A Little Tree in a Cave

One of my favorite things in Puerto Rico was my private cave tour. If you are in the San Juan area, you should definitely arrange for this tour. You get to visit two caves, and they are very different from each other. The first was a fabulous sea side cave:

This ladder takes you into the cave.

This ladder takes you into the cave.

Watching waves crash.

Watching waves crash.

The second cave was just the opposite. It was dark, required the use of a flashlight, and had bats practically everywhere. I loved it.  At the end of the cave, it opened up to the outside. It was in that spot that I knew it was time to strike a pose. Clay is a professional photographer (in addition to giving fabulous cave tours). With just my phone, he was able to take the picture I have dubbed A Little Tree in a Cave:

A Little Tree in a Cave

A Little Tree in a Cave

Clay also stops for lunch between the first and second cave where you get to have a fabulous meal. Again, Puerto Rico was just an all round fabulous place. Great for locking the knees, and great fir striking a pose.

Let Go of the Panic

Turns out, the skills I learn in Bikram yoga come in handy all the time and in the most interesting places. Last time I blogged, I said I would fill y’all in on my rappelling experience in Puerto Rico. And I really want to get to that because it involves applying several things from Bikram yoga: (a) locking the knee, (b) focusing on breath, and (c) staying in the moment.

I was very excited to get to the rappelling portion of my trip with Acampa. I had never been rappelling before, but I wasn’t worried. In fact, that was one of the main draws of the trip. I was going to rappel 100 feet down alongside a waterfall. I knew the guides would be in control of the situation.

When we got to the rappelling portion of the trip, I happened to be at the end of the line. The last person. The last place I wanted to be to tell you the truth. I had about 11 other people in front of me. As I watched each person go, I realized we averaged about 10 minutes a person from start to finish (no one knew what they were doing). Do the math, and you will see that I had a very long time to stand around and imagine what my rappelling experience would be like. But that’s ok because that’s when I started using what I had learned in Bikram to make it a good experience.

Lock Your Knee!

As we began our rappelling adventure, one of the guides stayed at the top and the other went to the bottom. As we watched the first one go, we got a brief explanation of what to do. Once you get hooked up, the basic directions were to lean back as far as you could and extend your knees.

I remember thinking, “Extend your knees???? Wha???” But then I realized they wanted us to lock our knees and keep them locked all the way down. Lean back, lock your knees, and away you go. I am real good at locking my knees. I get the concept. Once it clicked for me I actually got a little happy. I get to lock my knees outside the hot room for a non-yoga pose. How cool is that? So locking my knees – not a problem. I actually felt bad for all the non-Bikram people on my trip (which was everyone) who were not familiar with the lock your knee concept.

Focus on Your Breath

Focusing on my breath came in handy more than once during this portion of the trip. First, it came in handy when I was the last person in line. The thing is, I couldn’t actually see where I was going when I went rappelling. All we could see from where we stood was the very beginning. Once a person dropped over the edge we lost sight of them. So I had no idea what awaited me. I watched people struggle in the beginning, and I started to panic a bit. But then I realized that panicking for an hour or more while I waited for my turn would do me no good. So I breathed and did the last thing which was…

Stay in the Moment

For awhile, my moment was all about standing in line. I realized I had an opportunity to listen to our guide at the top repeat the directions to 11 other people before I went. So I took advantage of listening fully to those directions each time they were given. I had the opportunity to talk to other people in line. I did that. What I did not do was let my brain wander off and make up stuff about what would happen when it was my turn. Believe me, it tried.

All Together Now!

Finally it was my turn to go. I admitted to my guide that I was nervous. I also decided to go as slow as I wanted to (a turtle could have beat me down and I do not care). Then I started in. The first thing everyone had to go was conquer a giant rock. I had to lean back, lock my knees(!) and drop down next to a large rock. Then, I had to swing around to the left of the rock. From there, I was supposed to continue down to a ledge. I would land on a ledge, take a few steps back, and go down a slick wall of rock. I would eventually land in a pool of water.

I leaned back and locked my knees no problem. Assuming the stance for rappelling was easy for me. I started going down making my way towards the rock. When I got alongside it, my guide at the top called down, “You can look down now and see where you’re going.”

Look down? “I don’t know if I want to look down,” I said. I certainly didn’t have to. He just thought I might want to see what it was I was getting ready to do.

Ok- I looked down and saw – oh crap what the hell have I gotten myself into?

I panicked. I lost my focus. I lost my breath. I lost me locked out knees. Do you know what happens when you lose your stance and your focus when you are next to a giant rock in this situation?

You eat the rock.

I slammed hard into that rock. My left knee landed on top of it and dragged across it a bit. My guide wanted to know if I was ok. Yes, I was ok. No, I was not bleeding. Yes, I was panicked. But where was I gonna go? I was at the very beginning. I had a long ways still to go. It was too soon for this!

