British bulldog determination and no expectations

Days 79
Classes 94 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Georgina

Took a trip cross country to Bristol today. This island is so darn small. Coast to coast train 1h 40m. Another part if my visit every studio project. I most say the studio in Bristol is lovely. Small but cozy. It was also a rather small class today which was nice. Made it feel more like I belonged there, like it was more personal.

I managed a semi strong practice. Except for locus & full locus where I completely lost it. I really had no clue what to expect today. It made it obvious how much I rely on those expectations during most classes. Have to work harder on dropping them. It’s just so easy to start thinking about class hours in advance and whether you want to or not you start expecting things.

The most boring and annoying trip I’ve ever made was to the Taj Mahal. You know why? I had built up such high expectations of the place all through my life. There was just no way it was going to live up to them.

One thing that’s been on my mind all day has been peoples ability to push things until tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong I’m the worst kind of procrastinator. But recently it’s become so obvious that things won’t happen unless you take charge of them. Fine it might not happen the way you expected (there is that horrible word again), but something will change. If you just take that first step. Doing a class of Bikram is not that hard, doing 101 classes in 101 days neither. Nor is doing 5 in a day.

As long as you make up your mind to do it, the rest is easy. Getting your dream job is easy (well maybe harder in the current climate but you know what I mean). You’ve just got to make up your mind of what it is and start taking steps towards it. Maybe it will change shape on your way there but you’ll wind up in the right place if you just make up your mind. Actually scrap that maybe it will change, hopefully it will change. Because hopefully you’ll get a better understanding of what you want as you travel down the road towards it. Dropping the expectations as you go, rather than building up new once.

What I’m trying to say is you are capable of anything you set your mind too. You’ve just got to let go of your expectations of how you will get there, and what it will look like when you get there. Start looking at things slightly wider and you’ll notice that a lot of things you hope will happen already has. It’s time to start living your life. That has been my lesson from yesterday.

How to build a six-pack in one day

Days 78
Classes 89, 90, 91, 92, 93 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Michelle, Raj, Stephen, Sanjai, Andrew

Who’s afraid of the Big bad yoga truck, who’s afraid of the big bad yoga truck? Okay I know I’ll have to eat those words tomorrow. But today was just amazing. For those who don’t know I did a challenge to raise money for sport relief (please sponsor us) today, 5 Bikram yoga classes in one day. That’s a total of 7.5 hours spent in a room heated to +40C and 130 postures. Now to be fair I had to sit out some set of postures so I probably did more like 110-115 postures. There was only two of us doing it at Fulham, me and Katie. I’ve been told some people were told beforehand that the challenge would only happen at the sister studio so there was a lot more people doing it there. Not that I minded, it was nice to just be a small group.

6:30 am
Michelle came in and rocked the morning class. Nice hot class (the morning class is normally cooler) and I started in the front row. Why shy away from the pressure? A perfect way to start the day. After class there was a nice 2 hour break before the next class so we went and had a splendid breakfast at a local bakery. Michelle and Jason (who works at the studio) came along for the breakfast. After Michelle stayed and took the second class with us.

10am
Raj put us through our paces in his usual high energy style in another really hot class. I love Raj’s “Is it going to be tough? Damn right it’s going to be tough” comment through out class. I’d decided I was going to move back one row each class so I wouldn’t be in the front row if I needed to just sit out just about everything. So second class, second row.

Midday
For the third class we had Stephen who is a visiting teacher just down for the weekend from Scotland. If you’re catching up on the theme here it was another scorching class. By this point I was wondering how I’d be able to keep on top of my hydration if we continued down this path. Stephen also delivered a very high energy class, with rapid dialogue (think Bikram going full dialogue) in a scottish accent. I really enjoyed it but felt slightly bad for the first timers. Then again there is no way they’d keep up with the normal dialogue anyway so maybe they were no worse off.

After the Midday class we had a nice 3.5 hour break before the next class so we went for lunch. Teachers Jo and Stephen came along and so did a friend of Stephen. Loads more yoga dorking out and random Bikram quotes. Needless to say I loved it. We had vietnamese at a place I’ve never tried before close to the studio and it was just wonderful. I’ll have to frequent it more often. After the vietnamese everyone else left but we decided we were still hungry (and we still had an hour left) so we went for miso soup and sushi.

5:30pm
Candle lit class with Sanjai. Normally I love this class and will go when ever I can get away from work in time. But today this class was just painful. My standing series was absolutely horrendous but luckily I came back on the field in the floor series. The standing series in this class was where I missed most of my sets. I only did two sets of about half the postures, the other half was one setters. I just wasn’t sure if it was the candles flickering or if I was close to passing out but everything kept moving, so I went for safety and sat down.

7:15pm
With just 15 min break before this class the start was always going to be a bit of a struggle. Up until party time my internal dialogue was pretty much:
– Let’s sit this set out
– Are you kidding me? You do not sit out the warm up postures
– Okay let’s drink some water then
– Just because you’re on class five today doesn’t mean your except from the no water until party time rule
– But I’m already warmed up it wouldn’t be that bad
-And what kind of example would you set to the beginners next to you?

