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.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Day 54 -- Grace

Nine tenths of the way through the Challenge, people. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty impressed. :)

Before class today, I read this magnificent piece by Anne Lamott, who's one of my favorite people on the planet. (Go read it; it's far more worth your time than this post.)

I've been thinking about grace ever since. Not the kind that ballet dancers and hummingbirds and running backs have; the kind from heaven. The kind that comes when you least expect or deserve it and bathes you in warmth and healing. A smile from a stranger. A call from a friend. The forgiveness of a family member. A little bit of extra help to get you out of bed and out of yourself and into the world. Grace got me to the yoga studio today.

In yoga class, we make ourselves vulnerable; you can't help but be vulnerable when you're trying that hard at something. As I think about it, it's actually kind of a miracle that no one in the room judges or laughs as we put ourselves out there and go through our imperfect practices.

Today as I wobbled in Standing Bow and reached in vain for the ground in (the very beginning of) Toe Stand, my weaknesses were all right there, staring back at me in the mirror.

As I tried to breathe calmly and practice stillness--

--and also transform my intense yoga face (which looks super mean and angry, no lie) into a "delighted, smiling, happy face," as awesome teacher Christian put it today--

--I thought of this scripture, which reads,
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
I'm weak in so many ways, and humility is even harder to practice than Ustrasana. But it's the catalyst for grace, so I'm choosing it hour by hour.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 53 -- I'm Tryin'

Whenever I used to run into my West African friend, Roselyn, when I lived in Manhattan, I'd ask her how she was, like you do. Her answer was invariably, "I'm tryin.'"

I thought of Roselyn this morning. Hormones are conspiring against me, and it took a lot of willpower to get myself to class. The yoga room was HOT, despite my best hydration efforts. I worked hard to distance myself from emotions and self-judgment as class continued, but by the time we got to Rabbit pose, a bad attitude was setting in. I pushed it aside and kept breathing. Lying in final savasana, I didn't feel the payoff I usually get. That bummed me out.

The payoff came a few minutes later. I met another new student named Megan (and introduced her to Megan, Eva's aide, as well as Eva). Then we got to chat with veteran teachers Roxanne and Jen, both of whom were so very helpful and encouraging. Bless them. Once again, the yoga community saved my mood.

One week and eight classes to go. I see the light at the end of the tunnel; I just hope it's not a train. :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day 52 -- Practice

Byron was in charge today. He's great. When he walked in, he said, "You know what they say about small classes: they're quick, easy, and painless."

We all laughed.

Painless? No. Right from the start, my balance wasn't great. I had some good moments, but I found myself getting frustrated.

Byron must have been reading my mind, because then he said, "Remember: this isn't a yoga performance. This is a yoga practice."

And somehow, once I felt I had permission not to be perfect (not that I was even close), things got easier.

Thank heaven for intuitive teachers.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Day 51 -- Finding the Ease

Jeff said something surprising on Saturday. "Stop clenching your butts," he directed the class as we stood in Half Moon. "There's no room for your spine to move if you're clenching. Learn the difference between contracting and clenching."

I spent the rest of the class trying to figure out the distinction. I continued on Sunday, and today in marvelous Brook's class, I tried some more. This is a fine line, at least for someone as uncoordinated and (previously) unaware of her body as I am.

And finding the line made every posture more difficult. It's really hard to relax your back while your stomach is held in, your thigh is lifted, and your standing leg is locked in Standing Head to Knee. But I'm sure this is what Roxanne meant weeks ago when she told me to search for the ease in each asana.

I've accepted that this work will never not be hard, but I didn't realize there would be so many different ways for it to be hard. I'm sure I'll discover more as I keep practicing.

Brook said something today that I want to have govern my practice: "Easy breath, honest effort, good form." That really says it all, and it's something I can carry into the rest of my life as well.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Day 50 -- Serenity Now

Jeff three days in a row! I was tired today after yesterday's Three-Set Class, but I also felt like my stretches today went a little deeper than they've gone before.

