4. If it weren't for the Challenge, I would not have developed a camaraderie with my fellow yogis at the studio. I have met some really good people who are very dedicated to their practice. Our instructors are very helpful and they really care about their students.

5. Last but not the least, if it weren't for the Challenge, I would not be diligent in keeping my body healthy outside the yoga studio. My eating habits have improved; I eat less quantity, but more quality.

I intend to practice yoga well up to my senior years. I would like my body to stay healthy and happy so that I can enjoy what life has yet to offer me. I would like to grow old with my husband and enjoy our retirement. I would like to see our daughter grow up to womanhood and start her own family, and enjoy them all. I don't want to stagnate, I don't want to become a grumpy old woman. I want and need to be happy, so I can pass this happiness to every single person I meet. Namaste.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 14 = Almost at the Halfway Point and Feeling Terrific!

Day 14 - April 14, 2010 - 6:00AM with Ida Ripley

What a treat to have Ida Ripley as our instructor this morning. Ida is the Silver Medallist at the 6th Annual International Yoga Asana Championship (2009). She is also a Senior Teacher at Bikram Yoga headquarters, which means she is certified by Bikram Choudhury himself to hold posture clinics and seminars worldwide.

It was a busy class today. Not packed like sardines as there was still enough arm room to "fly" properly during the Full Locust Pose, but certainly enough people were there to crank the heat up a tad! I estimated it to be at least 20, and for a 6:00AM class, that's a lot. But there was great energy in the room, and Mr. Newbie, who had distracted me with his noisy breathing during Savasana, has learned to be more silent this time. I do applaud his efforts in coming in first thing in the morning. However, there was this lady beside me who kept on drinking after each set during the floor series. That was my new distraction. To top it off, she knocked her water bottle once...CLANG!!!...oh brother...chalk this one up for another challenge on my remain calm and serene when these things happen...ahhhh...

The Standing Head to Knee is the prize that I am hoping to win one day. Ida gave us a very helpful tip in order to execute this pose properly. One must distribute the weight on the standing foot, with more focus on the big toe. When you kick, you have to push the lifted foot forward keeping the hip back squarely while keeping the weight on the big toe. This keeps the weight evenly distributed. When I tried it, voila! I was able to hold the posture a bit longer than usual, although my hiney and hip joint still hurt :( But I am very pleased with this new development. Thank you so much, Ida!

So tomorrow is Day 15, the halfway point. I feel terrific; sore in some places, but feeling just fantastic! I can't believe I've gone this far. Yoga has been very good to me. Namaste.

PS: Check out Ida Ripley during the 6th Annual International Yoga Asana Championship held in Los Angeles on February 8, 2009.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 13 = One Sore Hiney

Day 13 - April 13, 2010 - 6:00AM with Anastasia

Oh the price you pay to achieve more flexibility in the spine. My bum has taken a beating from being pushed and stretched around day after day for the past 12 days. It is so sore that I couldn't stretch my legs out in the Standing Head to Knee Pose. My Hands to Feet Pose is back to square one; I just could not lift my hips up and lock my knees; therefore, no Japanese Ham Sandwich today. In consolation, my Standing Bow Pulling Pose and Balancing Stick were pretty good, but just to keep me grounded, I almost fell to the side during the first set of Tree Pose, which rarely happens.

After leaving the studio, I toyed with the idea of going to the 9:30AM class tomorrow. I was thinking that maybe my body needs to be up and about a few hours before the class starts in order for it to loosen up. Oh but I so love the 6:00AM class so much that I've decided to postpone the 9:30 until Day 15. I'll see what happens tomorrow. As I have said before, your body just throws all these curve balls at you. You should expect it, and learn to let go and move on. It's all about the journey. Namaste.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Intermission 2 = What My Monkey Mind Is Up To During Savasana

In Bikram Yoga, there are 2 breathing exercises and 26 postures. 26 divided into the standing series and the floor series. During the floor series, we go into savasana (Dead Body Pose), initially for 2 minutes after the Toe Stand, then 20 seconds after each floor series posture. Now you might wonder, why call it the Dead Body Pose? Because, one must lie still, like a corpse, but because we are not dead, we breathe in and out through the nose. Pretty simple, right? Not a chance, for those of us who just can't stop twitching, fussing, scratching, and what have you. This is when the monkey mind is at its busiest, because it is trying to dictate what it wants you to do. So, you must overcome this temptation, and try to meditate, try to breathe slowly, calmly.

