A Weekend with Jim Kallett: Part I

Right before I left for Las Vegas I got to attend a weekend workshop with Jim Kallett. It broke down as a Friday night 3-hour lecture followed by an all day workshop on Saturday (literally from 9:00 to 7:00 or 7:30 – I can’t remember when it ended). He was also there on Sunday doing some additional things, but I had to blow out of town.

Airport Adventures on the way to San Diego

Airport Adventures on the way to San Diego

You may recall I got the chance to take classes at Jim’s studio a little over a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I never got to meet Jim when I was in San Diego, but I did correspond with him over email about my floor bow posture, got some great tips, and was very excited I was finally going to get to spend some time with him.

From my perspective, the Friday night lecture seemed to be about giving us some history of yoga as well as discussing its various benefits and the rationale for why we should do it.

While I took a lot away from the Friday night lecture, there are three key things I’d like to share:

“When you’re doing yoga, you have to cross the boundary.” Jim Kallett

Jim discussed the idea of finding your edge and pushing it just the teeniest, tiniest bit each time.  It doesn’t need to be anything huge. Just a toe over the line. Or maybe not even a whole toe. Maybe just the very tip of a toe.

Where I get trapped in this is I think that if I put a whole toe over the line on Monday then on Tuesday I need to put the same toe over the line plus a piece of my foot. I’ve figured out that this is kinda useless thinking. Why? Because my edge is different everyday which means the boundary I have to cross is different everyday. So there’s no need to get upset with myself if I put a toe over the line on Monday and then on Tuesday I can barely get my toe back to that same line. I have a different boundary. My job is to identify that boundary each day and give it a tiny push.

“Struggling is good. It means something is happening.” Jim Kallett

I have always supported the concept of struggling in class. While I will agree it is a whole bunch of no fun, I do think it is a necessary and good thing. Jim argued that those classes where you are flat on your back just might be the ones where all kinds of good things are happening to you. I’ll just speak for myself here and say I know I look forward to having good classes. The kind with few struggles and where I feel like I am flying. But Jim’s got me working on not just accepting the struggles but looking forward to them. They are the work that pushes us forward to a new place and a new edge.

struggles“Every day is different. If you stop judging yourself, you will come to know yourself.” Jim Kallett

Every day is different. Every class is different. We know this. I look at Jim’s quote here and think about how hard it is to not judge myself. How hard it is to not be critical of myself that yesterday I got my toe over the line and today I can only get it halfway to the line. But that’s the point, right? I need to cut that out. I need to let the process happen, accept it for what it is, and learn from it.

Still Kicking the Coke

Back in November, I made the decision to stop drinking soda. By my calculations, I was drinking 420 ounces of soda a week at home. I made the decision to give up soda in my house. So – how’s it been going?

Well, the first week was the absolute worst, and I only cut out five sodas or about 100 ounces. I had major withdrawals which meant lots of headaches and extreme tiredness. It stunk.

After the first week, things started getting easier. I cut down to two sodas a day (or 280 ounces a week), and stayed there for three weeks. The first of the three weeks was when I reduced my intake. After that, it was Thanksgiving and then I traveled to San Diego. I didn’t want to reduce during those times. There was a lot going on, and I thought it was best to stay strong than fall off the bandwagon. For three weeks I held tight.

Now I’m back to reducing. Last week my goal was 12 sodas, but at the end of the week I had 9  1/2 (so around 190 ounces). I also had withdrawals last week, but I’ve figured out how to tackle them. See, I have reached a point where I hardly crave coke anymore. If I do, I can wait ten minutes and the feeling will pass. I was getting up in the morning and going on about my day and not drinking any soda. By early evening I was having withdrawal symptoms again. This went on for 2-3 days. Finally, I just started drinking a coke at breakfast. Problem solved. Drinking the coke first thing in the morning seems to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay and I’m not having any issues with craving coke later on in the day.

Since last week was a bit rough, I decided to not actively reduce my soda intake this week. I’m staying at my allotted 12 cokes for the week, but as of today I have had five (which includes the one I am drinking for breakfast right now). I’ve got the withdrawal symptoms to disappear which means that next week I’ll be reducing again.

This process is a lot slower than I thought it would be, but I’m good with that. The point is to get myself off soda, and I’m definitely moving in that direction. I’ve already reduced by around half or a little less. It depends on how much soda I actually drink (what I allow myself vs. what I actually consume).