Because I was so tired, every standing break, every sip of water, every savasana felt doubly precious. I really embraced my breathing and worked hard to slow it down and master the calm.

My body is definitely getting stronger; I don't get to muscle failure quite as quickly, and my balance and endurance have improved a ton.

But I feel like I've made most progress mentally. Patience. Grit. Perseverance. Serenity. These are where I'm seeing the biggest gains.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Day 49 -- The Three-Set Class

I won't deny I was nervous when I signed up for Jeff's Three-Set Class, but the fact that it would count as a double was plenty of motivation despite my anxiety.

I needn't have worried. Jeff is serious about yoga, but doesn't take himself seriously. There were so many great things about the two and a half hours:

  • Jeff deconstructed many of the asanas, showing what they were designed to do and why. Layering new info onto experience at a high level of detail is one of my favorite things, and this class was no exception.
  • He also showed us a lot of advanced postures that build off of the basic ones we do in class, which was inspiring and mind-blowing. I didn't know the human body could do some of the things that he and Roxanne showed us. Wow.
  • The pace was slightly slower, which meant I could catch my breath and really focus on trying new things and feeling new ways to do things I already knew.
  • We got lots of attention and praise as we worked our hardest to rise to new levels. 
  • The energy in the room was high--lots of laughter, lots of intensity, lots of whooping and cheering. 

When it was all done, I felt great; I think all of us were sorry that it was over. Jesse had kidded that the class shouldn't be worth a full two stars on our Challenge charts, but I swear: we earned them.

I would definitely do another three-set class in the future; I hear cool things are being planned for the fall, and I don't think I'll be nervous about signing up again.

"You'll be higher than a kite when you leave here," Jeff promised early in the class. He was right.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Day 48 -- Good Feeling

Class was great today. Jeff always gets me to work even harder than I think I can, and even though I still stink at Triangle, I'm happy with my progress in so many other postures. And now I feel great. It's that simple. It's the time of the month when I'm normally feeling super anxious and irritable, but right now? It's all mellow.

Tomorrow is Jeff's special three-set class. THREE sets of all 26 asanas instead of two. It should take about two hours, he says. I'm going, largely because it counts as a double and I still have two of those to do, but also because he's going to show us some advanced expressions of the postures, which sounds really inspiring. And a lot of my yoga friends will be there, so we'll all be in it together.

One thing that makes me happy about Bikram Yoga Pasadena is the HUGE range of people that show up to class. The diversity is SO cool--all ages, ethnicities, orientations, walks of life--I love it. Not only is it a diverse group, it's an open, accepting, tolerant, and supportive group. These are good people trying hard to be better. It's always uplifting to be among them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day 47 -- Community

My friend Julie came with me to Bikram yoga for the first time ever today. She was a trooper! Wow. She stayed in the room and made it through the Standing Series without sitting down. I know the heat wiped her out, but I think she'll be back. I was proud of her.

Two years ago, when I first tried Bikram, I still had a child at home. I liked the yoga itself, but couldn't feature paying a babysitter for three hours a day while I went to a yoga class. I figured I'd do what I'd always done: pop in a yoga DVD, roll my mat out in my room, and do yoga by myself.

But now that everyone is conveniently in school and I've been going to the studio nearly every day for more than two months, one of the things that I treasure is the community. I know a lot of other students by name: Eva (check out her yoga blog!), Megan, Dana, Rainy, Ebonee, Cheryl, Philip, Jamie, Brown, Mitra, Corinne, and others. There are others I know by sight: Hawaii Towel Guy, Awesome Afro Lady, Bellagio Water Bottle Gal, and others.

I don't know them all that well, although we chat a bit before and after class. But I feel a bond with them, because every day, we're there together doing something hard. It's like being soldiers in the trenches (but of course on a much smaller scale); the challenge of something so physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding unites us, and I get a huge charge out of that.