As much as I'm honest to say that I can stay still like a corpse, my monkey mind sometimes gets the better of me. So what is it up to during savasana? Here's what I am guilty of thinking:

1. Hopping into the shower and lather myself with Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap;
2. Wondering what I should have for breakfast or lunch (depending on whether I'm at the 6:00AM or 9:30AM);
3. Wondering if I could afford that cute yoga top and shorts that I've been eyeing for days;
4. Thinking about that thermos bottle full of water fortified with Emergen-C Super Orange that I had purposely left in the change room (I have stopped taking water during class);
5. Wondering what I should label my new blog post on my 30 Day Challenge;
6. Etc., etc., etc.

I'm only human...that's my excuse...Namaste.

Day 12 - Super Spine Day!

Monday, April 12, 2010 ~ 6:00AM class with Jacqueline

Ah, it's Monday and my 6:00AM class run starts again today. I was wondering how I would do today as I was exhausted yesterday from an afternoon of shopping for new clothing items. I wish it were for yoga wear; it's mainly clothing for lounging around the house. After preparing a late-ish dinner of homemade macaroni 'n cheese with a side of green peas, I was ready to go to bed by 10:00PM (an early night for me!).

It is said that how one does Pranayama breathing will dictate the outcome of the rest of the class. In my case, I thought I did better than I expected; Pranayama is my least liked activity but surprisingly I was into it this morning. I was then surprised at how stiff my lower back felt so my first set of Hands to Feet Pose was not the best. Second set was better though, and my first back bend was not bad. Oh but I totally tanked during the balancing poses, especially the Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow Pulling. My standing leg just could not balance well. My hip joints were very stiff, so it's quite painful to extend my leg straight without wobbling. Balancing Stick was not bad, but not close to perfect either. What a relief that my Triangle Pose was good; I was still able to sit down low until my thigh was parallel to the floor the whole time. My Toe Stand was good too; I was able to hold both hands in Namaskar on both sets. During the 2 minute savasana (Dead Body Pose) I was distracted by my neighbour's laboured breathing through his mouth. He's a newbie, so he probably has not gotten used to the fact that one must breathe in and out through the nose.

Now comes the floor series, or the spine strengthening series. Starting with the Cobra Pose, I was very happy to execute it quite well with my head held up high by my lower back strength with very minimal support from my hands. I wish I could see how high my legs were lifted during the third part of the Locust. My spine felt really, really strong today! Although I didn't do well during the standing series, I was very pleased with the floor series. I just would have to reach that day. Namaste.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 11 - Congratulations, 101 Day Challengers!

First of all, I would like to congratulate all those amazing yogis and yoginis who were successful in meeting the 101 Day Challenge which ended today. An extra pat on the back for those who religiously practiced every single day for 101 days, i.e., WITHOUT missing a day of practice. I personally am determined to do the same for my 30 Day Challenge. So far, I have not missed a day.

It was pretty upbeat at the studio for the 7:30AM class today, a Sunday. It was a lovely, cool, beautiful spring day in Victoria this morning. A little cool for Victoria standards, but nevertheless, I felt it was worth giving up the luxury of a Sunday sleep in for. I was the first to arrive at the studio (again!) but was joined a few minutes later by our instructor and my yoga buddy (who is a 101 Day Challenger). I know I didn't have to rush in there on a Sunday morning, but I prefer to be super early as I get very anxious if I don't have a lot of time to get settled in.

So how was Day 11? I think today was one of my strongest classes so far. Although my lower back feels a bit sore from pushing myself to do deeper back bends, my body still felt very energised. Poses to note here are the Half Moon, Awkward, Balancing Stick (I didn't fall out early on this one), Eagle (I was more conscious about proper alignment and was able to hold the pose the entire time), Cobra (my lower back felt very strong enough to hold the pose properly the entire time), Camel, and Rabbit. Eleven straight days into the practice, I can say that I've come a long way but I am also aware that I have a lot to learn and a lot more potential to harness. I have a lifetime ahead of me on this journey. I hope I will not lose steam. Namaste.

