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Entries in 60 day challenge (10)

Saturday
Feb092019

Don't die like a Zebra...

No.. not about wildlife.. it is just another Yoga post.

Wrote this post last year almost around the same time.. this week we almost had a repeat of sorts.. 

Given the US changes time for Daylight savings and my compadres in Asia don't, I get to do yoga on Tuesdays only after 8PM between November and April, if at all. Given the Yoga studio has teachers who are also creatures of habit, knew it would be one of two guys teaching that class. 

Last week being Chinese New Year, I got to go to a 6:30 PM class and planned to do a double. As usual I didn't check the schedule and the Lioness showed up..

When signing in at the lobby she asks me "Did you know I was going to teach? Surprise ?!"  

If you just visualizd a smiling woman saying "surpise",  United airlines air hostess style  .. visualize Samuel Jackson walking out from a door with a gun saying "surprise !#$^&**&^%$!!!" instead. She said it the former way, I reacted as though I had seen the later..

The probability of doing a double halved instantly.

The class itself was interesting.. Heckling was apparently allowed in that class, but for some reason, I did not get the memo. The entire class was put on notice that she was compared to a lioness, but they did not get the context. 

Little did they know, that what was more important was that they were Zebras... or Gazelles.. As long as everyone was doing the pose in unison, things were okay. The minute one person went out of formation, they were going to get picked on. They were dead.. 

There were a lot of facts thrown into the class.. like the length of a human colon being five feet. We even got the dialogue in Spanish for a few mintues.. I have heard the dialogue in Japanese once and Russian once.. and they didn't make a difference. You know what you are supposed to do in the sequence, and as long as the teachers voice modulation is right, push sounds like push in any language and relax or change sounds like an exit strategy in any language.. 

I did not do the double after that killer class and postponed it for the next day. 

It has been an interesting week at work and home with meetings that go late, calls that make it difficult to juggle yoga. We had a guest teacher the next day. A popular teacher who is like a pied piper for yogis. Have been in his class before a few years ago. He has been gifted with an amazing hypnotizing voice and he puts it to good use. You go into a trance and do things you would not normally do. Every now and then you look in the mirror and go "is that really me doing that stuff?".  

Between the Lioness and the Pied piper, the doubles were getting postponed almost on a day to day basis. I desperately needed to cheer myself up to go do that double to get me back on track for the sixty day challenge. 

This year, I had not planned on putting stickers after every class. It was going to be a silent challenge. I had a good 20 minutes between the classes. So I pulled up a stool and sat in front of the challenge board and decorated with the stickers. After slowly sticking a good 37 stickers, felt really good. 

Admired my handiwork for a few minutes and spoke to some of my challenge buddies. They were laughing at my decorations. Walked back into the hot room and did the second class and did justice to that class as well. My friend who knew I was doing a double taught that class. He gave us serial instructions with a short pause after each instruction. Given my brain had limited processing ability, it was great to do it one step at a time! After class I told him and he goes "you have a small RAM?". Given my job is to give people more RAM.. that was funny!

Two thirds of the way into the challenge this time. As long as I don't pick up germs on travel, there is a good chance I will finish.

This year started on a bad note.. and the first three weeks were going from bad to worse to the point where I was just hoping Feb would be a better month than Jan, on a personal and professional side.  So far the last ten days have been better than the first 30 for the year.

The very first class this year started with my teacher saying "Intention is better than resolution guys. If most of you are here on Jan 1st because of a new year resolution, change that to intention. If you have intention, you will get there sooner or later. It is a lot better than a resolution". A few days later, picked out an Angel card at the lobby and it was "intention". That was some coincidence. 

Last year was brotherhood and sisterhood..

Definitely have set an intention for this year.. will get to where I have to eventually..

A golfing angel is far from the intention I have in mind.. but time will tell. 

The yoga journey continues to be interesting. My teachers make it interesting. They push me and I let them push me because I have implicit faith in them. They are my real angels watching over me.. quite literally from the podium. My friends and yoga buddies make it fun. The hi fives, the fist bumps, the words of encouragement keep me motivated. The family is also arranging schedules around to make sure I get yoga done, even if it is late in the night or twice a day over weekends. 

There are always ups and downs, but I feel blessed to be surrounded by folks who wish me well. 

Monday
Feb042019

Double Double

Over the last many 60 day challenges, have done many doubles. Usually it is a class in the morning and another one in the evening over the weekend to make up for classes missed during travel.

