Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Road to 500


514 classes (15 advanced) in 500 days.


I shouldn’t even be here. By all accounts I should have been gone a long time ago, broken, dead, jail, you name it. Anywhere but here, and I certainly shouldn’t have recently completed 500 Bikram classes in 484 days. But I am here and I did my 500th class a few weeks ago despite a million reasons why it was impossible.

Long before I ever walked into the Green Valley studio for the first time my journey in this life could have come to an abrupt end. Falling off a cliff, capsizing in a boat, suffering severe burns on my arm, nearly being shot and having guns pointed at my head – all before turning 18. Yet I did survive.

Years later my body starting slowly falling apart, resulting in two dire situations that came to a head slightly before I started Bikram. The first was a situation with my adrenal glands whereby they had almost shut down completely. This led to all kinds of physical problems and a severe lack of energy. The second problem was my back, which had become more and more painful. When I walked into my very first class it was painful to even sit down and I couldn’t do much of anything with the postures. After these problems came up a friend of mine who had been trying to get me to come to Bikram practically dragged me into the studio. I’ve never looked back.

I give you this background not to sound impressive, after all there are people with way more impressive stories about how Bikram saved their life. Rather I’m describing the above to give you a better understanding of why I dedicate so much time to this yoga. I’m grateful every day that I even have the opportunity to come to class, to work on my postures, to improve myself. I don’t take it for granted for one second. I’m not going back to being in pain and having a hard time just getting through the day. I appreciate the fact that I can even do the postures. In the beginning I could barely do anything and in a little more than a year I ended up competing!

There is no turning back for me, and while I’m proud of my 500th class, it’s only the first few steps of this journey.

Greg

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back Bending Bliss

497 classes (14 advanced) in 480 days.

“Drop your head back. You’re back is going to hurt like hell!” Words I hear every day in class. When I first started, backbends were high on my list of least favorite postures, which of course means that I really needed them. I still need them, but at least I enjoy them more these days.

A while ago I started doing “wall walking” which I blogged about previously, then of course I entered a whole new realm of back bending when I started doing advanced. There is no shortage of great postures to back bend and work your back. Recently I was able to do back bending to the floor, which we do in advanced. It’s basically like the back bend from the normal class except your feet and legs are apart and you bend back backwards until you land on your hands on the floor. It’s absolutely terrifying at first but with a little practice it gets easier and you get over your fear. Then you get the benefits, which are your back feeling good and also a massive head rush which makes you feel fantastic. The first time I did the back bend to the floor I was hooked. It’s addicting actually.

So here’s to more and more back bending bliss!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Addicted to Advanced

488 classes (13 advanced) in 472 days.

Well, I figured this would happen eventually. I’ve been doing advanced class once a week almost every week since August. This is of course in addition to the normal class I take every day. I take advanced on Sundays, as that’s the only class I can make due to my work schedule. This past Sunday unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it. I had a little eye infection which would have made advanced nearly impossible. Anyways, my eye is ok now, but yesterday my body felt awful all day, sluggish, muscles tight, etc. As if that wasn’t bad enough, class last night was pretty terrible by my standards. I was out of it, felt really stiff and had a (relatively) hard time.

As this was happening in class last night I kept thinking, “What is going on?!”, but then I realized the problem – I didn’t take advanced on Sunday. You know how you get to a point where your body is addicted to the normal class? Apparently the same thing has now happened to me with advanced. My body now expects it every Sunday and if it doesn’t happen, you get the results from yesterday. You would think that the “rest” from not doing advanced would be a relief to my body, but it’s quite the opposite. It throws it off, gets me off my rhythm.

I know from talking to many people that everyone is different when it comes to taking a day off or not. Some people really benefit from taking regular days off, whereas I don’t. It’s the main reason for my “streak” of classes, it just doesn’t feel good when I take days off, and now that’s spilled over into advanced! There are certainly far worse things to be addicted to, so I guess I can’t complain too much.

Greg

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Funny from Vancouver

473 classes (12 advanced) in 458 days.

I had to post this. Full credit to Bikram Yoga Vancouver, www.bikramyogavancouver.com.

"We still know, according to Cosmopolitan and Men's Health magazines, that one of the best places to meet your soul mate is where you work out. Single? Then let's review some of the benefits of dating one of your fellow Bikram Yogis:

1. If they can handle a Bikram Yoga class, you know they can handle any adversity. Strong spine, strong character.
2. They can help you locate the nearest healthy hot spots.
3. They are a very cheap date!
4. They perform well with minimal clothing.
5. They know how to work under hard conditions.
6. You only have to clap twice to turn them on.
7. They have excellent flexibility and stamina.
8. They like it really, really, really hot. (They don't mind a little sweat.)
9. They will bend over backwards for you.
10. Just when you think it's over and you're about to light the cigarette (ick! stop that!), s/he says "second set!"

We thought it would only be fair to include both sides of the coin. So you might want to stray elsewhere after reading some of these:

10 Reasons Not to Date a Bikram Yogi!

1. They get aggro if they can't see themselves in the mirror.
2. They do yoga all the time, even on vacation.
3. You will always be second to their water bottle.
4. Every problem you have they will assume can be fixed by yoga.
5. They’ll never lose another game of twister.
6. They like to take themselves to the edge. Homebodies beware.
7. They need to go to bed early.
8. They will always put Bikram's words before yours!
9. Their idea of a romantic dinner is half a Japanese ham sandwich.
10. They constantly mumble beneath their breath "kill yourself!"

Namaste,

Bikram Yoga Vancouver"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Look up Towards the Ceiling

467 classes (11 advanced) in 453 days.

"Look up towards the ceiling", "Eyes focused on your own eyes in the mirror", "Throat choked, eyes open, breathing normal." Just a few of the times in the dialogue when "look" or "eyes" are mentioned. I never thought much of this, it's just part of the dialogue, right?

I often got annoyed during the spine strengthening series about the dialogue to look up towards the ceiling, there's so much going on, why do I have to worry about my eyes? Well it turns out there's some benefits to all of those instructions about the eyes.

I recently went to the eye doctor for the first time since I started Bikram yoga about a year and a half ago. I was just getting a normal check-up and prescription updated. During the examination the doctor got quite confused at one point and finally told me that my astigmatism improved.
He said that kind of thing just didn't happen. He had to change my prescription to fit the improvement. Of course, I immediately thought of the dialogue and all the times we are told to do things with our eyes. Those little details matter and in this case, produced a very noticeable improvement in my body.

Greg

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yoga as a Competitive Sport


452 classes (10 advanced) in 439 days.

As many of you may know, it is a goal of Bikram and his wife to get yoga into the Olympics as an official sport at some point down the road. This would of course greatly increase the visibility of Hatha Yoga in general and Bikram Yoga in particular. It would also make it possible to get Bikram Yoga being taught in schools because it would be considered an official sport, which would be absolutely fantastic. There are a few points which I believe would greatly facilitate this and make it happen much sooner.

The first point is there needs to be a clear distinction between Bikram Yoga as a form of exercise/healing/meditation and Bikram Yoga as a competitive sport. This can be quite a difficult task, as practically no one considers yoga as a competitive sport, including many people who practice it. Some people even have large objections to yoga competitions in general. I’m not going to get into those arguments here other than to say that promoting yoga as a sport would introduce more people to yoga than practically anything else.

Making the distinction between the practice of yoga for its many benefits and yoga as a competitive sport really isn’t that difficult. Almost every competitive sport you see is also done by people just for fun, or for health benefits. There are far more people that run or jog for fun and health reasons than run in competitive marathons. The same goes for anything you see in the Olympics, ice skating, skiing, basketball, whatever. Just because some people compete in those sports doesn’t mean the sports don’t have their own intrinsic benefits to anyone who wants to participate.

The second point is that in order to promote yoga as a sport, it needs to be covered in the media as a sport. This is almost entirely non-existent as far as I can tell. I scour the internet often for media on Bikram Yoga and it’s always covered as some sort of human interest or health story. This is fine, except even yoga competitions in different areas get covered as some sort of cute and quirky activity and not as a sport. There is an excellent website called usayoga.org which does provide data on the different regional competitions in the U.S., but the media coverage really needs to be expanded to the sports world.

Look, in addition to the “main” sports in this country, ESPN covers things such as fishing, bowling and poker. I think we can fit in yoga competitions somewhere in the sports media if these other activities get coverage. I’m not suggesting ESPN starts covering regional yoga competitions, at least right away, but local sports media should absolutely be informed when a yoga competition is going on, not to mention maybe some other websites dedicated to competitions (I already have some of my own ideas for this).

One more thing, if any of these media types balk and scoff at the idea of covering the yoga competitions as a sport, just bring them to the hot room for a class:)

Greg

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Minutes


442 classes (10 advanced) in 429 days.

Three minutes – that’s how long the routines are for the yoga competition. As discussed earlier, you do seven postures, five compulsory and two optional generally taken from the advanced series. The five compulsory postures are Standing Head to Knee, Standing Bow, Bow, Rabbit and Stretching. You do these seven postures in a routine that has to be three minutes or less. This weekend we had the Nevada Regional Championships and I got to experience the longest three minutes of my life. Not even three minutes actually, I was a little under that. To end the suspense, no I didn’t win. Both the men’s and women’s winners were from Reno, and they were excellent. Second and Third went to people from Vegas, who were also awesome.

