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.