Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A humbling practice

Yesterday I practiced before I taught. In the northeast, we got about two inches of RAIN yesterday. In my tiny little studio, a well insulated box with low ceilings, we have trouble controlling the humidity when there are many bodies in the room. There's a tipping point of a certain number, and after that, you just try to manage things rather than controlling them per se.

So if one had turned up the volume on my thoughts during practice yesterday one would have either heard a string of colorful and exotic expletives, or a lot of beeping (if it was a censored broadcast.) I just had a tough class. I'm trying to be more mindful of the fact that the physical reality of my practice doesn't change that much day to day, but the mental atmosphere sure does.

Yesterday it was hot and humid. For whatever reason, in the first half moon side to side warm up I went "uh-oh." I hadn't practiced since Friday (teaching Sunday rather than practicing as usual). I thought I'd be feeling very strong as resting from gym and other activities usually leaves me feeling that way. But I had some food and alcohol over the weekend that I would consider sluggish-making. Anyway, for whatever reason, I was back to yelling at myself over the dismal state of my balance in standing bow, not to mention standing head to knee.

The bonus to this practice was that in the class I taught, a half hour later, I was extremely mindful of the students in the room and their experience. I took teaching them very seriously as I knew it would make for a challenging class for just about anyone with the heat and the humidity. I did get the humidity down for the start of class but it popped up a bit. Luckily I managed it well and it didn't go above 50%.

I do consider it a good class when the students don't have time to listen to their thoughts. I even threw in one of my favorite bumpersticker phrases during the floor savasanas somewhere. You don't have to believe everything you think.

I did a lot of explanation of the savasanas, and the length of them - approx 20 seconds being the amount of time it takes the blood to circulate throughout the body (high speed oxygenated blood bringing healing and nutrition to the body). I also showed them about a pet peeve of mine that Emmy showed us. In the situp, you will see many people doing a couple of things wrong.

Firstly, there is the error of leading with the arms rather than keeping the arms with the head. You know people are keeping the arms and head together when they move a little slower than usual after they've been given the cue. No wonder - it's harder to lift yourself up that way.

The second issue with the situps is that little extra ego based "I got this" moment of reaching the hands up to the ceiling (jerking a little more into the lower back than necessary) before bending forward. The situp is meant to be one clean movement, arms and hands going STRAIGHT for the toes. Not reaching up then over and down. There is not supposed to be that moment of lower back extension at the top of the situp. Emmy said you will end up with a sore back from doing that over and over.

Because the room was hot and very gooey with humidity, I kept the class moving and light. I actually surprised myself with the pace, getting to separate leg head to knee with stretching a little faster than I planned. But with pacing, I ended the class with an extra long savasana, 3 minutes of which was technically "class time." I felt great about the class though, I felt I gave the students the perfect class for the room for that day, to give them maximum benefit. I constantly reminded them to come back to the breath, to save the fidgety energy, to extend the exhales on the floor, and to be efficient in finding and enjoying savasana. I said "stay wtih me" and "stay together" once or twice to keep things moving. My commands were light and precise but after triangle I was giving a sort of barebones dialogue, not wanting to add my words to the humidity. Light and snappy were suggestions given to me by my studio head for a sluggish class (boy Friday 6pm was that last week!) and I felt it appropriate.

I am pleased to have turned my own practice into a tool for my teaching. Bikram is so freaking amazing that way. It's never easy. Maybe some days it requires lighter effort, but they are few and far between and they're not what I associate with Bikram. Bikram challenges you every single time you enter the room to practice, to show up, to look into your own cosmic mirror.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Back to the dialogue...

I recorded myself last June delivering dialogue. I used editing software to cut out the mistakes and the breaths so it's like machine-gun rapid fire dialogue. It does not have the softer edge that I brought out at training (and that is essential to teaching). However, it's very useful for just hearing the words over and over and over.