Day 10 - I Would've Done A Back-To-Back

Today is Saturday, April 10th for Day 10 of my 30 Day Challenge. First class was at 7:30AM so I had the luxury of getting up at 6:15 instead of 5:15. I got to the studio at 6:50, and I was the first to arrive. Our instructor arrived 10 minutes later, and my buddy arrived soon after that. We parked our mats at our favourite spots, upper right corner right next to and in front of the mirrors. My buddy is doing the 101 Day Challenge, and tomorrow marks Day 101! So excited for her, and she said she'll keep going.

I had a great class today. I felt much more energised and able to do most of the postures to my liking. I pushed myself during the Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose by not spreading my legs too far out to the side to try to touch my forehead to the floor. My Triangle Pose is a lot stronger today and I was able to sit down lower. My lower back has become a lot stronger as I was able to hold the Cobra Pose high enough with less pressure on my hands. For the first set of the Camel Pose I tried to keep my knees 6 inches apart and I felt a tremendous stretch at my lower back...such a great feeling afterwards!

After the final breathing exercise, I made it a point to stay in the room longer as I have been rushing out to get home soon after the week day classes ended. I leisurely drank my vitamin-fortified water while chatting with fellow yogis. When I went back to the change room, one of the ladies asked me if I was going to do a back-to-back. I replied, "Oh no!" thinking, "Are you kidding me?" By the way, a back-to-back is two straight classes in a row. I would've today, as I felt so good and strong. Maybe one day. I will chalk that one up as one of the challenges I will take on. When the 30 Day is done, I will do the 60 Day, then the 90...who knows I might go for the 101...then maybe Teacher Training...then still practicing at 80 years of age...oh, so much to look forward to! Namaste.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 9 - No Make-Up, Just Yoga

Who needs make-up when you have Bikram Yoga? It's the best way to exfoliate and detoxify. After 90 minutes in the hot room, how can you not have that healthy glow? I don't wear make-up anyway, even during pre-yoga days. I have read many testimonials from people who used to wear make-up daily, and concluded that they don't really need it anymore as they noticed a huge improvement in their complexion. No need for concealers and foundation as it appears that their skin's imperfections have disappeared. Can you imagine how much time you now have in the morning to do other stuff instead of applying make-up!

Today is Day 9, and I'm feeling pretty good! Today is my last 6:00AM class until Monday; I will be attending the 7:30AM tomorrow and Sunday. I can sleep-in an extra hour! Woo hoo!

Anyway, I am quite ecstatic as I can almost lock my knees the whole time during the Hands to Feet Pose! I was a Japanese Ham Sandwich for a few seconds! My goal is now to be able to do it the entire time! I am trying to challenge myself in not spreading my legs too widely during the Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose in order for me to touch my forehead to the floor. My Triangle Pose was a bit wobbly, though. Another milestone is that I can almost lock my knee during the Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose. I am just totally amazed at how many little but significant changes occur with each daily practice. Today was a great day. Tomorrow may not be as great, but this does not really bother me. So many factors affect one's practice, that each day is different from the next. Our instructor today pointed out that there will be good days and bad days, but one thing is certain--the body is benefiting 100% from daily yoga practice. The aches and pains are just the aftermath of pushing the body towards its potential. Yoga is like an alarm clock that wakes you to prepare you for a lifetime of good health and sound mind. It is time to come out of hibernation, and do a complete overhaul. What better way than to allot just 90 minutes of daily practice. Yes, JUST 90 minutes. Namaste.

Day 8 - A Personal Record Broken and One Embarrassing Moment

Today marks eight straight days of yoga, and my personal record of six straight days from last year is now history. Twenty-two days to go, and I am setting my sights on the 60 Day Challenge. My husband just shakes his head, and wonders why I subject myself this: getting up at dawn just to go the hot room to sweat with other sweaty people. Bless his heart, I know he is enjoying the benefits of my practice. I am much better company, although my daughter is quite adept at pushing my buttons! I have been maintaining my ideal weight, despite the carbs I am still ingesting, but now in moderation. I am able to wear those hipster jeans, not "Mummy" jeans! My posture has greatly improved. My appetite is not as voracious as it used to be. I don't eat copious amounts of food anymore. I do drink lots and lots of water which is what we all should be doing.

