Sunday, November 30, 2008


2:30 with Miranda

Full class today.  I was in the back row in the middle.  For almost the full standing series, Miranda was directly in front of me and I had no view of the mirror.  That's pretty much a first, and it interfered less than I would have supposed.  I couldn't see a thing in Half Moon, but I think I was pretty much on target anyway.  Standing Head to Knee was where it was the worst.  I've grown accustomed to focusing on my standing knee.  Without that reference point, I could still stand and lock the knee, but for some reason I couldn't kick out and hold my balance for long.  For the rest of the series, including Standing Bow, not being able to see myself didn't have much of an impact at all.  I made it through two parts of Standing Bow, and here I think not being able to see myself might actually have helped some.

Floor series was very good today.  I felt really strong in the back strengthening series.  I focused on stretching outward with my legs in Locust, and I think it might help.  Rabbit and Camel were very good, especially Rabbit, which is definitely a pose that comes and goes for me.  And I must be doing something right on the final stretch now.  I'm working on flexing the feet and locking my knees, and it really hurts even before the stretch starts.  I'm assuming at some point that intense stretch behind the knees will start to feel more normal.

All in all, for a Sunday class with no food beforehand, it went very well.  I'm not having stamina or breathing problems at all.  My focus, overall, is pretty good.  I could still be a bit more still getting into Savasanas.  And on a day like today, I actually was enjoying the time in class.  I'm still a bit hung up on progress, or the lack of it, but when I can put that out of my mind, everything is just fine.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Wednesday off.
Thursday Thanksgiving! and off.
Friday 2:30 pm with Miranda
Saturday 9:30 am with Amy.

I took two days in a row off for the first time since Hurricane Ike.  I felt great, except the Thanksgiving feast gave me a headache.  I didn't drink much -- one beer and a small glass of champagne.  So I'm blaming it either on the turkey (which was my own doing, and delicious), or just on general overeating. 

The headache stayed with me through Friday morning and up to class, so I was a bit concerned about how I would do in class.  By Standing Bow, the headache was gone.  After class, it stayed away, and then came back slightly after a couple of hours.  But nothing like it was in the morning.  Add another item to the list of Bikram benefits:  it can cure some headaches.  I was especially surprised that it had that effect since I basically ate nothing before the class.

When Friday class started, my head hurt so much that I had a little trouble staying balanced on two feet.  I decided to hold back some in Standing Head to Knee, and made it in the first position (grabbing the foot and locking the standing knee) for the full first set.  Then I made it kicking out through the full second set.  So much for balance problems.  Standing bow was good as well. 

 The rest of yesterday's class was sort of a blur.  The one thing I distinctly remember was Miranda pulling back a bit on my hands in Half Moon, and then putting her knuckles into my spine just below the shoulderblades.  This had me slightly arch the back backwards, and it did let me go further into the pose.  Now I'm trying to recapture the same feeling on my own.

Today's class was very ordinary.  Balancing was not good.  I fell out a bunch in all of my poses.  Then I had a pretty good Separate Leg Forward Stretch, a very good Triangle, and then I lost it in the first set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee and had to sit out for a set.  My legs were tighter than usual, and getting into the pose was harder on my balance and I was having trouble keeping my breath.

The last two classes with Amy, she has called me out on not locking my elbows in the first backbend.  It's odd, because this is something that I would say that I work on.  But apparently not enough, because when she calls me out I can improve it.  Locking the elbows makes the bend feel even more funky and insecure.  That's part of what the "don't be afraid" command in that pose addresses.  Without being able to see, its very hard to know for sure if I'm getting this one right.  Now it looks like the answer is:  if I feel OK, then I'm doing it wrong and I should try to stretch my arms out more and really lock the elbows.

Here's the funny thing:  a few weeks ago, I obsessed over my knee, over my sciatic pain.  The petty little injuries gave a focus to my practice.  Now, I'm pretty much injury free.  I feel a little tightness in the hamstrings, but its not even close to an injury.  And as a result, I'm thinking that my practice lacks a real focus.  In an odd way, the injuries may have been a blessing.  They gave me something specific, and very real, to work on.  I still, for some reason that is probably wrongheaded, feel like I need something more specific to work on, but anything I might choose seems a bit arbitrary.  Next month, Amy is going to start a program geared towards next year's Texas Asana Competition.  Maybe concentrating on that will fill the gap (a gap that probably shouldn't be there).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Wednesday 8:30 pm with Amy

It's been awhile since I saw Amy.  Her little girl came down with pneumonia, had a fever that reached 105, and went to the hospital twice for it.  During that time, her boy got a fever of 104, and she and her husband also got sick.  So she's had a really bad couple of weeks, and seemed to be really happy to be doing something other than attending the sick. 

