Monday, May 4, 2015

Just Breathe Through It

Back to reality.

I took a couple of days off after the end of the Challenge, then got back in the saddle on Saturday morning. I enjoyed my first Sunday off, and then BOOM. All of a sudden, it was Monday morning.

It's a good thing Brook teaches on Mondays; knowing that she'll be there greatly lessens the temptation for me to skip class. She's that good.

And it was a good class. These days, going to the studio feels a little like going into Cheers; I love the community and chit chat and support.

Camel was more overwhelming than it has been for a long time, but I remembered what Brook had already said a couple of times: "Just breathe through what you're feeling. It's only temporary." This is a life lesson, one I won't forget anytime soon.

I realized that I didn't give any hard numbers when I made my Day 60 report, but today all of my Challenge material is due, so here's the deal. During the Sixty-Day Challenge:

  • I lost seven pounds.
  • I lost an inch off my chest.
  • I lost 4.5 inches off my waist (at the navel).
  • I lost 1.25 inches off my hips.
  • My upper arm stayed the same, and I lost a half inch from my thigh. 

Pretty good, eh?  A little over seven inches all over. I'm sure younger people with working thyroids did better, but I'm happy for any progress in the right direction. Hopefully, it's just the beginning.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 60 -- Done!

I woke up feeling emotional and a bit disoriented. I'd been working on the Challenge for so long that I couldn't believe it was ending. I even got a little weepy when I thought about it, but pulled myself together and headed to the 9am class once my morning routine was complete.

It was fitting that Val was leading the class, I thought. She owns the studio and taught the very first class I attended. Class was pretty full, so I set up close to the door.

As we began, I realized it was just another class. I wasn't going to magically be able to extend my leg in Standing Head to Knee or touch my forehead to my knee in Standing Separate Leg Stretch. I was maybe a micrometer more advanced than I'd been the day before, that's all.

And that was fine. I was just happy to be there.

Lying in savasana after the Standing Series, I felt my emotions well up a bit--and then the dam threatened to break when Val started talking about me to the class. How impressed and inspired she was that I'd completed the challenge despite all the kids and my schedule and just having started, etc. People started whooping and clapping spontaneously, and I will confess that a few tears mingled with the sweat running down my face.

And then, 35 minutes later, it was over. I hung around a little longer than usual to congratulate other Challenge finishers, and I wanted it just to sink in that I was done. And then I went home, like always.

A little later, the doorbell rang. I answered the door to find a delivery man from my favorite florist standing there with a lavish floral arrangement.

The card read, "Congrats on 60! You are Hot Yoga. Love, Patrick."

Best. Husband. In the world. Again with the weepiness.

I wonder if this is how people feel after their first marathons: the disbelief, the gradual realization that it's OVER. But then again, as my yoga Yoda Bruce wrote in his congratulatory text, "This is just the beginning."

He's absolutely right.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 59 -- Hold On For One More Day

I'm not gonna lie: I'm tired. I'm looking forward to my regular practice, which will be 4-5 days per week instead of 7.

But I've made SO MUCH progress during the Sixty-Day Challenge. I'll do measurements and weight and stuff tomorrow (TOMORROW!), but here are some things I've noticed:
  • I'm way better at delayed gratification. I drink less water during class, and I don't bother wiping my sweat away anymore. I can deal with a dry throat and a wet face/neck/everything through the poses; I can ignore them and focus on the work I'm doing. 
  • I'm far more calm during class. No more panic or anxiety. I really do get lost in the rhythm of it and am often surprised when we get to the final breathing exercise, because I realize we're done. 
  • I can stay still. When I started, I'd fidget with my hair and shirt between every set. I'd scratch my nose, wipe my forehead, etc. Now I just stand there (or lie there) and breathe, for the most part. 
  • I'm stronger. I can lift higher in Cobra and farther back in Camel, for example. And I don't want to shoot myself or the teacher as I approach muscle failure in Half Moon. 
  • I have better balance. Yes, I still fall out of Standing Bow on a regular basis, but I can hold the posture for much longer and with much better form. 
  • I'm far more calm out of class. Traffic bothers me less. My kids' issues don't get me as wound up. I'm less obsessive about...everything. "Oh, well," I say to myself. "Let it go."
  • My mind is clearer. I'm less foggy, less depressed, less vulnerable to downward mood spirals. 
  • I'm better at savoring every moment and being present. This is probably my favorite change.
At the end of class today, Byron gave the usual exhortation: "Practice this yoga five to six times a week, and it'll change your life. Try it for two months and see if we're right."

I definitely agree.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Day 58 --Core

I'm so glad Brook teaches on Mondays; she makes everything better, even the fact that a new week is ahead.