How did I do today? Well, I was surprised that I was stiff going into the Hands to Feet Pose which very seldom happens. I am within centimetres of locking my knees and becoming a Japanese Ham Sandwich (no gap anywhere with the face plastered onto the shins). But during the first set I was so stiff it looked like I was a newbie at this. I was so relieved that the second set was way better! My Standing Bow Pulling Pose has also improved in that I was able to hold my body down parallel to the floor longer. My Balancing Stick is stronger as I felt strong enough to stretch my arms forward, keep my hips square and stretch my legs back and up. I have been taking into account all the corrections that my instructors have pointed out to me during class. I have been concentrating on the proper alignment rather than depth.

One embarrassing moment? I was doing the Eagle Pose and trying to align my hips forward and balance my weight onto my heel. When I settled my weight down, I burped...down there...good thing my instructor was still talking when this happened...oh jeez! Namaste!

Day 7 - I Forgot The Darn Sticker!

I had planned on attending the 9:30AM class today as it is my day off. But since I've gotten into the routine of getting up at 5:15AM since Monday, and having the rest of the day from 8:00AM to do chores and chill out, the 6:00AM is looking more like the class of choice. I will miss my 9:30AM class buddies, but all is not lost because I will see them at 7:30AM on the weekends.

So how did I do today? Well, I felt less stiff so I guess my body is starting to get used to all that stretching and pulling. I was very happy with my Standing Head to Knee Pose as I focused on the foot that is raised, rather than the standing leg thus helping me stay in the posture longer. I used to focus on the knee of the standing leg, but having consulted Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class book, I read that it helps if you focus on the raised foot and keep it flexed towards the face. I was amazed at how much longer I was able to hold the posture, not the entire time yet, but hopefully I will get there one day.

Rushing out of the room soon after the instructor had left, I made a bee line for the shower. By the way, it was quite a busy class today, I'm guessing more than 25, majority of them women. It's gonna be a long wait for the shower if I don't high tail out of there! Having had my shower, all refreshed and cool, I drove home, and it dawned on me that I forgot to place a sticker on the 30 Day Challenge board...darn!!! It's somewhat the highlight of my practice, to see more and more stickers beside my name. I feel like a school girl being rewarded for something. I had to restrain myself from driving back just to pick out a cool sticker. Oh well, there's always tomorrow...sigh...Namaste!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Intermission - Hot Yoga Fashion

I remember what I wore to my first Bikram Yoga class ~ bike shorts and a sports bra. I look around me and there are ladies in bikini tops and bottoms. Ninety minutes later, I decided to ditch the bike shorts. The sports bra I could live with. I check out the outfits for sale at the studio. Pretty darn cute, but also pretty darn pricey. We're looking at between $45-$60 a piece! Clearance items are marked down by 40% which isn't bad. Ten months into my practice I have acquired a few items of hot yoga clothing. A word of advice when picking out tops ~ make sure it stays where it should when you do the Half Moon Pose. For this pose, one must stretch both arms up, elbows locked, palms squeezed together tightly with index fingers pointing up like a church steeple. Then you bend sideways to the right then to the left. If the top stays to keep you "decent", it passed the test. I've had the misfortune of buying tops without "test driving" them first. I've had to keep adjusting during class. Very distracting. Live and learn.

As for bottoms, I now wear short shorts with side strings that can be pulled up and tied to look more like a bikini. On days that I feel bloated, I don't bother pulling the strings up so the shorts look more like shorts.

Whatever you choose to wear, be sure that you are comfortable. You will be sweating a lot, yes, I mean dripping A LOT. Last but not the least, be comfortable in your own skin. No one outside yourself will judge your fashion sense. It is all about you and you have to love YOU. Namaste.

Day 6 - My Body Cries, "Ooh, that hurts, but thank you very much!"

Day 6 ~ 2010 April 06 ~ 6:00AM ~

Six days of yoga and I felt a little stiff today. My balance was pretty off during the Standing Bow Pulling Pose, but I did well during the Balancing Stick. My Eagle Pose was not ideal today, and I appreciated the corrections my instructor told me during class.

You just never know what you're gonna get, how your practice is going to turn out. I think this is what makes me a Bikram Yoga junkie. It's the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises day after day, whether you're in a studio in Canada, the U.S., or the Philippines. One might get fed up with the routine, but amazingly enough, this is not the case with me, as my body keeps me on my toes, keeps me guessing, and keeps surprising me with little accomplishments. Gaining half an inch in my back bends, or half an inch to finally locking my knee during the Hands to Feet Pose. And the sweating, oh the sweating. It feels so good to sweat. After having my water and shower, boy, I feel like a million least. The body may feel sore, may feel some stiffness and pain, but really, it is whispering a sincere "Thank You" for giving it the gift of Yoga. Namaste.

