Thursday, February 3, 2011

Forward Thinking: Beyond the 30 Day Challenge

I've decided that I'm going to maintain my blog beyond just the documentation of my 30 day challenge. This is officially my yoga blog. Discovering that Bikram yoga has many more applications in my life outside of just a 30 day challenge I think it is important to continue to document my experiences in this practice. It's always good to see where you've come from and where you are going and I think the same is true for my new found love of Bikram yoga. Since everyday is different, the blog will give me motivation to continue and revisit challenges overcome or breakthrough's achieved. A prime example is my experience with class over the past few days.

There is no doubt this yoga practice is difficult to fit into the schedule every day but it is true that your body craves yoga when you miss even one class. After a day of rest on Sunday, I was excited to get back to class Monday to start of the month of February. Well, unexpectedly I had to cover something at work and couldn't get to class by 4. Tuesday I worked from home due to the "ice storm" that had been forecast but didn't really materialize, so I was determined to get to 4pm class. I left the house feeling like I really really needed yoga for my mental health that day. I arrived at 4:05pm, I could see the class just starting the breathing exercise...sweet just in time! Or so I thought, the door was locked as anyone working the studio had gone into the class. I found out from Megan it was not more than a split second before I got there (she saw walking up through the window) that Insel locked the door and came in. Feeling so in need of class and so upset that I had not made it and now wasted a 2 hour round trip effort to get there...I cried. A lot. So I went home and worked into the night to distract myself from my woes.

Wednesday, no way anything was going to get in the way of yoga. Today was my day. Then I had something that has never happened thus own personal worst yoga class. Maybe I was not mentally prepared or had been too stressed the days before, but I did not have the physical or mental strength for this class once we got started. My body could not seem to regulate its temperature and midway through standing pose I was so hot that the temperature was the only thing I could focus on. My clothes felt like I was standing directly in the sun, offering no relief. I began to wonder if the room was abnormally hot. The instructor, Max, a fairly new teacher was sweating much more than teachers usually do and he made zero adjustments to the thermostat during class...which I always notice the other instructors monitoring. The sounds in class seemed to be of amplified struggle, as if all of our bodies were screaming out "Check the thermostat!!!" Oddly enough, I gathered some unknown strength in triangle pose, but lost it from there. As soon as we hit the floor series I could not take it any longer. I debated walking out of the room, my clothes were on fire and my energy was zapped. How can I make it, I need to leave. Why is this happening? Then I succumbed to my despair and total meltdown, I began to cry laying on my back looking at the ceiling. I kept crying and sat out half of the floor series unable to muster the strength and mental capacity to do what normally comes so easy. Finally, I let the tears dry up and put in a half effort to finish the second half of floor series. There was no real intent or focus in any of my postures. There was no joy in movement, just basic movement...get me through this class and allow me to at least stay in the hot room the full 90 minutes. I noticed though that there was a lopsided number of others in the room struggling as well. Many sitting out posture after posture and one person did get up and leave with only two postures left. I've never felt a collective class energy like this, just biding our time to get to the end. I felt like this class and especially myself were so in need of an instructor that could provide strong words of encouragement, but none came. I never realized how much those encouraging words from more seasoned instructors really made a difference until they did not exist when I needed them most. I don't want to be negative about Max because I think this was a combination of "perfect storm" factors. I have had a class with Max before and it was the complete opposite, although his instruction was the same. Today was just a day that I would have benefited from my favorite cheerleader rather than relying on myself to pull myself together. In the end I finished class but could not believe how awful my performance had been. Surprisingly, I was upbeat after class despite how bad it was. I reminded myself that everyday is different and the next practice can only be better. Still that class was my personal awful!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 30: Challenge Wrap Up

The last official day of the 30 day challenge I did not actually go to yoga. Having done a double the day before I made up my mind that night that I was not going to try to go to a morning class before picking up Ella Sunday afternoon. So what did I learn in my 30 day Bikram yoga challenge?

I think the biggest realization was that life does not always go as planned, but when that feels like a negative within the moment there really is a positive waiting to be discovered around the corner. My challenge was completely derailed by my illness less than halfway through the 30 days...but in the end I finished strong and even completed a double just to do so for me and not because I was trying to cram in some extra classes to make 30 classes in 30 days. The derailing of the challenge did lend itself to my allowing a more casual approach to the remaining days, if something was not going to work out for childcare or work interrupted, I let it go and did not beat myself up about it. Although I really wanted to in the end say I had completed at least 25 classes, life did not work out that way and I had to be proud and satisfied with what I did accomplish. 15 classes in 30 days with a lengthy bout with bronchitis and a sinus infection, competing priorities as a single mom and a full time working professional...Pretty damn good!

Awesome side benefits of taking on this challenge have been the change in my diet. Most notably, the absence of soda in my daily life. In the last 30 days I can count on less than one hand the number of sodas I have drank. That's right, 4 cokes the entire month. Before starting yoga I had definitely cut back my soda intake (which was at one time 1-2 large cokes per day) to maybe 3 per week, depending on the week. Once I started yoga I was too scared to drink anything caffeinated for fear of not making it through class or getting a killer headache after class from the dehydration. Instead I have become a water drinking machine, throw in a couple vitamin waters and coconut waters (2 of each to be exact) and that was the path. Even on my last day of the challenge, in which I did no yoga, I went to brunch and ordered a water without thinking about it. I don't crave caffeine or soda which is actually very liberating, not to mention what this must be doing to create a healthier body. Funny story, about six months ago Megan gave me a bottle of SmartWater to try. I opened it, took a few sips and done. About a week later she was in my car and noticed the full water bottle. It was a running joke about how little water I drank and how much she always was drinking. On Day 30, Megan got into my car and as I was apologizing for the mess, the first thing she said was "I'm glad to see so many empty water bottles in here!" Indeed, the mess in the front seat area is all empty or close to empty SmartWater bottles! Now the back seat, that's all Ella :) As with the soda, for the most part my daily food intake has also changed. During the work week, I have focused on what will make my body feel good for yoga class, which has been a lot of salad, veggies, fruit and sushi rolls (we have a pretty decent buffet at work). Of course, I probably ate some rice, pasta and a little bit of chicken but primarily as dinner meals after yoga. I think I have done well in this arena but can certainly improve more. I have also noticed I am cooking more despite being tired and having to shower and do laundry almost daily to keep up with the yoga routine.

