Day 30, Jubilee! June 1, 2008

I finished my 30 day challenge today, Woohoo! In those 30 days there was a lot of blood moving, sweat dripping and tears flowing. I can’t believe it’s passed by this quickly. They go by fast, don’t they. So now what? Well, I keep going. It’s the only thing that keeps me grounded these days. And I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. I’m going to take myself out for a treat tonight.

Tricia, the director at Bikram Lower East Side, told me a while back that the practice gets easier in some ways and harder in others. I now see what she means. After doing this for 30 days consecutively I became accustomed to the heat and I am familiar enough with the practice to know in which order to perform the postures. However, every day my body feels different and now I pay more attention to the details of the postures, especially the alignment.

Here’s a summary of my progress for all the poses:

Standing Deep Breathing: It took me a while to get the hang of this one: for the longest time I couldn’t get my shoulders to relax. Then one day I felt what it was supposed to be and now I can ease into it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have days where my shoulders are tense but now I know how to relax them in a few more reps. This sets the foundation for the entire practice, it’s all in the breath.

Half Moon Pose: Looks easy, but trust me, it’s not. In the beginning I couldn’t even keep my arms up for the full duration. Now I can keep my arms up but still working on the details of aligning myself properly and trusting myself to go deeper into the stretch.

Awkward Pose: Sitting in a chair that’s not there works the arms, legs and core. It took me a while to be able to complete both sets of this posture – a killer on the ass and thighs! I can tell my thighs and legs are firming up. I still struggle some days but have had some great progress here.

Eagle Pose: “Imagine twisting yourself like a wet rope” is a great way to describe this posture. Not only does this pose look pretty, there’s a whole lot going on. It’s all about balancing the weight equally so you don’t fall out. It’s challenging, because your one arm is going one way, your other arm the other way and same for your legs. Additionally there’s proper alignment. Fingers under your nose, toes wrap around the calf so you can see them in the front mirror, chest up and finally sitting down deeply into that pretend chair – all on one foot.

Standing Head to Knee Pose: One would think that standing on one foot is easy, but oh, think again. Only in recent days can I just hold my foot in my hands for the full duration. I still have not been able to go into the full expression by extending my leg out. I’m looking forward to that day.

Standing Bow Pulling Pose: In the early days, I could barely pull my leg back up to my shoulders. Now I can see my foot peeking out behind my shoulders, and, on a good day I can pull it above my head for a short time. I’ve been able to hold this pose for the full minute in the last couple of classes. Eureka!

Balancing Stick: Sometimes I could not even do this posture, as the Standing Pulling Pose took too much juice out of me. It’s also one that keeps the heart rate high so I had to build some endurance for this. Now I can complete both sets, although they are pretty tough I can get through them.

Standing Separate Leg Stretching: It took me a while to lock my knees in this one, and once I was able to do so I could not (and still cannot) reach over and grab my heels. After a while I realized that I needed to put my weight on the balls of my feet and this made grabbing my feet even harder. An attempt to grab my heels resulted in tremendous pulling that hurts so I just don’t do that right now. I can tell I’m getting closer though.

Triangle Pose: “The heart of the standing series”. This posture makes me feel like my body is being pulled in many different directions. Arm up, arm down, leg out, thigh parallel to the floor, leg back with knee locked, side twisted, head looking at hand – you name it. I can tell that I’ve built up some strength in my thighs but it’s still hard to sit all the way down. My leg shakes and shakes. Hell, even my arms shake in this one. The instructor came by to realign me today and I realized that my legs have been either too close or far apart and my arms not reaching high enough. They say this one can be challenging for a lifetime. Well that gives me time to work on this one, doesn’t it?

Standing Separate Leg/Head to Knee Pose: Oddly enough, this pose was easier for me in the beginning. I think it’s because I wasn’t doing it correctly. This one’s all about core strength. I used to sit this one out too, since I’m usually tired / freaked out from Triangle Pose. The hard part about this posture is coming back up as I tend to shake and lose my balance. As I build my core strength I should be able to round up with no problem.