Day 5 - Have Faith In You

Today is Monday, April 5th. My family had Easter Sunday dinner at my sister's place. We didn't arrive home until just before midnight, and my hubby and I had a glass of wine before bed. I would have refused because I will be going to the 6:00AM class. I decided to have it in the end as it is a nightly ritual that my hubby and I look forward to. I made sure I drank a litre of water afterwards to counteract the effects of the alcohol I just consumed. I went to bed at 1:00AM; thoughts of not rising at 5:15AM and not being able to execute the postures to my liking flooded my mind.

My body clock is pretty efficient; I hardly oversleep and most times I am awake before the alarm goes off. I made it to class on time, with a clear mind and determination to do well, to let go and move on if I couldn't hold a posture the entire time, and welcome the next with a renewed faith in myself. I left the studio with a big happy smiling face.

While at work a few hours later, a customer of ours stopped to chat and complimented me on my good posture. Wow, that made me feel like a million least! This is what 10 months of practice does to you. What will be in store for me when I complete the 30 Day Challenge? Have faith...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 4 - A Date With The Easter Rabbit

Day 4 was Easter Sunday. I made a date with the Easter Rabbit during the 9:30 class. It turned out to be a “comfortable” class, i.e. not too hot and not too many people in attendance. I was able to spread my arms for the Full Locust without having to touch my neighbour. Needless to say, my execution of the Rabbit Pose is pretty fair. My aim is to be able to position my thighs so they are perpendicular to the floor, and not on an angle.

One of my friends at the studio said that the rest of her family were going to church for Easter Sunday services. She had considered going with them, but in doing so would mean she would have to do a “double” (2 yoga classes in a day). She’d signed up for the 101 Day Challenge. On her 93rd day, she had not done a double ever, and she’s not about to ruin her record, even for church. Oh the things we do (and don’t do) for yoga!

So what did I have to give up for yoga? Sleeping in, especially on Sundays. It would have been nice to just relax in bed on a Sunday, but I’ve been feeling an enormous satisfaction in going to yoga early in the morning. I feel so energized for the rest of the day that it’s worth getting up early for.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 3 - PM Hot Yoga Ain't That Cool

I am a morning person, through and through. I was born in the morning, I cannot sleep in past 8:00AM, and by 10:00PM, I am already "falling off my perch" (as what my mother-in-law would say). Which is why I prefer to practice yoga in the morning (6:00 or 9:30 on weekdays and 7:30 on weekends), and I've already had a few 6:00AM classes tucked under my belt. Getting up at 5:00 AM? No sweat! Ha ha!

One of the instructors said that there are both pros and cons to practising either in the morning or afternoon. In the morning, one tends to have a cold body from being asleep all night but one's mind is fresh and clear of distractions. By the afternoon, one's body is already stretched, but the mind tends to be too busy and prone to distract one's practice. The 3:45PM class would have been fine for a work day, except that I would be squeaking in with only a few minutes to get ready and settled in. I would be lucky to park my mat down on my favourite corner spot where I could see myself in the mirror front and side. This class is also a busy one--busy class, hotter room, closer proximity to a sweaty neighbour, and not much arm room to do a proper Full Locust.

So today, a work day, I had no choice but to attend the 3:45. With only about 10 minutes to get ready, and not finding my headband, boy was I in a tizzy. Good thing my studio has complimentary hair ties! Nothing more distracting than hair sticking to your face when you need to focus on your practice! I parked myself beside the door, close to the wall where the thermostat is. 99 degrees F. Not bad, but why do I feel hot already? It wasn't a packed class as it is the Easter long weekend. My practice was doing fairly well, except during Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose where I felt this awful stinging sensation down my nostrils! I was bending with my forehead touching my knee, and I could only think of some beads of sweat going down the wrong way! That sure hurt! So much so that I had to get out of the posture and stand upright until the stinging subsided. It felt like I've inhaled sea water! Ouch!

Big changes are happening to my body. My spine is becoming more and more flexible as my back bends are getting deeper little by little each day. I still have quite a ways to go, but that is the beauty of yoga. You have a whole lifetime to reach your goal, whatever it is. There will be good days and bad days. Tired days and sore days. In my case, it's simply amazing that no matter how well or bad my 90 minutes pan out, I am happy to let it go and look forward to the next day. And tomorrow it will be a morning practice. Happy Easter, and Namaste!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 2 = HOT, HOT, HOT!!!