And that charge--that sense of community--will keep me coming back, long after the challenge is over.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Day 46 -- Energy

Today I got to go to class with my inspiration, my brother-in-law Bruce. He was in town to visit, so off we went to the yoga studio.

There was a great energy in the room, and it was fun to be there with a friend who is so much more advanced than I am. Bruce has made tremendous progress in the past five years; it was awesome to see out of the corner of my eye. Eva was there, too, and she's just created her own Personal Best Challenge for the next six weeks.

(Eva! I need to know where you're blogging about your yoga experience. I haven't been able to find it, and I want to link to it.)

All in all, it was a great class I'm trying to find ease in every posture, even as I work as hard as I can. It's all starting to feel like second nature, when the whole Bikram experience used to feel so foreign. But the energy of the room, the teachers, and the community as a whole are making the studio seem more and more like a home away from home.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day 45 -- Habits

Three fourths of the way through the Sixty-Day Challenge! WOW.

My brother-in-law Bruce, aka my "yoga Yoda," counseled me to start thinking about what my yoga practice would look like after the Challenge is over. I've taken his advice and pondered. I see myself going on weekdays except Tuesday, and on Saturdays. No Sundays. I think I'd be happy with going to class four to five times a week.

I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's new book, Better than Before, in which she discusses how different people go about changing their lives for the better. She talks a lot about the power of habit, for good or for bad. I'm only about a quarter of the way through it, but already I've learned that I'm what Rubin calls an "obliger." I'm really good at keeping my commitments to others (which is why the group Challenge has worked so well for me), but not so good at keeping promises I make only to myself. I'm looking forward to learning about the strategies Rubin suggests for helping someone like me make and keep better habits.

One habit I've learned the hard way to maintain is electrolyte replacement. I've noticed a strong correlation between great classes, in which I feel strong and able, and consistent, careful hydration. Plain water is not enough. If you find yourself craving Fritos or other salty stuff, you need to replace electrolytes. But you probably need to anyway, if you're doing Bikram's yoga on a regular basis.

Here's my recipe for homemade "Gatorade":

1 quart water
1/3 cup juice or frozen fruit
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 tablespoons honey, or other natural sweetener to taste

Put all ingredients in a blender with a few ice cubes. Whirl it up on high until the fruit and ice are blended. I like to make lots of different flavors from day to day. The frozen fruits I like best are either mixed berries or mango. The juices I prefer are either lemon or orange, preferably fresh-squeezed.

Drink all of it a couple of hours before class, then drink another batch afterward. I'm telling you: HUGE DIFFERENCE in my perception of how hot the room is, how focused I'm able to be, etc.

Byron was back from vacation today. He's another teacher with extensive knowledge of the postures and the human body. I learn from him every time I take his class. Today, he not only changed my understanding of Locust pose, he also confirmed my instinct that Camel is an amazing releasing posture. I'm still working on them all, building the habit of mind-body connection. Onward!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Day 44 -- Listen

In contrast to yesterday, today I needed to get out of the room.

Last night, my six-year-old was up at midnight with an earache. After I gave her some medicine, her sister tried to corral the dog, who had escaped from the girls' room (where she usually sleeps) and hidden under our bed. I told the girls just to go back to bed, and that Moneypenny could hang out with us for a while.

But it took me a long time to go back to sleep, partly because Moneypenny was fidgety, and her dog tags kept clinking and startling me fully awake. Then at 1am, she started barking at something outside, pulling me out of my drowse and back into adrenaline mode. I took her back downstairs, but again--it took me a long time to settle down.

And the alarm goes off every day at 5:15 a.m. There's no snooze, no wiggle room; it's not like I can skip the class I teach every weekday at 6am. So whenever I have a rough night (and they're actually quite few and far between these days, nothing like those years of nursing babies and toddlers), I promise myself a nap at some point, and that gets me going.