A few times have done doubles with back to back classes.. but it is usually rare and the classes were taught by different teachers. 

One exception was back to back classes taught by Ashley.. gave it my 110% in both classes. 

also got an idea to take a picture after each class and merge them.

Double class, teacher, student..

Actually feel pretty good after doing back to back classes!

the trick is to trust your teacher to watch out for you. They always do!

The challenge continues.. 

Saturday
Mar312018

The end game..

A yoga post that was long coming.

2018 started with getting over the Flu. I was drinking Delsym at a minute before midnight on New Years eve. The last time I came back from Beijing, two days before X-mas, some bugs hitched a ride back with me or so I thought. So it took me till the 6th of January to go try Yoga again. Even on the 6th I was pretty weak and my plan was to go to anything but the front row and pace myself. There was a new teacher who keyed me in on the 6th and she had no idea it was my "come back class".

"A leopard cannot change its spots", or some such thing... Once I go through those double doors, I am like a new born that has been temporarily put back in the womb and I start kicking in my happy place. Put the mat in the last row and a second later move it to the third and after looking around the room and seeing there is a spot in the front row, moved it up to the mirror. My thoughts during those 90 or 100 seconds of mat moving cannot be summarized in this post. That could be a book in itself. You guys read this blog and you know I am good for it!

Came back the next day and my friend and teacher Jessica gave me a big hug and said "welcome back". She knew I was sick last two weeks but did not ask me anything more. That was probably her way of saying "you know what to do in the room, so I am not biasing you". At the end of the class, Jessica asks "60 day challenge?" like she was asking me if I would like some Gulab Jamun after a meal, and without giving it much thought, wrote my name on the sign up sheet. After that we didn't talk about it. I just came every day as usual, went to China as usual and did doubles on every weekend as usual, heard the sighs from wife and kids when they realized I was doing the challenge, as usual, and finished the Challenge.. and hopefully that becomes "as usual".

(there are better pics on BYSJ's Facebook page)

There was a Challenge party and we had some testimonials from folks who finished 60 classes in 60 days and they were all inspiring. We had to leave the party after an hour as the kids had to be taken to dinner.. as usual but this year we got to watch the other folks tell us about their journey on Facebook Live! I was telling the kids what Multiple Sclerosis was and after an inspiring story Jr. said she will come join me for classes again. Okay, she said "a class", but I am hoping it is going to be plural.

This year I am kicking out regularly in the standing head to knee pose and it is my new favorite pose.

There are alwasys graphs and charts for a 60 day challenge post..

There was a possibility of an earlier China trip, so I finished the challenge in 58 days and eventually did 61/60 when the trip was not pre-poned. If you think going to do Yoga more than 3 times a week is difficult think again. Coming back from a flu, going to Asia and back for a week in the middle of this, those were easy because I had done those before. One of the days, I had to drive past Sacramento area startign at 6AM, attend a meeting, come back at 5PM, chaired a meetign from 6 to 8 PM and still did yoga from 8:30PM-10PM just to keep challenge going. It is all doable. There are people who have debilitating issues who do the challenge and mine are nothing compared to those. Even if you don't do the challenge, it is okay. Come to the party to hear some really inspiring real life stories! 

Still tracking weight.. 

The excel file was started almost a year after starting Yoga and so far it has close to 2000 data points... (some of them blank)

Here is weight since 2012..

 If you notice the excel file there is a total class tracker. Have crossed 1500 classes and the best part is:

- Still suck at this

- Have not given up on it

- Even though my self assesment and self esteem take a beating in that mirror, the end result is positive because every day is usually better than the previous day

- this yoga keeps me grounded. Every now and then I get reminded that sooner or later gravity will win and I will be ashes, but till that day, going to fight gravity every day, every set.

- my teachers and fellow students seem to believe in me and root for me. they see more in me than I see myself and that is a blessing

- learn something new every day, be it class 1, 100, 1000 or 1506..always something new which brings me to class 1500

Have already posted about this special class with Yoga Professor Emeritus, Mary Jarvis. One class can sometimes change your view and attitude to things. This one definitely did for me.

It took me 4 classes after her talk, to give up water during Yoga class. The last one week have left the water bottle in the car. Sometimes I drink a sip or two on the way home. Mostly now I drink water a good 40 minutes after class is over. It is interesting.There is a sudden cool over my face and body and even on the insides while driving back after class. Kind of like what you feel when you drink regular water after chewing mint gum but it feels like ice water. Same thing except all over the body and this is new. Most likely has to do with the "no water during class".