But back to the three minutes – I can assure you there is quite a difference doing postures in class in a nice hot room and doing postures outdoors on a stage in front of a bunch of people. We’re one of the only places I know of that holds the competition outdoors. We’re able to do it, because of the climate, but it was “only” about 75-80 degrees when we went on. While I was up there doing my routine, I got to hear traffic going by, a cell phone (turn off your phones!!), some kid screaming, and oh yeah, a big gust of wind while I was in Standing Head to Knee! I held Standing Head to Knee fine, but that wind freaked me out for a second there.

I knew I would be nervous, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was quite calm when I walked on stage which was a nice. The big surprise for me was how I felt when I finished my routine and walked off stage – utterly euphoric. Hard to explain, but it was one of the best feelings of my life. It hit me at that exact point what I had actually accomplished. Countless hours of practice, doing advanced class, practicing my routine, etc. I saw various people waffle about competing and then drop out. Most people won’t even consider competing, but I stuck it out and in the end it was absolutely worth it. My practice is so much better because I trained for competition and I got to train with some absolutely wonderful people who went through the same things as I did. You get to know people pretty well when you spend lots of time in the hot room together!

The picture above is of me practicing my routine at my studio.

Thanks to my studio Green Valley, all my coaches (especially Sheri), all my fellow competitors (special shout out to Melissa who I think came to every single coaching session) and everyone who encouraged me along the way. And yes, I’ll be back next year, already working on my routine…

Greg

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Never Too Hot

432 classes (9 advanced) in 418 days.

These are some actual conversations I’ve had:
Friend: “Was she hot?”
Me: “Not really, 106/35, I was really sore the next day.”
Another one:
Friend: “How was she?”
Me:”Smokin’, 114/45, thought I was going to die!”

I have conversations like this all the time, and they’re not some strange rating system for women, but of course discussions about the yoga room and how hot (or not) it is. This is most obvious talking point when asking how somebody’s class was. Word spreads fast about a particularly cold or hot class, and all of the regulars know who the “hot” and “cold” teachers are. I know many people that specifically take or avoid certain teachers because they are either too hot or too cold for them.

As gone over in previous blog postings, I prefer hotter classes, and I have a very hard time with a few “cold” classes in a row. I have all kinds of muscles that get sore if I don’t get hot classes in. As much as some people think I’m a “heat freak”, there are people that make me look like I’m downright arctic. These other people wear long sleeved shirts, sit next to the humidifiers and set up under heating ducts. They don’t want to have anything to do with cold classes!

It’s interesting to observe the conflicts between the “hot people” and the “cold people”. Our studio owner hears from both sides, and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the complaints. I want the studio to be hotter, but it’s definitely better than other studios I’ve been to. I don’t hesitate to point out classes I think are too cold. I figure there are a lot more people that complain when things are too hot, so I try to balance it out by pointing out when the room is too cold.

My love for heat spills outside of the yoga room too. At work, I drive the people next to me nuts because I control the A/C and heat (hehe) and I like it much warmer than they do. They’ll come and complain to me that it’s too hot, and I’ll just say, “But it’s only 85 in here!”. They’re not amused.

Greg

Monday, September 27, 2010

Training for Competition

424 classes (8 advanced) in 411 days.

The Nevada competition is fast approaching, and is now less than three weeks away. For over a month now, I've been training for this, along with the various other competitors. Of course, we've had a few people drop out over the past month, but we still have a decent group of people getting ready to compete.

For those unfamiliar with competition, you have three minutes to do seven postures. Five compulsory postures and two optional ones. The five compulsory postures are Standing Head to Knee, Standing Bow Pulling, Floor Bow, Rabbit and Stretching. The two optional postures are basically taken from the advanced series, and there's lots of choices.

Our training consists of various exercises to improve the postures, walk walking (great band bends), practicing each part of Standing Head to Knee, etc. And of course, practicing the routines, over and over again. It definitely takes some getting used to not doing postures in front of a mirror, since we're not going to be looking in a mirror on stage! Then we have various teachers give critiques of the postures. It's amazing to me how many details there are to every posture. You get some idea of this practicing in class all the time, but training really gives you a deeper understanding of the postures and how they're supposed to look.

And yes, I'm nervous! But it's been a fun experience so far, and my practice has certainly improved a lot, even though I'm very sore of late!

Greg

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Carpet

410 classes (6 advanced) in 398 days.

Last week, after WAY too long, my studio got some new carpet. This is of course cause for great celebration, as anyone who has practiced there understands. So Friday the studio was closed most of the day, just two early morning classes. I went to West Side to take my class Friday after work.

So Saturday before I even went to class I was warned by one of my friends about the glue smell - and she was right. Definitely had that new carpet glue smell. Luckily I'm not too sensitive to that kind of thing and the smell wasn't too bad throughout class and now it's almost completely gone. However, it was slippery, and it still is. I can just stand there with my legs apart and I'll keep sliding and sliding unless I do some work to prevent it. It's gotten slightly better over the past few days, but it's still tricky. I put one foot on my mat and towel when doing Standing Separate Leg Stretching and Triangle, otherwise I'll slide all over the place!

There's one thing the new carpet doesn't have - lines. Apparently it would take another day or two to put the lines on. This has generated quite some complaints from various students. It's funny because some people REALLY like the lines and I understand why. They are important for alignment in certain postures. If they're painted on they also can help prevent sliding around. However, I've practiced in studios without lines and I don't always use them in class. It's not a big deal to me, but I do like to use them and I understand their importance. What I don't want is for the studio to close down for two more days.

Funny how something like new carpet in the studio is exciting to me...

Greg

Monday, August 30, 2010

Long Shorts

393 classes (4 advanced) in 383 days.

Last week I had a sad reminder of why it's important to wear the correct yoga gear. When I first started out, I wore various random shorts, basketball shorts, whatever. It didn't take long for me to get some proper yoga attire, which made a big difference in my practice. One of the easiest ways to tell newer students is by what they're wearing. As students become more experienced, they start 1) wearing less clothing and 2) wearing actual yoga gear, rather than various workout clothes.

So last week I forgot to bring yoga shorts to class one day. Luckily, I had another pair of shorts with me, but unfortunately they were long basketball shorts. They came down to almost my knees. Class was a mess. I had forgotten how awful it is to try and practice with something other than yoga shorts. These shorts are heavier and collected more sweat which made things even heavier. I had to pull them up sometimes just to properly get into the postures, like Standing Head to Knee and Triangle.

The funniest part was the teacher noticed the odd attire I was wearing and the hard time I was having as a result. At one point she told me that I need to find my yoga shorts because my "mojo" was in them! How true. I think I'm a lot less likely to forget my yoga gear again!

Greg

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Personal Thermometer

382 classes (3 advanced) in 372 days.

The subject of the temperature of the room is always a hot topic (sorry for the pun!) of discussion amongst yogis. Some people like it hotter or colder, and it's really a matter of personal preference. I prefer it on the hot side as you know if you've read some of my earlier blog entries. Over time, I've developed various ways of determining if it's hot enough in the room for me. Now my opinion of whether or not it's not enough actually depends on how I feel that day. It's not so much the exact temperature and humidity readings, although that gives an idea. For example, I prefer it to be a little cooler on the weekends but during the week, I like it hotter, sometimes insanely so. So below is a list of things I use as my own personal thermometer:

1) How fast my water melts - I stick my water bottles in the freezer everyday before I go to class. They are usually a nice solid brick of ice when I start class. If it's not hot enough, they don't melt very much. If the heat is good, they melt nicely, but are still very cool when I drink them.

2) My hamstrings. A very important reason I like it hot. My hamstrings are generally a little tight, and a nice hot room loosens them up well. If the temperature is hot enough from the beginning of class, my hamstrings are fully warmed up by the time we get to Standing Head to Knee. If it's too cold, they never get fully warmed up during the class.

3) My lower back. If my lower back is stiff after the first three postures, it's too cold, that simple.

4) Sweat on my feet - On Hands to Feet pose, I obviously can see my feet up close. If there is no or very little sweat on my feet, it's too cold.

5) My towel - A great gauge of the temperature. The hotter it is, the more I sweat and obviously the more my towel is covered in sweat. You can practically weight my towel after class and the heavier it is, the hotter it was in class.

6) My right heel. I broke my right heel about 13 years ago and it never quite healed correctly. When it's cold outside it starts to hurt a bit. A few times, it's been so cold in the yoga room that it starts to hurt. This is a sure sign that it's a bad day in the room! Luckily this is a pretty rare occurance.

7) Steam. Yeah, that's right. A few times I've been in a class that's so hot and humid that I've seen steam, and the mirrors have fogged up a bit.

8) The temperature of the floor. If the room gets hot enough, the floor at my studio will actually get pretty warm. This is fairly rare, but it's happened.

9) The feel. My personal favorite and an obvious one, but it really works. After nearly 400 classes, I can feel the temperature and humidity very accurately. I usually check the temp and humidity when I first walk into the room and after class, and I'm pretty good at guessing the numbers. Sometimes I'm convinced the thermometer in the room is wrong, but that might just be how I feel that day. The teachers generally don't want the students to know the temperature and humidity, but most of them are fine with me checking because they know I'm checking for the exact opposite reason most other students are checking. I want to make sure it's hot enough, not that it's too hot!