Tree Pose: One of my favorite poses of all time, this one is relatively easy for me. It’s also a calm place for me to go after a vigorous standing series. I can very easily space out in this pose for a long time. Not only is this a very comforting posture, this is also a very attractive one.

Toe Stand: Ah, Toe Stand. When I saw this posture for the first time I thought to myself, “I could never do that!”. I saw people sink so easily into this pose and when I tried, I felt fear. Fear that I was going to fall forward onto my face. I did not realize at that point that my hands would catch me. It took a while but I eventually got down there. I’ve been able to get down into this pose for a while but still cannot bring both my hands up to prayer. I still put most of my weight onto my fingertips and haven’t figured out how to balance it all out yet. My toes can’t be the only things holding me up. I suspect I will have to call upon my core strength too. This is definitely a work in progress.

Corpse Pose: My all-time favorite pose! Who doesn’t love a good Savasana? I try not to let too many thoughts invade during this time. They try to sneak in and throw off my breathing and concentration. I like to look up at the baby blue panels and envision clear blue skies over yonder. Sometimes the two minutes go by in a snap and others, it can be an eternity.

Wind Removing Pose: I’ll never forget the day when someone literally farted during this pose. Wind removing it is! I’m just glad it didn’t smell. I can see how that can happen, poor thing. I used to think this pose was easy to do and again I realized I wasn’t doing it quite correctly. In the correct posture one is supposed to be supremely compact and feel a pinch in the legs and hips. It’s a stretch for the spine, not the legs as I am used to doing.

Sit-Up: I think this pose is highly underrated. I was doing them somewhat lackadaisically in the beginning until one day, the instructor told us a strong Sit-Up sets us up for strong postures that follow. And she was right. The key lies in how this pose is executed: arms above the head, thumbs crossed, feet flexed, breathe in (hold while coming up strong), touch the toes with a strong double exhale.

Cobra Pose: For the record, I never used my hands to push myself up in this one. But I also realize that my spine strength is not as strong as I thought it was. There are some days when I feel strong, and some days not so much. I find one of the most difficult parts of this posture is looking up and back. Or is it the opening of the heart part?

Locust Pose: I thought this one was a piece of cake until I realized that I’m not supposed to use my other leg to support the one in the air. I still can’t figure out the mechanics of it all but I think I’m getting closer. I dread the part where both legs come up up up. My arms are squashed by the end of it and it feels great to let the blood flow freely again.

Full Locust Pose: I’ve always envied people who had dreams about flying. Well now I can get that feeling in this posture! It’s a challenging pose and at the same time it’s a very uplifting pose. Sometimes I feel like my stomach is a piece of lead and I’m glad I’m not the only one as I hear grunting during this pose, mostly from men.

Bow Pose: This posture is the culmination of the previous floor postures. This one is very challenging for me, as I’m tired from the previous poses. It’s really hard to keep my thighs and feet close together – they tend to splay out to the sides. The inner thigh muscles are to be summoned here but they don’t always obey.

Fixed Firm Pose: This one does a doozy on the ol’ knees. I figured it out that it’s better to get into this posture slowly. I can’t get all the way down to the floor yet, but in time I will. When I get back up, my legs paralyze me for a few seconds because they are so stiff. I just take it slow, there’s no rush.

Half Tortoise Pose: This posture could be mistaken with yoga’s Child Pose but it’s quite different. In this pose I feel a huge stretch in my shoulders. Once I touch the edge of my hands to the floor, I let my hips sink and squeeze my thighs and heels together. I use my core strength to get me back up. I always have to remind myself to stay engaged, because I tend to want to relax here.