I got the kids off to school and headed to the yoga studio. I always love Brook's class, and things started out well. But halfway through the Standing Series, I felt faint. I sat out half of Triangle and got back up for Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. In the past, I've always been able to get all the way through Tree, telling myself that the long Savasana is up next.

But today, I started blacking out during Tree. I staggered out of the room and sat for five minutes. Once it was time for Full Locust, I went back in.

At some point during the Floor Series, Brook reminded us to focus on her words when we felt overwhelmed and scattered. I always do this with all the teachers, and Brook's smooth, warm cadence makes that task particularly easy.

But today, I had to listen to my body as well. I needed the break today, as opposed to just wanting one yesterday. It did me good, and I got through and finished the class.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Day 43 -- Endure to the End

There are 17 days left to go in the Sixty-Day Challenge. I still have two doubles to do. Sometimes I can't believe I've made it this far.

Today's class was the most humid I've ever been in. It was very full, but that can't account for all of it. I swear: it was almost foggy in the room. Picture a 105 degree swamp. Me no likey. Luckily, Eva is a wonderful teacher, and she kept me going.

With sweat sheeting down me as we finished the Standing Series, I thought about leaving the room. I lay in savasana and thought about the cool, dry air mere feet away from me. But then I realized I wasn't overwhelmed or panicky; I was just intensely uncomfortable. As much as I wanted to leave, I didn't need to leave. And there's a big difference. I thought of Brook's frequent saying: the sensations are temporary.

So I stuck it out. I made the most of each savasana. I breathed my way through the postures and did my best to think releasing thoughts in Camel and Rabbit. And a few minutes later, I was finished.

Patience. Perseverance. Endurance. Grace. They'll carry me through.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Day 42 -- Breakthrough

My husband and I went to Jesse's 6am class. Saturday insanity. When the alarm went off at 5:30, I briefly thought about shutting it off and going to the 3pm class instead, but I knew I'd a) feel amazing after class; b) be so glad to have my star on the chart and yoga done for the day; and c) run the risk of crazy Saturday life in this house throwing me off schedule if I procrastinated. So I got up and got going.

Jesse's a fabulous teacher. He really knows his yoga; he continues to take advanced classes in yoga physiology and is great at making that knowledge accessible to students. He insists on proper setup, and takes the time to explain exactly why. I've learned from every teacher, but Jesse combines depth of knowledge with humor and ease. Very excellent.

Oh, and I met Dana in person today. Hi, Dana! Thanks for reading!

It's always nice to have company in class, and Patrick felt like he had some breakthroughs in class. I was glad, because I had one, too.

I'm coming to terms with this 48-year-old body of mine. I accept and even love a lot of it, but I have still struggled with how much I don't love my stomach. I've heard yoga teachers talk about how different asanas release various emotions, and how people literally carry around stress and tension in different areas. I've wondered why certain postures--Camel and Rabbit--make me so uncomfortable.

Today during the floor series, I had a flash of inspiration. I'm carrying something (or somethings) in my midsection, something emotional, and the extra weight is cushioning that mysterious thing. Insulating it, protecting it. The image of a dung beetle, laboring along with that big ball of stuff, came into my mind.

I don't know what it is I'm carrying around, but I'm going to focus on releasing it. I have a feeling that if I am successful, the weight in that area will follow. From now on, I'm embracing Camel and how hard it is; I'm welcoming the panic I feel in Rabbit. I'll breathe and let it pass through me and be grateful for the signal that it is. We'll see what happens.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 41 -- Back in the Saddle

Yesterday I wrote about yoga on my writing blog, so don't miss that post.

My six-year-old woke up healthy, praise all that's holy, so off to school she went. I got ready to do a double yoga session, but knew that if I checked my phone after the first class and had a message from the school, that would have to do.