I'd love to hear any other ways people gauge the temperature in the room.

Greg

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Anniversary!

373 classes (2 advanced) in 364 days.

Today, August 11 marks the one year anniversary of my first Bikram class. One year ago I walked into the Green Valley studio for the first time, as a total broken down mess. My back was in a lot of pain, I couldn't sit down without pain, I was on pain killers and just a wreck.

I still remember my first class, who taught it and where I was set up in the room. Oddly enough, I set up in one of the hottest parts of the room. There's a part in the back row that's near the humidifier and away from the fans and that's where I ended up! I guess that was a precursor of things to come. I remember the heat and the crazy amount of work the class was, 90 minutes seemed like 90 hours. But I also remembered the energy and the love in the room, and the way my body felt after class. I was hooked instantly.

A year ago, I was worried about getting through the day with my back and knee pain and sleeping comfortably. Now I'm worried about figuring out some of the advanced postures! What a difference a year makes...

Monday, August 2, 2010

First Advanced

364 classes (1 advanced) in 356 days.

I finally took my first ever Advanced Class yesterday. This is something I've been looking forward to for a long time. Below is a link from Dancing J (another blogger) with an excellent description of what the advanced class consists of. I suggest you check that out in addition to what I'm writing here.

http://keepitlocking.blogspot.com/2010/01/demystifying-bikrams-advanced-series.html

First off, the class is much more laid back than the beginning class. It's not a super disciplined, dialogue-driven class like the beginning class. This DOES NOT mean it's easier by any stretch of the imagination, but in some ways it's more relaxed. However... the pace is much much faster than the beginning class. There's like 84 postures (even more with certain variations) to get through so we move fast. The beginning class seems downright slow compared to advanced. There were definitely times things were moving too fast for me and I didn't really know what was going on! I'm sure this will improve over time.

Yesterday there were about twelve people in class, which is apparently a lot more than normal. Four of us were first timers, so at least I wasn't alone. The good news is the advanced class actually has a number of postures that aren't crazy impossible, so I wasn't totally left out in the cold. The speed and volume of everything is certainly overwhelming, but after class I thought about different postures and I can see how I'll be able to improve them and make progress.

Oh yeah, one little detail I haven't mentioned yet - I was dying in there! I took the beginning class right before, which turned out to be a bad idea for me. I had one of the more experienced students tell me he never takes the beginning class right beforehand. Some people do it, and they're fine, but I won't be doing that next week. I'll take an earlier class. I was SOOOO dehydrated. I had to leave the room at one point for about 15-20 minutes. I wasn't the only one. I'd say at least 7-8 people left the room at various points for a few minutes. One person left and never came back. It's funny, because just like my body had to get used to the beginning class, it's having to do the same thing now with advanced. It's like a shock to the system, but at least I know it's a good shock, and I have enough certainty in the yoga that I know it will turn out alright.

The best part is now I have a huge amount of other postures I can work on learning and improving, and that can keep me busy for quite a long time:)

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Endless Soreness

360 classes in 353 days.

It never ceases to amaze me how the body can and will continue to open up as you practice this yoga. I reached a bit of a stable point a month or two ago, where I was consistent in my postures and I felt very little soreness during or after class. I was starting to wonder when things were going to change again.

Sure enough, things started to change about a week ago. I've been spending more time after class working with teachers on postures in preparation for competing in October, and I can definitely feel it. The most noticeable thing is my right knee and other parts of my right leg. It's sore, very sore, but not painful. I've been through this enough times to know it's just more stuff opening up, not an injury or anything like that. But it's amazing how DEEP you can go in your body. It's like a bottomless pit!

One more thing, I'm doing my first advanced class on Sunday. I'm excited and scared, hope I'm alive to write a blog post about it:)

Greg

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Posture Discussion Part VI - Standing Bow


352 classes in 345 days.

The next in my series of discussions on postures:

Standing Bow Pulling:

This is without question the most maddening of the postures for me. My trouble with this posture has to do with alignment, getting two shoulders in one line, etc. I have gotten much better over the months at kicking back and straightening my leg out more, and I can balance much better than before, but I still have plenty of work to do on the alignment. I'm not too worried though, as I'll be getting plenty of individual attention on this as I prepare for competition.

At this point in the class, the heart rate really starts going. It's one of my favorite things about the posture. Even Standing Head to Knee doesn't really get my heart rate moving, but this one does. It's also at this point in the class when you start to see people really struggle. Class has been going on for about 30-35 minutes, and you can start to really feel the effects of the heat and humidity. The real challenge is to keep getting back into the posture after you've fallen out (and you will fall out). Sometimes people just don't get back in, and end up standing on their mat.

What I've found is that getting back in over and over speeds up the heart rate, and is actually very important for giving you energy for the rest of the standing series. Sitting out makes it that much harder when you get into Balancing Stick next, and especially for Triangle, which is coming up shortly.

As a side note, I happen to think this is the most beautiful of all 26 beginning postures if it's done right. For me, that's still a big "if" at this point:)

Greg

Monday, July 19, 2010

You Never Know

349 classes in 342 days.

You never know who's practicing in the room with you. Everyone has their story, and once again I was surprised by someone I see all the time. There's a woman who I've seen a lot in the room. Not every day, because she practices at different times, but I've seen her a lot.

So I was talking to her last week and I found out she's done 115 classes in a row! She's doing a 120 day challenge on her own just because she felt like it. This is someone I can relate to:) I love finding other people that are "crazy" like me (and many others who read this blog)!

Maybe I'll find some more hidden 100 day challenge people out there...

Greg

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

And So the Adventure Begins

344 classes in 337 days.

A few months ago I discussed competing next time it came around and well... the date has been announced. October 16th!! The Nevada Regional Asana Competition will be at my home studio, Green Valley. Nice home court advantage, huh? So far there are about 8 or 9 people from my studio alone that have signed up, and I already know some people from other studios in town that will compete. Not to mention we'll have some people from Reno show up too.

I've looked forward to this even since I saw my first competition last October. I'm also looking forward to starting advanced class in the next few weeks, and all of the coaching and extra work I'll get to do with my postures. Not that's totally a new thing, as I work extra all the time, but it's always nice to have a goal to work towards.

I'm nervous, excited, worried, etc as you might imagine, but I'm sure I'm going to have a lot of fun along the way...

Greg

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Traveling

336 classes in 329 days.

This past weekend I went to Southern California to see some friends over the Fourth of July weekend and I took the opportunity to check out two other studios in the area, Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Ventura:



I went to Ventura studio on Saturday morning. It's definitely smaller than the studios in Vegas. The room only holds about 25 people and it was packed. The teacher was good, not great and the room was a little cold, but not too bad. What stood out to me the most was the students had pretty good discipline, not doing weird things, walking out, etc. I think that's a good reflection of the teacher.

Santa Barbara:



Sunday morning I took class in Santa Barbara with Julianna (Dancing J)! The room was packed and it was HOT! Definitely hotter than Ventura and comparable to my classes in Vegas. Julianna was fantastic, with great dialog (as you'd expect) and great energy. The students were overall pretty good and there was good energy in the room. It was definitely a lot of fun to take a class from her. The room itself took some getting used to, as there are no windows in there and the lighting isn't very good, but I think one of the lights was burned out. But it was definitely a good class.

Back in Vegas now, but it was certainly a good experience checking out these other studios!

Greg

Monday, June 28, 2010

Some Helpful Advice

328 classes in 321 days.

A few months ago I was talking with one of my teachers (Sheri) and told her I was getting tired or wiped out on the floor series. I work pretty hard during the standing series, but then I was losing energy fast as the floor series went along.

She gave me a few pieces of advice on the floor series which I've followed ever since and which generally helps out. I'm not perfect of course, but it's a lot better. Here are the two pieces of advice she gave me:

1) Do the sit ups well. Yes, you have to exert energy to do them, but they end up giving you more energy to go into the next postures. I didn't really believe her at first, but after trying it, it does make a big difference. My sit ups don't look good at all, but I try hard and it pays off when going to the next posture.

2) TAKE YOUR FULL SAVASANAS. I put this in caps for a reason. It gets hammered home by our teachers, but the savasanas really are where the benefits happen and they re-charge you for the next postures. It's very common to see people grab some water after the posture just before savasana, or take a few extra seconds getting in to it. I used to do the same thing, and it just makes things worse. You need every second you can get. And here's the other thing - you're supposed to get 20 seconds for each savasana, but it doesn't always happen. Try counting the seconds sometime - you'll see what I mean.

Since I started following this advice, things have gone much smoother, and I'm often stronger at the end of class than the beginning, which is how it's supposed to be:)

Greg

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Family Obligations

322 classes in 315 days.

If you notice from the numbers above, I missed a few days. My grandpa died last week so I flew to Cleveland for a few days. No Bikram studios there (or anywhere in Ohio!), so I missed Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Yesterday I returned back to Vegas, and class. My plane landed at 3 PM and I took the 5 PM at Green Valley. You can tell I was in a hurry to get back! The conditions leading up to yesterday's class were the worst ever for me. I missed three days, I got four hours of sleep the night before, I had alcohol and bad food for three days, practically no electrolytes, not enough water, I was sitting on airplanes for most of the day, switched three time zones, etc.

