The Universe Tests My Patience

I’m convinced that my practice has helped me become more patient (in general) and more accepting of what I can and cannot change. Upon attempting to return home about a week ago from a work trip, the Universe decided to have me run a small gauntlet.

It didn’t start out that way though. At first, the trip started out perfect.

I had called a cab the day before and scheduled a pick up time. The cab showed up exactly at the arranged time. We got to the airport with no problem. There was really no line to speak of in security. I got through relatively quickly (they had to search my backpack, but it turned out it was all the fudge I was trying to take home that raised alarms). I found a restaurant for breakfast, was seated, and was served immediately.

My plane was already there when I rolled up to the gate. I got on with no problem. We pulled in to the Detroit airport about three gates down from my connecting flight (which was also already at the gate!). This was going so well.

I had upgraded my seats for the trip home so I had more leg room. As I boarded the plane in Detroit, I discovered that I had my little row all to myself. We all got on, the doors were shut, and we were ready to push back.

And then we weren’t.

Turns out there was an issue with an air traffic control computer in Virginia. What it meant was flights along the east coast had been shut down. There was no flying in and out of Raleigh – period – until the issue was resolved. At first, I chose to stay on the plane because our pilot suspected we had an hour at best until we left. I stretched out across the seats and read. But eventually it became clear we had no idea when we would leave and so he kicked us all off.

However, we were told not to stray too far because we would likely be boarding again soon.

I was hungry, but I was also wary of wandering off in search of food. So I accepted that the only thing within sight distance of my gate was a Popeye’s Chicken. I got myself some chicken and took it back to the gate. Let’s just say that didn’t pan out well with my stomach.

Eventually, around 4:30, we were able to leave Detroit. I had spent 5 1/2 hours there. So now we’re off. The flight itself was fine. And then we went in for a landing.

It was obvious we were going down and about to land, but then we suddenly pulled back up and started heading in the wrong direction. Turns out, the pilot hadn’t come down enough to land and needed to circle back around and do it again. This added maybe 10 minutes on to the flight. It’s not a big deal EXCEPT when you’ve been stuck in an airport for 5 1/2 hours and just want to get home after being gone an entire week.

We landed. I had my bags with me, and I headed to my car.

I got in the elevator to take me to the 4th floor of the parking deck. A family of three got in with me. Right as we pulled up to the fourth floor the elevator stopped just a tad shy of being even with the floor and able to open.

It. Just. Stopped.

We all looked at each other. I said, “I’m sorry. This is about me. This is the kind of day that I’m having.”

The elevator inched up a bit. Then stopped. Then inched up a bit. Then stopped. Then, it finally got itself even with the floor. It stopped completely and did nothing.

I had been so freaking patient all day long, and now this. Now I couldn’t get out of the elevator.

“I’m going to hit this [the open door] button,” I said out loud to the Universe, “and you are going to open this door. I have been very patient all day. Enough.”

I am sure I sounded like a crazy person to the people in the elevator with me. But the door opened. I thanked The Universe in my head and moved on with my life.

Back in my car.

Back  home.

Back to yoga.

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Own Your Distractions

Last week, I was in Wisconsin at a workshop made up of educators. One of the things that came up was having laptop policies in the classroom. An argument for telling students (particularly college students) that they cannot have laptops/devices going during class is because they cause distractions – particularly for others. The line of thinking goes that as a student, I might be distracted from my learning because the person next to me has something cool opened up on their device and that is what I am paying attention to.

Now, there are a whole host of things we could discuss related to devices in the classroom, but this isn’t the place for it. What stood out to me was someone said, “Take ownership of your distractions.” I immediately thought about yoga.

You shouldn't be looking at all.

You shouldn’t be looking at all.

Recently, I wrote about taking a silent Bikram class but how I was in opposition to having music played during that class. I don’t know that I communicated this well, but music is a way to distract me from my distractions – and I wanted to engage with my distractions. I wanted to work on finding them and working through them and having them not be distractions anymore (or lessen it). In that space, music was a distraction but in a weird way. It allowed me to hide from the other distractions so I didn’t want it.

On a daily basis, we might experience any number of distractions in our practice such as:

  • someone entering/leaving the room
  • someone drinking water during a posture
  • our own mind telling us all kinds of junk
  • the need to scratch an itch!

I could make this list go on forever. I don’t know what to do beyond acknowledging and owning a distraction. I think that’s the first step. For me, I have a huge problem during the entire warm-up series. I don’t know why, but I think I come up with ways to create distractions for myself. I always feel insanely itchy and justify the need to scratch something somewhere on me! I’ve recognized this months ago, but I don’t seem to have moved on past it.