Camel Pose: This pose made me cry a few times, I think it’s because it’s a heart opener. “The poses that are most difficult and uncomfortable for you are the ones you should focus on most. It is your body’s way of telling you that these are the things you need to work on.” So I did. After a while the crying stopped and now I can at least get into position. I haven’t been able to go back and grab my heels yet, but I’m working on getting my heartbeat to calm down before moving further. The same pose that could make me cry can also give me the best rush too! Go figure.

Rabbit Pose: Out of all the postures, this is the one I feel like I’m not doing correctly consistently. For some reason I can never get my head to touch my knees, even when I walk my knees up. Is it wrong to hope that someday it will all just come into place?

Separate Leg Stretching Head to Knee Pose: By the time I reach this point I’ve worked up quite a sweat. I’ll admit that in the beginning I wouldn’t really pull in this stretch. After a while I realized it was beneficial to stretch here and that I could go further each time. The goal here is to eventually straighten the leg.

Spine Twisting: I enjoy twisting. It’s fun to pick a new point every day, further than the spot I picked the day before. I feel a little bit like a wet towel being wringed out here. I always look forward to this posture, mostly because it’s the last posture before final breathing and Savasana.

Blowing in Firm (Breath of Fire): I always get a massive headrush after this one. It’s hard to exhale and have only your belly move, no bouncing! The first round is doable, once we get to the second round, it’s harder because we go twice as fast. I’m glad I’m already on the ground for this one.


Day 29, Walking The Line May 27, 2008

Filed under: Bikram 30 Day Challenge — bloodsweatntears @ 1:55 pm
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It was hotter than usual in the studio today. It was so hot that I was really distracted and impatient – it was uncomfortable. This was definitely the hardest day in terms of heat for me. A girl even got up after an hour and left class saying she felt like she was going to pass out. The instructor asked her to wait in the lobby but the girl was gone in a flash. It was definitely one of those days. I even thought about getting up and leaving the room myself – but I’m glad I didn’t. I suspect it was hotter because the temperature outside is warm. I wonder what my practice will be like in the summer, will it be too hot? I guess I’ll deal with it one day at a time.

One day a while back I was able to get my foot to wrap around my calf in Eagle Pose. I haven’t been able to do this since and I’m not sure why. It’s been hard enough just trying to balance on one leg. This posture is so pretty, I like to look around the room even though I know I should focus on myself. It’s like a human tug of war as I’m squeezing my legs to try to maintain balance. I can feel my sweat dripping down my elbows all over my foot in this posture.

Now that I am able to get down into Toe Stand I’ve been trying to figure out how I can eventually get both hands into prayer. Right now I keep my hands to the side of me – they are the only things holding me up and there is a lot of weight on my fingertips. Is all the weight supposed to be on just the toes? I think core strength has something to do with it as well. I’ll continue doing what I can do until I figure this out. This will take some time for sure. I also lose my balance pretty easily on my way up from this posture and into Tree Pose. I get the biggest head rush after releasing this posture!

I’m also wondering when I’ll be able to fully get down into Hands to Feet Pose. I still cannot straighten my legs on this one. I think I’ve made a tiny bit of progress on this one as sometimes I can pull my heels and my hips do raise up a little. This is the toughest posture for me, no doubt about it. I’m working out a lifetime of stiff and hardened hamstrings so 30 days isn’t going to cut it. Yes it’s a work in progress. Anyway, I can see the finish line now. One more day to go!


Day 28, Feeling Great May 26, 2008

It’s been interesting doing this every day for the last month. My body feels different every time I go into that room. Some days I’m more achy than others and some days I’m more flexible in certain postures…or not. One big thing yoga has taught me is to listen to my body. And lately it’s been telling me to keep going. In fact, after practice I have more energy. The other day I went to play a great game a racquetball afterwards. I hadn’t played in a year but my friend couldn’t tell and it felt really good to play a competitive sport for fun.

I had been struggling with Cobra Pose for about a week and today it seemed to finally make sense to me. I went right into it with no strain or hesitation. This is the best part of it all, when you realize you’ve built up the strength do the the posture correctly. And it helps a lot NOT to think about any of this before doing it. I’m notorious for over thinking things to the point where I psyche myself out. So many lost opportunities. But that’s the past, I’m living in the present and I’m going to make the most of it.