So the class was as rough as you might think under these conditions. Happily, I didn't lose much flexibility over those days I missed, and the postures were actually fine. What did hit me was detoxing the junk and just being tired. I was exhausted after class and went home and slept for 9 hours last night!

My overall goal is still easily on track, as I've still done 7 more classes than days since I started. But I did 174 consecutive days of Bikram classes. I'm very proud of that particular streak, and it will be hard for me to top that.

Greg

Monday, June 14, 2010

Posture Discussion Part V - Standing Head to Knee


317 classes in 307 days.

Standing Head to Knee:
Without question one of my favorite postures and one that I look forward to every class. Even if the class has started rough or whatever, I always look forward to this posture.

Let's be real - this posture is hard. However, it's super beneficial and very satisfying as you make progress. When I started the yoga, I couldn't come close to doing this posture. I was able to bend down and grab my foot, but that was it. Just standing on one leg holding my foot for 30 or 60 seconds was quite difficult!

Over time, I was slowly able to go further in the posture, but it literally took months before I could kick out straight with both legs. More recently, I've been slowly getting better at getting the elbows down and the head down. I can consistently get my head down on the left leg, but not the right leg yet.

I've had more discussions and corrections on this posture than any other. Some of the important points covered are distributing the weight equally on the standing leg (and foot), kicking the heel forward (on the kicked out leg), various points on the grip, etc.

My favorite benefit from this posture is the determination and persistence I've gained more than any physical benefit. It takes A LOT of concentration to do this one and it carries over into the rest of the postures and life!

Greg

Monday, June 7, 2010

Inspiration - and Being Lazy

310 classes in 300 days.

Sunday I took Lynn Whitlow's class over at West Side. I've taken one of Lynn's classes before and I blogged about that a few months ago. She's fantastic, a senior teacher, one of the judges for the international competition, etc. I talked to her after class and she told me I had a great Toe Stand (she was quite excited about this), and she gave some good advice on my Standing Head to Knee.

What I took out of the class the most was the effect a great teacher AND a great class of students has on my practice. The class I took was a Sunday at 1 PM. For one thing, this was an odd time, as I usually take 11 AM on the weekends, plus it's a weekend class, which generally is a bit rougher than week day classes. However... this class was fantastic, with great energy all throughout the room. Lots of teachers and experienced students taking the class and all of that energy absolutely rubs off on me.

This made me think about my "usual" weekend classes, which are often less than inspired. Maybe I'm just being too complacent and lazy on the weekends normally. Or perhaps I just need to go to some classes with more energy in the room!

Greg

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Healing Injuries in Minutes

304 classes in 294 days.

Last night I went over to West Side because Michelle was teaching. She was one of my favorites over at Green Valley when she used to be there. I hadn't taken a class from her in months, so it was nice to have her again.

The room was a little cold at the start and I tweaked a muscle in my back during the first part of awkward. I went down really fast and could feel it immediately. I was worried, as this happens sometimes when the room is too cold for me.

However, a funny thing happened as the rest of the class went on. The room gradually warmed up and was quite fine by the end and I concentrated and healing my back as we went along. I attacked the postures and specifically attacked the spine strengthening series. Yeah, it hurt, but I knew I was doing the right thing. Sure enough, my back started to feel better quickly. After class it was still a little sore, and this morning it's a bit sore, but that all - just sore. Compared to how it felt when I first pulled the muscle, it's great. And I know it's better because of how I handled it during class. Maybe the lesson here (besides making sure the room is hot enough) is to get injured early in class so you still have time to fix it! Well, maybe not, but it's fun how fast you can fix something like this.

Greg

Monday, May 24, 2010

Flying Blind

296 classes in 286 days.

Over the past week I had some crazy problems with eyes. The simple explanation is a kind of hyper-alergic reaction to all of the wind, pollen, etc going on in Las Vegas recently. So on Saturday I went to my eye doctor and got some antibiotic eye drops to put in, which has definitely helped. But...no contact lens for a few days. This makes practicing a whole different game.

Practicing with my glasses just isn't an option, they would just slide off my face continually. So on Sunday I practiced with no contacts and no glasses. It ended up being much easier than I thought. Like water, eyesight is just another attachment we have in the room. Sure, I prefer to see what's going on, just like I prefer to drink water, but I can practice without it. When you can't see, you have to pay a lot more attention to your body and feel what's going on, rather than look. It gives you a different and interesting awareness to what you are doing.

Just like doing class without water, I don't prefer to be able to see during class, but at least I know I don't HAVE to see.

Greg

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Differences

292 classes in 282 days.

Last night I visited West Side studio again. This time it was because I was a little late at work, and it easier for me to go over there and take the 6 PM rather than wait around for the 7 PM at Green Valley.

Michelle (bikramyogachick) was there and one of her favorite teachers was there, Frank. It's always fun to take class from a new teacher, as I love seeing the different styles people teach with. This class was particularly interesting because there were like 10-12 new people in the class, most of them some teenagers from some local modeling agency. There was a surprising lack of yoga drama from these new people, which I found impressive.

It was also an interesting contrast between this studio and my regular studio, Green Valley. From what I've seen, West Side is great for new people and newer people. Frank was especially good with the new people, good energy, very encouraging, etc. On the other hand, Green Valley has A LOT of experienced students and teachers and I get pushed hard practically every class. This is not to say one studio is "better" than the other, just different. It's a balance that any teacher or studio has to deal with, between bringing in new people and getting them to want to continue versus catering to the more experienced students. I'm just glad I have a nice variety in Las Vegas!

Greg

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Thousand Suns

289 classes in 279 days.

Friday I went to West Side to take class because Marie was teaching. Marie is spectacular, but unfortunately isn't teaching at my studio Green Valley at the moment. I still see her now and then, but I hadn't had her class in a few months and I really missed it. Plus Michelle (bikramyogachick) was there, so that made things even better. As a note, she gave blood earlier in the day and still had a great class! I think I would have fainted in that situation.

It would be impossible for me to accurately describe how special this class was. We often talk about energy in the room, and this class made me realize that it really doesn't matter how many people are there, but rather who those people are and how in tune you are with them. Marie and I feed off each other's energy in a special way, whether she's teaching or we're taking class together. If she's in the same room as me, I have a better class. This is not to say that I depend on her or anyone else for that matter, but having that extra horsepower in the room tuned into you certainly helps.

So on Friday you can imagine how good the class was. Marie literally made corrections on every posture and made me work harder than ever before. But you know what? It was almost effortless. Oh, I worked hard, believe me, but I was out of my head the whole time. It was as if I was turbocharged for that class, and Marie was the battery. You could practically see the energy, measure it, touch it, and you could certainly feel it. It was, well, magical:)

Greg

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Posture Discussion Part IV - Eagle Pose


284 classes in 274 days.

Eagle Pose:
This is one of my favorite postures. It's the last of the "warm-up" postures before the first and only official water break and it great for working the various joints in the body. I noticed benefits quickly from this posture shortly after starting Bikram yoga. It quickly opened up my shoulders, which are fairly tight on most people, particularly guys.

Of course, the most noticeable thing to me about this posture is if you can get the leg wrapped around. This is an obvious measure of the depth of the posture, but it's not the only one. I can get my right leg around fine, and I'm almost there on the left leg. I actually can get the left leg around, but I have to sacrifice some other important things, so I currently balance things out.

The point I get corrected on the most (not very often anymore) is to stick my butt out like awkward and then lean back so I'm relatively straight. Leaning back creates a great lower back bend. This posture has a lot to it, and it's quite difficult if you do all of the parts well, arms pulled down, butt sticking out, legs wrapped around, leaning back, sitting down, etc.

I've used this posture (or part of it) as a simple demonstration to people of what Bikram yoga consists of. I showed one friend of mine just the beginning parts with the arms and his eyed practically bugged out of his head. He couldn't come close to doing it. He works out regularly too, and was quite impressed.

Next up...Standing Head to Knee

Greg

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Point of Resistance

282 classes in 272 days.

I've always thought the best way to judge your practice is when you face the most adversity. When you have a great class, of course your going to be happy with your postures and your progress. But if you really want to see how far you've come, you'll know when you have one of those classes when you feel terrible and don't even want to be there.

Sunday fit that description. As soon as we started Half-Moon, I thought "Oh no." I had NO energy and it was honestly hard to remain upright during the standing series. Luckily I wasn't nauseous or anything like that, but trust me, I wasn't looking forward to being in that room for 90 minutes, or even 9 minutes.

Somehow, I did fine, and even had some very good looking postures and went deeper than usual during some of them. Afterwards, I told the teacher how "dead" I felt and she was surprised, and said I looked great. That's a pretty nice complement considering how I felt. If I have a decent looking class when I feel awful, I can have a good one anytime!

Greg

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Posture Discussion Part III - Awkward Pose


278 classes in 268 days.