But here’s what I do know, if I am distracted it is not someone else’s fault. What distracts me may not distract you. It is important to recognize what distracts us and to own it as in I find X to be distracting. Simply acknowledging the distraction might be all we can do for now, but I am confident that one day we will push pass the distraction and it will no longer serve as such (and probably five new ones will pop up).

This is a larger part of what our practice is for, right? It’s about learning how to be present with ourselves and to not be pulled out of the moment by distractions.

So do it. Own your distractions.

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A Twist in the Yoga Fairy Tale

I’ve been reading a book, Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. It’s an easy, fun read that gives lots of great reminders about how and why we should share what we do with the public. One of the chapters is called, “Tell Good Stories.” In the chapter, the author writes:

Your work doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Whether you realize it or not, you’re already telling a story about your work. Every email you send, every text, every conversation, every blog comment, every tweet, every photo, every video – they’re all bits and pieces of a multimedia narrative you’re constantly constructing.

That comment made me think about this blog and how I am telling a story about my practice and sharing that story with y’all. And it made me realize, when you think about plot structure (particularly the rising action/falling action part), we have now entered a rising action/climatic/problematic moment in the story of my yoga practice. And it this is:

My yoga studio is closing on August 30.

End scene.

The opposite of a smiling, happy face.

The opposite of a smiling, happy face.

I don’t even know how to follow that statement up. I don’t even know what to say about it at all. At first, I went into shock, then panic, and then some kind of emailing/texting frenzy with other yoga buddies who were all as equally panicked and upset. A number of things hit me:

  • Where will I practice?
  • The Greek restaurant will no longer be next door to wherever I practice, and I can’t just grab and go on Greek food whenever I want it. What if I need to eat a giant cookie before class? It happens. This sucks.
  • What about half price wine bottle day on Wednesdays at the Greek restaurant? God, this sucks
  • What about my yoga buddies? I know we’re not all gonna land in the same spot. We’re gonna get all disjointed and fragmented and scattered. God, this sucks.

Of course I immediately started googling all the possible options I had and then mapping them out to determine distance. In doing so, I immediately decided a couple of things:

  • there are at least three hot yoga studies within 15-20 minutes of me. only one of these is a Bikram studio. there is, therefore, no need to be driving 30+ minutes to a studio even if it looks totally awesome.
  • you might be wondering why I wouldn’t automatically drift into the other Bikram studio – especially since it is an easy drive. i won’t get into that here. i will just say it has nothing to do with the practice.
  • yes, i am considering hot yoga options that are not Bikram yoga. when I say they are not Bikram, I don’t mean non-affiliated studios. some studies teach Bikram yoga but call themselves something else. for two of the three studios, they do not offer anything that is Bikram (I don’t think).

I am going to see my practice at my studio through until the end (August 30th). Then I will probably try out these two non-Bikram studios in September using their new student specials. Might as well.

But even though I have a Bikram studio I can easily fall into, I am heart broken. I know the owners need to do what’s best for them, but it doesn’t make it easy on me. This yoga, and all my yoga buddies in it, are a critical part of my life. I know nothing stays the same forever, but if I could have one thing stay the same it would have been this.

***Special Thanks are in order to my Yoga Buddy Mark over at Do The Posture Please!! for listening to me and providing me with some perspective. Yoga Buddies are the best.

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It’s Just Class. You Should Probably Go.

Lately, it seems like I have become very accepting of my classes. Just the other day, I decided to do a double. I hadn’t done a double in months. So I went to class #1 and had class. Then I went to class #2 and had class. Each was it’s own thing although afterwards I was starving and very tired.

The next day, I went in to take class at 9:00 am. I was still tired and feeling a bit sore. I set myself up in my retreat spot – a corner in the back near a door. For whatever reason, I always feel a sense of solitude back there. It doesn’t matter how many people surround me, I just feel like that is my own tiny bubble of a space. I eased in and out of postures. I might have sat one or two out. I came out of postures early because my body wanted to (I think…that mind of mine can be very tricky!). By the end of class I was still sleep but a lot less sore.

I bounced in the next day also for the 9:00 class feeling pretty groovy. I got myself all set up and started to have a great class. I was feeling amazing. My postures were pretty good. And then….it all went downhill.

I made it to tree pose before I decided to sit out. Then, halfway through spine strengthening I was done. I had gone down fast. I rolled over on my back for the last two spine strengthening postures. Didn’t even try to do them, and laying on my stomach felt far too strenuous. I was basically done at that point.