This killer Triangle Pose gets me every time. I’ve been telling myself for days to stay in this pose, stay in this pose! It burns burns burns but I keep telling myself we’ll be out soon enough. I can see my arms shaking. Today I realized my hips aren’t squared and once I realigned myself it seemed a little easier to balance. I find that my straightened leg often threatens to slip and slide backwards. One of these days I will build enough strength to get through this posture strong and focused.

The same goes for Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose. It seems like every time I turn to the windows facing Allen Street, there’s a double decker bus with tourists looking in. It’s kind of entertaining, because they get the perfect view into the studio. I always get distracted here so I digress. The main challenge in this posture is coming back up – I have yet to come up controlled and steady. I shake like mad, sometimes even losing my balance. The instructors say that shaking is ok, it’s just your body building the strength up. My, how it makes me realize how much I lack in core strength! There’s only one place to go from here.


Day 27, I’m In Heaven May 25, 2008

There’s so much good energy running through me it’s amazing. Just a week ago I was feeling fatigued, but I’ve been feeling really fantastic since yesterday. I can’t remember the last time I was feeling so happy. I mean, I’m even smiling at people these days! It feels so good. I’m being completely serious when I say that this stuff is amazing – it’s almost better than sex and chocolate.

I stood next this guy today I haven’t seen in a while. When I first started coming, he stood out because of his amazing form. I wish I knew his name. His Standing Bow Pose is incredible – he executes with such style and grace! I tried to use some of that energy for mine and I think it worked, although I hope I didn’t throw his concentration off. I’ve never seen a man get so deep into these kinds of postures before. His breathing was controlled and even too. He’s probably a dancer in real life.

I still can’t get my forehead to touch first when going down into the Half Tortoise Pose. I make the effort each time, but my fingers touch down before anything else every time. I’ll try to place my arms behind my ears more tomorrow and see what happens. I make a lot of adjustments while in this pose. I try to squeeze my palms, thighs and heels together, all the while keeping my stomach sucked in. Then I walk my hands up towards the front of the room until I feel a pinch in my shoulders. There’s a lot going on in this posture. This pose is really good for stress, memory and mental clarity.

Blowing in FirmThe one pose I have not mentioned so far is Kapalbhati in Vajrasana, or Blowing in Firm (otherwise known as Breath of Fire). This is a controlled breathing exercise that helps seal the practice by exhaling out excess carbon dioxide from the body. The stomach contracts with the exhalation very sharply. The stomach is the only thing that moves. The first set is usually fine and the second set is faster and snappier. I always feel dizzy after this – good thing I’m already sitting down.


Day 26, My Little Bag Of Tricks May 24, 2008

Filed under: Bikram 30 Day Challenge — bloodsweatntears @ 3:39 pm
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I often have to talk myself into finishing the entire 26 postures. Sometimes I’m in a pose and I can hear the instructor’s encouraging words, but the voice starts to move farther away as the struggle to stay in the posture comes to the forefront, nagging me to come out. That’s when out of nowhere, my internal voice speaks and all of the sudden I realize that I have finished the posture.

It was pretty crowded in the studio today, even with the holiday weekend at hand. I’m getting pretty good at tuning others out around me and focusing on myself. When I first started going, my eyes would dart all around the room to see what other people were doing but that was ultimately distracting and would cause me to lose my balance. I usually look at the people in front of me during Standing Head to Knee Pose, mostly because I’m so fascinated at their flexibility. It’s also such a pretty posture to watch. I am still working on locking out my standing knee so I wait patiently.