The emotional element is definitely noteworthy as well. I have definitely experienced a full range of emotion from this 30 day journey. Excitement, happiness, frustration, anger, jealousy, elation, sadness, joy and even the absence of emotion in the calmness of breath. More than anything though, I felt happy. Yoga brought me to a place of happiness even in the midst of great stress. It was a calming force and one that brought so many smiles to my daily life. Tied into the emotional is obviously the mental. This practice has given me greater mental strength to take on the challenges in my life and although I definitely had days where I let the opposite happen, again more often I expanded my mental toughness and pushed through any of the "shit."

The physical results. I really did not focus too much energy on the external physical changes during this challenge. Mainly because although it would be great to immediately shed 20 pounds, I knew it was just not realistic. I set out instead to find out what the practice could do for me in the non physical and would let the physical fall into place from there. I have not seen dramatic shifts in my physical appearance, but there have been some. Maybe a few pounds of weight loss (I really haven't checked the scale since I lost 5 pounds just due to illness), and I definitely lost inches in my thighs and legs. Other than that, I think the changes are too minimal for even me to see on the outside. I imagine in terms of the physical on the inside, I have received great benefits not only from practicing for 90 minutes but also from the restful sleep I have been getting and earlier bedtimes (for the most part--I am a nightowl by habit). Increased flexibility has been by far the most obvious benefit physically. Starting yoga, I could not touch my toes at all and was probably about 4-5 inches away from doing so. Now I touch my toes with ease, with straight legs. Overall, I am less stiff and more flexible to stretch and twist in ways I thought for sure would take me much longer to conquer.

In the end, I have made new goals for my yoga. I have found something that has a way of changing my everyday perspective, allows me to grow physically and mentally, and challenges me every time. It is a place to spend time and connect with my best friends and to make new friends. I am hooked, most definitely. Thus, I am continuing and will challenge myself to see just how many classes I can do in 60 days. I know I am not talking about 60 classes in 60 days, I am just too far behind. However, my goal is to practice at least 4-5 times per week and if I can make it more then I will. I definitely plan to schedule more double days and work hard on my eating habits because I really do want to lose some weight and maybe one day look like those skinny minis, maybe buy a pair of teeny shorts and a teeny top...or two. I feel like yoga helps me to balance all of the moving parts of my life, gives me extra patience with my 4 year old and helps me push through and accept the tough moments. Things are far from idyllic in my life and I certainly breakdown from time to time, but I'll take the bad moments in exchange for all the good any day...same goes with for my yoga practice.

Now I'm going to pat myself on the back for all my hard work and a job well done!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 29: My First Double!

Saturday was the day of my first double, two classes in one day and back to back as well. The ladies and I had planned to complete the double together, the goal to go to 8am and 10am class. Well as Saturday morning rolled around, the idea of 8am yoga was much less appealing. Texting the girls at 6:30am, I found Elizabeth was sicker than sick and Megan was up for going to 10am and postponing the double for another time. So I headed to 10am class, debating whether I would brave a double solo and go to the noon class to kill time before my hair appointment. I decided to go for it!

Class 1:
Class 1 was taught by Carrie, upbeat and chipper as usual. Starting out in our first breathing exercise, looking in the mirror I noticed that my body has definitely changed in certain areas. A good way to kick things off! Things moved forward well from there in terms of the postures, until we turned to face the side mirrors during our standing series. Suddenly I found myself staring at two of the "skinny mini" girls in teeny tiny yoga costumes. Not an ounce of fat, perfectly toned. That positive feeling about my body at the beginning of class...gone. Replaced by a feeling of defeat and heaviness. More than anything total distraction. Through the three postures facing the mirror I was removed from my practice, doing exactly what they tell us not to do all the time...comparing myself to other people in the room. Instead of comparing my postures to theirs though, I was comparing my appearance. I wondered how long they had been doing yoga and then ran through a few explanations to make myself feel better...these girls are obviously still in their early 20's, with those tiny hips no way they've had kids, and of course they seem very advanced in their yoga practice...certainly not still within the first 30 days of class. I could not wait to get back to the front mirror and then down to the floor poses, please someone remove this negative distraction! Once we did turn around my practice was definitely back on track. Hotter than hot, I was still contemplating whether I would go to the noon class, so tried not to completely overdo it but also did not want to short myself on this class either. The most notable moment of the floor series was in bow pose (see pic). I have struggled with pose since day one, there has to be a trick. I focused on Carrie's instructions, kick, kick, kick higher, relax your shoulders, look higher up at the ceiling. Feeling like I might have finally found the "magic" trick to the pose, I had to peek in the mirror to see exactly how high my feet were coming up over my head and how high my knees were. I was amazed at just how high my feet and knees were, I had indeed started to understand just how to get my body into this posture...awesome! Towards the end of class I was beat, it was so hot! How was I ever going to go right back into this room when all I could think of was getting out into the cool air again???

The Break
In the break between 10 am and noon class, I walked out and officially decided I would do the double. To further solidify the decision, I walked up to Carrie and told her I was going to stay for noon and grabbed a coconut water. I asked who was teaching noon class...Insel! My first class with Insel and it was going to me my double class and there he was smiling at me asking me if I was going to stay for the 4pm class as well! Gotta love Insel. Nevertheless, I was intimidated. Insel's classes I'm told are tough and in high demand because of it. Well, why not have my first double finish out with a class from the owner of the studio himself?! Bravely, I told Megan as well as she was heading out. She wished me luck and told me to be careful too. A quick change into fresh yoga clothes and a fresh water bottle and I was back in the hot room.