I’m currently not noticing any major physical changes although mentally I feel better with less coke (unless I’m having withdrawals and then I can’t think straight). My chocolate cravings went up for a bit last week, but now they seemed to have stopped. I went with it and let myself eat a bit of extra chocolate.

My advice to anyone wanting to kick a soda habit: Know that the first week (or possibly two!) will be rough, but once you get over that hump it gets better. Go slow. Set goals for yourself that you can do.

A 10-Point Standing Bow

My biggest news from my trip to San Diego is that I did a magnificent standing bow. I am positive, positive, that if I had done this standing bow in competition it would have received the maximum score of 10 points. Let’s start off by taking a look at some really good standing bows so you can see why I think the one I did in San Diego was so magnificent.

These are beautiful standing bows. Wait until you see mine.

These are beautiful standing bows. Wait until you see mine.

Let’s notice some things about the standing bows in the above picture. Their legs are locked out. They have two feet in one line. They both have their chins to their shoulders. The woman on the right could probably come down farther, but these are beautiful (I think). Ok, everyone’s relatively on board with me, right? We could critique these, but they are good. They’re here to serve as a model for mine.

Now, let’s talk about how I ended up giving my standing bow performance. It was late. I was in a hotel lobby with a friend, and we were goofing around waiting for our friends, who were following in a second taxi, to arrive. When I say we were goofing around, what I mean is we were both talking about yoga postures we wished we could do but couldn’t. As a free service to the hotel, we attempted to explain/demonstrate postures we had no business attempting in the middle of the lobby right in front of the door. We were the evening’s entertainment for awhile.

Well, along wandered a woman we did not know but who could do the postures we were attempting (mine was crow. I don’t recall what my friend was trying to acocmplish).  She went right ahead and did them in the lobby – again, only adding to the entertainment value.

Of course, this prompted me to want to start taking pictures, and this is how I ended up performing the best standing bow ever in front of a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby while someone I had met two minutes ago did crow in front of me.

Yoga helps you make friends.

Yoga helps you make friends.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Leigh, your standing bow looks nothing like the ones in the picture above.” You are, of course, correct. But before you question why this is the best standing bow ever, one worthy of 10 points in a competition, let me point out a few things that are not automatically visible:

1. I had just finished eating a giant mexican dinner that included chicken enchiladas. I know. I ate meat. (add +2 bonus points)

2. I had just eaten an unholy amount of chips, salsa, and guacamole. (add +1 bonus point)

3. My friend (not pictured because I had her taking pictures) and I had split a pitcher of Purple Haze margaritas. I drank purple alcohol. I hardly ever drink anymore. I was not hammered, but I was not sober. On the way back to the hotel, I asked our cab driver to beat the other cab driver back, and apparently he thought I was serious. We won! Yeah! (add + 3 for the drinking)

4. Do you see what I’m wearing? I took my shoes off, but those pants only had so much stretch in them. (add +2 for the clothes)

5. The distractions were unreal. It’s not like in a competition room where everyone is quiet. I’m doing this in front of a Christmas tree with someone performing crow at my feet while someone else is trying to figure out exactly when to take the picture. I was probably talking most of the time I was in this posture. I was situated between the check-in desks and the conceirge. I was directly in front of the main entrance. There was a conference going on with over 1000 people. There were people everywhere, and none of them were being quiet and standing in awe of our great ability to do standing bow and crow. Distractions = bonus points! (add +2 for all the distractions)

I think you’ll see this adds up to be a perfect 10-point standing bow.


Things Get Strange on Day 8

The strangest thing happened to me when I was in San Diego. I had already gone to class twice. I woke up on Thursday morning to take the 6:30 am class, and I did not want to go. At all. I don’t mean that I didn’t want to take the 6:30 class. I mean I didn’t want to go to class at all that day.

It’s rare for me to feel like this. Sometimes I am more excited about class than at other times, but on this day I was fighting myself to go. And the worst part was that on Thursday no one went with me. I had no one sitting in the hotel lobby expecting me to show up at the crack of dawn. It was all on me baby.

I got up, dragged myself into the bathroom, and proceeded to eat my Raw Crunch bar in the bathroom (so my rommie could sleep – oh, and she also said, “I can’t believe you’re really going,” as I got up). The entire time I thought about how much I wanted to go back to bed and never, ever go to class.

I made it to the studio. My mood did not improve. I told the instructor I still had jet lag (true) and wandered into the room.

Class began. On the second breath of the first set of the first breathing exercise I wanted to quit. I thought, “These people don’t know me. This instructor doesn’t know me. I could just sit down on the mat right now. I could just sit here for the entire class. I do not want to do this.”