Class was good and hot.  We finished at 107 and 40% humidity, and it had probably already come down a degree or two by that time.  Often, that kind of heat will knock me out of a pose or maybe two.  Instead, I was pushed to the very edge at the end of standing series, but held on.  I lost my breath after the second set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, but there's no point in sitting out Tree pose since its basically a resting posture anyways.

Balancing Series was very good.  I fell out of Standing Head to Knee twice, but my kicking out was better than its been recently.  I was concentrating on flexing back my kicking foot, and the difference was noticeable.  I made it all through the full second set of Standing Bow.  Amy doesn't talk during the second set of this pose, and it makes it much easier to concentrate.  When the dialogue is going on, its hard not to measure how much time is left by the progress of the dialogue, and I think that that alone is a pretty big distraction.  It's too easy to think "I'll never make it"  and fall out, when it might have been possible to make it.  Or to push hard as the last words are coming up, only to lose the pose.  With silence, it seems much easier to fall into a state where there is just your image in the mirror, your breathing, and that slightly burning stretching feeling.

Sit-ups today seem much improved.  My head still doesn't hit my knees, but its getting close.  Now I've noticed that my knees come up a little bit as I'm coming forward, and I'm going to concentrate on keeping them nailed to the floor.

In the floor series, the good news came in Locust.  In first set, we got to the last part and Amy started heaping praise on how far I went up.  She said it was "awesome", and said "you go away for a little while, and its just amazing to see the progress people make while your gone"  I would not have said my Locust was anything special, or even very good for me.  It's really nice to know that a mediocre Locust still shows that sort of improvement.  I don't get breakthroughs very often any more, so I really appreciate this kind of feedback, especially on the poses that I can't see.

A while back, Amy was in a class that Cisco taught where he made us do the second set of Blowing In Firm at almost a machine gun fire pace.  The clapping sounds to me like its about 144 breaths a minute, or maybe a little faster.  Amy has taken to doing the same thing in her classes and she has joked about it with me a couple of times.  For the first time, I kept pace for the entire set, without having to gasp or slow down.  And when it was over, I basically fell off my knees laughing.  When I started, just doing the slow first set was pretty much impossible, so keeping up this ridiculous (and it really is ridiculous) speed felt something like a triumph.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Tuesday 6:30 pm with Miranda

Another good class.   I had my best balancing series in a while.  I made it through all four parts of Standing Head to Knee without falling out.  I had to come out of the kicking out part of it from time to time, but instead of falling when I went to far, I managed to pull myself back to the first position.  Standing Bow was not as good, I fell out three out of the four parts.  I'm falling here because the stretch, either in my standing leg or in my shoulder, becomes too intense.  So I think that's probably a good sign.  And Balancing Stick was good:  no hopping and I didn't fall out.

The rest of class went very smoothly.  No real high or low points.  I only went back on my elbows in the second set of Fixed Firm.  The slightest change in the angle of my feet seems to make a huge difference, and I'm really trying to get them pointed straight back to the wall.  Because of the difference that angle can make, I think it might be hard to judge progress in the pose just on how far back I go.  Today, I may have done better than yesterday, even though I didn't go back as far, because I think my feet were straighter.

This idea makes me wonder how many poses have the same sort of issue.  And my guess is that they probably all do.  I know that you can feign progress in half moon by compromising your grip, arm position, and the stretch up before leaning to the side.  And how far the hips come up in Rabbit can vary alot based on subtle differences in the head position, and also on where you grab your feet and how tightly you bring your ankles together.  I could probably go on for another half dozen postures or so where I've noticed the large effect that a small change in the set-up can make.  And I don't even know all that much about the postures yet.  So maybe I should start talking more about my progress in terms of form instead of depth?

I've noticed the same thing about the Final Stretch.  It's much, much harder when I concentrate on keeping my feet together and really engaging my quads while locking my knees.  I've been working on this recently, and it limits how far forward I can come.  So there is an apparent lack of depth from doing this pose with better form.  But the burning sensation in the back of my knees, my hamstrings and my hips, tells me that this is the right way to do this pose.  The lesson in this is that sometimes moving forward actually appears like moving backwards.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Saturday 9:30 am with Danielle
Sunday Off

Danielle is our brand new teacher.  She just came back from teacher training in Mexico, and Saturday's class was her second.  She did really well.  Her timing was perfect.  She kept the heat just right.  She didn't seem nervous, except at a couple of points when she might have been trying to remember whether to say right or left.  I think she's going to be a very good teacher.

Students don't get to see the dialogue itself, and most teachers start to vary things up on their own with time.  So one of the nice things for me about this class was that it was a fresh exposure to about as pure a form of the dialogue as I am likely to hear.  It's really quite amazing how effective the pure dialogue is.  It doesn't need elaboration or adornment to make for a very strong class -- even with it's broken English ("your exactly head on your knees"), and its absudities ("360 degree backbend for gravitation").