Have also stopped fidgeting during class. No more subconscious wiping of sweat. No moving around mat with the bullshit excuse of trying to make it easy for people behind me who are also moving around, etc.

Currently trying to keep tummy sucked in from beginning of class till the first pose, and failing at it miserably. Confident that sooner or later that will change and can then go to other things that were taught.  

One funny thing Mary Jarvis mentioned during the special class which is replaying in my head?!

"the whole goal of doing this yoga is so you can sit in lotus pose without moving and meditate for long periods of time. This pose is almost a half lotus and this will eventually help you get to lotus!". She was telling the entire class that and I was thinking "What?! I can already sit in Lotus pose for long periods of time! Why am I doing this Yoga then? Shouldn't I do that instead?"

Maybe my Lotus sucks.. should make a bumper sticker that says "my lotus sucks" ? Maybe there is a market for it?  As a kid we used to sit in Lotus pose all the time. My kids here struggle because they are not used to sitting on the ground all the time. They have "criss cross applesauce" issues. Everytime we go visit the Livermore temple, I sit there for at least half an hour in silence before walking out. Used to do it at home also and manage to sit for 45 minutes. Two years ago I tried to time myself and made it once to 54 minutes. 

Maybe the key words were "long periods of time"! How long is long?!

After Mary's class, I wanted to try and see how long in lotus pose but with eyes closed and "no fidgeting". No movement "whatsoever".  Turns out it was 44 minutes 11 seconds as caught on timelapse video..

Technology is good. Daughter's iPhone for timelapse, my iPhone for timer, a clock in the background that catches the time "lapsing" and my legs that pretty much went blue after this time. Took me 3 minutes to be able to get up and walk again as the blood returned to my feet!

Doing 1500+ classes of 90 mintue Yoga and cannot even sit in one place without moving for one single hour! If that doesn't put things in perspective for you, don't know what will. There are folks who have stayed in the same place without moving for 1-3 days. I have been fortunate in this lifetime to meet multiple people who have done that and have heard from my grandpa that he has met people who have done the same. Folks who can slow down time... is how he put it.

Going to try doing this to see how long it takes to cross the one hour mark and eventually the 90 minute mark.

Yoga has helped me immensely this year. My stress at work is through the roof and if it were not for the Yoga to supplement the support from my wife and kids, I would not be functioning normally, or even functioning. 

A big heartfelt thanks to all my teachers at BYSJ for keeping me sane. You know who you are.. and if you don't know.. there is a graph for it also.

We have a lot of teachers, some are new, some traveling and teaching us for a month or for just one special class and the regular teaching staff. Every teacher gives it a 100% when it comes to doing the right thing for folks in class and all teachers who knew me, showed me no mercy during the challenge!

Well, it is almost time to go to one more Yoga class or as my wife would say "Kazhudhai ketta kutti suvaru!" ("if he is not home, he will be in Yoga class" is the loose translation).

Writing this post made me cheer up. Hope is you read this and are inspired to try a 60 day challenge!

Sunday
Sep172017

Against all odds...

This is a Yoga post. Now that you know, it is also a 60 day challenge post.

Bikram Yoga San Jose (BYSJ) has a 60 day challenge every year in January through March. Recently we have a summer challenge as well between July and September. 

I have had the opportunity to take this challenge since 2013 and have finished 5 January challenges. I also tried the summer challenge two years ago and made 46 classes over the 60 day period with 3 international trips thrown in. Last summer, I didn't even bother to sign up. The same three trips were going to happen and doing a 60 day challenge in 42 days with 3 sets of jet lag thrown in was not practical. 

This year, I signed up. You could start any day from July 1st to 15th and from your date of start, you had to do 60 classes in 60 days. Before starting on the long Asia trip, put in my name on the sign up sheet and said "start date : July 15th". Came from India on 16th afternoon at 3PM and promptly went to the 6:30 PM class. Two 12 hour flights with a 4 hour break at Frankfurt on the tail side of the plane was killing my back. It was a good class from my French teacher who has a dark sense of humor. He cracked some joke about the challenge and I was not sure if he was being sarcastic or just practical. Came home thinking "let's put stickers on that board and see how far this goes". 

