November 13, 2009
I’m here. Yet, maybe not.
Hi my name is Karen and I do Bikram Yoga. I also teach Bikram Yoga. Basically I live, eat, sleep, shower and dream Bikram Yoga.
I haven’t been bloggin’. Sure you’ve noticed, right? Haven’t you? I haven’t been writing. But I’ve been practicing, and I for sure have been teaching. I’ve also been doing Aikibudo, but that’s for later on. Let’s get back to the practicing.
Yes, practice. Sri Pattabhi Jois says, practice and all is coming. I am no great interpreter of words, but I think he’s basically saying what Bikram always says, get your shit together and just do the posture. Do the yoga, do the class, just do.. it. Practice, practice, practice.
Is it really that easy? Is it really as easy as showing up, unrolling the mat, and then doing.. it?? Yes, it is. It’s just that easy. Yo-ga is easy. Asana, Pranayama.. it’s easy, right? Maybe. Some days it certainly feels easy. Some days I’d rather stay in bed with a TV remote and a cup of hot chocolate. Some yogini I am, right?
I find myself reflective this week. Our studio just finished hosting a huge event, including the state yoga championships. I was, well, involved with that. I’ve had several amazing friends in town recently. I’m also rapidly approaching my one year teaching anniversary. The train is picking up speed on this whole yoga thing. And when I look in the mirror, I still see someone I don’t quite recognize. Who is that girl? I teach with reasonable confidence, and I usually know every single person’s name in my class. Who is that girl again?? So, I’m pensive all over again.
I’ve maintained a pretty darned disciplined practice in spite of the momentum of life. My kids are growing up so fast, my husband is nearing the end of his Master’s degree, life is so good. I love teaching. The room is my refuge many days. Whether I’m behind the mic or on the mat. I just love it. The yogini is still there.
Six months ago I started practicing Aikibudo. I have at my disposal an incredible sensei and we train twice a week. It’s a long story, but the budo is such a part of who I am now that I can’t remember exactly what it was like before I was doing it. The yoga practice and the budo practice compliment one another in amazing ways.
I’m grateful, that’s the bottom line. I’m grateful and I have to laugh a little bit sometimes that I get away with having such a cool life. I mean seriously?? Family, yoga, budo, friends.. That’s my life and my work? Wow.
I can’t believe I’ve been teaching for almost a year. I can’t believe I’ve been doing budo for six months. I can’t believe that in general my biggest concern when I get up in the morning is how I’m going to juggle my practice(s) around my teaching job.
So when I get to my mat (either one) and I feel a little tired or a little grumpy, I’m drawn back to that gratitude. I chose this life. I chose to pursue yoga, teaching and most recently budo. I chose to walk the path. I’m stronger, healthier, wiser, and more courageous because of it. All I have to do is practice. Just do the practice – and all is coming.
January 5, 2009
I was at the studio this morning, after teaching the 5:30 am class, and was trying to decide whether I wanted to use my spare hour to do yoga alone or go get coffee. I struggled for a short moment. I wanted to think, to be quiet, and to be alone. So the question stood whether I wanted that in the form of a little sweat and stretching, or in a cup of milk and caffeine. I stood there in front of my packed bag of clothes, looking at the shorts and top I had brought along for my “solo yoga”, and decided the yoga was better than the caffeine. So I dressed, grabbed a mat and towel, and headed back into the hot room.
This doing yoga alone thing is kind of a new ritual for me. Today is my second time to do it. When I teach early, then stay to teach the 9:30 am class, I have a gap of time. Prior to this new ritual, I would spend that hour or so eating breakfast and inhaling coffee. But given my new career, I’ve found that my body needs more yoga time. That empty hour or so was the perfect opportunity. I’m already at the studio, I have access to the room, and I like to do yoga alone. It’s something I miss from time to time. I started doing Bikram alone in my apartment in Colorado nearly nine years ago. It’s kind of interesting now, all this time later, to once again practice alone. Now I have one of the best heating systems around available to me, a huge open studio, and plenty of mirrors. It’s quite the contrast to the way I started out, but I’ll take it. It’s nice.