But I know me. And while it would be fine to take a break, I couldn’t do it right then. I didn’t need it right then. I just wanted to so much. I just didn’t want to be in class!

Truth was, I had not slept well in about three days. I was going to bed early (9:00)  because I was tired, but I was waking up at 3:00 and was wide awake at 4:00. It wasn’t making for great classes – especially at 6:30 in the morning.

After eagle I took a break. I sat down during the first set of standing head to knee. The rest of the class is a blur, but I slowly started feeling better.

On the way back to the hotel, I realized that I felt like I was in the middle of a challenge. Then I realized I had done class for awhile without a break. I counted up how many days in a row I had been to class. You know how many? Eight. This class that stunk, that I did not want to go to, was Day 8.

Where have we seen Day 8 before?

How weird is that?

Adventures in San Diego: Bikram Yoga!

Adventures in San Diego

Part II: Bikram Yoga San Diego

While the main point of going to San Diego was to attend a professional conference (technically), the other primary objective was to squeeze in as much time at Bikram Yoga San Diego as possible. And let me tell you, at the end of the day I am a HUGE fan of Bikram Yoga San Diego. I’ll say more as we progress.

Let's go do some yoga!

Let’s go do some yoga!

First, making the time (and coughing up the money for a cab) was worth it. I managed to get someone to come to class with me on three out of four trips so my cab fare was not as bad as I had anticipated. Keeping up with my practice while on the road was worth the effort, but it was hard. Really, really hard. I had jet lag. Also, this studio is intense.

Let’s start with intense. The studio itself is larger than what I am used to, but that made it fun. Just making a guess, I would say it can hold about 80 people. My first class had around 40 people in it and there was still plenty of wiggle room. I didn’t feel crammed in at all (my studio holds 49 says the fire marshall). I walked in and got nailed with a giant wave of heat, stink, and sweat. I think it’s ok to tell you that because it’s owned by the fabulous Jim Kallett.

I did not get to take a class or even meet Jim while in San Diego. My schedule gave me room for one class a day at one specific time each day. It was what it was. But I can tell you I’ve had a couple of conversations with Jim over email, and he is a fabulous and wonderful person. If you are in town, don’t miss his studio. They’ve got an excellent deal for travelers. Trust me. I abused the heck out of that deal.

Anyways, I think it’s ok to tell you Jim’s studio is incredibly hot and stinky because when I returned to Raleigh and told the instructors this they busted out laughing and said that Jim makes no apologies for his studio being very hot and smelly because that’s how it’s supposed to be. Jim was also one of their favorite teachers from teacher training. I’m bummed I didn’t get to meet this guy!

There are no fans in Jim’s studio except for a giant industrial one in the corner that I assume is used to air out the room between classes. Instructors will not open the door and let a breeze in. You are in this hot box, with no circulating air, for 90 minutes. Get used to it. That’s all that can be done. Honestly, I stopped noticing the smell on day three and was getting used to the heat on day four. If I could have gone every day for a week I would have adjusted.

I was expecting the heat to be a bit stifling before I arrived. I had read Hell-Bent recently. In the book, there is a section that talks about a man named Chad Clark. Chad’s an expert in designing hot yoga rooms. It’s his thing.  He’s a heat expert, and he designed Jim’s heating system. In the book, Chad is quoted as saying, “Heat makes things hard. Point-blank. Studio owners want to use the heat to push people…Jim Kallett wants his regulars on their knees. That’s a direct quote…It’s a special kind of madness.”

Indeed it is.

Indeed I was on my knees, and I was never alone. So excellent work Chad!

Anyways, I knew I was in for something different when I arrived, and I was not disappointed. Add to that the fact that I had no choice but to take the 6:30 am class on days two and three and the madness becomes extra special. I had jet lag. Although I attempted to go to bed at 9:00 each evening, I often couldn’t fall asleep until 10 or 11, and the I started waking up at 3:00 am and was wide awake by 4:00. Doing yoga in this madness with almost no sleep (and what I had was poor quality) made for a different kind of class than what I was used to.

But you know what? I would do it all over again. The whole thing was a struggle of a different kind for me. Suddenly it became about being in the room, being in the moment, and doing what I could. I was forced to pay attention to my breathing and my body in ways that I don’t think I have in a long time. My postures did not look like what I was used to. My stamina? Forget that. I had no stamina in that room. Gone. I was forced to let go of how my postures should look and how class should be. I had to accept what it was. Well, I guess I could have fought reality but that didn’t seem like a great choice.