As it turned out, my family was still in India. So I went at 5:30AM and 8:30 PM almost every day and stocked up. Within a week, work pulled me back to Asia. This trip had a hospital visit in China thrown in thanks to a swollen eye. Managed to come back here without getting quarantined somewhere and my Kaiser doctor said "heat will actually help subside this swelling. you can go to hot yoga if you want". So kept going back to Yoga.

We were half way through and work pulled me to Asia again.

When my wife asked me "you are actually doing the challenge?" I sheepishly told her "I am already done with 45. I have 15 more to go. Currently 4 ahead, so when I come back next week, will be two behind. With your blessing over the next two weeks and a few doubles, I can actually do this!"

They were in disbelief. Given I did a lot of yoga after they went to bed or just before the kids went to bed or before they even woke up in the morning, they didn't realize how much yoga was happening!

Another week in Asia, but this time came back in one piece and healthy.

Once you are at 45 classes, the family roots for you and gets you going. So they let me get away with a few more doubles. Then came a shocker. I was 5 away from finishing and there was a chance that I might have to catch a plane over the weekend on day 58. Was definitely not going to stop with 57/60. So I did a few back to back classes on Friday nights and over last weekend and finished the challenge with two days to spare.

60 classes in 44 days, if you exclude the travel days and having to finish ahead because of potential travel. Odds were definitely slim, but there was some odds, no? When you thinks the odds are stacked against you, take those odds. Challenge it. Who knows, you might actually make it. If you give up before trying, you never know what is possible. That was the big lesson for me. 

Doing the yoga, working hard in class, breathing etc. are not the challenge these days. Balancing work, home, yoga is the challenge. Once I go through the double doors, I kill myself at every opportunity and try to find my new edge.  Have lost all shame when it comes to falling down.  Just focus on listening to the words and reacting with my body. I really don't give a shit what others think about my balancing anymore when I fall out. Just get up and keep going and tell myself two things:

1. I am there for me

2. every day is different

Getting to the yoga class is the hardest thing. Have done 195 yoga sessions this year by September and this has been the worst travel year so far in my career. It is true what they say. If you have time do yoga for 90 minutes a day. If you don't have time, then do yoga for 3 hours a day, because you need the yoga more than you need the time. It keeps your co-workers safe from your insanity. At least it does for me!

This time most of my classes were 8:30 PM. A quiet group of people who come to the last class of the day. Most of them tired and looking beat. Did make a few new friends at 8:30PM and we chat about the challenge and the Yoga few minutes before class. There is no "after-class" chats at 10PM.. everyone just rushes out, including me, which is understandable. 

Also had the fortune of meeting two new teachers. One of them told me in a class "be kind to yourself. don't be too hard on yourself. the one person who can take good care of you, is you!" That stuck with me. So these days while I do push myself, I back off if there is sharp pain of any kind. The other teacher said "you survived my class" and that was interesting. "I survive in every class"  was going to be my response. Turns out she survived breast cancer last year and the yoga helped her a lot. Was listening to her story and on my drive back home was telling myself "SHE is a survivor.. you are hanging in there after a long day. There is a big diffrence! Just go back tomorrow at 5:30 AM and get this done!" Both these teachers were amazing because they made the group work as one. They really focussed on everyone starting and stopping the poses at the same time. When you do that as a group, your energy level goes up and as a collective we do much better than when everyone is doing their own thing. 

While doing 60 classes in 44 days with multiple international trips thrown in, looks like a big deal because it is a "time management" issue, there is a lady who did it in 30 days. She just came every day for "back to back doubles" 30 days in a row and said "I finished". Apparently she also had a time management issue. 

It is doable if you can manage to push yourself. To all those people who are thinking of starting Yoga, or getting back into Yoga class, will tell you this. Just start and try a 60 day challenge. Put that first sticker on the board (we now have smiley face ones instead of stars!) and another one and another one. Before you know it, they add up to 60! 

The nerd in me has to do graphs and charts.. so here are three that summarize what a successful summer challenge looks like for me.

Weight.. the weight.. over this challenge and over the entire data tracking history..

it is stable over 60 day periods. other than that, someday will do a much more detailed analysis on this data to see what else is there to find. 

On a final note, this time I had to miss the 60 day Challenge party. Given it was my first time making it in summer, it was a hard thing to try and be at two places at once. My niece was doing her first solo performance in the bay area after her Solo debut in India over the summer and I wanted to go take pictures of her performance. She did not disappoint. Sometimes you are torn between two things and the yoga actually helps you come to terms wtih your decisions, even if that decision is to skip a yoga class or a Challenge party!