I always love Brook's class, so I was glad to start my Friday with her. I was surrounded by teachers in the very full room, which made for a lovely energy. My new thing in Standing Head to Knee is being able to hold my foot with a proper grip--except now my knee is skewed way out to the side. I talked to Roxanne about it after class, and she encouraged me to keep trying to round down and hollow out my front side. I'll keep at it, because I'm probably a little too obsessed with this posture.

And my phone had no messages from the school, so into Jeff's 11am class I went. Jeff has an eagle eye and is great about encouraging students not to give up. There's no phoning it in with him. And, just like in Wednesday's double, the sense of calm enveloped me and carried me through the class.

I've never experienced anything quite like the post-yoga high. The air seems clearer and more fragrant; everything is more beautiful, more delicious, more noteworthy. I floated home and got a 10-minute power nap after showering, and then it was time to go get the kids. Another double in the books; two more to go.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Day 40 -- Showing Up

Well, today I should be two thirds of the way through the Sixty-Day Challenge.

Except I'm not.

Last night, I went to bed pleased and hopeful--glad that I'd done that double, and feeling confident that I could do two more to finish the Challenge before April 29.

And then this morning, my six-year-old woke up with yet another fever. I'd planned to go to the 9am class this morning--and a newbie friend was going to come with me--and I had to cancel. The ground I gained yesterday is lost again. I'm back to owing three doubles in the next twenty days.

On other days, I might be able to do an afternoon or evening class once my teenagers are home, but not today. Not with two kids having orthodontist appointments at 3:30, three kids having swim practice at 5:40, and one receiving his Cub Scout Arrow of Light at 7:00 tonight. I'm booked up solid with kid stuff.

When I'm being rational, I remember that my family is my first priority, and that taking care of sick kids is a) part of the job I chose; and b) fulfilling in its own way.

But this Challenge is important to me. I didn't know whether I could even get this far, and now that there's light at the end of the tunnel, it's hard not to resent anything that gets in the way of my momentum.

So here I am, trying to let it go. I can show up for my family, and hopefully tomorrow my daughter will be well, and I can show up for another back-to-back double at the yoga studio.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Day 39 -- Back-to-Back

Today was a double day--and this time, I did the classes one after the other. I was nervous about this; I started preparing yesterday by making sure I had plenty of electrolytes.

Val's 9am class was first, and it wasn't my easiest. The good part was that Eva was there and had made so much progress that spontaneous applause and hoots of encouragement broke out. Go, Eva!

But I had a hard time focusing, and at one point felt so tired that I had no idea HOW in the world I'd ever get through another entire class, let alone the one I was in. But I forced that fear out of my mind and worked even harder on being in the moment.

After class, I sat in the foyer with a couple of friends I've made, drank my first Vitamin Water, and just rested in the blessed cool air. By the time it was time to go in for Miranda's 11am class, I felt a bit restored.

Half Moon was tough; my neck was just plain fatigued. But then, somewhere in the middle of the standing series, it stopped being quite so hard. A wave of calm washed over me, and I got some kind of second wind. I finished the rest of the class with serenity. And that second Vitamin Water went down pretty smoothly.

When I got home, I felt great mood-wise, but I'm not gonna lie. My thighs felt like two slabs of meat.  (Just now, though, Patrick rubbed a bunch of eucalyptus basil stress relief cream into them, and they feel as good as new.) Before all the after school routine started, I was able to snatch a 30-minute nap after making and drinking more of my homemade electrolyte drink, and the rest of the day went just fine.

I'll do another back-to-back double on Friday, circumstances permitting. Now that I've done it once, I won't have the anxiety of the unknown. I can finish this challenge!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day 38 -- Stars

I live for my Sixty-Day Challenge chart on the wall at the yoga studio. I love getting my star sticker and putting it in its little box after every class. Clearly, I was deprived as a kindergartner, because that humble piece of paper gives me an absurd sense of pride and accomplishment. The whole wall, filled with charts that sport new stars every day, is quite a sight.