Upon return from training, I was listening to dialogue in my car (again, just like before training!) A few weeks ago I pretty much hit my limit with that. I was even making cds of "problem poses" and listening to selects. This morning I went back to the old reliable, the cd with the full series on it, all the dialogue from the packet minus secondary dialogue and pranayama.

Boy is the dialogue amazing. There is so much information CRAMMED in to those 46 pages or whatever it is. Tiny things like exhale breathing before you suck in the stomach and sit down into first part awkward. I had been leaving out that exhale. I also have been leaving out certain other things. A specific one that I can note is the eye gaze focus commands in tree and toe. I remember by toe focus on the floor four feet in front of you, usually say it on the second side.

I am glad I took a break from listening to it. When you start to get angry every time you start the ignition, it's time for a break. What did I find on break? A bunch of depressing news on NPR. Some interesting stories, but a bunch of depressing news, some snarky tones in the reporting about Obama (NPR always trying to seem like they're not liberal-leaning and so they jumped on that Mass senate election travesty like white on rice.)

Ooh... let's not get into politics. Really let's not. I used to be a politics junkie, then I started dealing with more important things. In getting ready for training I let that go completely and just focused on the yoga... and I have to say I like it better that way. Politics riles the blood. I am not apathetic, but I don't need to have my finger on that pulse.

Yesterday I taught the Sunday morning class... packed like sardines, about two away from room capacity. Managing the heat in our small studio with a class like that is difficult. The heat is easy. The humidity is the key. I knew that it would get humid beyond control quickly wiht all the bodies (and the low ceiling.) I turned off the heat early as the humidity climbed. We practiced with windows open almost the whole time to manage the humidity. It was a great class. I'm happy to return to my dialogue studies and bring more and more dialogue into my teaching.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Struggleometer.

I haven't been blogging every single practice these days... and I like it that way. There is a lot of mental ease in my practice these days. I am really constantly trying to keep myself out of judging mentality. I'm just showing up and practicing. When I got home from training, I had a lot of feelings about how I should be and how my practice should look as a teacher.

The thing I hold to tried and true that I learned in training is to be an example to my students. So the ways in which I do that are:

1) I take Savasana very, very seriously. I try my damndest to get there quick and not move. They say it so many times over and over, and I didn't move much before training, but I really try to get people thinking about the health benefits of being still when I teach, and I try to model that good behavior.

2) Similar to #1, I try to move with grace, and that includes resting between standing postures without moving, just focusing on the breath. Hey we all have a stray hair or a wardrobe malfunction once in a while but I try to be a good example there.

3) I try to manage the things that come up in my practice with frequency.
- Judging myself and others
- Being competitive - wanting to have the best pose in the room
- Cutting myself down - I can't do this, I can't do that, I can't balance in standing balancing series is my most frequent thought by far.
- All the type A crap - wondering what kind of practice I'll have, wanting to "look" like a teacher should look

4) Managing my struggle-ometer
When I did a back to back last week, I knew I had to pace myself through the first class. All I decided to do was keep things light in my mind. The class flew by and my postures didn't change that much from when my struggle-ometer is at full blast (11 out of 10 like Spinal Tap.) But I felt lighter, happier, and easier after class.

5) water
I drink less, period. I do make sure to drink at party time and fixed firm when I'm teaching afterward though. Getting into savasana after the standing series with no water is a habit that I love. THere's no need to add cold water sloshing around in there when everything's trying to enjoy


Doing a water free class in the middle of training opened my mind on the water front and I'm so happy for it.


I taught the best class I have ever taught on Monday night. I can't get into why but basically there was someone in that class I had been waiting to kill. I taught an incredibly focused class. If I had practiced I would have died (with pleasure). I know they say that some people don't listen to the teacher and just do the auto-pilot thing, but I'm not like that. Nor were the students that day. They were listening. They were with me. I took every single posture to the max. They stayed with me - I could tell at the end they'd all had their brains turned off for 90 minutes.