As for the class itself, the energy was high and I did well for a Saturday morning.  Balancing was pretty good.  I fell out of each part, but only once and very late into the set.  Triangle and Standing Separate Head to Knee were both strong.

The high point of the class was Fixed Firm.  I went back on my elbows in both sets.  That's the first time I've done that in a very long time.  I'm not going to push too fast to get all the way back.  I want to make sure my butt is firmly planted on the ground first.  But this is a really good sign that my knee is healing. 

And Toe Stand is also getting a bit better.  I have a hard time holding the squat on my left leg still, but I'm just barely managing it.  The good news is that its no longer scary to go down on that leg.  I have confidence that my knee is not simply going to break.

I missed blogging this weekend because the internet was down.  And I took Sunday off.  I was going to go at 8:30 this morning, but it now looks like it will be 6:30 pm or nothing. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

138/157 A Hot One

6:30 pm with Miranda

We started at about 104 and 45% humidity, and it just kept getting hotter.  At Camel, Miranda opened the door to let in some cool air, and it still got hotter.  I don't know where it peaked, but my guess is somewhere around 107, and the humidity never went down.  It started to get to me in the floor series, but I tried to stay focused and dealt with it pretty well.

On the good side, I was much more flexible than recently.  Rabbit seemed especially easy.  And I got deeper into the left side of the final stretch.  I'm not fully extended yet, but I'm much closer to the floor.  In the worst days of my sciatic injury, the knee made about a 90 degree angle in this one.  Now, I can almost get it down all the way.  And I got back easily on the elbows in second set of fixed firm.

Balancing series, however, was not very good.  After a bad first set of Standing Head to Knee, I just locked the knee without kicking out for the second set, and managed to hold the balance both times.  Standing Bow was a little better.  I fell out once in each part, but held it pretty well before falling forward.  And I did fall forward, which is supposed to be good.  Balancing Stick was good, as it usually is when the other parts are not.

This was the first class that I've taken immediately after taking my dogs to the park.  It was about 50 degrees out, and I played with them without gloves.  Then I rushed off to class.  Bad idea.  The first 20 minutes, my hands had to adjust to the change from 50 degrees to 105 degrees, and they were burning up as a result.  It was fairly painful, and it didn't seem like there was anything to do about it.  The grips in the early poses made it even worse.  So from now on here's an important safety tip:  don't jump from an extended stay in cooler weather directly into the hot room.

For some reason the other stupid thing I did wasn't nearly as bad.  I left the studio still in my sweaty shorts and shirt, basically drenched, when it was mid 40s outside.  And that doesn't bother me at all.  Not sure why that change in temperature seems so much easier to take, but there it is.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

137/156 A Beginner Again

9:30 am with Connease

I set up in the back.  The room was cold.  It started at 85 degrees and 45% humidity, and probably never got over 100.  At the end of class, it was 96 and 44% humidity.  Lukewarm and humid are not a good combination for me.  It means having a sweat and feeling a little chilled at the same time.

On top of that, I just felt weak for some reason.  And so the entire practice was like I was back at square one.  I couldn't balance at all -- I must have fallen out of Standing Head to Knee 20 or more times, all tolled.  I skipped the last part of Triangle, and a whole set of Standing Head to Knee.  I dropped out early on the first set of Locust.  It was like old times.

On the plus side, Connease gives really good corrections and pays attention to details that I haven't heard before.  She corrected my hip alignment in Half Moon, then my knee locking (right leg of course) in Standing Bow, and then my set up in the final seated Head to Knee pose.  There were other corrections along the way, but those were the ones that gave me a bit of new info on doing the poses.

Even though class was sub-par, I felt really good afterwards.  And I've noticed that before on days when I had to sit out a pose for some reason.  Sitting out means that for whatever reason I've really pushed to the edge that day.  And maybe that extra effort (or what seems like extra effort on days when I'm a bit out of it) is what makes the difference after class.  The implication, I guess is that I should push even harder on days when I've got everything together.

Connease talked today about finding a still point in each of the poses.  She said that you always want to find a point where you are uncomfortable, but still, and able to breathe.  Then she said that often this is a point that sits on the edge between Fear and Ego.  Fear prevents people from going deep into poses, while Ego tempts them to go to far.  So the trick is to push past your fear while not going to far simply to indulge your Ego.  She said it better, and I'm just paraphrasing, but I really like the idea.   

In some ways, I think I probably hurt my knee because I pushed poses like Fixed Firm too hard.  And that was ego driven:  I really wanted to be deep in that pose so I probably forced it.  Now, I tend to ride the other side of that edge.  I'm a bit wary of pushing too hard and may tend to remain too much in the comfort zone.  So the trick is finding that middle area.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


4:30 pm with Miranda

It looks like everyone in town is getting sick.  Amy's little girl has pneumonia, her boy has had a high fever, and both she and her husband have a cold/fever.  Yesterday, Lenette was talking about how she was just getting over a cold.  Another student almost dropped in class yesterday -- also a victim of this cold.  And today, Miranda gave a really good dialogue between coughs and sniffles.