It was a good day for Pranayama. It normally takes some time before I warm up to the breathing, and relax my shoulders. My shoulders are normally so tense! I’ve been told to relax them on more than one occasion. Today was the first time I eased into it earlier and I didn’t have to gulp for more air. Good progress here. What seems like a relatively easy exercise is actually one of the most challenging for me. I usually work up quite a sweat here. In fact, there is so much sweat dripping down my face that it bothers me a little in the following posture, the Half Moon Pose.

Half Moon Pose is a posture that requires some stamina. It looks relatively easy, but gets more difficult as I start paying attention to the details. Are my palms touching in a tight grip and are my arms tight? I tend to rest my head on my arm, am I doing that? Then, for the alignment: are my hips pushed out to one side? Is my weight back on my heels, are my knees locked and quadriceps tight? Am I keeping my chin up, so I can see my throat? All the while the sweat is dripping down and I’m trying to maintain calmness through my breath. This is where one minute can feel like ten, so breathing through it can help tremendously.


Day 25, Automatic Drive May 23, 2008

Filed under: Bikram 30 Day Challenge — bloodsweatntears @ 2:49 pm
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Ok, this yoga is making me crave ice cream like I never have before. I wonder if this is something hormonal or if I’m sweating out something that needs to be replaced by sugar and dairy. Who knows. All I know is that my hormones are going nuts! And I”m eating ice cream like it’s going out of style. I hope this normalizes soon, because I can eat only so much sugary creamy goodness.

Let’s talk about the highly underrated Corpse Pose. It’s one of my favorite poses because it helps me slow down my heart rate and focuses my mind. I often look up on the ceiling and envision blue skies above me and forget about the posture I was in moments before. It’s very Zen. I don’t pay attention to the sweat trickling down my body, taunting and tickling me. I just lay there and let my body be. In fact, I love this posture so much I’ve started sleeping like this.

Balancing Stick might well be one of the most difficult poses for me. Because it follows Standing Bow Pose, my heart rate is already accelerated and when I think of stretching myself from the front to back I feel like I’m being pulled apart. Don’t get me wrong, part of this feels good. But part of it is painful too. I’d love to see my face during this posture! Chrissy says it’s good to smile during the tough times. I think she’s right but I’m not quite there yet.

I’m wondering when I can close my legs during Bow Pose. While doing this posture, I have an image in my mind that differs drastically from the image I see in the mirror. I feel like I’m executing this posture beautifully and then I look up to see my legs splayed out farther than 6 inches. What’s this all about? Inner thigh strength. This pose kills me. All of the spine strengthening poses culminate into Bow Pose for the ultimate defiance of gravity.


Day 24, Getting More Than I Asked For May 22, 2008

Filed under: Bikram 30 Day Challenge — bloodsweatntears @ 7:05 am
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I have reached the final week of the 30 day Challenge, with 6 more classes to go. I could not have imagined coming this far when I first started doing this. All of the benefits I’m getting from this is more than I could have ever asked for. I plan on continuing daily practice until I land a job.

Yesterday I was talking about the Spine Twist Pose, and how I thought it was one of the easier poses for me. Well I spoke too soon! Today I realized I’ve haven’t been aligning myself correctly for this posture. I should know better than to say that any pose is easy. They are all difficult, and seem to get harder as you get into the details. The devil is in the details.

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of Rabbit Pose, my head decides it’s going to peel itself from my knees. It’s possible I’m going into the pose incorrectly – maybe the proper alignment will come in time. The one thing I must remind myself to be mindful of is the shoulders – I need to keep them away from my ears. This posture improves digestion and helps to cure colds. And it feels especially good after that crazy Camel Pose.

Camel Pose is an intriguing posture. Most people engage in forward bending activities for most of their lives. Back bending is not something that naturally comes to a regular joe. I think dancers might be the only people who actively use this part of the spine. The most interesting part about Camel is the way it makes me feel. I can only speak for myself, but the range is incredible. One day I feel panic and my heart feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest. The next I could see colors and feel so high. Another day could be relatively calm but my whole body is energized. I think I’m getting close to grabbing my heels. We’ll see…