The instructors throughout all this were marvelous. I expected them to be wonderful, and they did not disappoint. I had three different ones (had one person twice), and I loved that I got to experience new people. The best way to describe the instructors at this studio is strong and compassionate. They all showed extreme compassion to everyone – not just the jet-lagged, sleep deprived woman wondering why it’s been two hours and we’re only on eagle (yes, those were the kinds of classes I had!). I believe if I was a member of this studio I could learn a lot from the instructors about compassion.

Of course my visit would not have been complete without adding to my collection of yoga clothes! We all know I have a slight problem with buying yoga clothes. But this wasn’t my fault! Honestly! BYSD sells clothes they don’t sell at my studio in Raleigh. What was I supposed to do? Not buy them? That would be silly.

These aren't meant to be worn together, but you can see how cute they are individually.

These aren’t meant to be worn together, but you can see how cute they are individually.

I already wore the top, and today I get to wear the bottoms! These are from La La Land in case you’re curious.

Can you believe that after this post and the one before it I’m still not done telling you about my yoga experiences in San Diego? Next time I’ll tell you the crazy weird yoga thing that happened to me while I was there plus more guerrilla yoga!

Adventures in San Diego: Guerrilla Yoga

Adventures in San Diego

Part I: Guerrilla Yoga

San Diego was an interesting experience in many ways. So many ways in fact that I have to split it up into at least two or three posts. I started off with a buddy, and we flew from Raleigh to Phoenix (flight time: 5 hours of not so much fun). Then it was an hour from Phoenix to San Diego.

I was way prepared for this flight. I was expecting to take a 4:30 pm class that day at Bikram Yoga San Diego (more on that in Part II). I knew I needed to hydrate and eat well. To do this, I wore an actual watch (which I never do anymore) to keep track of how much time had actually passed as I traveled west across time zones. I knew I needed to keep up with my eating. I also brought my trusty hydro flask so I could keep track of my water intake. The hydro flask holds 40 ounces, and my goal was to drink 80 ounces by the time I left for class.

Upon arriving in Phoenix, my buddy and I landed ourselves a really fantastic lunch in the airport. I had a salad and a cheese quesadilla. Then we were off in search of our gate to get to San Diego!

Once we found our gate I realized I needed to do something about my back and overall body which was  stiff and tight from the five hours of sitting on a plane I had just done. Enter Guerrilla Yoga.

The concept of Guerrilla Yoga is simple: Do yoga in a public space. This was a suggestion the judges gave all the competitors after our competition was over. Practicing in front of people, strangers, is a great way to get comfortable with performing as well as distractions.   It helps you learn how to be comfortable in a crowd too.

This was the perfect time to implement some guerrilla yoga. I started with a simple camel pose.

None of these people seem impressed.

None of these people seem impressed.

I did five camel postures just hanging out on the dirty airport floor in front of my seat. Yes, the floor was dirty, but I chose not to care. My back, and my spine, loved me for what I was doing. It felt so good.

I decided I needed to document my first go around at guerrilla yoga, so I made my buddy do a photo shoot. People were not too interested in my camel posture. Possibly because this was about the 1000th time they’d seen me perform it.

Having gotten through camel, and taken some pictures, I was inspired to do more. Of course I had to do standing head to knee. next to the seating area there was a separate area with wheelchairs and no people. It was perfect because I would be out of the way of traffic but very much visible.

I honestly didn’t know what would happen in standing head to knee. I wasn’t warmed up at all and had literally just stuffed food in me. But whatever. I figured I’d see what I could do.

It took me three times, but on the third try I was able to kick out and get my head on my knee. Well, in the picture it looks a little off, but I think it’s pretty good for someone who just sat on a plane for five hours.

Performing standing head to knee in the airport was an experience. First, think about the first step. You bend a leg, reach down, and clasp your hands together underneath your foot (note: I am not a certified Bikram teacher. I get to explain the posture however I want). Doing just that much got people’s attention.

Then, I kicked out and locked my left knee. You would have thought I was totally in the posture by the reactions I got. People gasped and I got a couple “Oh my God.” My buddy was trying to take a picture, and I was trying to explain that I wasn’t ready for the picture yet.

I fell out the first time. I fell out the second time. The third time, I found my space for lack of a better word. Yes, I was aware people were staring at me and talking about me. However, I somehow managed to turn my attention inward and focus on my knee. I relaxed into it and went down. I held it. Even after my picture was taken I could have held it longer. I came up with control and released with control. Yes, the posture needs work, but I totally owned it.