Class 2
Starting class two I felt the most focused and connected than I think I ever have. The breathing exercise was fluid but I could feel my legs were shaky and a bit like jello. Oh no, should I have stayed? I tried to focus on making my legs strong again as well. From there, to be honest, class was almost a blur. I couldn't tell if it was just the fact that I was in my second class in a row or if Insel keeps us in the postures a bit longer than the instructors I've become accustomed too. It has to be Insel, maybe I was finally experiencing an "Insel" class...tough and utterly challenging. I pushed in each posture, but was essentially on auto pilot just following the commands of Insel's voice. I could tell my body was so warmed up allowing me to go farther in most postures, like standing bow left foot actually visible over my head in the mirror. I peeked again in the floor bow pose, again pulling my knees and feet higher than ever. My two camel poses felt awesome, backward bending my deepest. In the last few postures Insel kept reminding us "don't leave anything in the tank!" I dug deeper to find that last bit of energy left in my body and at the same time felt a complete sense of accomplishment that I was about to finish my first double.

The After
After class I felt totally expended. I was moving at a snail's pace, showering and dressing to go to my hair appointment. A headache slowly started to creep in, all I wanted to do was go to sleep. Then the headache advil required. My hair appointment was relaxing, much needed as I had about zero energy left and need to recoup some. Although I walked in there a hot mess, I walked out feeling great...but starved! I had yet to eat all day and the fuel from my coconut water and regular water was gone. Off to Megan's for girls night and Thai food. Surprisingly, I did not pass out the second I walked in Megan's door and felt tired but awake until we went to sleep after 11pm. A long, but incredible day!

Day 27 & 28: No Yoga

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 26: A "Nooner"

As I wrote in my blog last night, I had no intention of going to yoga today. I had planned to have my hair done today and skip yoga to do so. Then the weather intervened. This morning working from home as I had planned, I heard that all the schools were closed due to the sleet/ice/snow mix we had overnight and the snow anticipated later today. Then I got the call from the salon that my appointment needed to be rescheduled, stylist has kids and was at home since the schools were closed. Rescheduled for Saturday. The thought hit me...I should go to noon yoga. I've been working all morning and can still bring Ella to daycare, hit up yoga, and be home before the snow and work the rest of the afternoon and evening from home again. Beautiful! I had to share this with the girls, come to noon yoga and get out of Tyson's Corner early before the storm hits!

Unfortunately, Megan couldn't swing it but I was excited when Elizabeth said she'd come. Then she told me Sywann was teaching, ah this was meant to be. Finally, a positive interference, an unexpected chance to get another class in before the end of the excited was I the whole way to class!? So excited!!

Practice was great. Sywann challenged us to work on our focus today, to maintain stillness between the postures. This is definitely one of the harder things to do. There's always the urge to wipe the sweat, adjust clothes, wiggle, etc. They call your savasanas your body's gas station, the place to recover between postures. The stillness and focus on your breath is what brings that recovery, the calm and the energy to push through whatever is next. I think I did pretty good with Sywann's challenge today, not perfect, but good. I have to say that this definitely helped my practice today.

Sywann said today that in coming to class we are changing ourselves. The idea of self induced change stuck with me. I've written about the daily interferences in life, the best laid plans that go awry, and life's little curve balls. All outside changes in our lives, external forces bringing change upon us that we then respond to in the ways we have learned. The idea of creating change for myself by the simple choice of coming to yoga is empowering. We don't always have to wait to react to the things outside of our control but can also choose to affect change within ourselves when we see fit. Over the last few years I've been reminded by others and also remind others myself that we can only control the things we can control and the rest we cannot worry ourselves sick over. What Sywann said was really an extension of that concept. I can control what change I want to make in my body to the extent that I show up for yoga class, from there my body will choose to respond in whatever way it wants, but change will occur. Self change, self control and the courage to find 90 minutes in a day to choose to be selfish and do something for yourself. That is the empowerment of this yoga for me.

I definitely enjoyed my "nooner" today!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 25: Interference

Being that my challenge was basically shot after my lengthy illness, I noticed that I am less inclined to make alternative arrangements to ensure I make it to class. I still want to finish strong and plan on doing a double this weekend, but when I knew I had a work training that would prevent me from making 4pm class today I didn't want to inconvenience anyone else trying to coordinate a babysitter for Ella so that I could go to 6pm. If I had felt like I wasn't asking a favor of someone to do so I definitely would have been at 6pm, especially knowing that tomorrow I have chosen to get my hair done rather than make 4pm class. So I have elected to take today and tomorrow off and return to yoga on Thursday.

Tonight I counted my total classes over the past 25 days, disheartening. 12 classes, that's it. What I am trying to keep sight of is that I will still get another 4-6 classes in before the end of the month, bringing me to a grand total of 16-18 classes in 30 days...with a bout of bronchitis in the middle. That sounds a little better. Challenges are tough for a reason, if it was easy it wouldn't be called a "challenge." There is absolutely a million various interferences that can come up in our daily lives. I think as long as I keep sight of my overall goal: continued yoga practice at least 4 times per week, the lifestyle change and acknowledging my accomplishment and the health benefits...the total numbers for this challenge become less significant. What does provide meaning in my life is the experience of this challenge and how each practice has had practical application in my life outside of the hot room. Keep up the good work Lex (self-encouragement is a good thing) :)

Day 24: Nothing to Fear Except Fear Itself

Back on the mat Monday at 4pm with both my ladies at the same class. Feeling some slight improvement in my health but antibiotics have not exactly been the immediate fix I had expected. Class with Sywann is always great, she is so calming with the even tone of her voice. Practice was one smooth flow of postures after another and my focus was strong. I did slightly allow my focus to shift for a moment when I noticed Elizabeth kicking butt next to me in her standing head to knee pose...I got so excited I wanted to give her a high five right then and there...yeah I saw you locking out both knees. Seeing my friend getting into her practice is simply extra motivation for me. I think I smiled the entire practice, whether it was because of my awesome yogini friend next to me or the comments Sywann was making in class...I felt happy throughout class.