Today is Friday, April 2nd. Also happens to be Good Friday, and there was no 6:00AM class. Everybody showed up at 9:30...yes, EVERYBODY, or so it seems. I got there before 9:00 as I anticipated that it would be busy with people needing to get their practice done first thing to make way for the long weekend. I managed to secure a good spot up front to the right of the platform (where the instructor stands during class). However, as more and more people arrived, the hot room was looking more like a big can of sardines. Oh's gonna be a HOT one...

And it was! Aside from the heat blowing out of the studio heaters, you have about 50 human bodies generating even more heat on top of that! I swear the thermostat registered over 109 degrees F! I could tell I was going to work extra hard, from the time the first beads of sweat started trickling down during Pranayama breathing, the very first thing we do. I usually don't start sweating until after the Eagle Pose (posture no. 3).

If you let it, the heat is going to be your foe, but only if you let your monkey mind get the better of you. My friend, the mind is a powerful thing, but there is one thing that's even more powerful, that's always your friend. One thing that we do every second to keep us alive. That powerful, wonderful thing, is our BREATH. Yes, my friend, breathing slowly in and out through your nose will calm your monkey mind, will help you meditate, will help you focus on ignoring the heat. Your breath will calm you, will stop you from feeling light-headed. I experience the magic of breath each time I torture myself in that hot room. But what about that feeling of thirst, you ask? Guess what? I never felt the need to drink water in the hot room. All I need is my breath. Water never tasted better than after 90 minutes in the hot room.

So how did my practice go today? I'd say it went well, better than I expected, despite the heat, or should I say, BECAUSE of the heat! I felt that I was able to go deeper in some of the postures; I just have to ensure that I have proper alignment first and foremost. I think my lower spine is loosening up quite nicely. I am looking forward to Day 3, and wonder what surprises my body has in store for me tomorrow! Namaste!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bring on the 30 Day Challenge!

Well, it's written in stone...I've signed up for the 30 Day Challenge. It's my first time to do so. Ever since I got hooked on Bikram Yoga at first sweat 10 months ago, I've been yearning to do the Challenge. I'm fortunate that my studio (Bikram Yoga Saanich) offers a lot of classes to choose from, catering to a varied clientele ranging from students, to stay at home parents, to working parents, to grandparents. The best time for me is 6:00AM on the days that I work, 9:30AM on my days off, and 7:30AM on weekends. I once dreaded the 6:00AM, especially during the winter months; I don't find it especially inviting to be heading out in the dark and cold! However, since I NEED to get used to this, I thought I'd give it a try. It was very difficult to get myself out of bed at 5:00AM. But I tried my best, and discovered that I just have to get used to it.

So today, on April Fool's Day (ha ha, yes, you will think I am a fool to "torture" myself in 100+ degree heat and 40% humidity for 90 minutes), my new adventure began. I was very pleased with my practice today. By this time, I am very comfortable not having any water during class (doubly foolish, you say!). What annoyed me more than anything is having to burp a few times just before I have to do back bends!

How did I do with the postures? The Standing Head to Knee is still my biggest challenge. I can extend my leg, but I still couldn't hold the posture the entire time. I couldn't hold the Standing Bow the entire time, but I noticed that I am able to keep my upper body down parallel to the floor. The Balancing Stick was a bit of a nuisance today as I wasn't able to keep my leg parallel and my hip square. I am very happy with the Triangle as I've discovered the proper alignment. I have improved on the Full Locust; I had been swinging my arms too far back instead of holding it just slightly up from being parallel to the floor. My spine is straighter during the Spine Twisting Pose and I am able to hold on to my knee. My Eagle Pose is improving in that I am able to sit down lower.

My daughter's teacher practised today as well, and she said she had thought about taking the Challenge. When she found out that I had signed up, she said that she will consider doing so since there is someone she knows who's doing it too. After class, she informed me that she has signed up. I felt very pleased about that. But what made me feel fulfilled even more was the fact that according to my daughter, she told her students about the Challenge today, and that seeing me there made her decide to take part as well. She also said that she will encourage her fellow teacher to do the same. I am so happy that I somehow helped someone go outside their box (as I have) and pass this on to others in the process. Maybe this is my Karma. Namaste.