Wednesday, August 31, 2011

HOT Yoga

I love evening classes. Being a freelance designer I don't have a drive home to separate my work-life from my home-life. I read somewhere that a 20 minute commute is the ideal time to make that healthy mental separation. The closest I have gotten is leaving my office, going to the kitchen for tea and, upon returning to the office, announcing that I am done with work; thinking this would work the same way half-court basketball does. Much like half-court basketball, I can never remember which side I am on and end up shooting for the wrong team; work creeping into my free-time and Zombies vs. Plants sneaking into my work-day.

Evening yoga gives me that mental break. Before yoga, my office is an office. After yoga, it can be a painting studio, game room or den. Yoga has the added advantages, when compared to a commute, of invigorating me, giving mental clarity and not encouraging me to scream and hold my middle finger up at people, just under the dash-board where nobody can see.

Sometimes my work-day runs late and I end up eating a light dinner the prescribed 3 hours before 8:30 class. This was the case recently. I made a light dinner of curry. I make my own, using spices I grind at the time of cooking, organic spinach, mushrooms and hot peppers. I have to be very careful when handling the peppers because I have dry skin (Eczema actually. Before yoga it was not unusual for the dry cracks in my hands & feet to bleed). The pepper oils easily seep into the cracks and burn painfully for hours. This time, I was good. I used gloves when cutting the chilies and scraped them neatly from the cutting board into the skillet rather than transferring them by hand.

That was then. Three hours later, in half-moon, my hands were starting to tingle. By awkward pose the tingling became a fire. My hands, from finger-tips to just below my wrists might as well have been dipped in lava. Evidently, when removing the gloves, I had not been careful not to touch the gloves. For hours the oils had been sitting dormant on my skin's surface but  as my pores opened to release sweat, the mistake was obvious. The painful lumps on the end of my arms were getting worse, turning into white-hot pokers I wanted to fling from my body.

The march of time stops for no yogi. Next up, eagle. Hands over head. Swing your right under left, twisting at the elbow and again at the wrist. You know those crazy/talented people who swing fire around their bodies on the end of long chains?

Yeah. That was exactly how I felt. The problem is that fire-dancers keep the fire pretty much away from their body. I was about to twist my swinging chains up and hold the ball of flames to my face. My fear resembled a bad trip, where a seemingly innocuous item (my hands) inspires such fear as to be paralyzing. My hands were a rabid axe-weilding bunny and I had to hold still and watch them come at me.

My Eagle Pose

The good news is, I made it through eagle; holding my hands as far from my face as my twisted arms would allow. In fact, I made it through the whole class. The fire started to subside around rabbit pose. I can't say I did a good job focusing on my breath, unless you count snorting heavily to force a breeze onto my hands, but hey, any class you stay in the room is a good class, right?

I still enjoy my evening classes, but am now very careful to plan my meals accordingly should I have to eat dinner beforehand. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Decline

My mood swings are monumental in a way that makes Liza Minnelli look stable. Yoga has helped me even them out a bit and come to terms with the ones I can't manage gracefully. Still, during slumps, I whine about going to yoga the way a 6 year old whines about going to Sunday school -- complete with shoe throwing. Or, if you were a creative kid like me, hiding in the closet and refusing to get out of your pajamas by anything other than force. At any rate, this sort of behavior is REALLY unbecoming of a 30-something.

I had decided that the only way to get myself to stop making excuses was to include practice into my daily routine. If I was to go everyday, martini lunch be damned, I would, in theory, stop whining and just do it. Actually, this worked pretty well. The result has been far fewer hours spent wandering around the house, shoulders slumped, jaw slack, kicking things in my path, complaining about the impending yoga. The irony here is that I complain like this knowing that I will emerge from class the bright, pert woman I wish I was all the time. It is the only sure-fire cure for slumps that I have ever found. Does this knowledge make me skip into class merrily waving my rolled up yoga mat like a baton? Never.

What happens now, the shortened fit I have come to accept as my daily routine, is so predictable as to be obnoxious. Both my cat and my boyfriend have memorized their lines perfectly to get me the f*ck out of the door and on my way. I wish that meant I could dispose of the theatrics, but they seem interwoven into my person.

The daily script:
The deadline approaches. I wander into my boyfriend's home office and pull him (quite literally, his chair, conveniently, has wheels) away from his work, I curl up in his lap, as close to the fetal position as a full-grown adult can manage. I throw my head back and proclaim, "It's THAT time." This is said with the same inflection that one would inform their child that the asteroid will, in fact, be colliding with the planet, snuffing out the sun, at any moment.

He informs me what I already know, "You will feel so much better when you get done."

I inform him that, although what he said is common knowledge and I accept that, it makes my march into Mordor no easier a burden.

Several large sighs escape me before I begrudgingly let The Boy get back to his computer. I grab my things and go to yoga, telling myself the whole time that if I feel like sleeping through the entire floor series today, it is okay.