A few notes on my own practice. At the start I could feel the tightness of my body from the three day gap since my last class. My lower back was especially tight and I immediately felt it in half-moon pose. I couldn't wait to get warmed up and loosen up my body. I don't think I noticed the heat much at all today, those are the best days of all! Once I warmed up it was on in the standing series. I finally reached the outside of my feet in Standing Separate Leg stretching pose and then my favorite breakthrough in class...I actually made it into a Toe Stand! It was great to finally feel the stretch of that pose and also understand the difficulty of the balance once fully into it. My floor series also went well with those subtle improvements noticeable only to me.

What I've found with myself is that once I have a "breakthrough" in a posture, the next time I go to class I go right back to the farthest point I have made it to thus far. Once I get past my fear or doubt about my ability to go to certain points in each posture, I realize that I can immediately go there next round. I think much of the improvement I've made has had a lot to do with overcoming those self made obstacles. This is oh so true in life as well. It is easy for me to let self doubt or my own obstacles, usually a result of fear, to get in the way of living at my fullest ability. Facing fear is one of the harder things to do, but overcoming it is usually easier than expected and the results more rewarding than continuing to hold back. If only I could always remember this and apply it across the board in my life...something to work on I suppose.

Day 22 & 23: Recovery Weekend

Short and sweet, this weekend was about recuperating and allowing my antibiotics to start working. I probably would have gone to yoga anyways if I actually had someone to watch Ella for me, but this was not that weekend. Instead, Ella and I enjoyed some needed relaxation and spent the weekend watching Disney movies together on the new DVD player my co-worker gave us (our old one broke). Mom & daughter time, just as theraputic as yoga...minus the sweat :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day 21: The Doctor Is In

Took myself to the doctor finally on my 12th day of being sick. Turns out there was a reason behind my not being able to shake this "cold"...the official diagnosis is bronchitis and a sinus infection. The official treatment, a 10 day supply of antibiotics, lots of hydration, warm fluids, over the counter sinus meds (the ones that weren't working before are supposed to work better once the antibiotics start to fight off the bacterial infection), and salt water nasal spray. That's a long list, but I am happy to know that I will finally get rid of this.

After spending the morning at the doctor, I worked from home and had an urgent work assignment that took me through about 6:30pm. Needless to say, I did not go to yoga today. I am still amazed that I've been able to go as much as I have while being sick, not that it was everyday, but that even with bronchitis and a sinus infection I was still able to complete classes and feel the benefits of being there.

What I noticed tonight when I did not go was that I found myself in a funk. The night before I had written about my general feelings of happiness after yoga. I am wondering if the funk I felt tonight and general unhappiness is actually related to not having been at yoga. Maybe it was more of not having the stress relief that makes the other worries seem a little less significant or just less overwhelming. Tonight I felt a little overwhelmed with my life. I'm hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 20: Transforming

Today I broke down and made an appointment with my doctor for tomorrow morning, my congestion is simply not getting any better. The only thing that seems to help is yoga, but then it's right back as soon as I walk out of class. So after my difficulties breathing in practice yesterday, I was curious how tonight would go...but I guess I'm always curious how the next class will go. Part of it is the anticipation of my next subtle breakthrough, the natural progression of my practice...but also part of my underlying disbelief that I can make it through those 90 minutes each time.

Can I just say for the record, I love taking class from Carrie! Her pep really allows me to dig in to my practice and especially keeps me motivated towards the end of class. I feel like some of my best practices have been in her classes, tonight was no exception. My breathing challenges of yesterday, no trace of them tonight. Practice seemed to flow much better, I was stronger and more confident. Being mindful of my where my body was at today (still being under the weather) I was pleased at how much I was able to push myself without feeling overly strained. My favorite part of practice was Camel. There's something so exhilarating about going into Camel feeling like your either going to throw up or pass out and coming out of the full expression of the posture, laying in Savasana and feeling the rush of blood through your entire body in the most pleasing way. Like having an ice cold lavender towel on your face at the end of 90 minutes in 110 degree heat with 50% humidity.

As I write at this moment, I am exhausted yet again, but for hours after class tonight I was invigorated with energy and happiness. Maybe my life has been transformed by hot yoga...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 19: Anxiety and Hope

Yes, back in the hot room! Slowly but surely I want to believe I am getting rid of this never ending cold. I won't bore with too many details, but yes I remain congested and at less than full energy and strength. Not to mention my newest ailment, itchy eyelids due to some type of allergic reaction to what I am not at all sure. Bottom line is my immune system is still recovering and I was determined to be on the mat today.

Arriving at 4pm class I was excited for practice but more so to see Elizabeth again. Seems like forever since I've seen her or Megan. Our time on the mat together has been a great bonus to our friendships and even though we don't get much of our "chit chat" in, it's awesome to see the three of us practicing together. I also get enjoyment out of being their cheerleader and seeing what great work they are doing in their commitment to their own practices. I feel like the non-verbal bonding we have in yoga is just as satisfying as our "girls nights" full of chatter and laughter.

Back to class...yes it was HOT, but that is the point right!? Throughout our standing series I definitely was fighting to maintain my endurance and fight off the physical discomfort of my breathing. My body still fighting the congestion, it seemed to take longer today to open up my breathing passages. My heart rate also seemed to jump higher more often after even the slightest extra exertion. I know this is a good thing overall, in terms of getting the blood flowing, but the pattern was off for me today and I found myself feeling anxious during these moments. Anxiety for me plays on my fears, which in turn makes my heart race faster and my mind spin into a string of oh no's, what if's and omg's. Having had panic attacks several times in my life, when I've allowed my anxiety to completely take over, I have great fear of where that anxiety will lead me if I don't take control immediately. It is hard to describe the anxiety of feeling your heart beating too fast for comfort when you feel like you can't quite catch enough breath. But I had several moments where I felt the start of that feeling and had to immediately shut my mind down to bring back the calm. While not coming anywhere near a panic or even allowing anxiety to grab hold longer than literally a second, what stuck out for me in this class was simply the difficulty I had in maintaining my breathing when it has generally come with ease thus far. I was truly proud, not to mention relieved, when I actually finished all of the standing postures and beat down that anxiety.