I focused on being happy to be there.  It didn't take as much effort as I thought.  That might be because I like afternoon classes better, and it might be because the heat was perfect.  I'd like to think its because I really was happy to be there.  A few times I drifted away into thoughts outside class, but that's pretty much par for the course.  But there wasn't any time in the class when I started feeling sorry for myself.  Just that slight adjustment makes everything so much better, and its amazing how much it really is under my control.  Of course, there are some pretty serious implications for this insight outside of the yoga room...

Class itself was good.  Half moon was better than usual.  My form is getting better and I feel like I'm starting to open in the chest a bit.  The depth is coming.

Balancing series was mediocre.  I had two really good sides on Standing Bow, with a really intense stretch that I was able to hold.  I had one really good part for Standing Head to Knee, and then lost my balance again and again in the next three parts.

In Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, I had a choice.  I was aware of the salty sweat running into my eyes, and my cramped breath.  I was also aware of a really good stretching feeling in my hamstring and hip.  Ordinarily, I might just focus on the stinging in the eyes or the lack of air.  Instead, I focused on how good the stretch felt and on breathing into the slight burning sensation in my legs.  I don't know if that made the posture any better, but it made a world of difference for the practice overall.  I came out of the posture feeling energized instead of beat. 

This change meant I was already recharging well before Savasana.  As a result, I think I may have been able to put a bit more into the back strengthening series, and I had a really good floor series overall.  I went back on my elbows in second set of Fixed Firm.  I'm just fine in Japanese Sitting Position for the final breathing exercise.  Overall, a very satisfying practice, and I've felt really great since class.

Monday, November 17, 2008

135/153 Frequency, Precision, Intensity

10:30 am with Lenette

Good class.  It started out really hot -- 107 and 40% humidity.  But Lenette has a knack for getting things just right.  The humidity blowers are not going full time now that the outside temperatures have dropped some.  As a result, my favorite spot has moved from under the blowers, to anywhere under one of the moving fans.

Before class, Lenette told me that my left knee has been locking really well recently, and now I have to bring the same focus to my right knee.  Then during class she showed me what she meant.  I have a tendency to bend the right knee when I kick out in Standing Head to Knee, because I can't get my left lifted leg up straight.  So I bend the knee some to compensate.  She forced me to lock it, which makes the kicking out even harder.  And in Standing Bow, I have a bit of the same problem.  Lack of flexibility in the lifted leg is causing me to compromise some on the anchor.

Balancing series was average today.  I made it all the way through on maybe one part in each pose.  The rest of the standing series was also average, except for Triangle.  I got a really good set up, and fell into the pose very naturally.  There were some nice triangles within the Triangle, and I felt like I could hold it for a long time.  On the down side, I didn't attempt Toe Stand.  I can't say what it is that makes me try it sometimes and not others, but for now I'm trusting my instincts and staying on the safe side.

Floor series was good.  Sometime in Cobra, I had a sort of revelatory change in attitude.  Basically, out of nowhere, I decided that it was a privilege to be able to be in the room, and that I would do much better in class if I just came to each pose with the idea that it was an honor and a pleasure to be able to do this right now.  Lately, I think I've been beating myself down some by focusing on the lack of breakthroughs, the effort and pain of the postures, and other negative things.  And that's just so wrong, and ultimately could poison the whole practice.  The reason I keep coming every day is not only because of the benefits I'm getting outside of class, but because at a deep level  I really like doing this stuff.  And since that's true at a deep level, I might as well bring that to the surface.   Anyway, just being happy about doing the poses made the floor series much better.

Lenette recently came from a retreat in Minnesota where Emmy Cleaves (the amazing octagenarian yogi) and Rajahsheree (Bikram's wife and I've probably misspelled the name) taught.  Emmy said that a practice will succeed if there are three elements:  frequency, precision and intensity.  

According to Lenette, anything from 3 times a week and up is enough to satisfy the frequency requirement.  More is better, up to a point.  And the more you do, the more important it is that you be precise.  Because if the precision is not there, its easy to overdo things.  

Precision, to my way of thinking, is probably the hardest thing to achieve and it may be the most important.  It insures safety, and is the only way to guarantee progress.  Also developing a habit of precision may be the quickest way of learning mental discipline and focus.  Of the three elements she mentions, I think precision is the hardest, and its what can keep the 26 postures interesting for so long.

Intensity may be the easiest of these to achieve.  My objection to this element is that it is so easy to be too intense.  I think Emmy would probably answer that, with precision, you cannot be too intense.  (Or conversely, if your practice becomes so intense that you lose control of your breath or your movements, then you have lost the necessary precision.)

