Finding the middle ground

Days 82
Classes 97 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Diane

Went to class today but took it very easy in all the back bends. Had a great class, focusing on minimising my fidgeting and made it the first no water class in ages. I’d say I managed to push between 50-70% in the back bending postures, so it was also a good practice of how to take it easy in class. I’ve been struggling with that, having no middle ground just all or nothing.

In standing bow I found that place where the balance of kicking and stretching is simultaneous and equal. Any imbalance in my standing leg didn’t matter, I just kicked more or stretched forward more.

Nice hot savasana

Days 81
Classes 96 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Elizabeth

It was finally time to pay for Fridays insanity today it seems. Got as far as standing bow then my lower back gave out. Couldn’t do any of the backward bends or even the third part of wind removing. Let me tell you there is a lot of backward bending in the series.

So today was a long nice hot savasana. I did the best I could, doing all the forward bends and other postures, and I stayed in the room. I guess I can’t ask for more. Hopefully all the resting today will set us up nicely for tomorrow.

Posture summary redux

Days 80
Classes 95 (+6 advanced)
Teacher Jo

Had another yoga geek out session today. Did the morning class with one of the people I meet in Barcelona at her local studio. Jo was teaching so after we all went and had lunch. Loads of yoga talk and fond memories sharing.

Jo was kind enough to call out before class that this was my 101 class in a row. So it turned from a normal practice to a yoga demonstration. Felt obliged to do every set and do them as perfect as I possibly could. I’m just happy it was today and not yesterday. It was a rocking class although I was struggling in parts. It was as Bikram would say: “Like a indian marriage, NO CHOICE!”. I was so wiped out after class.

I went to see Alice in wonderland after class and heard this quote from the film:
“I can’t help you if you don’t even know who you are, stupid girl!”
It reminded me of Bikram in Barcelona being asked if his yoga could help you find your purpose in life:
“If you don’t know what you want, poor you. I can’t help you.”

I’ve been reminded a couple of times recently about how I always wanted to know what the people in the front row with the great practice think about their practice. It was the thing I wanted to know the most when reading other peoples blogs.

Not to blow my own horn but I guess with all the announcements in class the last few days I guess I might belong to that group now. So I think I owe it to other blog readers (and myself) to do another posture summary. Plus it’s rather fitting after class 101. If you missed it I did a posture summary at the start of the challenge as well. I’ll keep to the same headings to make it more interesting.

Pesky little postures:

  • Dandayamana Bibhaktapada Paschimotthanasana (Separate leg stretching)
    I don’t quite know why but this posture just don’t gel with me.
  • Janushirasana with Paschimotthanasana (Final stretching)
    I’ve started having a serious mental block against this posture. Even if the rest of the practice has been great I feel like this posture will be very painful. It never is but I can’t shake the expectation.

Average joes:

  • Garurasana (Eagle)
    I rock eagle first leg, second leg not so much. I’m sure it will even itself out with time, but for now it’s a major difference between the two.
  • Dandayamana-Janushirasana (Standing head to knee)
    Getting there, slowly but surely. It still needs a lot of work but progress is steady.
  • Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing bow)
    Pretty much the same as standing head to knee. It’s getting there and I find something new in almost every class. But it still needs loads more work.
  • Tuladandasana (Balancing stick)
    Umm, how can I say this. I keep losing my balance. Even when the balance is there I’m of centre or have the hip to high. Some sets it’s rocking but it’s far from often.
  • Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana (Standing separate legs head to knee)
    This posture even though it’s nice and deep and everything (fairly regularly lock out the knee) it still wipes me out almost every class. I don’t have a clue why but I always come up feeling much worse for wear. I’m trying to focus on the breathing to help it out, we’ll see.
  • Whole of the Cobra series
    This entire series is pretty much a white wash for me. Filler material in the middle that I hardly notice. Sure half locus is a little pesky, but it’s evened out by the other posture being nice and relaxing. Bow you can always talk yourself into because it’s the last real power posture.
  • Ustrasana (Camel)
    Much much better than it used to be. It still brings up it’s emotions in some classes but most classes it’s just another posture.
  • Ardha-Matsyendrasana (Spine twisting)
    I really should work harder at this posture but it’s just there at the end when you are ready to give up and go home. Not bad, not great.

Those beloved savasana extentions:

  • Tadasana (Tree)
    Thanks Bikram for giving me a chance to slow down before hitting the floor. It’s so important to not lay down with your heart at maximum rate since you’ll miss out on the energy you’ll get from that long savasana.
  • Pavanamuktasana (Wind removing)
    Been working on this posture the last few days. I’m sure there is more to be had here if I just bring some intensity, so more work needed.
  • Ardha-Kurmasana (Half-tortiose)
    What can I say, it’s just like savasana, but up side down and with extended arms.

Super stars:

  • Ardha-Chandrasana with Pada-Hastasana (Half-moon)
    Sure there is a lot more depth that can be had here, but all in due time. I’ve been working on precision lately and I think it’s really paying off. Opening (/lifting) up the chest and not collapsing into the lower back. It sounds so simple but it’s tougher than you’d think.
  • Utkatasana (Awkward)
    This posture is definitely coming together nicely. Somedays I even feel like I’m an unmovable mountain while in this pose. Nothing could tumble me. Other days I get humbled for such thought and fall out all by myself. 🙂
  • Trikanasana (Triangle)
    I’m loving triangle, it’s really one of my favourites. Triangle and rabbit, I would pay for class just to do those two.
  • Padangustasana (Toe stand)
    Still need to work on straightening my spine but otherwise it’s a solid posture.
  • Supta-Vajrasana (Fixed firm)
    Sit back and relax I think is how I describe this posture in my head during class. Sure some days my hips don’t like it much but it’s almost always a solid posture. If only I could work out how to increase the curvature of my spine it would be even better.
  • Sasangasana (Rabbit)
    Ahh, my beloved Rabbit. Come to save the day at the end. I’m still trying to figure out exactly where the shoulders should go. “Lift your shoulders up towards the ceiling” isn’t quite clear enough. I’m trying two different version of lifting the shoulders at the moment. One seems to be winning so I’m sure it’ll work itself out.

There you have it kids. 🙂

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.