Bikram for Christmas.

Merry Christmas to me! New owners renovated the old studio and brought bikram back to my neighborhood. It was even hotter than before, as two giant humidifiers cranked out billowing steam in the cedar paneled room this morning. The space feels great. Lighter. I should love it, but I do miss the old teachers. None of them are here. It feels like starting over.

 

I Did Cold Yoga. Slow Yoga.

I’ve been feeling lost since my beloved bikram studio closed. I cannot use hot yoga towels for anything other than hot yoga, damn it! And I have two rolled up at home eyeing me, clean, ready to go, and silently shouting, “Use me!”

Alas. No more bikram for this mama. For now. I had a choice. I knew I could easily weep, gnash my teeth, and rend my shorty shorts, but I decided instead to try a yoga studio quite close to my house. But it was regular yoga. Flowing yoga. Probably with silk eye pillows and sun salutations. Likely with music and poses that seemed more like a soft dance than a workout. I wanted to sweat. I wanted to work. I wanted to push and growl at myself in the mirror and flex. Yet the class descriptions online listed “Yoga for Athletes”, so I figured I’d give it a go and bought a Groupon for an unlimited week.

Mistake number one: I must have mixed up the calendar. I showed up expecting to find Yoga for Athletes and found myself right on time for Restorative Yoga instead. The teacher was gracious. The space was cold and dark. Several students were already on mats, each with at least two Mexican blankets, foam blocks, round bolsters, and a long cotton strap. One student was wearing a cardigan. Oh Toto, we’re not in bikram anymore. We stayed in each pose, completely supported by the blocks and bolsters, for several minutes. No need for the muscles to do anything. Relax, muscles.

Mistake number two: I wore bikram clothing to cold yoga in December. When I should have been breathing and otherwise restoring myself, I spent my time envious of the girl next to me who knew enough to wear sweatpants, wiggling my cold toes, and making sure the blankets were tightly tucked around me.

Inwardly I dubbed the class “Sleeping in Yoga Poses”. The studio was clean and well appointed. The teacher and students were welcoming and kind. But I have been using yoga to figure out my life, or to escape it. I have been searching for answers. I need yoga to be a strong presence at a time in my life when I don’t feel strong. I need it to move through me and make me change. This particular style wasn’t for me.

My husband rents a little house nearby so he can still see the kids. They are happy and loved, but I know they feel the effects of the separation. He travels for work, and they miss him so. As much as I need restoration, I think I must do it the hard way.

 

 

 

My First Double.

When in doubt, do yoga.

Today was my only day with childcare until next Saturday, so I used my time to complete my first double. Three hours of bikram today, and it was so good. I didn’t relax during the first class, but I also made sure I didn’t overextend myself. Due to scheduling, there weren’t two classes back to back, so I went home, showered, washed down a little protein with a ton of water, waited, and then came back for round two ready to sweat again. I was tired but energized, able to stretch more and go further than ever. I began already warmed up, when usually it takes me several poses to get there. I felt so strong all the way to the end. If you haven’t yet completed a double class, you must try it.

Day 4. Drinking the Kool-Aid.

Maximum effort, maximum stillness.

I love this. Something about this workout is clicking for me. It fits me. I love that we do the same 26 poses each time. I can measure the days. I can compete with myself. (And I can measure the time left in class…)

I wasn’t going to go today, but I felt the pull once again and left feeling tired but energized. I think I’m at the beginning of a slow but important change.

I am grateful.

Maybe someday I’ll even love the locust.

Day 3. The Girl Who Cried At Yoga.

84asanas

I’m not going. I’m too sore. I should drink water so I’m hydrated for class. But that isn’t necessary, because I’m not going.

Where is my towel? I should stay home and rest. Where is my pink sports bra? I’m dressed, so I might as well go. It’s going to hurt. I’m standing in the hallway examining a poster of the 84 classic asanas to avoid going into the hot room. Maybe I could sneak out now and go home.

The room is packed. The sun is on the floor, but it’s not as hot in here today. I wonder if the furnace is working correctly?

The routine is more familiar today. I can anticipate. I can synchronize my movements with the dialogue. Almost. Noticeably better, though. I can focus on my breath a little. I can correct my reflection. Right hip forward. Left shoulder forward. Chest up. Sometimes I am so wobbly, but today I smile and laugh at myself. I try again.