Not to bad after a five hour flight!

Not to bad after a five hour flight!

 In performing this posture in public, I learned something interesting. I take these postures for granted. By that, I mean that while I can appreciate the beauty of them if I see anyone performing them I am rarely in awe of them – at least such is the case of the beginning series postures. I have allowed them to become a little too commonplace.

I have been thinking that standing head to knee is no big deal. I don’t mean doing the posture is no big deal. I think it’s a big deal to get your head to your knee! I think it’s a big deal to just kick out and lock your knee! What I mean that doing these postures has become so ingrained in my life that I forget how extraordinary they can be to an outsider and to us all.

When I fell out the first and second time, I was bummed. I wanted to do the posture. But later I realized that just by kicking out my leg and locking my knee I was offering something to those who watched. Even if I had never gotten as far as I did in the picture, I created a space for people to think about yoga. Maybe I inspired someone to look into it or talk to someone about it. I don’t know. Maybe people thought I was a crazy lady at the airport seeking attention.

My motives in doing guerrilla yoga were initially selfish and driven by the desire to serve myself. But I now have a glimpse, even if I am not articulating it well, as to the importance of guerrilla yoga in helping others. I think guerrilla yoga has the potential to do that even if it shifts someone’s thinking just slightly.

Coming up next: My adventures at Bikram Yoga San Diego! In the meantime, do you have experiences performing or watching guerrilla yoga? What was it like for you?

Fitting Life into Yoga

I’m almost packed up and ready to head out for my trip to San Diego. This is a work trip, a professional conference, that I do every year following Thanksgiving. I always leave on a Tuesday and return on a Saturday. In the past, my goal has been to visit a local Bikram studio and practice once or twice if time allowed. Last year, I practiced on Tuesday, before the conference began, and on Saturday morning before I returned home. The location for the conference changes every year giving me the opportunity to try new studios each year. Fun!

Last year I spent my time at the conference doing conference things from Wednesday-Friday. Perhaps I could have worked in one more Bikram trip, but I chose not to focus on it. This year however my priorities have totally flopped. I’m practicing four times, Tuesday-Friday, only missing Saturday because of the airplane schedule.

I explained to my instructor this morning that I had arranged my flight on Tuesday so I could take the 4:30 pm class at BY San Diego. I don’t know your reaction to arranging flight times around yoga schedules, but I can tell you this: Taking a class after being on a plane all day (or in a car) is the best idea ever. Make it happen even if it means getting up early. Sleep on the plane. Class feels amazing after having sat around all day in a plane or car. I’m bummed I can’t take class Saturday after flying home, but that just couldn’t be made to work.

The instructor pointed out something very interesting. She said that when people begin practicing, the concern is how to fit yoga into their lives. You know, how do you find time to go to yoga when you got all this life stuff happening? It’s the classic question, and the reason many people cite about why they practice so little or not at all.

However, she said that eventually you progress to a different stage. The question changes to, “How do I fit my life into my yoga practice?” This is absolutely where I am now. How do I fit my conference activities into yoga? I don’t want to give up my yoga for the week, and I want to try out a different studio and different teachers. So I give up some things or I do things I wouldn’t normally choose to. For example, taking two 6:30 am classes in San Diego. Skipping out on a dinner Friday night because the 6:30 pm class was literally the only time I could make class. Basically, it means going to class even if there’s only one time I can make regardless of if I like going at that time or not.

Of course the good news about 6:30 am classes is that I am going from Eastern to Pacific time. I’ll likely be awake so I might as well just go to class. I’ve never taken a 6:30 pm class in my life. I imagine I’ll be having some room service that evening.

Fitting yoga into my life in San Diego is also a financial committment. According to some website I located, I can expect to pay 15.00 in cab fare one way from the hotel to the studio. I budgeted 40.00 per trip. That’s 160.00 dollars!!!  Plus it’s another 40.00 to pay for my yoga. Plus I’ll have to be buying water to stay hydrated. Now I’m starting to think I need more cash.

I know I will have a buddy for one or two of the trips that I can split the cab fare with, but I assume nothing. I got the cash and am ready to roll. Where do I get this money from? Well, at the conference I am getting an award for a book I co-authored. We get a check, but no one has told us what the cash prize is. I assume the money I get from winning the award will be used to pay all or most of my yoga trips. Nice example of how things just work out.

I’ll be back to blogging Sunday-ish with tales from San Diego. Take Care!