Awkward Pose:
Part I:
I look forward to this one, as I get to something other than put my arms over my head in Half-Moon! Usually I can go right into this posture smoothly, although sometimes I'm a little stiff. The interesting thing about this posture is if you do it correctly, it's as much of a backbend as anything else. The obvious part about it is working the legs and the arms, but I can get a nice stretch for the lower back on it. The most common correction I get on this posture is to "fall back" more, with teachers sometimes wildly waving their arms at me to make their point!

Part II:
I'm convinced the full expression of this posture is to levitate. No matter how high up on my toes I get, I get asked to go higher up and get my knees up! I can keep the posture pretty steady without wobbly knees.

Part III:
This is the one posture I can consistently get praise from my teachers on. I'm almost always the last person to come out of the posture and I can take a LONG time coming up, much longer than the ten count the teachers use. I had strong legs before I started Bikram yoga, due to years of basketball and running. The posture was still very hard when I started, but the leg strength helps a lot. But it's only been over the past few months that I could really take a long time coming up out of the posture. It's not something I could do from the beginning.

Next up...Eagle.

Greg

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It Was Bound to Happen Eventually...

275 classes in 265 days.

I'll get back to the posture discussions soon, but I had to share my, uh, milestone event Saturday. I guess after 275 classes something like this had to happen. After my 11 AM class on Saturday, I got a little sick. Ok, A LOT sick. I'll spare you the details but you can figure it out. I am proud of the fact that I remained in the room the whole time, and managed to keep things under control until after class. The standing serious went well, but the floor series was ugly, and I was getting more and more nauseous and things came to a boil right after class ended.

I didn't have breakfast before class, which is unusual, plus I drank a lot of water. The room was ridiculously hot. I won't give you the specifics, but trust me, it was hot even by Green Valley standards. I think I actually OD'd on water. I didn't think that was possible, but lesson learned.

Amazingly, I returned to class this morning, because you know, I'm crazy like that. It was the first time in a long time that I've actually been scared and nervous going to class. I was smart and ate breakfast and I didn't go crazy on the water in class. I managed to get through fine, with minimal trouble. I'll be good tomorrow, going back to my normal week day routine, but I learned my lesson about eating breakfast and not going too crazy with the water!

Greg

Friday, April 30, 2010

Posture Discussion Part II - Half-Moon


272 classes in 262 days.

Half-Moon:
The first of the "warm-up" postures, and it's quite a warm-up. I've come in to class many times feeling stiff, and just doing half-moon usually takes care of it. The posture is divided into three main parts:

1)Half-Moon:
This wakes up the spine and sort of informs the body, "Ok, we're going to move the spine around now." It took me a while to get the grip right, and be able to interlock my fingers and get the palms together, but once I did, I really started to feel the benefits from the posture. Keeping my weight on my heels is generally the biggest challenge for me, and it's HARD to do that for 60 seconds.

There is a point about this posture which I always find interesting. Many people that are quite flexible and can go very deep into other postures, can't go very deep in half-moon. And the reverse is true, where I've seen people go nearly horizontal in half-moon, but not have tremendous depth in some other postures.

2)Back Bend:
This usually produces the first groans from students in the class. It's very valuable near the beginning of class, but I also like to practice it after class sometimes, once I'm more warmed up. When I started, I could barely do anything, and now I can at least look at the back wall, and I definitely can feel the stretch in the back. One of the harder parts of this posture is actually keeping my knees locked and feet solidly on the ground. I've managed to fall out of the posture backwards a few times because I couldn't keep my feel on the ground.

3)Hands to Feet:
A wonderful complement to the back bend you've just done. I've come close to locking my knees on this posture recently. I'm still not exactly close to getting my head on my feet, but I can get it on the shins. An important part of the posture is coming out correctly, with arms and head together. I see a lot of people brush this off, but I've noticed it helps the spine a lot if you keep the contact with the arms and head.

After two sets of the above, my spine is ready to go for the rest of class, no matter how stiff I was walking into the room. It also does a lot to warm up the body and get the sweat happening.

Next up...Awkward Pose.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Posture Discussion Part I - Pranayama Breathing


269 classes in 259 days.

Today I'm starting a multi-part series of blogs about the different postures. These cover my experience and opinions on the postures, rather than just a clinical technique and benefit discussion of the postures. If you want that data, check with one of your teachers. I'll discuss my personal benefits and thoughts. Hopefully, people find this interesting and/or helpful!

Pranayama Breathing:
Teachers all the time will tell us that this sets the tone for the entire class, and it's true. It's easy to get complacent on this, but when I concentrate on it, it really does help me the rest of class.

One of the first and immediate benefits I gained from Bikram Yoga were improvements in my breathing. This is not something I really thought about before. After all, breathing automatically happens in the body. How much could there be to learn about it? But honestly, I was breathing incorrectly my whole life, and so do most people. There's no good reason I know of to breathe in and out of the mouth, but I used to do that all the time, particularly while exercising. Now I have excellent control over my breath in and out of class. In class, I generally have a very steady and even pace of breath throughout the entire class, regardless of the postures I'm in, and I can't even hear myself breathe. Nor do I do dramatic exhales while coming out of postures, something my teachers refer to as, "yogasims." If you're breathing correctly, this never happens.

All of the above are made possible by Pranayama Breathing, that's why it's the very first thing we do each class. As far as improvements I've made, my lung capacity is MUCH higher than before and I can get my elbows up pretty high now. A few times my teachers have pointed out I looked bored doing it, and they're right. I know how important it is, but I do get bored! That's the thing I'm working on improving the most right now.

Next up... Half-Moon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Appreciate the Heat

265 classes in 255 days.

The past few days the heat has been messed up in my studio. This has happened before, but not this bad. It was actually around 80 (!!!) degrees at the beginning of class last night. Also, there was a guy trying to fix it, so at one point, COLD air was blowing out of the vents! Things did start to get better as the class went on, and apparently, the heat was mostly fixed by the end of class. At least warm air was blowing out.

When teachers tell you that the heat is your friend, they're not kidding. Although I have to say that practicing in cold temperatures is a good a way to judge your practice. If you can still do Ok in non-optimum conditions, it's a good sign. But that doesn't mean I want to practice that way everyday...

Greg

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Teacher Balance

263 classes in 253 days.

Been away from the blog for a few days, but not away from my studio. Teacher training started here in Vegas a few days ago, which is very exciting. It was here this past fall as well. I'm sure I'll make it over to the big tent at the Hilton a few times to take class with everyone.

The start of teacher training, along with other recent events, made me think of some other points about teachers which I haven't mentioned. I have discussed qualities I like about teachers earlier, but there are a few other points I wanted to mention.

I've noticed more and more the variety of teaching styles that exist. There are teachers more suited for "hard core" students, that give very good critiques, know their postures backwards and forwards, and are ruthless. Then there are teachers that are a little calmer and/or very good with new students. You have teachers with different backgrounds as far as their own health and bodies and practice.

The best teachers can balance these different qualities and deal with veterans as well as new students well. And a good studio will have a nice variety of different types of teachers. My studio is a bit lacking in this currently. Many of the teachers that were great with new students have moved on to other studios or whatever. This doesn't matter for me so much, but it's definitely a different atmosphere now.

Sure, what we do is hard and tough and precision is vital, but ultimately it should be enjoyable! The teachers are a vital element to that.

Greg

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crazy Food

257 classes in 247 days.

Check out this very funny article about foods NOT to eat before doing a Bikram class. Other than the Indian food (#4) I wouldn't eat any of this stuff EVER, let alone right before a class!

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2010/03/5_worst_foods_to_eat_right_bef.php

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Studio Owner!

Check out the below link. It's a blog from a fellow yogi and this entry talks about our studio owner!

http://lasvegaswriter.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/a-woman-before-dawn/

Greg

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The End is the Beginning

254 classes in 244 days.
107 classes in 101 days in the 101 challenge.

I finished! Congratulations to everyone else who completed as well! I did it the old fashioned way too, doing a class (and sometimes two) every day for 101 days in a row. In fact, it's even longer if you go back before January 1st. The last day I didn't go to class was Christmas Day. In case you're wondering, I'm celebrating by going to class tomorrow. There is a day off in my future, but probably not until May.

It's really hard to pinpoint big changes during the 101 challenge because as regular readers of my blog know, I've been doing this pretty much everyday since I started last August. Yes, obviously I've made improvements in my postures and I've had nice internal and external changes, but it just makes me realize how much more there is to gain. 101 days isn't really very long when you look at it in the context of entire lifetime. Think how many years I spent messing up my body! It's not going to be reversed in a mere 101 days.

Interestingly enough, the last three days were very rough classes for me, but somehow that seems appropriate at the end of the challenge:) A good reminder that the end of this challenge isn't really an end, it's just a marker on the larger journey ahead...

Greg

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The 162 Day Challenge

251 classes in 241 days.
104 classes in 98 days in the 101 challenge.

A new challenge has begun, just a few days ago. It's a special challenge that happens once a year, starts in the Spring and ends in the fall. It involves the following:

- 162 days of dedication, day in and day out.

- Lots of time spent in a really hot environment.

- Intense focus each and every day.

- Perfection is the goal, but rarely attained.

- More mental toughness than physical toughness is required to make it through.

- Attention to detail is a must for success.

- You don't have to be super athletic to be successful, but you have to care and focus to get real benefits from it.