Today I use my breath to push further. I want to phone it in, but I can’t do that to my reflection. There is a difference between laziness and knowing your limits. I focus on form and then I push. I can hear the sweat dripping and hitting my towel. I like it. It feels like I’m working.

Today I didn’t bring a washcloth to wipe my face and hands. I think it keeps me cooler to just let it be. I’m all for avoiding excess movement. But I’m actually not dying. This is a relief. It’s hard, but I feel strong.

I smiled several times today. (Except during that damn locust pose—my elbows felt like they were being twisted in a medieval torture device.) During the final few postures, I felt like I could keep going. What is happening to me?

During the final savasana, the instructor talked about the absolute importance of taking the time for yourself. Yes. I was there for me. I was making myself stronger. As she kept talking, my heart starting beating hard and my eyes filled with embarrassing hot tears. I realized I was, at last, finally doing something for myself after four intense years of ever constant motherhood, sleep deprivation, depression, and feeling alone in my marriage. It will make me a better mother if I take care of myself. Rushing to the grocery store alone doesn’t count as “me time”. It’s been a long time.

So on day three, I cried. I cried in yoga. My usually Type-A, control freak self decided to let those tears fall. They rolled down the sides of my face and into my ears and were eventually absorbed by my special yoga towel. I didn’t dare move my arms to wipe them away. This is a time of change. It hurts and feels amazing. (Even if I’m now the Girl Who Cried At Yoga.)

I left that hot room feeling so unbelievably good! I stood up a little taller as I walked to the changing room. I couldn’t believe I almost stayed home and missed such a great day! I’m definitely coming back.

Day 2. The Good Kind of Hurt.

It’s so hot in here. 

It’s hot in here, but the air is cool. I feel the heat on my body, but I’m breathing cool air through my nose.

The air was HOT! But I told myself these little lies about the cool air during my second Bikram yoga class as a means of keeping my heart calm. It was beating inside my ears for most of the class. Even though I practically fainted yesterday, I came back again for another dose of the torture chamber.

I was listening to the dialogue and also not listening to it—trying to drown out the sound and focus on the poses. I was sore and wobbly from the day before, but able to push a bit more than yesterday, which hurt in a good way. The only pose that gave me true pain was the locust pose, which hurt beyond belief. I assumed my elbows had been incorrectly installed and made a note to ask the instructor about this theory after class. I could feel all the places that were sore from yesterday. It felt so much harder, and yet the time went faster, since I knew what to expect.

My “lamp-post leg” shook, and I got so frustrated. I wanted to be better than this! I hate failing. Was I failing? I was there, in the room. I was standing.  I made it through a second time and still had to concentrate on my steps as I walked to the changing room. As I rushed out to my car, to the air conditioning, for some reason I decided if I was going to try Bikram yoga, I should go all the way and do seven days in a row.

Bikram Yoga, Day 1.

They say Bikram yoga is practiced in a 105 degree room with about forty percent humidity, but the thermostat in my particular room said it was 117 degrees as I set up my mat and towel for my first class. Is the thermostat broken? Will this kill me? No one in the room seemed phased by the temperature, and so I relaxed on my mat on my back and waited.

“Oh, hey! This is like sunbathing!” I thought. Three minutes elapsed. And keep in mind I was still only just laying on my back. There had been no actual exercise yet.

The instructor entered the room and announced that the lights were coming on. Everyone but me knew this was the cue to stand up and begin.

This was absolutely nothing like sunbathing. The dialogue was constant and included dozens of tiny corrections. I tried so hard to be perfect and failed repeatedly. I was dizzy. Hot and dying. And so frustrated! I kept looking around for the clock (there wasn’t one) and after each breath wondered when it would all be over. Two breathing exercises and twenty-six poses later…

I made it! It took a while to stand up at the end of class after the final relaxation, which even then turned out to be a Bad Idea. I sat back down. I sipped water. I stayed in the room the entire ninety minutes, which was the goal for a first class. I even managed to do all the poses. Not well, I’m sure, but I didn’t take a knee or sit down.  After my head stopped spinning and I could walk a reasonably straight line, I made it outside and the breeze felt amazing…and then FREEZING. I was sore, but triumphant!