I crawled out of the room when it was all over and propped myself up against a wall. Hadn’t had a class like that in awhile. Didn’t think anything of it except to acknowledge that I hadn’t had a class like that in awhile.

Again, the next day I found myself at the 9:00 class. This time, class was pretty good. I started to die out around camel and kinda sputtered through to the end.

However, it was after all of these classes had happened that I realized something. I was showing up and taking class. When I was feeling great, I was able to recognize that I was feeling great. When I was feeling bad, I was able to recognize that I was feeling bad. And when class was over, class was over. The only thing I thought about in subsequent classes was how my body felt in relation to whatever posture I was in.

Showing up and taking class has been a difficult thing for me to do. I want to imagine what class will be like based on how I feel at the moment or how my most recent classes have gone. I’m sure it’s never 100% like this, but I cannot recall when I have just gone to class and accepted class for what it was so many times in a row.

I know I say (and you hear) all the time that we should just be going to class. And showing up is important, but there’s also something to be said for going to class and accepting what class brings you that day without judgement or comparison.  And I think the way to get to that is….by going to class.

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Enjoy the Silence

Recently, I was in attendance at a very small class. There were four or five of us plus the instructor. All of us were experienced, and so we asked the instructor if she wanted to practice with us and do a silent class. She agreed and ran out for a second to put some different clothes on.

While we waited, someone asked if everyone would be ok with playing music. Two people agreed playing music while we practices was fine, but I said no. I explained that I had once taken a class at another studio – about four months ago – and they played music there (not a Bikram place). I had not enjoyed it at all. The two students who wanted the music asked me some questions and said they understood what I was talking about, but this would be different. They said it would be more new agey music with no lyrics and nothing contemporary (for the record, in the class I took with music we listened to a range of styles including U2).

music notesI still said no. I said I didn’t like the music, and I didn’t want the music. And even though one person told me I was passing judgement when I hadn’t experienced music in a Bikram class (and also that I was being very rigid in my thinking). I still said no.

Hey, you asked me if I wanted music. I answered honestly.

But here’s my overall thinking on this whole let’s listen to music in Bikram when class is going to be silent:

(a) first, by silent class I mean that the instructor practices with us and calls the postures. there is no dialogue.

(b) Bikram doesn’t have music. That’s not how it’s intended. Of course, it’s also intended to have dialogue, but we all agreed to the no dialogue thing for that class. So if we had all agreed to the music thing then fine, but we didn’t. I didn’t come to class to listen to music.

(c) for me, a huge appeal of a silent class is silence. I know, crazy, right? I want to be in the silence with myself. Silence can be unsettling. I am not saying that is why people wanted music. I just recognize that silence forces me to engage more with myself. If music is on, I can use the music as a distraction. If I am uncomfortable in a posture then the music can be something for me to focus on. I don’t have to engage with any type of discomfort if I don’t want to. This can happen in any class, but I think the music adds a layer of distraction that is not normally present. I don’t need additional layers of distraction added.

That’s really the reason why I didn’t want music. Of course, I could not articulate that at the time. I figured it out once we got into class. All I could articulate was that I didn’t like it. But I used the silence to reflect on why I didn’t like music, and what I wrote above is what I figured out. So it’s not about being rigid or judgey. It’s about my right to come to class and engage with my practice without a layer of distraction on top. And I think that’s what the music would bring.

What are your thoughts on music in class?

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Trying a Different Class

Recently, my Yoga Buddy, Swamp Girl, decided to try out a different yoga studio. This was still hot yoga, but not Bikram. Actually, the place offers both hot and room temperature yoga, but Swamp Girl only takes the hot yoga classes.

swampfireSwamp Girl’s departure was due to the fact that she wanted to try something new, but she also didn’t want to give up the heat. She really likes it hot! She bought herself some Bikram classes, and once in awhile she still attends, but her primary home is at this other studio now.

This other place offers a variety of classes. When I looked at the schedule it was pretty overwhelming to me. If you take a class on Monday at 10:00 for example, you may not be able to take that same type of class until the next Monday rolls around. Some classes are offered more than once during the week, but to me it looked tricky to try to attend the same type of class more than once. But she was liking it.

I promised Swamp Girl that I would try out a class with her when my schedule allowed for it, and the other day it did. First, I had to take a morning Bikram class (because of my 100-Day challenge). Then I joined Swamp Girl that evening for a Hot Detox Vinyasa class. I had picked this over a class the next evening called Gentle Hot, but Swamp Girl told me Gentle Hot was actually the more difficult of the two classes. Anyways, I got down there, got myself signed up and set up, and was all ready to check it out.