Today, I was thinking about this as it relates to attitude.  And I think its clear that a bad attitude infects and threatens all three of these elements.  Beating myself up over lack of progress, or just focusing on unpleasant things could 1) make me come to class less often; 2) come out of poses early or tend to cheat either to relax or to give myself the illusion of going deeper than I'm able; and 3) take it easy from time to time, or push too hard to force a breakthrough for which I'm not ready.  So, if possible, I'm going to try to get back to the attitude that I'm just happy to be here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


9:30 am Saturday with Lenette
2:30 pm Sunday with Miranda

These were two very different classes.  Yesterday it was hot, and tough, and I felt pretty good throughout.   Today, it started out cold and gradually warmed up.  The class did not seem objectively as tough, but I was having some troubles toward the end.  I think the problem today was the lack of a good warm up.

Before class I was talking to a woman who has practiced in 6 different studios, including two in Boston, one in Dubai of all places, and the downtown studios here in Houston.  She said that this was the coolest of any of the places she has practiced, and also said that its the only studio she has been in with fans.  In Dubai, she said the studio was hotter, but to get it to that temperature, they still had to use air conditioners.  Outside, it was typically 12o degrees when she went to class. 

Yesterday, Lenette said that she had heard several people ask her to give other teachers some lessons on controlling the heat, because some classes have been too cold.  Her answer was that, to a large extent, you can control your own heat through your breathing.  (Other yoga practices use the throat breathing we do in pranayama to help warm up their bodies, and it definitely works.)  And since we have our own internal mechanisms that can add to the heat, she suggested that we stop bitching and do our yoga.  Very funny.

As for the yoga, yesterday I felt hot and a bit weak, but more flexible than usual.  So I did well in the poses that emphasize stretching, but had what seemed like a weak back strengthening series, awkward pose, triangle, etc...  Balancing was mediocre.  Nothing really stood out.

This morning, it was quite the opposite.  I felt really strong, and did great in the strength poses.  But I wasn't very flexible at all, I think because of the lack of heat (it finally got up to about 100 or 101), and because that led to less of a warm up.  Balancing was very good today.  I only made it completely through one part each of Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow.  But I came close on all the other parts.  When I fell out in Standing Head to Knee it was because I was trying at the end to lock my kicking leg.  And in Standing Bow I fall out because the stretch just starts to get too intense in the standing leg and butt.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


8:15 pm with Miranda

All day I had a kind of deep pain in my left hip socket, so I was a bit anxious about class.  I didn't feel any pain in the hip at all during class.  That made me thing that yoga had once again cured a temporary problem.  But now the pain is back.  It's not bad, but its like something deep in my hip wants to open up, and it isn't quite there.

I set up in the back tonight.  And, as always, it was harder to focus and I did not fare as well in the balancing poses.  The rest of the class went really well though, especially in the parts where I got physical corrections from Miranda.  First, she helped out in the first forward bend, and once again I came just shy of locking my knees.  Then she put all her weight on my legs during Wind Relieving.  She's done that several times, and it always feels good.  Tonight I almost got contact between knee and shoulder, and there's no way I can get nearly that deep without help.

Then the new correction came in Floor Bow.  She pushed forward and up on my ankles, driving me onto my chest and getting my feet up higher than I ever thought they would go.  It felt absolutely amazing.  Now I'm a little bit aware of some tenderness in my lower back, which might be from that, but it was definitely worth it.

On my own I had some good moments as well.  From a distance my half moon is starting to look more round.  I still think this is one of the hardest poses in the series.  I've worked hard at getting the form better, and the good form set back my apparent depth for a while.  Now I'm probably 20-30 degrees above parallel from the floor with my arms, but my elbows are locked, my knees are locked, I'm reaching pretty strongly with the hands, and I have almost no collapse in the waist on the short side.

The other pose that was good tonight was Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.  I actually locked my knee on the right side.  I might have done that once in a Zeb class during the challenge.  Then the sciatic pain killed the pose for the longest time.  Now, its stronger, at least on the right side than its ever been.  On the left side, my knee isn't bent quite so pathetically as before.  And I'm getting closer to keep my arms locked throughout the pose.

Finally, going back to last night's post.  I think the reason I was never able to understand the words in the line of that song is because they just don't make sense to me.  That made me think that maybe the same thing happens sometimes with the Bikram dialogue.  I have several times heard something new in the dialogue, even though its clear that I have heard the words many times before.  And the reason I suddenly hear it as new, I think, is because it suddenly makes sense,  perhaps because my body has reached a point where I am able to make sense out of it.  This is interesting, but shouldn't be that surprising.  It just shows a deep connection between the mind, the senses, and the body -- a connection deeper than a purely intellectual approach might suppose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

131/148 The Tropic of Sir Galahad

8:30 am with Lenette

Really good class this morning.  The heat was perfect.  It started out hard: Lenette took us through more repetitions of pranayama than usual, and its amazing how hard that breathing gets with just a few extra repetitions.