Today as I stood in front of the mirror, I was critical of myself. Too tired, Karen. Not enough yoga lately, Karen. You need to work on your posture, Karen. These shorts look awful on you, Karen… Blah Blah Blah. It’s interesting that I spend a great deal of my time when I teach encouraging my students to let these things go. I tell them, Meet your own eyes in the mirror. Face yourself. Let it go. I could learn from my own words. Maybe we teach the things that we really need to learn first. I dunno. But I did it, I started. Breathe, breathe, breathe.. Inhale, exhale. Again. I did my hybrid Advanced Class/Beginning Class warm up. I did my Salutes, my backbends, and I worked. I didn’t feel particularly excited to be practicing. The humidity was low in the room and I felt dry. I had fairly shaky balance, my legs giving way as I worked on head to knee pose, my body not wanting to bend the way I wanted. It was there that I was taken back to the Training room in Acapulco.
It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Training. I went through a time when I got home of thinking about Training constantly. Part of me wanted nothing more than to get back on the plane and go back. Those formative nine weeks changed me forever. The further I get from Graduation, the less I really want to go back. Being home is better, and I know it. Nobody is meant to live in that situation long term. Teacher Training was but for a season and that’s OK. But there are days when I’m taken back to that hot room and it all comes rushing back. Today was one of those days.
I remember those nine weeks as a very complex emotional journey. I spent the time separated from all of my friends and family here at home. But during that time I built up a new support system. I took care of me for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t fun or easy or particularly comfortable at times. In fact, there were times that were painful and I wanted out. But the time passed and looking back, I have no regrets.
I read a note that a friend of mine from Training wrote today on her Facebook page. She said that we leave such an intense season of change to return home where we require a season of rest. Our hearts, minds, spirits, and bodies must recuperate from the intense therapy we have given them. (my interpretation) I agree with her. When I came home, I was spent. My body was irritated and creaky. Over 100 Bikram classes in nine weeks left me sore and weary. But now, a little less than two months out, now that I have rested a bit, I feel much better. Some days I still feel like I am recovering. There are times that I practice and my body complains. There are times when I feel like I’m back in that hot room in Mexico, and I feel sentimental all over again.
The physical recovery is only one side, though. Physically Training was very demanding, exhausting, and difficult. But that’s only one part of it. Emotionally and Spiritually I feel changed as well. And maybe that’s really where the recovery is happening now. The body, the most acute need, had to recover first. Now the mind, spirit, heart, and soul can have some time to breathe. As I stood on my mat alone today, I wondered at all the things that I’d been through. It seemed petty and small to feel so frustrated with my inability to hold my posture in that moment. I remembered the early days of Training when that posture wasn’t even happening for me at all. How far I have come indeed.
But in the yoga room, and in my life anyway, I completely believe body and mind are intricately connected. When the body hurts, or even reaches new depths, the mind and spirit react. Yo-ga. Union. Hatha: Ha (sun) tha (moon). Opposites. Union, togetherness. All connected, and all the same. Just as there is no *perfect* posture, there is no right or wrong emotion on the mat. It is what it is. This is perhaps one of my great lessons from Training. Just letting it be. If I am happy, or if I feel pain, if I celebrate holding my head on my knee, or if I whine because my back aches – it’s all the same. Yoga, uniting, bringing together the mind and the body.
I will keep looking inward on my way as I practice. I will have many more mornings in that room alone, I hope. Maybe I’ll pick up some more insights. I will continue to allow my soul, body, and spirit to rest and recuperate. As Sean reminds me, I will continue to respect myself and afford myself a little kindness and balance. I will continue to appreciate the lessons learned in Training, and continue to be thankful for the work that was done.
August 25, 2008
I have eighteen days left here before I leave for Training. 18. Not so many days now. I’m doing OK. I have good days and bad days. My practice has settled back into a normal (more sane) pattern. I’m appreciating my days off quite a bit as I know they are limited, and in a few weeks will be nearly nonesistent. But there I am again, I cannot live in the future. I only have right now.
My dialogue is going well. I’m nearly finished wth Triangle. My goal all along has been to have the entire Standing Series memorized before I leave. It looks like this will be easily done. Finding time to study is challenging with the kids, and normal life, and praciticing. But I have been working out some new ways of studying and as long as I give it a little time each day, it’s going along just fine.