Class today was with Jen, who is new to the Pasadena studio. I loved her approach to the dialog; she knew it perfectly, but it sounded like she was saying the familiar words for the first time. We're often told to approach the postures with a beginner's attitude, and Jen's fresh style made that much easier. Very enjoyable.

Superstar teacher and yogi Bernadette set up next to me in class, and she was even more of an inspiration up close and personal. I was glad for her example, because I struggled today. I noticed right away that I felt stiff and sore after a day away; I'd hoped that the extra rest would be in my favor, but it didn't seem to be.

In Camel, I experienced yet another kind of stars--the kind that are very familiar to those with low blood pressure. Green shooting stars are a sure sign that I'll pass out if I don't change something. I got into the back bend, but had to come out early both sets. But I let it go, as Jen directed. Too good is no good, as Val likes to say. Sometimes you have to ease off.

This is the most demanding exercise I've ever done--harder than Body for Life, harder than Crossfit, harder than training for a 5K. Why do I keep doing it? Because every time I leave the studio, I feel like a star, like I can do anything at all. It's all worth it for that.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Day 37 -- Reality

My youngest woke up with a fever this morning, which meant taking her to the doctor this morning instead of taking her to school and then heading to Brook's 9am Bikram yoga class.

I felt discouraged about the shuffle and about life in general, so I went online to see if I could find anyone else who had chronicled their 60-day challenge. Success! I was interested to read Aimee Macovic's chronicle, since she practices in Austin, Texas--which is where my Bikramite brother-in-law lives. And then we left for the pediatrician's office.

So. Instead of Standing Head to Knee, I practiced Standing in Line for a Chest X-Ray (to rule out pneumonia). I figured I'd go to the 4:30 class once my six-year-old was back in bed with her teenage sisters to keep an eye on her.

But the installation of our new home security system ran very long (still going on, in fact). And we got school progress reports today, and a couple of people needed a reality check regarding grades. And on and on and on.

No yoga today. I'm back to needing to do three doubles in order to complete the Sixty-Day Challenge. I plan to do one on Wednesday, one on Friday, and (if I'm not dead) possibly one on Thursday. If I can't make Thursday work due to extreme fatigue, I'll go for another next Wednesday.

I knew this would happen, this reality thing. I've got five kids in three different schools (not counting the two who are away at college); the system breaks down every once in a while, and my family is my first priority. I'll get back to class tomorrow. I already miss it.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Day 36 -- Renewal

36/60--Three fifths of the way through the challenge. (I love fractions.)

Today is the holiest day of the year for me, a day that commemorates renewal and hope. Because I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family, I went to the earliest yoga class I could find--which was at the South Pasadena studio at 7am. I've always practiced in Pasadena, so I was interested to see what the experience would be like at another studio.

I got up at 6 o'clock and got ready, preparing our family Easter basket, among other things. Then I followed my GPS to the South Pasadena studio. I was glad there was a temporary sign out front, or I would have missed it entirely. I'm not familiar with that area at all.

It's a smaller classroom than in Pasadena, on the second floor of a building. I loved the northern light that came in through several windows. There were only about 15 of us in class, as I would expect early on a holiday Sunday. The teacher, Mark, was passionate and energetic and took good care of a woman who had recently had knee surgery. I appreciated his guidance. It was a serene but strenuous class, and I enjoyed the view of passing clouds as I lay in savasana.

Sunday is always a day of spiritual renewal for me, Easter Sunday even more so. I was grateful for 90 minutes of meditation first thing in the morning. It's a wonderful life.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Day 35 -- Surfacing

I've had Miranda as a classmate many times (her Standing Toe is awesome), but hadn't had her as a teacher until today. It was a good thing; postures went smoothly, and Miranda's dry humor kept things light. And I grabbed the bottom of my foot in Standing Head to Knee! That felt great.