My balance was back.  I did all four sides of Standing Head to Knee without falling out.  And I held the kicked out leg the full time on two of the four.  Only did half as well on Standing Bow, but it was still an improvement on recent days.  And Balancing Stick was good, which almost never happens when the others go well.

The rest of the standing series was strong, and I ended again on Toe Stand, without any pain.  My left knee is popping alot, but it doesn't hurt at all.

In the floor series, Lenette told a strange story.  Her sister runs a studio in Idaho.  There's a student there who has been going every day for five years, at least.  She also runs, goes to the gym, and does other sports.  She has been very unforgiving of herself and very critical.  Recently, Lenette's sister has been pushing the idea that how you think during your practice has a direct effect on the practice itself.  So if you beat yourself up mentally while practicing, you actually take away the benefit of the yoga.  In line with this, she's been getting her students to focus on their thought processes as they are practicing.  With this student, during Half Tortoise, she was trying to get the woman's bunched up shoulders and back to relax, using a physical correction, while at the same time encouraging the woman to relax her body and her thoughts.  

The woman came out of the pose with a kind of light in her face.  She didn't know where she was.  She recovered from that, but after class didn't know where her purse was.  Then she denied that the purse in the corner was hers, until they showed her her wallet with her driver's license.  Then, when she didn't know which car was hers, and didn't know where she lived, they took her to the hospital.  It turned out that she got some kind of transient amnesia that the doctor's could not explain.  It gradually went away over the course of about a week.

Since that moment, her practice has jumped by leaps and bounds, as has her attitude.  She's able to accept herself now, warts and all, and isn't constantly punishing herself over her limitations.

Lenette said that this woman's epiphany (she didn't use that word) came from a sudden connection of her mind and body, that opened up some of the power of her soul.  She suddenly got access to what was always inside her, or as Lenette quoted America "Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn't, didn't already have."

I think she may be right, and the line from America is fabulous.  I also think the amnesia was another layer of denial.  It was like a temporary mental bandage, giving her time to ease into her realization.  Anyway, I think its a cool story about the power of this yoga.

And as much as I like that line from America, the next line may be the worst line from any song ever:  "And cause never was the reason for the evening, or the Tropic of Sir Galahad."  It's non-sensical, not grammatical, and it isn't even fun.  I didn't even really know what the line was, so after class I asked Lenette if she knew, and she hummed through the first line and then said "And blah, blah blah something something Sir Galahad."   Which is about what I knew.  So I looked it up on Google tonight, and realized that its so terrible that I've probably been blocking it out of my mind so I wouldn't have to think about it.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Sunday 2:30 with Miranda
Monday 10:30 with Miranda

After doing so well in Standing Head to Knee, my balance was really off in the last two classes.  Today I didn't even make it through a single set of either Standing Head to Knee or Standing Bow.  In Standing Head to Knee, I think I'm finally grabbing my foot down far enough away from the toe.  And getting the grip right has thrown off my balance some.  So progress in one area has caused a temporary setback in another.

Sunday's class was fun.  There were more than 40 people in the room and the energy was really good.  The temperature was good.  No one was sitting out, and the class basically flew by.  At this point I don't remember many of the specifics, but I felt really good, if a bit wiped out, afterwards.

Today's class was more of a challenge, maybe because of the morning.  It started off well.  I really tried to relax my upper back more in the first backbend, and it seemed to make a difference.  That's one of the poses that I haven't focused very much on, probably because I think I'm so inept at it.  And also, I have really no idea what I look like while doing it, but it doesn't feel like I'm very deep into it.  Also, that backbend almost always gives me a feeling of astonishment as I come out of it.  It's a really weird feeling that I've been getting used to, although Im not sure that that's the right word, because I still feel a bit dizzy/disoriented every time we come out of that pose.

Balancing series was not good.  I had very little balance at all, and fell out alot.  But then, Balancing Stick was good today.  I still can't figure out why I do well at Balancing Stick when I stink at the other two, and vice versa.  It's a puzzle to me.

The good news is that I tried Toe Stand again, probably for the first time in about a month.  I got down onto my heel on both sides, but couldn't balance at all.  Going down on the left knee felt a bit strange, and the knee popped pretty loudly toward the end.  But it didn't hurt, and I haven't felt any ill effects afterwards.  Bikram's book says that this pose really strengthens the knees, so I'd like to continue trying it, provided I don't make my left knee any worse.