Repeat for greater effect. However as soon as I got my water fix at party time the class just came to me. It was a brilliant class, definitely the strongest of the entire day. I even got a “good posture Johan” comment from the teacher in second set Rabbit. That just made me so happy. You don’t exactly expect that comment 7h 15min into your days yoga practice. I also noticed in the savasanas my breathing was deep in the belly even without me having to think about it. I’m sure that helped.

I can’t remember who it was (most likely Sanjai) said in class: “Take the time to appreciate this here now. You will never be here again, even if you come back tomorrow it will not be the same practice or even the same you”. It sounded extra true considering I’ll most likely never be in class 4 or 5 in a day again. And yes, even if I found myself in that situation it sure wouldn’t be the same me.

I came out of the last class really fancying going straight back in and doing an advanced class, or at least another normal class. I was just walking on air. I guess Bikram has a point there about levitation being just another form of Self-realization. I can’t think of a more intense way of proving your own worth to yourself then this marathon session.

The challenge for tomorrow is not to let it get to my head. But I’m sure stiff muscles and aching joints will help greatly with that.

Finally I just wanted to say thank you to all the wonderful people who wished us good luck or donated money today. Your support was really felt and appreciated!

Ironing in public

Days 77
Classes 88 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Jo

This morning was a strange class. It felt a bit like I was watching myself doing it. I promised myself to take it easy to not set myself up wrongly for tomorrow but did I listen? Of course not. Well I started out nice and slow until we reached half-moon. Seriously that’s how long I managed that resolution, not promising for tomorrow. Maybe I’m over analysing, I best make this post short least I have more time to think things through.

I got a “good posture Johan” in my least favourite posture today. Talk about making my day. Other than that I’ve been working on ironing out my practice. I’ve got so many good corrections advice and tips recently it’s time to integrate them. Basically I know where I need my practice to be right now before we can start thinking about the next step. Precision in most postures & intensity in some postures is the current challenge.

My wing muscles are aching

Days 76
Classes 87 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Michele P

Made the trek up to Bikram Yoga North for a chance to take the studio owners class. I was very impressed, her passion for the yoga really shines through. She was also full of stories that wasn’t of the usual Bikram says this or that variety. I guess that comes with over 15 years experience and owning 3 studios.

The class was nice hot and at a normal kind of pace. She had use move our shoulder blades closer together turing the Savasanas and gosh do I feel it now. Apparently it opens up the chest giving the lungs more space to expand into. It felt great during class so I’ll definitely try to keep it in mind in future classes. But it’s also working muscles I didn’t know I’d missed. It’s strange you assume you work every muscle group during class. Then you find another one and wonder how you could have ever missed it.

Concentrate. Meditate. Inhale

Days 75
Classes 86 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Raj

Today was a very interesting class. I felt very weak the last 2 hours before class when in the office. Almost suspected a cold or something. But got myself to class and somehow survived the warm up sequence before party time.

Raj was very focused on us letting go of our expectations and staying in the now and here. It was just what I needed today. My mind was full of things like “Standing head to knee is coming up after this posture, sure at least we don’t have to kick out today because we won’t have the energy”.

Talk about bringing yourself down and not allowing the body to go to where it needs to be. Needless to say I did a lot of work on my concentration trying to get rid of those thought, and it worked. By the time we hit the floor I was fully in the room and the rest of class was a breeze.

I left the room feeling great. But still decided to take it as a warning and not do a double. Home for a nice big meal instead and an early night.

What you have to prepare for doubles??

Days 74
Classes 84, 85 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Sanjai, Elizabeth

First class today was really great, especially awkward where I found some new space and felt so stable, like nothing would be able to knock me over I just kept going deeper and deeper. Of course that meant I fell over in the second class as I got over confident.

After the first class I forgot that it was only 15 min between classes instead of the usual 30min so I faffed around a bit to much and didn’t get enough to drink. By tree pose I was getting dizzy so I gulped down water at an insane rate for the rest of class. The dehydration also effected some of the postures in the later parts of class so I had to sit some sets out. But I did a minimum of first set in every poster second class so still rather good.

I guess in a way I’ve gotten so used to doubles that I forgot you kind of have to prepare for them. Oh well a lesson learnt. Hopefully a double tomorrow and then no more doubles planned (except for Fridays extravaganza). Yay for getting to the end of this mini challenge.

In the second class the teacher came over and helped weight my body down in last part of first set wind removing and it made such a difference. Only one vertebra left up of the floor in the lower back. As icing on the cake I managed to bring myself to the same place second set without the help, awesome!

Sun, sea and fresh air

Days 73
Classes 83 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Bridgett Ane

Today was a total failure and a great success. I was supposed to go to Brighton and do 11am at BA’s new studio, then 5pm at the other Brighton studio. Made it to the station on time but decided to get a bottle of coke, only to miss the train due to the exceptionally slow queue. Oh well it is what it is. So change of plans, since I’d already been to the other studio I decided to do the 4pm at Bikram In The Lanes. Both studios only have 2 classes on Sundays. Enough about that.