This morning I got my T-shirt for completing the challenge from Michelle..Michelle seems to have figured out how not to age! Have a picture with her almost every year since 2013 and she seems to be frozen in time while the rest of us age gracefully, but still age!

This was 2013! 

This was 2015.. (I have to find the rest of the pictures) 

 and this morning!

Have to learn how to do this "I care and I don't at the same time" thing she does. Sure it is her secret to not aging!

Next challenge is Januray 2018. If you read this and are intersted in doing the challenge with me, let me know. We can sync up class times and go cheer each other through the 60 days! It doesn't matter if you finish. Sign up and keep putting those stickers up.

In the meantime, the Yoga journey continues.. as do the travels!

Saturday
Apr012017

Four Trophies and a T-Shirt

After we finish the 60 day challenge at Bikram Yoga San Jose, there is a "Challenge Party" a couple of weeks later. Everyone who finishes collects a trophy and says a few sentences about what made them take up the Challenge, what they learned over those 60 days and their Yoga experience in general, especially if they are first time challengers.

This year was my 5th time finishing this challenge. Did share my thoughts on the challenge at the party.

The question that lot of you have asked me can be summarized as "you go almost every day when you are here? so what is the point of this 60 day challenge?" and the short answer is?

The challenge makes me realize what I take for granted. Normally if it it raining outside or if I have a fever, sore throat, too many meetings that go in late and are stressful, I have the option to say "will skip today and go tomorrow", but not during the challenge. Once that day is past and the last chance to go to class at 8:30PM is missed, that day is not coming back. 

It teaches you that when it is time to make a choice between having a dinner and crashing vs. going to yoga late at night or doing back to back classes over weekend to make up for travel, the tougher decision is the one you have to make when challenged. That spills into real life, when it is time to roll up your sleeves and do the right thing by your work or with your kids or family. 

This year, the trophies changed to a T-shirt. The family likes this move as they would rather see me in newer T-shirts!

 While colleting that shirt, had an idea to take a shot of me doing balancing stick pose (Tuladandasana) with the awards on my back wearing the new shirt. 

However, this is take 6/8 and it required the support of wife and both kids to execute. In class you hold it for 10 seconds. I had to do this pose for more than a minute and a half back to back .. guess the knee locking went to the dogs by take 6 and the leg is not as high as I thought it was and the head is not as low as is should be! Need to put a mirror on the sidewall of the new home studio to help me make adjustments.. 

There is no substitute for a mirror!

As a wise man once told me (translation : as Brad Colwell told me two months ago), "pain is temporary, but a photograph is forever!" . Should have done a few more takes.. but the folks got tired of having to place those trophies on my back within that 10 second window and take them back just when I could hold it no longer. 

I also had to put up with snarky comments after every take like "your posture sucks. Your leg is not up yet. why can't you just hold on a little longer".. I wanted to launch into a long lecture on "come and do this 6 times back to back and then talk .. etc. etc." but held back. I needed their co-operation and they were giving me their valuable time for this crazy idea of mine. So took a few deep breaths, smiled and said "please, one more try"!

See, the yoga helps!

Now for the usual graphs and charts. There was travel and bugs during this challenge as previous ones, but rain or shine (more rain than shine this year) and sickness or health, showed up and did the best I could. You can see that the last three years has seen me finishing the challenge with lots of doubles, thanks to travel. Sometimes I just wish to be able to do this yoga once a day and take that for granted, but you all know my lesson learned already.

This is the weight chart. Have to analyze this throughout the years to see trends. Within the 60 days, seem to go from a 150 to a 140lb range in last few years possibly because of Christmas vacation weight gain?! 

Here is the data since the excel data collection was more or less regular.. 

It has been stable more or less over the last five years and that is a good thing. 

Have made new friends over the years and during the course of this challenge and learned a lot more than "don't take things for granted". 

Definitely recommend folks to try this 60 day Challenge, even if you are new to Yoga. It is a morphing experience. You definitely start as a larva and come out a butterfly in those 60 days or something close to that, and you learn to assimilate a few things on the way and leave a few things behind as well that don't serve you!

On a side note, my wife never tried dancing but was my biggest critic when she watched me dance. Now we have three people who are armchair critics of my yoga poses. 

Sadly, they are getting very good at the critiquing thing and their points are all valid! 

So there is more to work on....