In the floor series I'm starting to feel some new things.  In Locust, the last couple of days, I'm getting a cramp under my left shoulder blade.  This probably means that I'm finally working my upper back, so to that extent its a good sign.  But I could do without the cramping.   Then in Floor Bow, I've started trying to kick more, and this has caused some cramping in my left calf.  I'm not sure what this means.  And I'm getting cramps in my feet during Fixed Firm, and setting up for Camel.  Maybe I need more potassium.  I'll give that a shot (Banana time), and see if the cramps are from exertion, lack of electrolytes, or a combination.

One thing I love to see is how much our teachers care about teaching.  Yesterday, Miranda was trying to come up with an easy way to show people where to focus their eyes in Toe Stand.  It's not a big deal, but it shows that she really cares about people's form.  And then today, Lenette took Miranda's 8:30 am class, and was giving her some advice and praise after the class.   Seeing them help each other out left me with a very warm feeling.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


2:30 pm with Miranda

I took yesterday off.  I'm following a similar rule to what I do in Final Savasana.  In Final Savasana, as long as I feel like I need to get out of the room, I stay.  I can only leave when I'm comfortable staying.  Two days ago, I didn't really feel like going to class, so I went.  Yesterday, however, I would have been fine either way, so it was OK to take off the day.

Class was really good today.  I started off well in Pranayama.  I've been doing this harder than usual recently, and really feeling a stretch in my ribcage.  I don't often get the dizzy feeling they talk about, but sometimes I feel like I might be on the verge of it.

The breakthrough, of sorts, came in Standing Head to Knee.  I made it through all four sides of the posture without falling out.  The first three parts were really strong, especially kicking out the right leg.  On the left side kick out, I could only hold the kickout for about half the time, but managed to keep my balance and my standing leg locked, while retreating into the first position.  And in the last part, the retreat was comical.  I almost lost my balance, and bent my leg sort of sideways to keep myself up, then managed to pull it back together out of sheer determination.  So it wasn't pretty, but it's still a first.

Then, of course, Standing Bow was almost a complete bust.  Actually it wasn't that bad, but I fell out of each part about 5 seconds before Miranda called change.  And in one part, I was much worse than that, falling out a couple of times.  But I guess that's what I get for congratulating myself so much over Standing Head to Knee.

Triangle was also really good today.  Miranda came and put my stretching up arm into the proper position, and it made the tension/pain of the stretch just a bit more exquisite.  As much as this pose hurts (and its the set-up that hurts me much more than the pose itself), it has come to be one of my favorite poses.  More than any other pose, this one feels both like I'm working really, really hard and also like I could hold it for a very long time if necessary.  You can't really hold the other ones that work you so hard:  Balancing Stick, Locust, Full Locust, second part of Awkward.  Well, maybe some folks could and I'm beginning to see how it could be possible in Awkward, but the others are way too intense right now for me to think about holding them for minutes.

Fixed Firm took a step back.  My knee was feeling a bit worse today, and it was cracking alot in a new way.  So I couldn't get as deep as I have been, but its not a major setback and I don't feel like I've re-injured anything.

In the final stretching poses, Miranda came by and started to pull my heels forward a bit.  Afterward, for a few moments, I felt like I had been on a rack.  She obviously knew where to stop because nothing got hurt.  But the stretch was amazing.  I'm probably supposed to remember the feeling and try to get to it on my own, but I don't know if I can do that.  In India, Yoga is a one on one experience between a guru and his (almost always his) student.  I sometimes wonder how different that sort of experience would be, and how much faster, if at all, the progress would be.  Someday, I'm going to take a private lesson, or share one, to see what the individualized attention for a full class would be like.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

128/142 Back on Track

8:15 pm with Amy

This past week, and even today, I have been a little less enthusiastic than usual about going to class.  Today, I was 50/50 on whether to go at all.  And then class just raced by, and was really satisfying.   Even though I wouldn't say that I exactly rocked any of the poses, the practice as a whole just felt great.  The trouble is that I'm now so energized that I may be looking at another 3am bedtime.

Some parts were clearly not so good.  I couldn't hold balance in any of the Standing Head to Knee sets.  On the good side, when I am kicking out, I'm doing it pretty well, with a very solid standing leg.  Standing Bow was really great in one set, with almost perfect concentration.  But otherwise mediocre.  And Balancing Stick was just a struggle.  I was hopping around again.

Then the good stuff really started.  I almost grabbed my heels in Standing Separate Leg Forehead to Floor.  That's pretty huge for me, and I could feel my hips lifting as I rolled the weight forward.  Then Triangle was really strong with a good stretch across my chest.  It even earned a "beautiful" from Amy.  And I finished off the whole standing series just as strongly, with good stamina.

Floor series was pretty similar.  Back Strengthening, which has been so good recently, was middling at best.  The best I can say is that I really was trying hard in it, so that's fine.  Fixed Firm was better than its been in a while.  In second set, I was legitimately back on my elbows, with my feet pointed straight back, and my hips on the floor.  Half Tortoise felt really great, with a huge stretch in my shoulders.  And Rabbit is back to where it was a couple of weeks ago -- I'm feeling the stretch deep into the lower back again.