Miranda mentioned that at this point in the sixty-day challenge, buried emotions start coming to the surface, and people can get irritable, cranky, and emotional. Old injuries resurface. Fatigue sets in. I've been feeling panicky in Rabbit lately, despite my best efforts to breathe and stay calm, and I wonder if there's something within me trying to get out when I do that posture. I'll keep watching it and see what happens.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Day 34 -- Breath

I had a hard time catching my breath during the standing series today. Jeff always encourages me to work my very hardest, so maybe I overdid it a bit. I was pleased with my progress in Standing Bow Pose in particular and didn't want to let up. But then I had to sit out one set of Triangle. I need to find the balance.

What made it harder today was that there was a man near me who kept huffing and puffing through his mouth throughout the class. Hearing him struggle so obviously somehow made my struggle more difficult. But it also made me focus more on keeping my own breath under control, and remember how I never want to be a distraction to anyone around me in class.

I was able to breathe normally through the floor series; I took Jeff's stillness/refueling advice seriously. After class, I opened my sun roof and car windows to let in the fresh spring air--but then got behind a driver holding a cigarette out the window. The distant smoke smell made me grateful all over again for healthy lungs that are getting stronger with every yoga class.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Day 33 -- SuperLocust

A pattern:

a) I wake up feeling crummy and like I don't want to go to yoga.
b) I go anyway.
c) I leave class feeling fantastic.

Class was great today. I really love Y Thuan's detailed instructions and insistence on correct form. Jeff was in class today, as he often is. Since I focus so hard on myself in class, I don't often see what others around me are doing. But today, I finished Locust before Jeff did and saw him coming out of the posture, since he was to my right and my head was facing that way in savasana.

Mind. Blown.

Why? Here's how I had been visualizing the asana:

And that's what I'd been doing (but with my legs at a fraction of that height). But Jeff looked like this (except with his face on the mat):


I didn't know that was possible. Crazy skillz and strength, and something new to which to aspire.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Day 32 -- Waves

I just finished class #30! I'm halfway through the Sixty-Day Challenge.  Cue the Bon Jovi.

Changes I've noticed so far:

* I have a lot less tension in my shoulders and neck.
* I've experienced much less "mental fog," depression, and anxiety.
* I've lost many inches, including 5.5 at my waist and 2 at my hips. (FIVE POINT FIVE!)
* I've lost four pounds.

That's pretty significant, if you ask me.

But I was dragging this morning after yesterday's double. I might have skipped yoga today, but the thought of adding ANOTHER double--when I still have two more to go--to my calendar persuaded me that I could gut it out and go. I wasn't feeling sorry for myself--not quite--but my enthusiasm was low.

And then I walked into class and saw Eva.

Eva started doing Bikram at about the same time I did--about six weeks ago. Eva is severely disabled with Cerebral Palsy and comes to class with her aide, Megan. She does the standing series in her wheelchair, and then gets on the floor with the rest of us for the second half of class. Val led class today and remarked several times on how much progress Eva has made in the past six weeks through hard work and sheer grit. She. Is. Awesome. If Eva can strengthen her mind and body through Bikram's yoga, so can I. She has no idea how she's affected me for the better. (But I did ask her permission to write about her today.)

We all affect each other, for good or for ill. When you're in a very hot, humid room with fifty other students and focusing on stillness, you notice the slightest movement of the people around you because of the motion of the air. When the class releases upheld arms after Half Moon, or turns as one in the full expression of Triangle, it makes a very slight breeze that you can miss if you're not paying attention. I've written before about the waves of blessedly cool air that come into the classroom as people leave, but this is much more subtle. Today I noticed when the woman next to me got up for a minute to get a tissue. The wake of her passing by felt good on my sweaty skin.

Basic physics tells me that we're all making these waves in the air as we move around all the time. We affect one another, even when we don't realize it. But I do want to realize it; I want to be more aware both of the waves of influence that wash over me and those I cause for others. We're all connected, I feel, but we'll miss those waves and connections--unless we're very still.