- There are definite rules of etiquette which should be followed to make everyone happy.

Oh, did you think I was talking about another Bikram Yoga challenge? Nah, I'm talking about baseball. The season started a few days ago, and Opening Day happened to coincide with my 101st class in the 101 challenge. Baseball is actually very similar to Bikram Yoga for all of the reasons listed above. Anyone who thinks baseball is easy mentally or physically has never tried it much. Playing the game for three hours every day may look easy, but it takes a lot of mental and physical strength to do it, just like Bikram Yoga.

Greg

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Eyebrows

249 classes in 239 days.
102 classes in 96 days.

I received my strangest correction ever yesterday. During the third part of awkward pose, I was coming up, when the teacher told me to... lower my eyebrow! I'm not even sure which one she was referring to, since I just started laughing. So did the rest of the class! I guess she was right, I have no idea. I apparently corrected it and didn't do it second set, but this is the funniest and most unusual correction I've ever received.

Greg

Monday, April 5, 2010

Completion?

247 classes in 237 days.
100 classes in 94 days in the 101 challenge.

You can see from the numbers above that I'm at 100. So tonight will be 101 for me. The real question is will I be done with the 101 challenge after tonight? I know this is a contentious point amongst various people. Is a 30 day challenge 30 classes in a row, or just 30 classes in 30 days? At my studio, it's just 30 classes in 30 days.

Regardless, I'll be there Tuesday for 102, but I'm curious if people think getting to 101 in 95 days completes the challenge or not...

Greg

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another Challenge?!

243 classes in 233 days.
96 classes in 90 days in the 101 challenge.

I'm five classes away from hitting 101 and 11 days away from doing 101 classes in consecutive days in the challenge (which is what I wanted to do). So I'm thinking that I would take a day off somewhere after the 101 days, but then... My studio is starting a 30 day challenge today (April 1). It's not like I can turn this down! Plus I worked out with the studio owner to get a t-shirt when I finish! I can't pass up a free t-shirt, I've been asking for one for the last few challenges!

So it looks like I'll be continuing a little longer after the 101 is up. Not like I was going to stop anyways, but no day off until at least May!

Greg

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Allergies!

241 classes in 231 days.
94 classes in 88 days in the 101 challenge.

Well I had another topic I wanted to cover, but I was again derailed by some physical problems. It's been extremely windy in Vegas the past few weeks, which is normal for Spring, and it's kind of causing some problems for me. Congestion, coughing and recently my eyes have been extremely irritated. This makes some of the postures in class even crazier. You know, "Eyes open, throat choked, breathing normal." Pretty tricky when you're eyes and nose are already messed up!

Plus last night's class was an insane level of humidity that made me feel like I was in Alabama in August. And... I have someone that wants me to do a double on Wednesday. Oh boy...

Greg

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Perfect Answer

237 classes in 227 days.
90 classes in 84 days in the 101 challenge.

A few days ago in class there was a woman who was having some knee issues. She had a lot of knee pain recently and was talking to the teacher about this before class. During the class, the teacher would ask her a few times how her knee felt during some postures and the girl would answer.

When we got to Standing Separate Leg Head To Knee Pose, the teacher again asked her how her knee was doing, to which she replied, "I don't know! I can't think!" The teacher then said, "Good answer." I laughed. It wasn't a good answer, it was the perfect answer. It means she's doing the class correctly, and the teacher's doing a great job. If you're too preoccupied with the postures to worry about physical difficulties, that's a good thing, and it's a credit to both the student and teacher.

Greg

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guest Posting on the 101 blog

235 classes in 225 days.
88 classes in 82 days in the 101 challenge.

I did a guest post today on the 101 challenge blog, so go over there and check it out! Still getting over my illness. It's been about a week since I've been able to breathe properly in class, which is very annoying, but it's slowly getting better.

Greg

Monday, March 22, 2010

In With the New

233 classes in 223 days.
86 classes in 80 days in the 101 challenge.

Ok, so this is the post I wanted to write last week, but was derailed because I was sick.

Last week, we had a wonderful new studio open up in Las Vegas, it's called West Side. So we're now back to three studios in the city. A number of the teachers from Green Valley are over there, so I was asked to come by during the first week. They had a great promotion going where all classes were free during the first week, so I went to two classes, one on Sunday (the opening day of the studio) and Tuesday. Both of them taught by Marie, one of my favorites.

After the Sunday class, I said to Marie, "It's definitely not like Green Valley. We've been really well trained over there." Like most studios I imagine, Green Valley has a nice core of regulars. They're not all crazy like me and come everyday (but there are others like me), but it's a solid group of people that practice regularly. It's not so much that we practice a lot, but anyone who practices at my studio regularly has a very key trait - discipline.

At the new studio, there were more people leaving the room and coming back than I can remember. Not to mention the water discipline and talking that was going on. I can go a few WEEKS at Green Valley without seeing anyone leave the room, even brand new people. At one point in my class Tuesday, the entire room was sitting out a posture except for the three people in the front row (including myself). And yes, all three of us in the front were Green Valley students. In case you're wondering, not all of these students at the new studio were brand new. A lot of them were from the previous studio in town which no longer exists as a Bikram Yoga studio.

I realized a few things from this experience. One, it definitely takes hard work and persistence from the teachers to instill the necessary discipline in students to get the full benefit from the practice. These various "rules" are just there to help us get the best out of our practice. They're not arbitrary or meant to punish anyone. Second, it makes me care even more about my own discipline in class, because it became really obvious to me how much harder it can be to practice in a room where people are talking, wandering around, etc. So by having a good practice myself, it makes things easier for everyone else around me. In fact, I've even been asked to come over there sometimes just because I set a good example for others.

The teachers at the new studio are great, so I'm sure they'll slowly but surely turn these students into people with a great practice, and it should be a lot of fun along the way.

Greg

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rebuilding

230 classes in 220 days.
83 classes in 77 days in the 101 challenge.

After a few very tough days, my illness seems to be going away. Of course, I kept going to class throughout, which definitely helped. It's funny, but because I practice everyday, I just feel that any physical situation that comes up, whether it's soreness or a cold, is brought about by my practice. Most importantly, not only are these things brought about by my practice, the yoga handles it all too. It's like peeling the layers of an onion, or as I described in an earlier blog, like digging in the dirt. As you dig, you hit some rocks, but you're still making progress.

This is a benefit of practicing everyday. I know my body is constantly changing, and if bad things come up, it doesn't take too long for it to go away. It's all part of the process of re-building the body.

Greg

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sick Again

228 classes in 218 days.
81 classes in 75 days in the 101 challenge.

Well I was going to write something more interesting today, but that's been derailed by getting sick again. Yesterday I left work early and took the 4 PM at our new studio in town (West Side). I just work up a few hours ago today and I'll go slog through the 5 PM at Green Valley tonight. Getting sick again is annoying, but I think there's some deeper detox going on, which is ultimately a good thing. Hopefully I feel better tomorrow...

Greg

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Fun Yoga Weekend

226 classes in 216 days
79 classes in 73 days in the 101 challenge.

Had a whole lot of yoga over the weekend, starting on Thursday. I did a back to back double on Thursday night and then another back to back double on Friday night. This is my first time I've done back to back doubles on consecutive days. I was quite dead after the second double on Friday night. I slept for about 9 hours after that, which is rare for me. Amazingly, the Saturday morning class the next day went well, and so did the Sunday morning class. I thought I would be wiped out, but I was pleasantly surprised. So to re-cap, the following were the first time for me:

Doubles on two two consecutive days.
Back to back doubles on a Friday.
3 classes in 24 hours (Friday 5 PM, 7 PM and Saturday 11 AM).
5 classes in less than 48 hours.

Then on Saturday night Green Valley had a party. There was no special occasion, we just like having parties. It's always fun to see your fellow yogis wearing actual clothing. It was a lot of fun.

On Sunday morning, after much pleading by one of my favorite teachers (Marie), I went to her class at the new West Side studio. They opened up yesterday, and were formerly the Red Rock studio. They have new owners now and the classes the first week are free! So I went to the 11 AM class. It's great. You have a nice view of the mountains outside when you do backbends! This studio has "taken" a few of my favorite teachers from Green Valley, so I'm sure I'll be visiting when I can, but I'm always for more and more studios, so it's definitely a good thing!

Greg

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Nemesis

220 classes in 212 days.
73 classes in 69 days in the 101 challenge.

Everyone has postures they feel good about and even look forward to in class, and then there are those postures you dread. Of course, those are the postures our teachers tell us are the most important for us to do, because our body needs them the most. For me, those postures are the spine strengthening series. You know, those four postures where you lay on your stomach and lift up in various positions against gravity? I laugh when our teachers tell us near the end of the standing series, "We're almost on the floor!" All this means to me is "We're almost on to the postures you hate!"

From previous blogs, I mentioned that back pain is THE reason I started doing Bikram Yoga. Now, it's handled those problems well so far, and I definitely don't have pain any longer. However, my back is far from perfect. It's still sore and if I do certain things it hurts. So I obviously need the spine strengthening series!