But the best thing was just how quickly the class flew by.  Basically, it felt like we started, were in Triangle, then in Locust and then we were done.  The energy in the room was great, and I was in one of those zones where time just doesn't seem to exist.  That happens so rarely, and when it does, it almost always goes together with a great experience.  And tonight was the same.  The other times when I've had the same type of experience come either when playing music and being really involved in it so that everything else just seems to vanish, or from time to time when I was a kid playing basketball and the team was just totally clicking together.  And now in yoga...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


10:30 am with Lenette

I always enjoy Lenette's class.  Besides the fact that she was my first teacher, that she gave me the advice that cured my sciatica and then my knee, her classes always have a really nice balance of information, humor and motivation.  Today was no different, and it made for a very enjoyable class.

Balancing series was pretty good today.  I made it through 2 of the 4 parts in both Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow.  The locking of my knee seems to be getting better and better.  I had a really good stretch going in Standing Bow, which I can really feel on the back of my standing leg.  And it just feels so good to actually be able to hold that pose.  

Balancing Stick was not quite so good.  I was hopping around a bit in the first set, which I almost never do.  I generally either get into the pose or fall out, but not hop.  On the plus side, I'm doing better at keeping my arms locked, and I can really feel it in my shoulders.

Lenette said I'm making real progress in Fixed Firm.  She said my foot alignment is much better than it used to be, and that as a result my ankles and tops of my feet are almost flat on the ground now.  It was really good to know that I'm on the right track here.

My knee has regressed slightly from jumping around with the dogs.  It's not a big deal, but a couple of days ago I felt absolutely great, and now I need to pay some attention to what I'm doing with it.  It's still way better than it was just two weeks ago, and a few more days of practice should work wonders.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

126/140 Obama Wins

9:30 am with Connease

I don't have any political comments, but I'm typing this while listening to Obama's acceptance speech.  It's a pretty remarkable, and memorable, moment.

I took two days off in a row.  The first was deliberate; the second less so.  I felt really good both days, and yesterday I was bouncing around with the dogs, doing some jumping and hopping that I haven't done in months.  This morning, I felt a little popping in my knees, which means I might have pushed it just a little too hard.

Class was brutal.  It started at 98 degrees and 60% humidity, which wasn't so bad.  But it kept getting hotter and hotter.  By the end of standing series, it was 105 degrees and 50% humidity.  It was bad enough that I sneaked a peek.  And at the end of class it was 109 degrees and 41% humidity.  It was easily the hottest class I can remember.  The Zeb classes that I thought were crushing ended up at about 107 and 41%.

It's not that surprising that my stamina suffered --- a lot.  It was surprising, however, that I came out of the first forward bend a bit dizzy.  I was already gasping by the end of Awkward pose.  I thought about sitting out some of Eagle, because I was on the borderline with my breathing.  Then I finally lost it in the middle of Triangle, and ended up sitting out one set of Triangle, one set of Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, and then one set of the Final Stretch.  And on top of that, I bailed out early on the third part of Locust, and in the first half of Rabbit.

After class, I was drained like I haven't been in a fairly long time.  And later in the afternoon, I had a slight headache, probably from dehydration.  When class is this hard, its difficult for me to evaluate individual poses.

I got a good correction in Fixed Firm.  Connease suggested that I spread my knees some to get my feet even straighter behind me.  That, she said, would ease up the torque on my knees some.  This is a point that I have often wondered about.  I know its preferable to have your knees together, but also acceptable to spread them if necessary.  The "if necessary" was the questionable part -- because it always seemed to me that it was never necessary.  Now I think I understand the necessity, which is a matter of alignment more than depth in the stretch.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


9:30 am with Amy

A good tough class today.  The high point was Standing Head to Knee.  I made it through three of the four rounds without falling out, and almost made it through the fourth.  And I wasn't holding back on the kicking out either.  Then, to even things out, I fell out a bunch in Standing Bow.  But still, its showing progress.

The rest of class was pretty standard.  I was pushed just to the limit by the end of standing series, but still managed to hold it together and make it all the way through.  My knee felt really good, and I was tempted to try Toe Stand, but decided to hold off.  

The floor series zoomed by.  The temperature seemed perfect (and afterward Amy confirmed that it was perfect Bikram weather: 105 degrees and 40% humidity).  I was pretty well honed in to just listening to the dialogue and following along, without looking forward to anything or having my mind race around.  It's amazing how fast the class can seem to go, and how good it feels, when you can just keep your mind with your body. 

And the great feeling lasted the rest of the day.  My knee isn't bothering me at all.  In several places, I have that slight soreness that is so satisfying because instead of hurting, it just makes you feel connected to your body.