It's funny how my experience of the practice has changed since I started in February. Back then, I loathed Half Moon; now I love it. My latest bugaboo is Locust, which I didn't used to mind. And I don't feel like I'm getting what I'm supposed to out of Spine-Twisting Pose; it just feels like it's the last obstacle on the way to Final Savasana. I'm sure I have more to learn in every posture, not just these.

Noticing these things today made me want to read Bikram's book; I feel like I want even more information than my teachers can give me in any one 90-minute class. I've ordered it and look forward to seeing what the yogi has to say to me.

As my strength in my legs and arms has increased, I've tried to focus more on my core. I know it's getting a workout, but I'm now to the point where I can tighten and contract more; my energy isn't all being expended on other crucial things. Brook always exhorts patience, which I always need to hear. I'll get there.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 57 -- Sailing

Today's class with smooth-as-silk Eva felt almost easy. I was still working to my absolute edge, but things just...flowed. It helped to have made those amazing breakthroughs yesterday, but also I seemed to have some extra energy, somehow. I don't know why it happened, but it felt great to come out of every posture and not have to make a desperate grasp for stillness. I just stood and breathed and then did the next thing I was supposed to.

Roxanne, as always, was very encouraging afterward, and gave me a goal to work toward in Camel. "When you can see the wall behind you, not just the ceiling, you're ready to reach for your feet," she said. All righty, then. I'm on it.

Three more days of the Challenge! I can't believe it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Day 56 -- Joy

Oh, that 5:30 a.m. alarm on a Saturday morning.

But on the drive to the yoga studio, I was excited. I know it seems like my favorite teacher is always the one I have that day (and isn't it great to have so many contenders for favorite), but I adore Roxanne. She's been so helpful and kind and willing to take time with me answering my endless questions. This morning, I remembered that I wanted to ask her about the third part of Awkward Pose, which has been my bane from Day One.

I didn't have time to ask her before we started, but then during class, it was as if she'd read my mind. It was a small group, and she came over and helped me figure out how to get down to my ankles--which I'd never been able to do before.

Other exciting breakthroughs today:

I grabbed my foot in Standing Head to Knee--with good hip alignment. That was a first, and Roxanne shouted for joy. Me getting my foot has been a quest of hers, and it was perfect that I got it right for the first time in her class.

In Triangle, Roxanne showed me a hip correction that COMPLETELY changed the posture. How did I not see it before? I was able to get my thigh parallel to the ground for the first time. (Of course, since I'd gotten to muscle failure in the third part of Awkward, I couldn't stay in Triangle for very long. Every time I think I'm getting stronger, I find a new weakness. Oh, well.)

The fourth breakthrough was emotional. If you've read about my Challenge thus far, you know that Camel has been a particular struggle for me, and also that the weight I carry in my gut is an ongoing concern. I sensed a couple of weeks ago that the two things were related, and today I had an insight that confirmed this. I've been visualizing releasing that weight every time I've done Camel since then, and the image that has come into my mind as I've done so is of an iceberg or a glacier calving.

When a big piece breaks off the side, that's what it's called: calving. (And wouldn't be great to let go of weight all at once like that?) But today, I realized that calving is also what a cow does, and that I've held on to weight in my stomach because it's hard to let go of the fact that my childbearing years are over.

Don't get me wrong; I'm happy to be done having kids; six plus one is plenty. But after so many years of it, it's hard to move on from that self-definition as a mother of young children. I don't know if that makes sense, but the truth of it for me--the source of my emotions starting to be uncovered in Camel--felt powerful. And now that I see it clearly, I can let it go. Emotion accompanies that kind of release, and today was no exception.

So, am I glad I woke up before dark and got to class? Oh, yes. I'm always happy I went to class, but today I experienced true joy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 55 -- Use What You Have

Today was my last double, heaven willing and the creek don't rise.

Sometimes, when you state an intention, the Universe seems to conspire against you. A bad night's sleep, hormonal craziness, a freezer with only one Vitamin Water left in it, a very full weekend ahead--let's just say that it wasn't the ideal day for a double. The Challenge ends next Wednesday, so in theory I could have put it off, but I didn't want to tempt Fate.

So I just did it. And now it's done. And I'm all caught up. Knock on wood.

My other doubles went better; maybe today it was all about the cumulative fatigue. Fortunately, I had two favorite teachers: Brook and Jeff. They got me through it, as did friends like Roxanne, Corinne, Philip, and Megan. And Eva! She rocked the 9am class today.

I loved something the ever-wise Brook said today. Every day, we bring what we have into the studio. It's not always what we wish we had; sometimes it's less than what we usually have. But when you use what you have, what you have gets stronger. And that's a comfort on a day when it felt like I didn't bring very much. No worries; just use what you have.