The class was brilliant, BA is such a great teacher it was a real pleasure to be in the room. In some ways it reminded me a lot of yesterdays fun class with Fran. I should add she used to teach at just about all the London studios before but for some reason I’ve always managed to miss her classes.

The class was high energy and fast flowing. The room was hot enough but it wasn’t as humid as Fulham (which sometimes gets ridicules) so there wasn’t much external to distract me. It didn’t stop me from losing focus a couple of times but those were mainly related to memories from Barcelona. the teacher used a lot of Bikram-ism’s in her dialogue so I kept being reminded of being back there. She is also the only teacher I’ve ever had that keeps you almost as long as Bikram in the half moon backbend. 🙂

In the end no double today, but a got a brilliant sunny spring day sitting on the beach instead. Breathing fresh sea air and listening to the waves. It did wonders for my sense of well being.

Playing with the postures

Days 72
Classes 81, 82 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Fran, Michelle

By chance I happens to find out Fran was teaching the 11am at Chiswick with just enough time to make it down there. I haven’t taken her class in ages and she was in Barcelona so it was a great opportunity.

It was a simply beautiful class, so much energy in the room. It almost felt like being back in Barcelona again. She started out awkward with saying “Think of Neal Armstrong. Kneel down and keep your arms strong.” I’ve missed her sense of humor. 🙂

I had more fun in class then I’ve had in a class in ages and almost felt like I was just playing with the postures. It was also nice to be back in the old studio, especially as it was a beautiful day and they have huge panoramic windows overlooking a park. Not that I spent any time looking out them, but the natural light was nice. I also took the time to have stroll around Chiswick on the way home, I haven’t been down to the main bits in ages. Chiswick is like it’s own little village in the middle of London. Completely different pace of life and attitude of the people.

Second class was back at Fulham with Michelle whose class I also haven’t taken for ages. It was another good solid class. I guess the mini-break yesterday helped the body recuperate.

I can’t remember if it was yesterday or this morning, but I found a new way of using the stomach in standing bow and all of a sudden the posture is just so much more stable. Sure I still fell out once or twice in the second class, but I was pushing much further than I would normally before I did. Michelle also gave me a posture clinic on standing head to knee after class to help push me along some. So some new things to think about in the coming classes.

Now if only I could get over my mental aversion of the final stretching posture. I don’t know why but I always find this posture so hard to get myself into and it’s all just in the mind. Once the posture has started I have no issue what so ever but I always anticipate loads of pain.

You must be happy, this what you pay for

Days 71
Classes 80 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Andrew

Life in the shape of London Underground intervened today in my plan to do a double. Due to delays I arrived 15 min late to the 5:30pm class, and I’m oh so thankful for it. The backside of my legs were screaming in padahastasana, the knee was in pure agony in awkward. But just a single class today so some chance for the body to recuperate. As Bikram says: “Knees hurt? Back hurt? Good for you, you must be happy!”

Oh yes, it was a strange class today. I was the only male student in the room. I kept looking around between postures expecting someone to appear behind some corner or something. It was a rather small, but very energetic class. It felt great to be in there, even though my body was screaming at me. Also for a huge part of first half of class I managed to zone everything out and just follow the dialogue.

My concentration is getting so much better. I hope it can continue down this path. Yesterday for example in standing head to knee I was focusing so deeply on my knee that I actually stopped registering my vision. All I can remember seeing even if I try as hard as I can is just white light. It was an amazing feeling. I read this from Dharma Mittra today:

The old masters defined concentration as the ability to keep the mind on one point for twelve seconds without a break. Twelve concentrations – or two and half minutes -equal one meditation. Twelve meditations take a half hour. If you can concentrate without any break, if the flow of concentration is uninterrupted like oil pouring from a spout, then you’ve achieved the last state of yoga, samadhi, cosmic consciousness.

So yesterday I managed one concentration, 1/12 of the way to meditation. Progress might be slow, but when the target is slowing things down what would you expect.

On the way home I bumped into some people from work, went along with them for a drink and it turned out to be a huge birthday party for one of the people on my new team. The team I’m joining for 1 day a week starting next week. Perfect to get a opportunity to show my face and mingle some beforehand.

The master plan revealed

I’m sure a lot of you have considered me crazy for all my recent unnecessary doubles. It’s time to reveal the hidden master plan:

5 CLASSES, 1 DAY (7.5 hours of yoga)
Friday 19th of March a team of students and staff at the Fulham and Balham studios will be getting very sweaty by completing every class on the day’s schedule in aid of Sport Relief.

This March, thousands of people across the UK will be taking part in sports events to raise money for Sport Relief. The money that is raised will help to transform the lives of poor and vulnerable people, both at home and across the world’s poorest countries.

You can support my efforts by making a donation at Fulham’s fundraising page.

In support of Sport Relief, an initiative of Comic Relief, registered charity 326568 (England/Wales); SC039730 (Scotland)