Somehow I resituated on the left side of the rock like I was supposed to. I focused on leaning back, keeping my knees locked, breathing, and slowly going down. Eventually I hit the ledge, and then I was on slick rock before I knew it. I could hear people talking, but I didn’t dare look down to see where I was in relation to them. I somehow lost my posture and smacked the wall, but I managed to get myself back in place.

I thought a lot about my yoga practice after I had gotten unhooked. It reminded me of being a beginner again where the main focus is staying in the room and doing what you can to make it through the class. Sit down if you need to. Take water if it helps. If you panic, try to find a way to let it go.

For everyone that has been practicing for awhile, and has lost the mindset of a beginner, put yourself in situations that challenge you in some way. It’ll bring you to a space that will help you recall what it’s like to be new in the room again, and it’ll help you (well, it helped me) feel some compassion for the beginners if you’ve lost it. It’ll also show you all the ways you can apply what you do in the room outside of it and show you just how connected this practice is to everything we do.

My Brain is a Jerk

On my trip to Puerto Rico, I had the opportunity to apply some of the skills I have picked up in Bikram yoga to my life outside the studio walls. In addition to having a high tolerance for heat, I found that my practice helped me a lot when I got around to climbing up a waterfall and then rappelling down alongside one. I’ll get to the rappelling in my next post.

My first major task on this particular day was to free climb up a waterfall. This sounds terrifying, but understand that it was safe for people with no free climbing up a waterfall experience. Yes, we could slip and fall. Yes, we could get banged up. No one was likely going to get seriously injured. It wasn’t a super tall waterfall. It probably took me five minutes to get up it.

The rush of the water down the rocks actually makes them less slippery (that’s what the guides told us). There are foot holds and places to grab on to.

I was the second one to go. I wanted to watch someone first, and then I didn’t want to sit around in line thinking about what I had to do. So I just went.

I had gotten about halfway up when my brain kicked in with, “OH MY GOD. We are climbing up a waterfall. Is this really happening? How is this even possible?”

My brain is such a jerk. Never wants to focus on the task at hand (finding foot holds and pulling myself up). Always trying to start some drama. It started to tell me how I was going to mess up and slip and fall and….

You know what? Shut-up brain.

I quickly got it back under control. No need to ponder the what-ifs of it all. I got my breath under control and went back to the task of looking for places to put my hands and feet. I kept pulling myself up slowly. One step at a time. Breathe, look, grab, pull up. Breathe, look, grab, pull, up. I got some inner dialogue going on. What else could I do? All I needed to do was breathe, look, grab, and pull myself up.

Before I knew it I was at the top. I didn’t slip. I didn’t fall. I had no bruises or scratches (that comes later on with the rappelling). I was thrilled with myself for doing something I had never imagined I could do.

You Should Keep Doing It

The other day, I got this great comment from finoarl who said:

I definitely think yoga has much more of an impact on other sports that a lot of people realise or give it credit.  I find a regular yoga practice really maintains my strength and staminar and I really feel the difference this makes to the other sports and activities I do!

I completely agree. And let me tell you, people notice too!

When I was in Puerto Rico, I spent a day doing some hiking, free-climbing, zip-lining, and rappelling. Early on, we had to hike/climb up a steep slope. It was one of those things were it was sorta hiking but more like crawling up a dirt incline while grabbing on to tree roots. When I got near the top, one of the guides was there to give me his hand and pull me on up. As he did so, the following conversation occurred:

Guide: You’re a runner, right?

Me: No. I used to be, but not anymore.

Guide: Well you do something. You’re in great shape. What do you do?

Me: Bikram yoga.

Guide: Whatever that is, you should keep doing it.

I don’t want to give the impression that the other people in my group were not in good shape. We all free-climbed up a waterfall, and I don’t think anyone had any problems, and no one slipped or got scratched up. What impresses me is how I can manage to be in good shape doing just Bikram. It defies all logic to me. Yes, I enjoy going for walks. I will take a walk everyday if the weather is good. But when it’s cold (and you all know what I consider to be cold), I’m not going out there. I am not a super-trooper like my 87 year old neighbor who will brave the cold to walk up and down our street.

Of course the day after I did all this stuff I was massively sore. But I used different muscles or used my muscles differently. In any case, I hurt for about two days.

How have you noticed Bikram effecting other physical activites you do?

Bikram Yoga Has Messed Up My Sense of Hot and Cold

When I stepped off the plane in Puerto Rico, the first thing I thought was man, it is hot and humid here. But honestly, I was used to it in about 10 minutes. The thing I have learned is that my Bikram Yoga Practice has totally messed up my sense of what is hot and what is cold. Anything below 80 degrees is automatically cold. I am not joking with you. Warm is 80-99 degrees. It doesn’t really start to get hot until it hits 100.