In the floor series I am finding my stride, even when sick. These are becoming my postures of noticeable changes in every practice. I've even found that the postures I "dreaded" most in the beginning are becoming my favorites. The discomfort has been replaced by comfort and I am getting closer to full expression in more than one floor posture. It is comforting to end with these moments of encouragement after fighting my way through the standing poses. It gives me hope that once my strength is back again I will find more improvements in my standing postures as well.

Tonight I am feeling optimistic about recovering my health and my practice seems to contribute to that feeling, mentally and physically. I am exhausted but I am breathing easier tonight, so tomorrow I will be just as determined to go back to the mat.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 18: The Best Laid Plans...

Yes, I am still sick. Day 9 of sick. I am tired of sick. My first day physically back in the office. I forgot my yoga pants, but no worries I'll just pick up some yoga shorts at the studio. Meetings set to be over by 3:30, just enough time to get to 4pm class with Elizabeth & Megan. It's 3:23 and my stomach hurts, my palms are sweating...something is not right.

Yes, what I am finding in this first ever 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge of mine is that sometimes, as in life, things do not always go according to plan. As if my body could be depleted anymore, thanks to lunch or the sinus medicine I took, I had a serious stomach upset. This is upsetting because having such a sensitive stomach I am keenly in tune with what I can and cannot eat and drink. Many in my life will gladly tell you how difficult it is to plan a menu with me around thanks to my lactose intolerance and general sensitivities to things like beef, beans, and artificial sweeteners...but the formula works when done correctly. So when random stomach upsets occur I am always searching for what went wrong.

Needless to say, I did not make it to class. I am beginning to wonder whether my body is simply telling me that I need to wait to go back to yoga until I am 100%. I can't decide. I have such a mix of emotions at the way the challenge is playing out for me, not at all according to plan. I try to stay optimistic by reminding myself that this is not my only chance to do a challenge and that it is okay wherever I end up in my total number of classes in this 30 days. Something is better than nothing. Then there is the perfectionist in me that is so devastated at what has transpired. I have failed the challenge and there is no making up for it at this point. I am envious of those that have all their stickers on the chart and are even ahead of the challenge. I am angry, frustrated, disappointed and flustered...did I mention I'm tired of being sick too?

Wasting energy on the negative emotions is just that, a waste. It is honestly difficult to quiet the disappointment and quell the drive within to maintain perfection at something I've been determined to accomplish. I am doing all that I can do and I do need to be proud of the accomplishment thus far. The new goal is to finish strong and set a date to start another 30 day challenge of my own when I am fully healthy again.

1) Stay positive
2) You can plan and plan, but sometimes you get a curveball thrown at you
3) Embrace the new "plan" even if it wasn't your creation
4) Get healthy
5) Note accomplishments: completed 9 classes in 18 days; drinking water and not soda or tea; reduced dependence on caffeine and sugar; healthier eating at each meal; learning little insights about yourself and life; finding a new activity that you love and don't know how you've been living without it...just to start

Day 17: Don't Push Your Luck

Day 17 and after being completely excited last night to hit the mat again today I found my energy all but depleted. I am still sick, congested beyond belief, coughing up a lung and a borderline migraine headache from the congestion. I feel like I used up the small amount of energy that had briefly come back into my body on Sunday after emerging from the mind fog. Knowing how good I had felt yesterday after class and then how exhausted, I debated. Am I just pushing my luck thinking I can start daily classes again when I am still obviously sick? I want to get better so that I can finish the remaining days of the challenge as strong as possible and not just making it through class because I have some lingering illness. What good have I done myself if I exhaust the energy my body needs to fight off the cold? So I decided the best decision for myself was to rest. No class tonight.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 16: The Cure for the Common Cold

I don't think what I have had the past week can in anyway be described as the common cold and I am by no means cured as I sit here with my chicken noodle soup and complete congestion...but for 90 minutes today I was cured both physically and mentally. Today I made it back to the mat and I almost decided to give it one more day. Feeling tired and so congested still, when Elizabeth said she couldn't make the 4pm I thought maybe I should just sleep instead. Then Liam reminded me how badly I've been missing yoga and said if nothing else just the mental benefit of being there again would be worth should definitely go! I am so glad that I went!

I really didn't know what to expect out of myself having been so sick and still not 100%. The goal today was to stay in the room and do as much as I could without over doing it, listening to my body. I was doubly worried when Carrie told me Insel was teaching first class with Insel can't be when I'm sick!!!! But with what must have been some type of divine intervention there was a last minute change of schedule and a new teacher, Max, lead the class. Max was just what I needed tonight too. What I experienced in class is hard to describe. It truly was healing from the inside out. The first thing I noticed and then could not stop enjoy was the ability to breath again! Oh how I have missed breathing through my nose, inhale...exhale...inhale...exhale. I could feel the oxygen running through my lungs, the heavy chest and head that has been fogging my last 7 days...gone. Then just the motion of the postures, the stretching, the blood flow, it was incredible. I felt relaxed and in my savasanas my entire body felt so amazingly good. Almost too good ;)

What is even more interesting to me is that throughout the entire class I felt like throwing up, but it didn't phase me. I embraced the discomfort as we've been reminded to do in past classes and the good sensations just took over. I did have to sit out one set of Camel, but that was it!!! At the end of class, an ice cold lavender towel!

Although my congestion was back once I stepped out of the room, I am ecstatic that I can be back on the mat again. Tonight I think I really connected with the healing aspect of this practice. I can't wait to have the best sleep tonight and get the rest of this monstrous cold out of my body.