My brain, your body. As Diane Ducharme says, I'm driving for the next 90 minutes. It was so incredible and the students were so focused - I mean like no one fell out of standing bow! I fall out almost every single time multiple times on the first set, so there were three times where I just said Wow. I don't throw that into teaching much, but I was blown away by their focus. I wish I had taped that one cause I have yet to tape one of my classes and (gulp) practice along to it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


that's back to back...

I am exhausted - I did 3 hrs of yoga last night with a 25 minute break in between. The second class was not bikram exactly, it was "hot yoga." I know I would have been better mentally if it had been Bikram, because I knew what to expect. Instead it was a bastardized version of the series, which I really don't dig very much. However, it's not my class, not my studio, not my problem. I did it because a friend asked me to stay and do it with her. It wouldn't have been such a big deal had I not been working out at the gym a bunch this week and eating light.

It was nice to take the first class easy - I didn't slack off at all, just kept it light and stayed right within the range of happy thoughts, happy mind, no struggle. I was surprised, actually, at how much my postures were about 80% the same with that kind of mindset. Sometimes it's important to turn down the "struggle" dial and let the practice be, pay attention to the breath and the room, etc.

Have not done much on the meal planning front, though have been enjoying some tasty delights.

On Sunday, I whipped up this veggie/minestrone/mulligatawny soup.

I had steamed some broccoli so had some broccoli water. Started there.

Added a head of cauliflower, rough chop

one pepper rough chop (could have used more)

Added kale that needed to be used

one onion

green onions

can of diced tomatoes (big)

de-fatted chicken broth (quart at least, it was a big soup)

lots of turmeric and ginger

other spices - s&p, garlic powder, crushed red pepper

optional - bag of edamame thawed or red beans cooked
tiny touch of olive oil.

continue to spice as it cooks - ginger and turmeric being the keys here!

I mean holy moly it was so tasty. I LOVE it. It was so easy to put together, especially since we had good homemade chicken stock ready to go. It was super easy... usually I would sautee the veggies before adding the broth but I just started the

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to work.

Yesterday was a long day... but a rewarding one. After four days in NYC visiting friends and drinking champagne, it was back to work. I knew I'd want to do a little something in the morning so I hooked up my yoga closet and did a class with the bikram cd. I didn't blow it out at all, it was just a way to get moving - I'd say I did about 50-60% effort. In the winter in New England it is impossible to get my yoga closet above about 90 degrees (unless I leave space heaters on all night long). So it's more of a gentle practice when I do it at home these days. It's weird to do bikram gently and with pants on, but whatever - it feels better than not doing it!

So then I realized we're moving to the new schedule and there was going to be a 4pm class for me to take before I taught the 6pm class. Woo hoo! Today I woke up feeling... well not really... but I got the sensation that I had done something nearer to a double than anything I've done since training. Class last night was good, I didn't blow it out too much because I didn't know what it would be like to teach afterwards.

It was fine! In fact, there was no time to second guess and recheck my pranayama dialogue (not that that is a bad thing to do in general). Just practice, then change quickly and check people in, then teach. Wow. I continue to listen to my recorded dialogue in my car... and I work with different poses on repeat to beef up dialogue. So teaching was fine, class timing was totally cool. We lost our big clock (it was old) so there's only a handheld clock to check. I didn't check much but hit the floor somewhere between 52 and 54 minutes. It's still a challenge to get the whole floor series in but I did it, only ran over by 2 minutes.

Practice... well... I'm committed to practicing extremely regularly, and just experiencing my body in the poses. I still feel all whacked since training. Head to knee is better (for me) but still of course I dream of the days when it really improves. Probably in another year or two it will be rock solid. Standing bow - my form is beautiful and balance is abysmal. This is one that if I were to fret - I would fret about my continuing lack of balance in this posture. It's like I know standing head to knee is hard for me, and I accept it. But I can't accept as easily where I find myself in standing bow.

