Thursday, January 26, 2012

Better Than Jesus Toast

The other day I got up from the first savasana to see this sweat mark on my towel. I am magic.


And just because I can never get enough of it:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Of SOPA and Whale-Song

First off, if you haven't written your representatives about SOPA/PIPA yet, please do so now. Yesterday was the day of action but I won't fault you for getting on the bandwagon late. I will wait. .....welcome back.  Thank you for helping us all live outside of an Orwellian nightmare. Compliments of I have included this educational animated gif. would like you to know pirating this is a-ok by them.

Now that we are all back and have participated in the great democratic process, I was at the Bikram studio in Rome... hmmm? Yes, Rome, lovely city. Very sweet little studio. Okay, enough pretending to be all continental and stuff. I WENT TO ROME! And did YOGA THERE! It was awesome. It was also over a year ago, so I am getting rather nostalgic about it and I figured I would share. 

If you have been to the studio in Rome, or are a regular, please refrain from rolling your eyes at this American yahoo who did everything she could to blend in. This included wearing nicer clothing, putting on make-up and trying my best to speak Italian. To say I am bad at languages is to say that a child of seven is bad at communicating via whale-song to a hump-back.*  I took three years of Spanish and a Spanish language course as an adult, never once progressing beyond Spanish 2. To my credit, I can order a beer in Portuguese and Korean, and learned to order red house wine in Italian. Once back from my trip I forgot that one though. Mock-Chu Chu-say-oh is far more engrained because Koreans, in my experience, drink even more than Italians. 

Three Years of Spanish One

So, with my limited repertoire of, "House red wine, please," "Where is the bathroom, please?," "I do not speak Italian. PLEASE, do you speak English?" and, the Swiss army-knife of phrases, "Sorry, excuse me, please!," the phrase "twist your arms like wet ropes" was a wee past my linguistic capabilities. Fortunately, there is one English class taught each week at the Rome studio! Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a very large bowl of pasta while it was being conducted. I, much to the relief of The Boy, managed to carve out some time between wine and pasta bowls on day two. I say, "much to his relief" because I am very bad at relaxing. It seems this skill is not well suited for me. When I went to visit my friend in Portland, the land of retired 20-somethings, I was confronted with such a lack of anxiety it made me anxious. I wanted to shake every bearded man I met and ask him how on earth he thought he would live out his old age without a 401k. Granted, I do not have a 401k, but at least I have the good common sense to fret over it until I have ulcers.** So, when visiting Rome, The Boy knew it would take a while of twitching until I got used to a vacation's pace. 

He was a good sport as, for 24 hours, I rushed him past fantastic ruins to walk to...nowhere. That's right. We walked roughly 12 miles that first day. He tried to stop maybe 5 times as we passed giant monoliths of history. Tried. I would pace back and forth like a caged animal until he put his camera away and continued the walk/run pace I had set for us. On day two we decided he would catch a bite to eat and grab some wine while I took a cab to The Vatican and walked to the studio from there. I charged to the studio and began to unwind. 

At the front desk, I established right away that I did not speak Italian but had done this before and would do my best to follow whatever the teacher told me. They were so nice to me. One of the ladies, not the teacher I would have, spoke a little English and we mimed the rest -- she was happy to have me, I was grateful to be here, etc, etc. 

I was starting to feel grounded, partially from the sudden familiarity (it felt a little like discovering you have a relative in the area), partially from my independent foray (proving that separating from The Boy wouldn't equate to being instantly nabbed by the Italian Secret Service and held indefinitely for a crime I did not commit unbeknownst to the outside world). I set up in the room, nodded to the nice Romans I would be taking class with and got down to savasana. The class went really well, considering I could understand nothing. I moved from one pose to the next in time with the rest of the room, focusing on myself but feeling the general flow from one pose to the next. I thought I was doing pretty good. 

I was just in the middle of thinking how very good this was going when I noticed the teacher was getting very loud. We were folded forward in separate leg stretching. As I looked between my legs I could see that her, now overly enunciated, words were quite possibly meant for me. Oh dear. She walked toward me repeating the same phrase over and over, each time pulling her lips away from her teeth in a more exaggerated manner. In my head, it was just a more precise version of Charlie Brown's teacher, "WAH-wah-wah-wah-wa." I tried pulling my head closer to the mat, "WAH-wah-wah-wah-wa." I tried pigeon toeing more, "WAH-wah-wah-wah-wa." I moved my elbows closer to my knees, "WAH-wah-wah-wah-wa!" Finally realizing that she was in the presence of a seven-year-old attempting whale-song translation, she spoke the three magic words in English "Lock your knees." AHHHHH!!! I should have guessed. I locked my knees. She smiled and flipped right back to Italian. 

For the rest of the class, the only other mistake I made was to get into final stretching when we were supposed to be getting into rabbit. Wishful thinking. The nice Roman next to me gave me a little nod to her folded legs, as opposed to my strait ones, and I got the message before any Italian need be uttered. All in all, it was a lovely experience. The studio is great, with a little zen fountain by the changing rooms and the staff were accommodating. Besides, you can say you practiced IN ROME. I am fairly certain you get like +30 Cool Points and at least a bazillion Provincial Points for that.