1) Tonight I was reminded why I love this yoga so much, it is good for my mind, body and spirit...I don't think I can ever give this up
2) Hot yoga really does heal, even if it only took away my cold for 90 minutes, it was 90 minutes of heaven
3) I'm exhausted and out of words
4) Can't wait for class with my girls tomorrow (they were wondering if I was still alive after 6 days of no yoga)

Day 15: You Guessed It...Sick

Not much more to say for Day 15, still too sick to step back in the hot room.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Days 11, 12, 13, and 14: Sick, Sick, Sick and Sick

Oh when will this torture of sickness end? Not only have I been cooped up in my house with Ella, who has been better for the last three days (minus a pesky cough), but I have been working most of the time and resting when not working. Poor Ella is dying for some real interaction but I haven't even felt well enough to drive the car farther than the store let alone to drop her off at daycare for the day. I had imagined by Friday I would definitely be on the back end of this thing, yet I feel much the same as I did the past two days...groggy and just plain sick with a nasty cold. I miss my yoga soooooooooooooooooo much and I am devastated that my challenge will not finish as I had planned, nor will I meet my goal. I don't see myself doing 6 or 7 doubles to finish 30 classes in 30 days. So I am resigned to finish out the month the best I can, with a couple doubles thrown in just for kicks, and be proud of myself for whatever that accomplishment looks like. I mean, let's be honest, regardless it's leaps and bounds above what I was doing before I started...nothing! So here is to getting well so maybe I can even go to a class this weekend! I was reading Elizabeth's blog about trying to maintain the faith in the challenge and persevere through this almost mid-way mark and I found myself slightly green with envy that she has still been able to go every day and put a sticker on that dang chart! I want to feel the struggle in class, not here in my tissue ridden bed! I am also admittedly jealous of the girls going to class together, because I miss my class with my girls! I miss most adult human interaction at this point, so here is hoping, praying, wishing that this cold will finally move on.

1) I've lost 5 pounds this week, I am now attributing this to being sick and not filling my body with tasty water all day long in preparation for yoga class
2) Of all things I thought that what could mess up my challenge was my daily routine, work and motherhood...I completely forgot about the possibility of getting sick in cold and flu season
3) Someone please bring me some soup and take Ella out for some entertainment! We have cabin fever bad over here!
4) I am now counting the days back to the mat...let's shoot for Sunday as Day 1!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 10: Sickness

Day 10 class was definitely derailed by the onset of the sickness I feared was coming yesterday. I had hoped I had sweat it all out, detoxified my body of that bad cold trying to grasp such luck. I barely slept last night, tossing turning, body aching, hot, cold, argh! I woke up this morning feeling more of the same and then heard Ella coughing non-stop in her room. So I made the executive decision that we were both staying home today and I would forgo yoga, although I would still work all day. Feeling sick and bummed, I worry about recovering my challenge if I am sick over the next few days. Elizabeth reminded me to think positive, we still have 20 days to make up my missed classes. Maybe a couple doubles in my future. We shall see, so what I suppose I need to focus on is the fact that I have been doing awesome, 8 classes in 10 days is pretty fabulous. This will not be my only challenge and what I need to remember is that I really feel that I have found something that I will stick with for a very long time. This yoga has been a lifestyle change and I need to stay focused on the bigger picture, my cold will pass :) Here's hoping it's gone tomorrow and I can get back to the mat!!

Day 9: Sweat It Out

Day 9 was actually yesterday. I'm usually on top of my blogging the day of when the class is freshest in my mind. Unfortunately, I just couldn't make it to blog last night. Yesterday morning I could feel my body coming down with something. I kept telling myself, just make it to class at 4pm and you'll just sweat it all out! Ella has been so sick and I was bound to eventually start to pick it up from her. So although I felt a little achy and my throat was very dry, I made it to class and had a fairly decent class. It was packed, more so than I've seen thus far. There must have been 50-60 people in class. It was HOT and I was using all of my energy to get through each pose, but I was intent on not "half-assing" it. It would be easy to excuse myself from giving extra in my postures or to sit out a set or two, just to take it easy since I was getting sick. No way, my goal was to seriously sweat it out. I don't have time for illness. At the end of class I felt dizzy and my body felt heavy. After coming home and showering my body just gave out, the aches came back and my chest felt dry and tight. I could barely move on the couch and I put myself to bed at 8:30pm. I kept thinking, this is the beginning of my challenge being derailed.

The list:
1) Full Camel pose again!
2) Made it all the way back into Firm Fixed Pose too!
3) The lavender towel machine needs to be fixed ASAP!!! I miss even a lukewarm lavender towel ;)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 8: The Yogini in the Mirror

Today I made it to noon class with my girls, Elizabeth and Megan, at my left and my right. We had a new teacher today, Ping, and while she was at times difficult to understand I decided in the beginning of class to lock my focus on me. 90 minutes later I was smiling from ear to ear at what an amazing class I had just completed. Today I took a cue from my girl Elizabeth's recent blog entitled "If you can, you must." I couldn't get the phrase out of my head, so I went with it. How was I to really know how far I could go into the postures if I continued to play it safe? What I found was that I am capable of much more than I realized. Starting with Half Moon pose, I stretched left, right and back deeper than before. I pulled my leg up and out in Standing Head to Knee pose rather than just reaching down to grab my foot and staying there. I embraced the discomfort in my elbows in Locust pose and kicked my legs higher than ever. Then the ultimate breakthrough came in Camel, oh dreaded Camel. The posture that is guaranteed to make you feel a bit woozy and requires the utmost attention to breath. After the first set, I was determined to see if I could grab my feet and bend completely backwards for full camel pose. In a half back bend I reached with my right hand back towards my right foot, wondering how far it would be when all of sudden it was there. Ok, left side...done. Full backward bend, the most comfortable camel pose I've ever been in and all it took was a little faith and that catchy phrase, if you must! I couldn't even contain my excitement, who is this yogini in the mirror today? I was so comfortable in the hot room today, the sensation is hard to explain. Amazing!