I've gotten with some teachers recently about these postures as they were becoming increasingly frustrating. Without going into lots of detail, I did come to some sort of happy medium on what to do, so I can get some depth and still hold the posture and get benefits. For example, I can actually get fairly high up on Cobra, but I can't hold it for very long. So we worked out getting high enough to feel it and to a point where I can hold it the whole time, while also being able to push up a little bit to increase the depth. This might sound complicated, but it's simple once I figured out what to do. As a result, these four postures are now going much better. They're still tough for me, but I can feel it working the different areas of the back the whole time now.

For the next few days, I'm trying to do doubles on Thursday and Friday. We'll see if this really happens...

Greg

Monday, March 8, 2010

Weekend Reversal

217 classes in 209 days.
70 classes in 66 days in the 101 challenge.

I've discussed my weekend class problems in the past, as the Saturday and Sunday classes have always been a little rougher for me. They were downright awful when I did afternoons. I've been doing 11 AM's pretty consistently on the weekends for the past few months. It's definitely better, but still not as good as my weekday night classes.

There is one odd benefit, which showed up well this weekend. For my "normal" classes, I'm either about the same or more tired on the floor series compared to the standing series. However, on the weekends, the opposite seems to happen. I feel somewhat close to death during the standing series, and then much better on the floor series. The postures don't look magically better or anything, but I feel good. For those weekend morning classes, there are three factors I run into. One, my muscles are tighter, but then get warmed up nicely by the floor series. Two, for whatever reason, I have a harder time with the heat early on. I get used to it fast, but during the week, I'm fine with the heat right from the beginning. Three, I'm more dehydrated early on. The water I drink before class and during standing series starts to kick in around the floor series.

I'm still trying to figure out how to make these weekend classes smooth right from the beginning, but those classes make it very real to me why we're told the standing series is the warm-up for the "real yoga" in the floor series.

Greg

Friday, March 5, 2010

Four Hours

214 classes in 206 days.
67 classes in 63 days in the 101 challenge.

Another day, another double. Like most of my doubles, this was mostly unplanned. In fact, five minutes before the 7 PM I still hadn't fully decided to do it, but then I went for it. Jennifer was teaching the 7, so that greatly increases the chances of me doing a double:)

When I do these back to back doubles I end up spending about four straight hours in the studio. Four hours with no contact with the "outside world", and I never check my cell phone between classes. I just disappear from society for that time, and I love it. It's the ultimate escape. Just me and my postures and my breath. How many people get to experience four hours (or even 90 minutes) of peace in this hectic world? Well, we do, and it's great.

Greg

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No Water

211 classes in 204 days.
64 classes in 61 days in the 101 challenge.

Let me set the scene for you. On Sunday night, I managed to get 5 hours of sleep. On Monday night, I was out late, had a few beers and got five hours of sleep. So on class Tuesday I decided to do a class without water! Good timing, right?

This is the first time I've done this, and after Jennifer challenged me to do it, I finally got around to it. I didn't even plan to do so during the day. It was a spur of the moment thing. To give you a little background, no one makes a big deal about water at my studio. No one really pushes "no water" classes, but I've definitely been told to try it, so that I can see that I don't "have to have" water. Well, I certainly see that I don't need it to get through a class.

The class itself really wasn't much different than a normal class for me in terms of the postures. I did well on the standing series but I did feel a bit loopy on the floor series. I didn't sit out any postures, but I was out of it mentally on some of the floor series. Sheri was teaching and had a good time harassing me, but I made it through.

I know there are some people who argue strongly in favor of no water classes. Perhaps I would see benefits in the long run. It is nice to prove to myself that I can have a good class without it and I'm sure I'll do it again at some point.

Greg

Monday, March 1, 2010

Change in the Weather

209 classes in 202 days.
62 classes in 59 days in the 101 challenge.

Over the past few weeks, my studio has been having, uh, "issues" with the temperature and humidity in the room. I've experienced quite a variety of temperature and humidity conditions, with everything from high heat, high humidity to low heat and low humidity and everything in between. Mostly it's been high humidity with various temperatures. When I say high humidity, I'm talking 60% and up. Think rain forests or Florida swamps.

This has led to some uncomfortable classes and various complaints from students. Not to mention a lot of drama in the classes themselves and of course the drama and complaints are very annoying to the teachers. Here's the thing, it's impossible to make everyone happy. In a typical class, you'll have some people who are fine with the temperature, people who are too hot and people who are too cold, so somebody can always have complaints.

The recent fluctuations in the temperature have managed to cause one thing with me. I don't care anymore, and this is most definitely a good thing. Yes, I notice the conditions in the room, but now I just acknowledge it and move on. If my focus is good, which it usually is, then it doesn't matter at all what the room is like, and I've been improving on this a lot in recent weeks. Of course, totally crazy extremes can still throw me "off my game", but for the most part, do what you want with the temperature. The postures and breathing are what matters to me.

Greg

Friday, February 26, 2010

Exercise in America

206 classes in 199 days.
59 classes in 56 days in the 101 challenge.

The other day I was curious to see how the rest of the U.S. population compares to Bikram fanatics in terms of daily exercise. We're all aware of the rising obesity rates in this country and general lack of health and exercise, but I specifically wanted to see how many Americans actually exercised something close to what we do. I know that doing 90 minutes of exercise per day is far above the norm for Americans.

I couldn't find ANY surveys that talked about 90 minutes of exercise per day, or even 60 minutes. I did find a survey that I like (A Gallup Poll) that got a percentage of Americans that do 20 minutes of "vigorous exercise." The survey breaks down the percentage of people that do 20 minutes of exercise one day per week, two days, zero days, etc. Guess what the percentage of people who exercise daily (and ONLY 20 minutes) is? For 2007 it was 4%! The surveys cover time periods for a few years and that percentage varies between 4 and 5%. So it's consistently pretty small. For the sample in 2007, the survey said 45% (!!!) of Americans said they didn't do 20 minutes of vigorous exercise even ONCE per week!

Below is the link:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/103492/few-americans-meet-exercise-targets.aspx#2

This survey really points out what an elite group Bikram yogis are. Even you aren't going every single day, you're still doing A LOT more exercise than the average person out there. The survey only covers 20 minutes of exercise, and we don't even get to Eagle Pose in 20 minutes!

Greg

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pickles

204 classes 197 days.
57 classes in 54 days in the 101 challenge.

Do you ever get strange food cravings when you're practicing a lot? I have once in a while, but lately I've been craving pickles. Pickles! Specifically, big kosher dill pickles. Not that there's anything particularly wrong with that, I just think it's funny. So I went and bought a big jar recently and I munch on a few of them after class at night. I like drinking the pickle juice too. At least I'm not craving pork rinds or Doritos:)

Greg

Monday, February 22, 2010

Love

202 classes in 195 days.
55 classes in 52 days in the 101 challenge.

"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love." - Sophocles

I earlier wrote about a newer teacher at my studio, Jennifer and how great she was and I think this deserves further explanation and how this relates to all teachers. There are a number of qualities that I like in teachers. First of all, let me say that I have yet to meet a teacher that I really don't like. I like some more than others, but even my least favorite ones are just that - least favorite. They're still good and how much I like them is a matter of taste.

To me, the things are like in a teacher are as follows:

1) Dialogue. This is obvious. I'm familiar enough with the dialogue now to notice if a teacher is departing from it badly. This is the glue that holds the class together.

2) Corrections. This takes some skill, to be able to deliver the dialogue well while also correcting students on postures. From what I'm told, the more you teach the better you get at fitting in corrections in between dialogue.

3) Knowledge and experience. This matters in class, but tends to matter more outside of class when it comes to detailed knowledge of postures, and corrections. This is very useful when talking to teachers outside of class, going over little points on postures, etc.

4) Sense of humor. This always helps in class, especially when you feel like you're in a furnace and want to run out of the room screaming.

5) Interesting stories. Ok, this might seem to conflict with being a good dialogue teacher, but hey, I like to hear stories. I love hearing personal experiences from the teachers. I don't want a lot of time taken up with this, but it is a nice addition to the class. Heck, I've taken class from Bikram and he's the king of interesting stories while teaching.

Having said all of the above, there is one point more important than any of them - love. Now obviously all teachers love Bikram yoga, or they wouldn't put themselves through 9 weeks of intense training, but some of them just have a special and magical way of conveying it. Love is an emotional wave that can cut through all kinds of other emotions, anger, grief, whatever. That is extremely valuable when you're going through physical and emotional nonsense in the middle of a class. It makes you work harder, it makes you go on in spite of a million reasons not to and it makes you come back for more.

Jennifer possesses this quality in abundance. She makes the most routine things in the class sound new and exciting, even though I've done them hundreds of times. Yesterday, as we were going into Floor Bow, she said "Ok, now we're going to work the entire spine against gravity!" and this actually sounded exciting and fun! Believe me, it takes a lot of love to get me excited about Floor Bow.

I'm sure we've all experienced teachers whose love carries over to us and other students and they should be cherished and loved back. Love is ultimately what makes this all work.

Greg

Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't Ask This Question

199 classes in 192 days.
52 classes in 49 days in the 101 challenge.

Here's a question I'm not sure I should bother asking my teachers - "Should I do a double today?" What do you think they tell me? Last night before taking the 5 PM I asked Jennifer if I should do a double and take the 7. Guess what she said? Of course, Jen is a teacher I'm happy to take a double from. Not because she's "easy", but because no matter how wacked out my body might feel, she still makes the class enjoyable. It takes a really good teacher (and a special person) to do that.