*Class* (cue fairy music)

After class I am energized. I am glad I rode my bike. I contemplate on the way home how freeing bicycling is. I decide dinner should be juice today. I am turning over a new leaf. Nothing but salads for a week. I could do a double (two yoga classes) tomorrow!

I realize I do this every time. Better to think realistically. Maybe dinner tonight just won't include a starch.

Halfway home my tummy grumbles and I think of ice cream. It's okay though, there are good alternatives. I could have some Italian ice before my salad. Five minutes later, it's sorbet. Five more minutes, it's gellato. Two minutes more and it's a scoop of rocky road, a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough and a scoop of strawberry cheesecake ice cream, all topped with fudge. Whipped cream is a must, but we can balance it out with a banana...I should have some potassium for all the work I did.

I arrive at home happy, with plans to make a seven course meal. Now that I think of it, no wonder The Boy is so encouraging of my yoga habit.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Brace Yourself, This is a Long One.

I whipped my cock out on stage yesterday. That is correct, as I am writing this, yesterday was the Illinois Asana Championships. There is so much to say about the day; the competitors were ecstatic, love was gushing out the floorboards and inspiration was everywhere.

The day started at 5:08am when I peeled open my eyes, a good seven minutes before I was being picked up by the clown-car of yogis carpooling from Chicago to Naperville. Four bleary-eyed competitors and all our yoga gear piled into the car and drove the hour+ to the studio hosting the pre-show class. The studio was one of the prettiest I have seen (well-done, Mama Tam!) with a beautiful faux wood floor. It was flocked, making it carpet-like, but the pattern was so real my pre-noon senses were thrown for a loop.

Taking class pre-competition is a beautiful thing. Looking around you there are yogis of all sizes, skill levels and age brackets (so, yeah, a little like regular class I guess). In front of me was, I would later discover, one of the judges. To my left and right were fellow Bikram Yoga Andersonville friends. Kitty-corner was a little girl of maybe 10 that may or may not have been doing a dance routine throughout class. I attribute my excellent focus that morning (and maybe the lack of sleep and food) to the fact that I missed (and therefore did not break out laughing at) the little girl turning around mid-standing series and facing Borislava, the yogi next to me. Good job, little girl! Testing Borislava's concentration was key to her performance later that day. Maybe if we all had had a little tap-dancing cutie to challenge our focus that morning none of us would have fallen out of standing bow later.

Borislava's Standing Head to Knee

After class, we piled back into the car, passing Starbucks, Chipotle, Five Guys Pizza and many other drool-inducing stores on our way to the Wentz Concert Hall. Thankfully, green juice was in ample supply. In the warm up room, which counter-intuitively was quite chilly, the mood shifted from casual to anxious and back again. Camaraderie ruled supreme as people did each other's hair, gave last minute tips for transitions and shared green juice in the grand fashion of breaking-bread.

After a long wait for the on-stage dance, music and bowl meditation acts, the children were taken. This was especially sad as it took away our 6 year old entertainer, Christian, who had been showing us how he could use his foot as a telephone by holding it to his ear. The pied piper came back for the men and eventually for the first 5 women.

The thing about an impending performance is that there is both nothing you can do to prepare and everything you can do to prepare. Do you do backbends to make your spine limber, or will this just make you fret? Do you do a few cock poses, or will that tire your arm muscles? Do you sit and talk with others to calm your nerves, or concentrate on a spot to gain focus? I, at the advice of a pro, settled on pranayama breathing. I also figured I would get one solid standing-head-to-knee before going on stage. 20 standing-head-to-knees later I stopped, having finally achieved this goal. Maybe that wasn't such a grand idea.

My turn was announced and I cued up to the stage, careful not to watch whomever was on stage just before me. Stripping down to my leotard was fun. First came the leg warmers, socks, pants, hoodie, tank top. I felt a little like a stripper who wasn't aware there was supposed to be grace to her job. The pile of clothes next to me kept growing until eventually, I was naked enough to walk into the public eye. In seconds I would attempt to convey everything I've learned in my year and a half of practice through an odd but very precise dance lasting only 3 minutes.

Before going on stage, standing in that chilly stage-doorway I got hugs and well-wishes the likes of which true competitors would never give. This is why I take issue with the word, "competition." I have yet to find a word that truly grasps what we are seeking to accomplish here, but competition certainly isn't it. Yes, there is a winner, but that winner represents all of us. The winners got there because of all of us, and they know and appreciate it. There is an understanding that each one of us has a part on stage, virtually naked, proud and humble, with every demonstration. A part of my standing bow is trembling under the spotlight from the time it hits the first child to when the last woman shuffles off the tiny yoga mat taped to the palatial wood stage. I literally tighten my knee when I see a competitor shifting in standing head-to-knee, I feel proud when Gianna completes a full standing splits in bow. One could argue my tightened knee-cap will not help and I have no right to feel pride in another's actions. I will argue, they need my strength and my love.