The list:
1) That extra effort can make the biggest difference
2) No more holding back, I have a new found confidence in ability as long as I let go of my fears and trepidations
3) My unwanted day off may have paid off in a huge way
4) I am anxious to get back in the hot room tomorrow and see how far I can go
5) Excited to one day have the full expression of more postures
6) No lavender towel today, but even that couldn't spoil my ecstatic mood

Friday, January 7, 2011

Day 7: A Day Without

Tonight I wasn't able to make it to class and I was extremely bummed, I even cried a little :( But some things are unavoidable in life. Ella was still sick today and after a whole day at daycare she was running a 102 fever again. So tonight was what I knew could be a reality of the challenge for me: I am a single mom which makes the coordination of getting to class a process everyday, whether Ella is sick or not. Tonight my job was to be Mom first and so Ella and I came home to rest. I was very sad to miss class, feeling like I had ruined my challenge only a week in. Then the most wonderful thing happened, my cheerleaders (friends) kicked in and reminded me that I've been doing great and my challenge is by no means's called a double. The dreaded double, two classes in one day, maybe even back to back. How awesome is it to have a friend that will instantly offer to do a double with you because they believe in supporting your efforts and can add to their own personal yoga challenge at the same time? To have a friend offer to watch Ella, sickness and all, tonight or whenever I need to do my double, all because she's excited about my challenge. I am humbled by my friendships and I am reminded that more often than not, I am harder on myself than I need to be. I am so determined to finish this challenge but it is not the end of the world if something changes the plan slightly. 30 classes in 30 days, still an obtainable goal and in a way a double will be yet another way to indoctrinate me into the world of Bikram yoga. A challenge within a challenge...bring it on.

Tonight I say thanks to my cheerleaders. You have reminded me that although I'm always trying to take on everything by myself and not depend on anyone else, I couldn't do it without the support, kindness and encouragement of others.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 6: 8pm Class

So tonight I am just glad I was able to get to class, keeping the momentum is everything. Ella's been sick today and still not feeling well tonight, but I was fortunate enough to have my sitter available to hang out while Ella slept and I went to 8pm class. I was surprised at how packed it was for the late class, but then again it's new year's resolution time so this is the busy season I suppose. Tonight I had a new teacher, I believe her name is Jayna. I liked her, so many times tonight she focused me back in on my breathing, helping me make it through class. Another hot one for sure and we actually had a couple people bail in the middle :( But overall another good class for me. I think I was surprised that the late hour of the class didn't impact me more, but all was well and there's something to be said about ending your night with hot yoga and merely a shower and a blog in between yoga and bed. Very nice indeed...and yes, I am very sleepy now.

Short list tonight:
1) Jayna said "tension is who we are trying to be and relaxation is who we really are"...I'm a fan of this perspective and a phrase to remember
2) I dislike being in a location where I can see the teacher (or another teacher taking the class) adjust the thermostat...plays mind games with just got 10 degrees hotter didn't it?
3) Missed my girls tonight (they hit the 4pm)...MPin and Bets, keep it going!

Another weird schedule tomorrow, tons of work and hoping Ella is feeling better. Plan is to make it to 6pm class...fingers crossed...or shall I say twisted like ropes

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 5: The Heat Is On

This morning I was a ball of stress, from head to toe. I hated it and I couldn't figure out where it had come from. Last night I was so energized, calm and slept like a rock. Where did this stress come from before I even walked out the door? By the time I arrived at work, I was already counting down the hours to the hot room. I NEEDED this class. Knowing Sywann was teaching again was an extra plus. Well, a lot of people needed class today, because the normally smaller 4pm class was packed to capacity. What resulted from all of those extra bodies you ask?? Extra heat, yes it was HOT, HOT, HOT. I could hear the heat blowing at one point and I just wanted to cry out, can someone turn the heat down just a tad, please? While HOT and that much more of a challenge to keep focused on something other than the heat, I was pleased to not find total exhaustion at the end. I was still able to put that extra "umph" into the final postures. Funny thing is, I think the entire class was feeling the extreme heat today and were all individually still putting our full effort into our practice. There was a moment at the end of one of the more difficult floor poses, where the entire room let out this grunting sigh of an exhale at the release of the pose...all in unison. Sywann even commented that we were tiring her out after that and gently reminded us to keep breathing through the postures. The community of exertion in that room tonight was motivating in a way...Yes! I am not the only one feeling the heat today, you are not alone...keep going. Funny how such an individually focused practice also creates a kind of group cohesion at the same time. Keep your connection and don't worry about anyone else in the room are common phrases throughout any practice, but in the end we all come to the same place, waiting for those final milestones and the sense of completion...together.

So tonight Ella is sick and has a fever and tomorrow I will more than likely keep her home. Needless to say, tomorrow will be a tough day working at home while she is sick, but I'm working on my arrangements to get to a later class, maybe even 8pm...that should be interesting.

Tonight's list:
1) Sywann read a passage in class today which ended with "what are you? awake, asleep or enlightened?" I enjoyed this passage and I'd like to start thinking of myself as learning to be awake...
2) My yoga practice itself will not eliminate the experience of stress in my life, it is a tool to heal my body...Today I realized I can create and allow myself to feel the stress emotion, so I need to learn how to control it and release it as well...
3) I CAN beat the heat
4) Subtle improvements in postures make me happy...patience is key

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4: Teacher Knows My Name

Coming off of yesterday's class, I wondered if I could maintain the excitement I felt all day today. More so I wondered if I would sustain my energy in practice as I knew I had not drank quite as much water as yesterday. I was smiling from ear to ear when I walked in the studio and signed in for class. Greeted by another one of my favorite teachers, Carrie, I was simply feeling happy :) Carrie's style can best be described as "peppy," like the quintessential head cheerleader that you love to hate because she's got it all and she's just so damn happy all the time. Don't get me wrong though, there is only love for Carrie in my heart. As what you feel from her instruction is the sense that she experiences pure enjoyment from instructing the students and pushing us to hold on, push deeper, kick higher, stay strong and stick with it with full energy until the end. She's excited to share this with us and watch us improve along the way. Today I pushed myself harder than I have thus far. In each posture I gave that extra bit of energy to see just how far I could go and I owe it all to Carrie and maybe even the fact that she knew my name. That's right, teacher knows my name and the simple act of her identifying me in class to give me instruction on how to adjust my body into the postures, certainly made me want to work harder and also made me smile a lot on the inside, like I've been accepted as a part of the club. Positive reinforcement is a good thing for my practice and being another anonymous face maybe not so much. Amazingly, maintaining that energy throughout and giving it all I had did not totally deplete me. I feel awake and energized still at 9:45pm!