Sigh ;) Really I just like to practice and be in the room practicing. It's just flat out easier for me. Like I could stress out like I used to, but I also have that off switch for the stress and I just chill and practice, knowing that it's years that make the difference, not days. I have nowhere to be. It's not like I'm going to "finish" bikram.

On New Years day, I was asked by two friends to lead a class at a friend's apt. I taught a vinyasa style class (with a few bikram poses thrown in for fun). It was great fun. I noticed how much Bikram is so command based - I had the chance to talk more about experiencing the poses during this class, but I didn't take up that opportunity much. I did end with a nice meditation and reading and I liked that.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Up and coming in 2010

Happy New Year! So... I have made it through the holidays, all the vacation, rich foods, drinking, parties, etc. I'm glad to be on the other side, frankly, It was enough to come home from training and try to get back in the swing of things... but then to have the holidays was amazing and fun, but I'm happy to get back to ROUTINE.

I have changed the name of the blog because I DID go to training and in a sense it was way easier than I thought it would be (the old name of the blog.) It's not appropriate for what I'm going to do in the future, however. I will continue to write about yoga on this blog, but will also include some thoughts on eating and cooking. DH (dear husband) has decided he wants to shape up a bit. I couldn't be more excited to continue my journey and include him more in the healthy eating. Possibly even exercising and coming to Bikram with me!

So as I begin to delve into the world of writing and talking about food and eating, I want to write with full disclosure that I am currently in recovery from Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Compulsive Overeating (COE). In my recovery journey, it's been very important for me to NOT diet. Starting in the fall of 2007, I legalized all foods and swore that I would never diet again. In late 2008-2009 I worked with my therapist to learn how to start tracking my food intake without playing mental games with myself. I learned and am still learning how to be objective, use information, and make informed, adult decisions on how to live.

I am happy to report that I am on hiatus, maybe permanently, from therapy! I also consider myself in strong recovery. There are times when I use food to soothe my emotions, but it is no longer like it used to be, where every single day I would starve myself and tell myself I had to get thin then get home and binge myself into oblivion. No longer do I come up with crazy extreme weight loss plans and binge as soon as I eat one extra almond. That is very unhealthy mentally, physically, and especially spiritually. It's mean on the spirit and I will never again treat myself that way.

That said, I have had the goal of actively losing weight, to get my body mass index down, so as to be leaner, stronger, and to look more healthy. Thankfully, these days, I feel extremely healthy on the inside, and I am moving closer and closer to having my outsides match the great way that I feel on the inside. Through using the fitday.com food tracker and measuring tape, and doing regular bikram (not to mention the teacher training for 9 weeks) I have definitely shaped up this year. I have not done much weighing yet so I can't say how much.

So... posting about cooking, food, and eating on this blog along with the yoga will be a very personal experience for me. I may even talk about weight. I hope that I can do it in an honorable way - and if I can't, I'll just go back to writing about yoga. But I think it's a more honest reflection of my life in the blog to talk about all of it together. Especially since DH (dear hubby) is along for the ride now and wants to do a healthy eating challenge. I am committed to enjoying myself and not depriving myself. And hopefully having fun and making the blog more interesting!

We're going to use South Beach as a game plan. True, South Beach has a restrictive phase, but I will treat those as guidelines, not rules. Continually I will assert - no food is off limits to me and if I'm hungry for something or just want it anyway, I can always have it.

That said, along with writing about our journey through this, I also want to blog about the idea of meal planning and cooking in advance and freezing. I have always thought that those were things I'd love to do in an ideal world. However... it has never really happened.

This week is the first go at planning for and shopping for the week's dinners in advance. I used a menu planner from the Rachel Ray magazine. It's not south beach style cooking yet, but that's fine. I actually think portion control is more challenging than not eating white rice or bread. We hardly do that anyway. So hopefully by the end of 2010 I'll be a whiz at putting together menus and shopping lists and doing some bulk cooking and freezing. Hey who knows... this time next year I might even be pregnant!