Inbetween Days

At this point – today – it’s crazy to think about going to class as I’m so weakened I’d be wiped out in minutes – like not as in “never too sick” but possibly under fed. But I can explain what’s happened to my challenge.

So, starting on day 33:

Thursday 19 July. Judiciously decided to skip class and bank a double cos it was my Egyptian friends’ last day in town

Friday. I got a cold and went straight home to bed after work

Saturday. In bed all day with cold

Sunday. All day interview prep

Monday. After work interview prep

Tuesday. Interview. Didn’t get the job, thankfully. After that my friend had free tickets to a jazz thing which was amazing. I could absolutely have said no and gone to class instead but I badly needed to see this particular friend.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Four days house-bound with stomach bug.

So the days I had thought were banks were Egyptian and jazz. But first day and a half in bed lost me interview prep time which in turn lost me class time. So the number of doubles in the bank now is top heavy, I think – and even tho doing 100 classes in 100 days is possible it’d be meaningless i.e., totally forsaking the idea of daily practice.

So today is day 43. I should be celebrating being almost half way through but instead I’m going to have to go back to day 1! I’m pretty fed up about it. No appetite, last few days I’ve had a chicken sandwich, an apple and some toast and that’s it. Water, milk, Lucozade, cranberry juice. It’d be madness to attempt class, even if I could manage the bus ride there.

I’m sure a person could make an argument around resistance to change and I would absolutely listen to that, I think it’s valid, but not 100% convincing in this run of bad luck and bad timing. I’m absolutely open to admitting a couple of those days were definitely resistance (tho’ in my defence class is a 4 hour commitment for me, including travel time) and I have thought about that a lot. But the illness and the not eating? Not sure.

Something I do resist and I’m aware of it, is taking medicines but I’m going to the pharmacy today. I would love to be strong enough to go to class tomorrow, I’m getting really frustrated.

Anyway, that’s the story!

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In what ways is Bikram* sexy?

I was invited to write for my home studio @hotbikramyoga, and this is what they got:

In what way is bikram* sexy?
(*the practice, not the man)

When I first moved to London to be with my boyfriend, some time very late in the last century, I started seeing an acupuncturist about my skin and within a few sessions (or less) I was quite in love with him. I mean in the sense that I would get a little tongue tied, giggle like an 11 year old and at times sweat a little too visibly. It was a totally animal-chemical reaction. After a while it calmed down. Oh, I don’t know, call it eight years? And now I can safely see him without the breathing into a paper bag beforehand. Anyway, when I first started to go to class several years ago (loooooong before I committed to practice) I told him I liked bikram yoga because you really felt the stretch, you felt like you had moved – and I think that is different from feeling like you’ve worked out – and that it was very sexy. And he said “You find that sexy? You find stretching sexy?” And all I could say was yes.

Recently embracing daily practice I have been thinking about this again and have compiled this list of similarities a person might consider between sex and bikram yoga.

– With bikram, like with sex, the more you do it the more you want it; it is its own reward
– The experience is utterly universal and profoundly personal at the same time
– You don’t truly understand it until you try it (and then only maybe), and equally no one can explain it to you
– It’s not a competition, but sometimes it can feel like it.
– It’s really easy to get a little OCD about wiping your hands.
– It’s doing something your body was designed to do, but doing it before you are ready can be bad, and you might not even like it at first
– Some people advocate a strong home practice
– It can be confusing, confrontational, surprising
– It’s kind of the same moves over and over and over again but at the same time it’s totally not
– Be respectful of your neighbours
– I once said to a friend about a teacher “He helped me with my rabbit and told me I had a beautiful triangle.” Costa got suddenly very quiet.
– A teacher recently said to me “Your technique is perfect but you give up far too soon.” I thought, I’ve been singing that song for years, love.
– 90 minutes three times a week can change your life
– Sometimes what you’re aiming for is to see your feet coming up over the top of your head.

Ways in which sex does not compare to bikram: if sex for you involves you being on your back with a half naked fanatic in front of a mirror at the front of the room shouting “don’t lose the grip” at you through a Cher headset, I respectfully suggest you’re on the wrong website. Also it’s totally acceptable to tweet “yoga kicked my ass, nearly killed me” but not … well, you can finish that one off yourself. Matron. (By the way, speaking of, I’m on twitter @bikramyocaz.)

Well, crass the-sap-is-rising gags aside, my point is that it’s a joy to focus on doing something that your body was designed to do. I feel that as Westerners many of us take little joy in our bodies. Sure, we celebrate athletes and fawn over celebrity bikini bodies but a body is just as much for feeling and living in as it is for looking at. I would argue much more so.

Do you remember the sheer, unfettered elation of being 7 or 8 years old, somewhere soft and grassy and reaching your arms out and tilting your head back and just simply spinning and spinning and spinning until you fell over? Your heart racing and your thoughts scattered? Didn’t it make you smile? Deep belly laughing. Do you ever notice how little kids who haven’t learned to be self-conscious and appropriate yet will hear music and just start dancing, no matter where they are or what the music is? Aren’t they often smiling as they do it? Your body is designed to move, to make shapes, to grow, to change, to charge and to rest and to take gratification in all those modes. As grown-ups it’s too easy to forget the joy of doing something challenging in a safe space surrounded by heat and energy. But when we remember, it can be exhilarating. So: go back, fall back, way back. And if you get dizzy pretend it’s because you have been spinning on the grass.

And “do your practice, all is coming.”

Love.Life.Yoga.

The more I practice yoga in stillness, the more intrinsic my practice becomes.

Achieving meditation through movement in Bikram Yoga is a challenge, especially when the hot room brings about a host of distractions: heat, sweat, thoughts about work stresses, the fear of falling out of a pose, or a mish-mash of all of the above that may inevitably lead to… Monkey Mind.

What is Monkey Mind? This is a Buddhist term which describes the persistent churn of thoughts in the undisciplined mind. As Bikram puts it, “The human mind is like a drunken monkey… that’s been stung by a bee…”

For some good advice, I sought the insight of 5 Bikram teachers on How to Tame Your Monkey Mind  – my current article on MindBodyGreen. I believe that ease is achieved through stillness, and it is this that can take postures to the next level. I also believe…

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On the point of giving up.

It’s my distinct impression that it’s not the done thing to be thoroughly negative about bikram unless you have a tidy little punchline to wrap it all up and affirm your choice to be a yogi. I’m not being snide, it’s how venting with humour works – it’s its function and its purpose. Whole careers are based on a clever turn of phrase and the ability to do that. That is not what this is.

In class this past fortnight I’ve been thinking very seriously about giving up. Throughout yesterday’s class I was just plain angry, I certainly wasn’t doing any yoga. There was some of it today, too, but mostly today I was wondering about why I was in class at all. I’m so sick of it – sick of working so hard and getting nowhere. Sick and tired and fed up that I can’t get my forehead to my knee; I can only reach my heels in floor bow half the time and I can’t do spine twist with my feet in the right place. Mostly I’m sick and tired of being convulsed by floods of tears every time I go into a forward bend. I’m all for confrontation and release but if there’s no resolution to it then why am I putting myself through it?

I’m basically angry and fed up and frustrated that my body isn’t changing fast enough and the yoga is pretty much only theoretical for most of the time.

I guess all I have going for me at the moment is that I’m really stubborn and I don’t actually plan on giving up. But if I had known it would be this miserable I wouldn’t have started. I’m sorry that this isn’t more upbeat but I promised myself when I started this blog that it would be brutally honest because anything else would be meaningless.