I think I’m ready. I believe I am. I’ll begin the process of packing soon. I have a little more on my list to do and get before I fly away, but the major preparations are behind me. Now it’s the details, the small items. I also will soon begin the process of saying goodbyes, having lunches one more time with friends, and preparing my sweet family for my absence. It’s almost surreal how this has all unfolded for me. Just six short weeks ago, I sat with Jen and Arnie and made up my mind over a Greek salad that I could do this. That dinner feels like it happened decades ago. I don’t even feel like the same person. The transformation has already begun.
It’s happening, so fast. I want to remember it. Even days like this, sitting on my couch with my dialgoue beside me. I hear the dishwasher running and the kids playing upstairs. I am still here, but already there. I want to remember how this felt so that when I come back, or even halfway through Training, I can still feel this feeling. I want to remember it. Even if it’s just a little.
Eighteen days will turn into sixteen, then ten, then five, then I’ll be gone. I’ll be in Acapulco. I’ll be in the huge yoga room with Bikram teaching me. I’ll be listening and learning and missing and hoping and thinking.
I just want to remember, because yesterday and tomorrow can never feel like today.
August 19, 2008
Last week I finished the Challenge. I took Advanced Thursday night, then proceeded to avoid the hot room for nearly three solid days. I went back Sunday evening and took a class that reminded me in a not-so-gentle way just WHY I don’t take three days off. I thought I was giving my body a break. I thought I would love the time off. I was wrong.
I’ve been struggling. Struggling to keep my breath and heartrate under control. I’ve been struggling with balance, slipping, and just flat getting annoyed with myself. Today I sat down during the first set of Triangle. Now, for me, this is a pretty big deal. I haven’t done this is a very long time. Who knows what was going on, but I had had it. I was irritiated, annoyed, too hot, sweating incredibly hard, and angry at myself for sitting out. Oy the brain can mess you over. But as I sat down on my towel, I just closed my eyes and tuned out for a brief moment.
I’ve been holding very tightly to my control over my emotions, my practice, and all the chaos in my life at the moment. In the grand scheme of my yoga career, missing a set of Triangle is nothing at all. Save for this blog entry, I probably wouldn’t even remember it in a week. I think this yoga attracts people like me. Type A, control freak, driven, focused. It is my best friend, and my worst enemy in the room.
I must let go.
I’m afraid of letting go. I’m afraid of being three weeks from Training and becoming vulnerable to how totally blindly I feel I am flying to Mexico. I’m afraid of saying goodbye. I’m afraid of feeling the things I need to feel now. I’m afraid of all the things I will go through in Training.
I struggle with doubt. Can my body do it? Can my heart handle it? Can my mind shut up and let me learn? Of course, the strong me says, Of course it can. But the me sitting out of Triangle doesn’t quite believe it.
I must let go.
The more I try to prepare, the more I figure out that I can’t. The more I try to understand the process, the more illusive it becomes. So here I am in the middle of the struggle. But in the end, I must let go.
August 14, 2008
I am a day late getting this posted. But yesterday was so, well… long that I went to bed early and decided to leave this blog until today.
I finished!! I did it! 90 Bikram Yoga classes done! I also, DID, actually do the 11 classes in five days that I talked about back on Friday. And let me tell you, five straight days of doubles was something else.
This Challenge has been less about can I do it than the last one and more about how I do it. In class I hear all the time stomach stomach stomach!!!! But in my mind, I hear, attitude attitude attitude!!!! In fact, the entire thing has been much more emotional than physical for me. This is not to say I have not literally worked my ass off, but so much more of it has been internal. I know I can do the yoga. Clearly, I can do the yoga. But the real question and yes, challenge, was – and still is – Can I do the yoga without complaining?? Can I do the yoga when my mind is screaming? Can I do the yoga when I have a million things on my mind? Can I let it go and do the class? Can I release my control on stuff and do it? Can I get through a class without whining about my back? Can I choose to be thankful? Can I do it with a smile?
I’ve surely whined, complained, obsessed, and been far less than thankful. You’ve seen it here on the blog. But what I am taking away from this is where I am today. Today am I closer to that ideal. Today I am smiling, thankful, and resolved. Today I am 90 classes stronger.
Daren asked me yesterday, Now what? Well, the truth is that nothing really changes. I will, of course, keep going to class. I will keep journaling here and chronicaling my journey through this yoga and Teacher Training. I’ll sort of miss the countdown of classes, the feeling of pusing through, and the adrenaline of it all. But even as bittersweet as that is, I look forward to giving my body a rest. I need to learn Dialog, spend time with my family, and focus on the next month of my life here at home. And yes, one month is all that I have left.