That’s not to say I didn’t sweat in Puerto Rico because I totally did. Everyday I hauled my butt around town or somewhere interesting on the island, and everyday I sweated my butt off. I came back to my hotel room at the end of each day completely gross and stinky, but not as gross and stinky (usually) as I would be from a Bikram class. So it was fine. I showered at the end of each day and crashed out.

Near the end of my trip, I spent a day on a tour with Acampa. I recommend the full day tour if you ever go. One of my guides, Raymond, was even featured on the travel channel (scroll to minute 27 and see the waterhole we all got to jump into. it was definitely refreshing.). At the end of our trip, we piled back in the van and stopped at a store to get some drinks. I was sitting out front, enjoying my beverage – and chocolate of course! – when Raymond sat down next to me. He said he was tired, and he thought it must be the heat.

“It’s not hot,” I said without even thinking.

“How can you think this is not hot?” he responded.

The answer? Bikram yoga.

Bikram yoga has totally messed up what I consider to be hot and cold. The good news is I can now be comfortable in places most people find hot. The bad news is I have zero tolerance for cold (remember – anything below 80 starts feeling cool), and no desire to develop one.

You’re Gonna Hurt for Two Weeks!

As I noted yesterday, I’ve been out of town and out of the studio for about two weeks. Last Saturday was my return, and I’ve been every day since (so today is my fourth class since I’ve gotten back in town).

At no point has the heat bothered me. This surprised me because I assumed it would at least a bit. But it didn’t, and that is, of course, a wonderful thing given that it was definitely hot in that room!

My first class back on Saturday wasn’t anything exciting. I wasn’t confident about my hydration. I was a bit stiff going into the room. It turns out I was hydrated just fine, and I did most of the postures ok. I could kick both legs out in head to knee. My standing bow wasn’t too bad. My hamstrings were tight, but I was doing well all things considered.

Then I woke up on Sunday morning and felt the aftermath of the Saturday class. I was literally hobbling around! I was so sore that during class I couldn’t even get into some of the postures. Head to knee? Couldn’t lock out my legs on either side. My hamstrings were that tight. Standing bow? I was limited to how high I could kick because of the hamstrings being tight in my standing leg. Which leg? Both of course! Rabbit was awful. My upper back was super tight. Don’t even get me started about triangle. I could barely get myself into it.

And did I mention the cramps? The cramps started in class on Sunday and also happened on Monday. They are mostly in my lower back and happen any time I do the slightest backbend. But I also get them in my hips and sometimes my feet. Once I got a cramp in my calf while I was on my tip toes waiting to drop down in the second part of awkward. The cramps are everywhere.

Luckily I get a massage on Wednesday. Here’s hoping that will straighten things out.

I went into Monday’s class still sore and limping. I told the instructor who responded with, “You went to Puerto Rico for seven days! Of course you’re gonna be sore.”

What? No way. I was gone for more than seven days. I hadn’t even been in the studio for two weeks I said.

You were gone for two weeks so you’re gonna hurt for two weeks,” she said.

Ha ha. That’s a joke, right? I hope so.

Even if I do, it still makes the trip worth it.

More awesome food.

More awesome food.


Getting Back in the Groove

I’ve taken a couple of weeks off of blogging, but I’m ready to get back into the game. Did y’all miss me? I sure have missed y’all. I took some time off for a two reasons. First, I’m getting divorced. Yep. That’s right. The big D. It’s been crazy busy over here getting everything together. We’re getting ready to list our house. If you want to buy it, let me know. 🙂

Second, I was gone for 10-ish days to the fabulous Puerto Rico!!!! I went there for work and rolled it into a vacation. If you have not been to Puerto Rico, I highly recommend it. It’s a great combination of food, drink, shopping, and tons of outdoor activities. I have plenty to recommend if you need it.

Beef Tenderloin and Grits

Beef Tenderloin and Grits

As you can see from the above picture, I fell off my vegetarian/vegan bandwagon in Puerto Rico. It was worth it. I also drank a lot too.

A spicy margarita

A spicy margarita

Yeah – I had some detoxing to do when I got back. I’m not finished with it yet either.

There are no Bikram studios in Puerto Rico, and I chose not to do any yoga while I was there. Instead, I hiked about four miles up into the cloud forest, free-climbed up a small waterfall, and went rappelling alongside a 100 foot waterfall (scary!!!!). It was good to let the yoga go for a bit.

Sitting inside a cloud.

Sitting inside a cloud.

In the end, I took 12 days off from class. I started back up again last Saturday. I’m still feeling it. I hope to tell you about my return to class tomorrow, but just know that things are a bit sporadic right now with the chaos that I am living in. It’s all good though.