It is that sort of spirit I find, waiting in the airy side-door waiting for my name to be called, as yogis twice my age, twice my size, half my experience, three times my hardships, seven times my strength, hug, kiss, wish me well and love me with all their beings, with all their honesty. In their hearts, they are about to walk on stage with me.

After the last of us joined the audience, leaving the warm-up room empty, things got chaotic as they are apt to do when one person organizes an entire regional. As if in sympathy, my mental faculties began to digress from hunger; I had not eaten since the evening prior. My brain had long since abandoned its post inside my skull and the hole left in its place was calling for Chipotle. I had been eating raw for a week* so, with the promise of a burrito the size of my head looming over the horizon, it was taking all my strength not to take the microphone and unceremoniously announce winners according to who's leotard I thought was the prettiest.

After the ceremony, of which I did not ruin, possibly my greatest accomplishment that day, a few of us ate ravenously at Chipotle before heading home. Post competition libations were consumed in a beer garden (rain be damned) and I got to bed after 22 consecutive waking hours.

At the risk of turning this blog into a cheese-fest, I would like to formally say, "thank you" to my instructors, fellow yogis, friends, family and the boy, making special note to those yogis to whom I have met only in passing, yet still show amazing interest in me, as they must to everyone. It takes an open heart to put that much love into every person you meet and I am grateful.

*Full disclosure: there were two relapses 1. pizza 2. bread with peanut butter.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yogi Drugs

One of those beautiful and frustrating things about Bikram Yoga is that taking care of yourself outside of class makes you feel better inside of class. Yogis, constantly in search of the illusive 'easy class,' often try to stuff extra nutrients and hydration into their meals, (right between the chocolate cake and donuts). It leads us to eat some foods most people would not like. Furthermore, the more of this stuff you eat the more you like it. One day you find yourself enjoying a tasty beverage and when a friend making a Mr. Yuck face asks what in the world that green stuff tastes like (NO, I do NOT want to try it) you think for a second and reply, "Grass!" before realizing that, while an honest answer, this answer makes you sound like a cud-chewing cow. Quickly backpedaling you try, "Salad?"

This is how I frequently find myself discussing with other yogis the glories of green juice. A quick infusion of all the nutrients of a sink of veggies, in a calorie laden, water-rich beverage. While I do not, myself, own a juicer, I fake it by stuffing a bunch of green stuff in a blender with a glass of water. Violá! I am part of the juicing party without having to invest $1000!

A fun activity I have found is discussing juice with my fellow yogis enthusiastically in public. It's not hard to up the enthusiasm to levels only seen when addicts gather around a spoonful of the good stuff. Yogis LOVE their juice. The joy is multiplied when these yogis are also training for the Asana Championships. In case you don't understand the beauty of this conversation, let me write some sample dialogue for you.

Me: Do you find that juicing helps your training?
Yogi A: Yes! I juice almost every morning!
Yogi B: I would love to, but I hate the mess it makes.
Yogi A: But don't you find you feel slower on days you don't juice? I feel sick when I don't.
Me: I bet most of the competitors are juicing...

...and so on. By now, more than a few people are looking at us. I like to have fun with this. If a fly buzzes around me I get extra dramatic about shooing it away.

My Morning Fix

Thursday, August 4, 2011

All About My Cock

I can not tell you the endless fun I have discussing my new pose.* I'm fairly certain the only reason I keep practicing the pose is to continue discussing its progress, or lack there of. That's not even a disparaging remark. I enjoy discussing either it's progress or it's stagnation; either way, I get into the most wonderfully inappropriate discussions that only myself or a 12 year old boy would find amusing. Endlessly amusing. Even when I try to keep it clean, the conversation results in gales of laughter (exclusively from me, I think everyone else has long since tired of the cock talk).

Example conversation I had last week:
Me: Have you ever found that if you aren't sufficiently sweaty you can't push up because your knees stick to your arms?
Yogi B: Are you asking if I have problems getting my cock up?

The thing is, I really DO have problems getting my cock up. If there is no sweat, my knees grind into my arms and all the tummy muscles in the world won't lift my lotus more than a grasshopper's kneecap from the ground. This led me to a shameful act.** It might have been the result of all the innuendo being thrown around, but after one particularly difficult practice at home, (I swear, I was getting a rash on my forearms) I went to the bathroom, pulled out the jojoba oil and rubbed some on my arms. Yes, you can say it out loud with me, I lubed my cock to get it up.

I think that might be my magnum opus with this pose. It is not likely I will have a more beautiful experience than looking my yoga teacher in the eye and saying, "Please help me, I can't go on stage and show the judges a greased cock."

* For those of you just joining us, I am learning 'cock' pose for the Asana Championships. This is essentially lotus being lifted by your extended arms.

**I really want to add the words, "with my cock." I know this is unnecessary verbiage but, like that Chinese fortune cookie game where you add the words, "in bed" to the end of your fortune, I find, "cock" makes every sentence regarding this pose more amusing.