Last night as I was winding down my day, I became frustrated with something going on here at home and just lost my temper. I got into the shower and let the hot water soak into my skin. It was there that I craved my yoga mat. I craved the space, the heat, the work. Crazy, as I was literally exhausted. But I recognized the yoga as my outlet. It’s my solace and my release from the junk in life. I take this as a sign of how far I have come. Yoga is not a chore, it’s not a task to tick off of my list. Yoga is a basic function of my day. 90 minutes on my mat. Me and the mirror, the heat, and the postures. That’s all I need. And for that, I am truly thankful.
August 2, 2008
I’ll go ahead and spill it that I missed class today. I had a commitment this morning that threw me off kilter for getting in my usual Saturday yoga double-header. But all is well and I will get back on the mat tomorrow.
Yesterday I did go to class. I had Jessica and a tiiiny class – only SIX of us! I struggled more than I have in a while. But, of course left feeling better than when I started. Not surprising.
I say so often in my blog posts, “I am learning so much.” Or, “I have come so far.” It’s hard on days like yesterday to say those things. But really, it’s those hard classes that really do remind me how far I’ve come and how much I have learned – if for no other reason than the fact that they are so rare.
I feel a bit like someone going through intense rehab sometimes. I never want to take for granted the place I came from or the way my life has been transformed by my ongoing commitment to this practice. Teachers often say, the more you are hurting or the more sickness you have in your body – the more injuries you carry – the more yoga you need to do. I have taken this mindset very seriously in the past five or six months. I’ve literally spent a minimum of seven hours a week (most of the time much more) rehabilitating my body on my mat. I go and go and go and go. When I “started over” last Fall with this yoga, I was in dire need of a serious change. But it wasn’t until about March or April of this year that I finally said, “OK no turning back” and threw myself headlong into my practice. Maybe I knew back then in the Spring that once I did it, I was ruined forever. In so many ways, this yoga does ruin you. It ruins you for feeling average and ruins you for being sick. Once you experience health and vitality and radiant life inside of you, you really are ruined. Coupled with the way I’ve been eating, my body is completely transformed. Inside and out, bones to the skin, fingertips to the toes. I am a new Karen. I like it.
So, I never want to take that for granted. I never want to go back. Oh no, I never want to go back. I am free from pain, imbalances, depression, and so much more. I’m free, like someone let out of jail after years and years and years trapped inside of a life they didn’t want. The difference is that I was my own captor. I was the jailer and the prisoner. It wasn’t until I owned up to myself that I had the keys to open the door that I was able to move forward. It’s good to look back and remember from whence we came. It’s good to appreciate the amazing roads we travel that make us better. But it’s also good to remember that some of those roads should never be traveled again.
Well, after yesterdays whine-a-thon, today’s class was SO MUCH better. Of course, I know this happens. Have a bad class, have a good class, have a bad class… you get the idea. This is the life of day after day after day.. after day Bikram yoga.
I had the most lovely opportunity to take class with Miss Fabulous Cynthia Wehr.. Super Yogini Extaordinaire and former Bikram World Champion. She’s visiting us humble Texan yogis for a few weeks and lavishing her lovely accent and intense teaching style upon us. Oh how I have loved her class. Cynthia has a way of knowing everyone’s name and giving very personalized instruction, all the while leading the class in a graceful and encouraging way. So, as you can see, I love her class.
I decided today to NOT stand beside the stage and occupy my usual position. I just didn’t think I could take the “hot spot” today. And I had a very strong class. I felt amazing, and drank very little, much to my surprise. My yoga friend, Daren, had decided to do his challenge with no water during class. I salute him, but I am still hauling my water in. Even if I don’t drink it all.
Today’s lesson was, “Karen MUST learn to do Pranayama without backward bending.” I know this, really. The teachers say it over and over and over, “no backward bending, spine straight.” But somehow, when I drop my head back, I always seem to want to backward bend. So today I focused on this, spine straight, and found new room in my ribcage to breathe. It felt good, and I got a little bit lightheaded (GOOD NEWS!). See, I can learn!
Today’s a busy day in our family, but I am glad this class is done. As usual, the yoga has restored my faith in my practice. One day at a time..