Okay, here's my list for today:
1) Getting the full experience from this challenge is not just making it to class every day for 30 days, but means becoming more a part of the community of this studio...time to connect with more people here
2) It's cool when the teacher calls your name, not to mention motivating
3) Not only was I touching my toes today but I had a breakthrough (for just a second) in my second to last posture- locking my knees while pulling on my big toes!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3: Meditation in Motion

Today's class was with one of my favorite instructors, Sywann. Her style is strong, encouraging and enthusiastic with such a calm and soothing tone to her voice. Today's practice was just what I needed to feel encouraged to keep on the daily path of my challenge. Each practice is indeed something new, today was nothing like yesterday. I felt calm throughout and mind was quiet and focused. While I was back touching my toes again, I found myself more challenged to reach my "normal" ability on several postures. The great thing was that I did not let this discourage me during practice or let it take me off course, instead I focused in on where my body was "at" today.

Several times Sywann said this class is "meditation in motion." Today I understood what that meant. My mind and body seemed to glide through each set of postures and in each savasana, everything was still. In contrast to yesterday, today my mind did not want to scream at the heat, run out the door, or allow any external preoccupations to enter. There were no battles waged, just simply meditation in motion.

Tonight, I am sleepy but not exhausted. Calm and excited for tomorrow's class.

A few other takeaways from tonight:
1) 4pm class is my favorite- less people and my body seems to work better after having had a chance to eat and hydrate over the course of the early part of the day
2) My lavender towel was ice cold was perfectly wonderful
3) Front of class, right in front of mirror is not my favorite location, I don't think I like to see myself that close...but then again, maybe that helped me maintain my connection so well???
4) Megan and Elizabeth rock!! Keep it up ladies :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2: Mind Battles

It's 8pm and I've finally mustered up the energy to write my blog entry about my 10am class. Today's practice was tough, tough, tough and felt about 120 degrees the entire 90 minutes. I started strong but found myself beginning to battle my inner voice right around triangle pose. "It's too hot" "You can't make it today" "Run out that door into cool relief!" I battled, focusing on my breathing, quieting the negativity within and sitting out one set of two or three poses, just stay in the room...stay in the room...the lady next to me leaving the room...oh, you are definitely staying in the room. But then another battle crept in, that sneaky mind chatter...back to work tomorrow...bills...take down the Christmas tree...stop...breathe...focus. What seemed like forever was suddenly done, yes I do have the strength to make it! I left the room spent, exhausted and just wanting to take a nap. No energy buzz today, just the satisfaction of completing such a challenging practice and placing that shiny happy face sticker next to my 2 done.

Today's tidbits:
1) What stuck with me from our instructor Ron today was the idea that we must find comfort in the uncomfortable. My mind battles were just that, I had to comfort myself through the most uncomfortable of moments. There have been many times in my life when that discomfort seemed unbearable and my mind wanted to just run out of the room, but I didn't. Facing discomfort is difficult, challenging and exhausting...but the lavender towel always seems to come in the end, even if it is lukewarm and not ice cold, it still comforts.
2) Post class lavender towels will not always be the iciest of cold but they still feel good!
3) Every class is different and my body and mind will respond differently each time
4) I did not touch my toes at all today
5) Back wall by floor heaters and under ceiling heat mechanism = not my favorite location for practice

I am hopeful my post class energy glow will rejoin me tomorrow. I am also trying not to let any anxiety about managing my regular work and mom schedule derail my efforts. It will be tough, but part of this challenge for me is finding the ways to quiet the excuses and the stress in order to let "my practice" happen. So tomorrow, the real challenge begins.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 1: 1/1/11

Today is a day of firsts. First day of the new year, first day writing a new blog and the first day of my 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge. I am also hoping this is the first day of a series of insights into my life as it exists at this moment. My goal is not to set grand expectations for a life transformed in 30 days, but to experience the subtle ways in which spending 90 minutes per day in a 105 degree yoga practice will transform elements of my perspective and the way I choose to live at each moment.

To start, I am truly a Bikram novice, having done only 3 classes before the holidays prior to electing to take on the 30 day challenge. What I found after realizing that I did indeed have the ability to make it through an entire class, was a space that challenged my physical and mental capacities while simultaneously allowing me to decompress from the daily grind of my life as a hard working single mom. And also an immediate addiction to ice cold lavender towels at the end of class :)

So today, my friend Elizabeth and I set out on our 30 day challenges and both decided to blog about our experiences. Joined by our faithful friend Megan, who we are trying to convince to do the challenge as well, we hit up our first class at Bikram Tysons. Class was packed being that there were only a few classes held today, it being New Year's Day of course and HOT! I was worried about my ability today since I had not been in several weeks and I was feeling extremely sleepy before class. I was however, pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to jump in again and how energizing those 90 minutes are for me. So aside from what I can tell is my standard ebb and flow of challenges in class (quick moments of nausea/outside thoughts of priorities/and of course "ah, it's frickin hottt in here", my goal is to find tidbits of insight in each class. Insights into learning Bikram, my life, etc. anything that adds value to my perspective.

Tonight I think I found quite a few tidbits. Our instructor Francisco had a different style than I had experience thus far. Laid back and less verbal instruction on each pose. Although, I think my preference is for more verbal cues as to how I can adjust myself into each pose correctly what I found from Francisco's humor was that even in this space I cannot take myself too seriously. Yes I can be focused and present in my practice, but I am still allowed to smile or chuckle. This is a feel good activity after all. Made me think of how serious I can take myself when caught up in the day to day. Make room for more smiles, they feel good :) Some additional tidbits from tonight:
1) yoga with friends is awesome
2) the next 30 days is about allowing myself to find 90 minutes per day for me
3) subtle changes can happen in a short time- tonight I touched my toes!
4) breathing and listening to my breath really does work me through any uncomfortable moments of nausea, thoughts of the heat and outside thoughts
5) after the high of finishing class and the energy euphoria, I am delirious and exhausted, but set up for beautiful sleep

Back to class 10am tomorrow!