* If Science Officer Spock had a hard time I assume it is exceedingly difficult for a seven-year-old.

** If I have told that story before, please forgive me, I am still working through the trauma.

This is for Dalia, who learned to talk to her whale today. See comments if you are confused.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Topic We Do Not Discuss in Polite Company

I am not going to address that New York Times article. I have yet to hear anyone give it any credence outside of the idea that ego should be left outside the room. Everyone should know that already. If you don't, here you go, leave your ego outside the room. Now, in an effort to make hyperbolic journalism go away, there will be no further mention of it here...and NO links back to it. The last thing they need is more hits for bad journalism. That's just rewarding them for scare tactics.

Speaking of hyperbole, controversy, and infighting among yogis, I will now open myself up to attack by discussing the Bikram version of religion or politics, water.  Over my short stint as a Bikram yogi I have heard more theories on water than there are Indian restaurants on Devon Avenue. For you non-Chicagoans, trust me, that's a lot. The three main theories I have heard will be explained and point/counter-pointed below. Before going through this I would like to say a few disclaimers. In fact, to make it look official Im going to do it like this.* 

So why am I writing this? Because I know a lot of people have very strong opinions on water, I have found a method that was passed to me and works great for me. I would like to share it just in case you want to try too. The most common water theories I have encountered go like this:

1. Drink a ton of water. Then stop. Seriously, stop two hours before class so you don't have to pee. Then, drink water heavily through class. 

I kind of take issue with this theory, but I've heard it a lot. To my ears this sounds like, let your body start to dehydrate, and right when it's all out of reserves to process, ask it to do a lot of work in a hot room! It takes your body time to process water, so when you start drinking right at eagle, you still have a while until your body gets that water. I, personally, want my body as filled to my eyeballs with water as I can get it. I have only had to pee once in the classroom, and I will not lie, it was bad, like overfilled water-balloon bad. But you know what, I made it through, did my yoga to the extent I could and got through the class. So you have to pee? So what. The bathroom can't be more than a few steps away if you need it. I would way rather have to pee than not have my body filled with a store of usable water. Neat thing about hydrating to the last minute? There's a reason I never have to pee. I use the water before it gets to my bladder, how friggin' cool is that?

2. Drink all day, drink at least two water bottles of water in class. 

Not as counter-intuitive, and definitely recommended throughout the Bikram world. Coolio. I did my first year with this method. You are guaranteed hydration, your body stays full of water and you stay safe. Fantastic.

And here comes the kicker. The one I expect angry emails, posts, further attacks on how "anti-yogi" I am. It might help to re-read the disclaimer at this point.*

3. Drink all day. Lots. Stay fully hydrated. Then (drum-roll, please) leave the water bottle in the locker room. 

Yup, I said it. You don't need to bring water in the room with you. I've been doing it for over a year with the exceptions of when I visit studios. (When visiting other studios my policy is always, "When in Rome...") Before you start writing that comment, hear me out. The issues I had with the water bottle are two-fold. With the water there, it became my focus. If I was feeling dizzy, tired, warm (heck, I came up with negative feelings so I could grab the water), I would take a drink. That meant taking focus away from the breathing. Sometimes, that made it worse. I would take a drink (which, by the way, stops you from breathing) focus on how much better that felt, drawing attention to how awful I felt before. This would become circular and I would send myself into a mini-panic. 

The second reason is far simpler. There were certain postures I would drink after. Usually, the savasana between the standing and floor series was a guzzler. It is here you should start to see my issue. I would then flip over onto my belly, compressing all that water sloshing around. Instead of spending the first 45 minutes of class processing water out of my gut, I had spent 45 minutes filling it. And now I was laying on it. In a minute I would be stretching it, pulling it and rolling it back and forth. UGH. 

So there you go, take it or leave it. If you want to baby-step it (a sensible solution) you can take your water in and not drink out of it for a week before leaving it in the locker room. 

* See, down here it looks official. I am not a yoga instructor. I don't claim to have the only, or the right, way to do things. I only know what I have tried and what works for me. Everyone is different. I am not claiming superior knowledge to yours. If your method works for you, awesome, keep it up. Like my momma always said, if it 'aint broke, don't fix it... wait, no she didn't. She had me as a child, she said, "It wasn't broke, then you touched it. Now, fix it." 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Deep Thoughts From a 6am Backbend

I detest mornings. As such, I hate morning yoga. I hate it with a zealousness that could choke large mammals. Water buffalo. Possibly an average-sized T-rex. That is to say that I hate morning yoga more than I want tiger scorpion. Yeah, I said it. Poop just got real.

If the yoga fairy were to visit me in the night and say unto me, "Kate, I will give you a tiger scorpion so beautiful that Bikram himself will quake to look upon it, and in return you will do 6am yoga for a week." I would retort with some bull-cocky excuse about how I know yoga isn't about instant answers and the struggle is where the learning is, but inside I would be cursing that fairy for knowing my Achilles' heel.

The Yoga Fairy exists in state of perpetually perfect standing bow.*
* Illustrator's note: The standing bow is perfect, the rendition may not be.