As for the second class itself, yeah it was a bit rough. It helped that Jen was teaching and also I was in the front row next to Nita, a 19-year old recent teacher graduate yogini Goddess. She was doing her THIRD class of the day (two beginning and one advanced), so I couldn't feel too bad.

The class after my last double went Ok, so hopefully tonight's class will too:)

Greg

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Progress, I Guess

197 classes in 191 days.
50 classes in 48 days in the 101 challenge.

I've been getting a bit frustrated recently with some of my standing series postures. I felt like I was getting worse on a few postures, mainly Standing Bow and Balancing Stick. I've been falling out more often the past few weeks. Of course, I've been going deeper and with Balancing Stick, I've been doing the posture correctly, you know, body down, leg up, looking like the letter "T", etc.

I went over this with the teacher after class and she pointed out the obvious. She said, "When you do the postures correctly, it's a lot harder." Using the Balancing Stick example, if you DON'T get the body down, leg up, looking a "T", it's not too hard to hold it for the full ten seconds. But doing it correctly, especially right after Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow, is definitely harder. She described what I'm experiencing as good progress, so I'll take it:)

Greg

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fun Times

196 classes in 190 days.
49 classes in 47 days.

I took the 5 PM yesterday with Sheri last night and she was in good form. She has a great sense of humor and last night she was great. Making jokes and taking pictures during class! She took a picture before class and then threatened to take a picture of everyone during second set of Triangle when people were looking sad. And guess what? She did! She took a few pictures while people were dying on the floor and looking miserable. At least I was smiling!

The most amazing thing during class was during Standing Bow. There was a newer student who was dying and starting wandering around the room and finally headed to the door. Sheri intercepted her and was talking to her in the back of the room for a little bit - and kept delivering the dialogue and making corrections on students! I'm not even sure how she could see anyone. That's some good teaching.

Greg

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Running

195 classes in 189 days.
48 classes in 46 days.

The weather has been absolutely fantastic in Vegas the past few days, around 65 and sunny each day. As much as I love the hot room, when the weather is like this I just want to come up with excuses to be outside as much as possible. So on Sunday, after class I decided to go for a little run. Four miles to be specific. It was fun, just me and my iPod and lots of nice weather.

And on Monday... I definitely felt it in class. My thighs were a little sore and awkward pose was a little more interesting than usual and Triangle? Let's not even go there. But it was worth it. I wish we could do a whole Bikram class outdoors sometime. It's hot enough in Vegas that we could do it in the summer!

Greg

Monday, February 15, 2010

You Never Know What You'll Get

194 classes in 188 days.
47 classes in 45 days in the 101 challenge.

Interesting weekend of classes. A few less of the regulars were in the studio, because they were in L.A. for the Yoga Championships (I'm jealous). Saturday was a rough class, despite having a calm night on Friday. Then Sunday's class was great, despite not getting much sleep and having a few drinks on Saturday. Very strange, but I'll take it:)

Greg

Friday, February 12, 2010

Easier Than I Thought

191 classes in 185 days.
44 classes in 42 days in the 101 challenge.

I was a little worried about class last night, considering I did a back to back double on Wednesday. The past few times I did a double, the next day was a little rough. Last night was totally different. There was something messed up with the heater, so the room was a little cooler (not a lot cooler), plus there were less people in the room. I had a very relaxing class and was quite happy with how things went. This makes me more confident about doing more doubles soon:)

Greg

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Double!

190 classes in 184 days.
43 classes in 41 days in the 101 challenge.

I ended up doing a double yesterday, and like most times, I didn't plan this one in advance. I set up in the front row and Marie was right next to me, who was teaching the next class. Marie loves to harass me about doing doubles and yesterday was no different. Before the 5 PM, she told me I should do a double. So I pondered this all during my first class. The first class was great and very funny. Michelle was teaching, who is always a lot of fun. There were a bunch of sorority girls from UNLV there during their first class, and Michelle had a lot of fun with that. She was making jokes about beer bongs and other stuff. We also sang Happy Birthday to a couple of yogis in the room - while we were in Triangle!

After this fun class, and another student asking me to stay for a double, I stuck around for the 7 PM with Marie. She was very nice to me during the class. Usually she'll correct me a lot but during this class she pretty much left me alone. She was very happy I did the double, so that was good enough for her. I did a respectable job, did all the postures, not sitting out anything. It was fun. Marie's teaching the 5 PM tonight too, so if I have a rough time, at least she'll know why:)

Greg

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wandering Around

188 classes in 183 days.
41 classes in 40 days in the 101 challenge.

Yesterday was one of those days when I'm very glad that a) there's a teacher there and b) they use the dialogue. For whatever unknown reasons I just wasn't in the room mentally at all. I wasn't particularly thinking about anything, but I was just in a fog all class long. I felt fine physically and did the postures well, but I never felt like I arrived in the room completely. More than once I had to watch other people in the mirror to figure out if we were doing left or right side of a posture! Luckily I didn't do anything to make myself look too stupid, but it was a bizarre class.

Greg

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Staying Still

187 classes in 182 days.
40 classes in 39 days in the 101 challenge.

The room was on fire yet again yesterday. I just expect it at this point. Lots of people in the room, tough teacher, the usual. One thing I like from class yesterday was the teacher making the point about getting your postures so they are all like Savasana. Totally still and normal breathing. Not an easy task by any means, but certainly a lofty goal to look forward to. I can get there for a few of the postures, but still a long way to go on all of them.

Greg

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Motivation

186 classes in 183 days.
39 classes in 38 days in the 101 challenge.

The classes the past two days made the hot classes from last week look downright cold. I don't know exactly how hot things were, but it was a bit crazy. There was no shortage of drama in the room, with everything from people trying to bolt the room, to someone turning sideways to do Pranayama Breathing, to pretty much the entire front row sitting down during a lot of the standing series today.

Misha was teaching today and she gave the front row a hard time for sitting out postures. I was slightly back of the front row, in front of the podium. She made an interesting point about your discipline affecting the people around you, which is so true. It's one of the reasons I try to stay focused even if I feel like running out of the room screaming. I'm sure we've all experienced a situation where one or two people sit out some postures, then a bunch of other people near them do the same. The worst is when you see one or two people leave the room, and then some others follow. No matter what's going on, I least like to put on a good face, because at this point I know other people pay attention to what I'm doing. The same works for me. Sometimes I'm dying in there and I'll see some people with really good practices cruising along and it definitely motivates me to keep going.

So next time you're having a rough time, think about the other people around you, and try to stay strong, not only for yourself, but for them too.

Greg

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wonderful New People

183 classes in 178 days.
36 classes in 35 days in the 101 challenge.

I had planned to do a double yesterday, but due to work I couldn't make it to the 5 PM, so I only went to the 7 PM. It was nice because it was a little less crowded than the classes the past few days. Plus I heard the 5 PM had 60 people in it again. Of course, it was crowded enough to get the humidity over 60%! The teacher was Jennifer, who did teacher training in the fall. She's absolutely spectacular, which I'll blog about separately at some point.

There was a girl in class that did her first class on Monday and has been back every day since then. I told her I noticed she had been here each day since she started, and she told me that she was worried what her body would feel like if she didn't come back each day! Exactly! I love new people coming back consistently! Makes my day:)

Greg

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Swimming in Heat

182 classes in 177 days.
35 classes in 34 days in the 101 challenge.

The trend of crazy humidity continued last night, with it being over 60% in the room. The class was once again packed, with 61 people in there. This is always a recipe for high humidity and last night didn't disappoint. I was fine, and oddly enough, got stronger as the class went on and had a very good floor series. One of the students in the back fainted right as we went to the floor after standing series. It was her first class. What's cool is she went out of the room for a little bit and came back and finished the class! Love to see that, especially from a new student. Let's see how high the humidity gets tonight...

Greg

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Moaning and Groaning

181 classes in 176 days.
34 classes in 33 days in the 101 challenge.

Yesterday was hot in the room, real hot. The humidity got over 70%, which is a lot even by my studio's standards. In the past this has caused me a lot of problems, but last night it was totally fine. Not just fine, but I actually had a really good class. It's funny, because I was even thinking to myself, "Wow, it's way too humid in here.", but it was more of just a casual observation rather than freaking out. That's more than I can say for many of the other people in the room. Lots of moaning and groaning. I was happy that Sheri (the teacher) pointed out to everyone to breathe correctly, as moaning and groaning is the most obvious sign of incorrect breathing, although it is kind of funny to listen to sometimes:)

Greg

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thinning Out

180 classes in 175 days.
33 classes in 32 days in the 101 challenge.

Last night I walked into class and was surprised to see a relatively small amount of people there. There ended up being around 40 people there, which seemed downright empty compared to the classes of 50+ people I've had the past few weeks. Then I realized it was February 1st! I assume it's a few people taking some time off after the 30 day challenge, and a general trickling out of others. My studio extended the 30 day challenge to 60 days for people that want to do it. About 90 people signed up for the 30 day challenge in January, and I think 12 have signed up for the 60 day challenge. Maybe I should put up a big board for 101 days:)

Greg