Taking the Class

Before class started, I asked Swamp Girl what the rules were. When could I drink my water? She said there were no rules. If I wanted to drink my water, I should just drink my water. Whenever, Wherever. Ok. Got it.

The teacher entered the room and greeted everyone. Like a well trained Bikram-Yogi, I popped off my mat into standing position. Everyone else remained seated. I waited a moment and took this in and then sat my butt back down. In this class, we started with a seated breathing exercise and then moved into the postures.

The postures of course were varied. Some were new to me and some I hadn’t done in years. There was a lot of down-dog. I remember doing some planks and pigeon and really a variety of stuff I can’t even remember. We worked our core a lot. At some point I realized I would be sore the next day.

What I Learned

Taking a different yoga class was a great experience. It was just plain fun. But I also realized that having practiced mindfulnessyoga for four years now had left me with some interesting skills. I don’t think these skills are exclusive to Bikram yoga but are ones that can be developed through any mindful yoga practice:

  • I’m OK with discomfort. There were plenty of times during the class where I was confused and wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I was ok with that. I was patient with myself in figuring things out. There were moments when I was pushed out of my comfort zone, and again, I was ok with that.

 

  • I’m good with working within my limits. I had zero idea what we would be doing in that class, and sometimes I had zero idea what I was capable of doing with a given posture. I’m ok playing around within what I can do. I am pretty good at exploring where I should go with a posture – pushing on it just enough to get a sense of what I can do and where I should stop.

Since this wasn’t a Bikram class, I also discovered some other things about myself:

  • I completely forgot about water. There was simply no emphasis on it. There was no party-time. No one even said a word about it. At one point the instructor said we should pause for a sip of water and I realized I hadn’t been thinking about water at all! I took my sip and then forgot about it until class was over.

 

  • I lost track of time. The class was 60-minutes (which seemed very short to me). However, there was no clock in the room and no agenda for the class. Bikram has an agenda. We do the same postures. You come a few times and you got it memorized. There wasn’t anything to memorize here. The class is different every single time. I didn’t have anything to think about except whatever posture I was doing at the moment. I couldn’t think about an upcoming posture because I didn’t know what was coming next! It was very freeing. I was more in the moment.

Will I go again? Maybe. It was good for me. We did a lot of hip openers which I need. But I would probably benefit just as much if I started going to advance again once a week. Going to advanced helped me too. I definitely won’t be going back while I’m on my 100-Day challenge. That’s just to much.

I am curious about how I can apply the mindfulness I experienced in my Bikram classes. The problem, I realized, is that I get too caught up with whatever posture is coming down the line and I often have opinions about postures when we get to them that run through my head. I need to work on quieting my mind more during class and accepting what the posture brings. And that realization along was worth it.

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Food & Drink & Judgment

Do any of y’all spend your time in class thinking about what you will eat after class is over? I have noticed that this seems to consume my thoughts. If I’m eating at the Mediterranean place next door, I’ll spend at least part of class (at the very least every single savassanah) imagining what I will order. Sometimes I spend a great deal of time hoping they have spaghetti – which is a special now and then – and thinking about what it will taste like. They have very good spaghetti. Sometimes I consider not IF I want dessert but what KIND of dessert I will be purchasing.  And sometimes I evaluate how much wine I have and think through if I need to get some more on the way home. I have no problems going into your store post yoga/pre-shower.

Other times I imagine what I will eat when I get home. This has resulted in me working out a meal plan for my entire day while I am in a morning class and even coming up with a dish based on random spaghettiingredients sitting around in my fridge. I often fantasize about carbs. Spaghetti really does seem to be a thing here.

Recently I went to a 4:30 class after having a fairly large lunch earlier in the day. Since I knew I wasn’t going to be interested in dinner, I spent time in class plotting what I would have for lunch the next day. I knew I would be at my office and started considering various restaurants within walking distance. Where had I not been in awhile? What did I feel like eating? We’re doing what pose now? Ha ha. So not in the moment! 

I also use food and drink to provide a very valuable service to my home studio – very valuable. I have no problem sitting on the bench in the lobby before class eating a piece of baklava (bought next door) and drinking a diet coke (also bought from next door). What am I doing? I am teaching non-judgmental practices! What would you think if you saw someone eating baklava and drinking a diet coke in a yoga studio lobby? You shouldn’t be thinking anything except perhaps how you too can get some food and drink and join me on the bench. 🙂 I also have zero problems sitting on the bench after class and drinking a diet coke while people walk in for the next class. Sometimes a coke just tastes good after class.

No judging! 🙂

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