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Entries in bikram yoga (72)

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
Oct132018

Something that clicked

It has been a long time doing the Triangle pose as part of Yoga class. Every type of yoga class in the US does some variation of this triangle pose is what I am told. It is also called as Warrior pose and is a lunge and stretch at the same time. 

It is not an easy pose as you pretty much have to stretch in every direction.

Having captured myself with photographs over the years, this has definitely come a long way. 

However, .. there is always a "However", on the recent workshop with Joseph Encina, he mentioned something I have heard for the first time. 

It is not a SINGLE triangle that we are striving for! It is THREE triangles. THREE freaking triangles.

The first and second one are dependent on how flat your thighs are with respect to the ground and how perpendicular you make the bent leg to the floor. 

The third one (which is the one I focus on) is dependent on how you stretch your hands away from each other and how you stretch the crown of your head away from your foot while still keeping that same line. That part I understood, but am not close to getting the 90 degrees. (have tried this on ice/ snow!)

Have tried to graphically capture this below. 

In class I am almost 90 degrees for all three. This was a late night attempt do a blog post with a tummy full of samosas, sundal, sakkari pongal, venn pongal, just to name a few of the tasty treats being eaten at 25 minute intervals all afternoon and evening as part of the Navarathri festival. 

The fact that you even see any geometric shapes in that photo after all that eating is a medical miracle! 

Will try to get this pic either in the hot room itself or right after coming home from class (provided one of my three angels is willing to be the photographer) and update this post. 

You learn something new every day!

Saturday
Sep152018

Like a flower petal blooming

As most of you know, I have been doing Bikram Yoga for the eighth year running. You also know that I make it a point to do Yoga at least 200 times a year and there is always some new thing that I learn with respect to the Yoga, myself, and the connection between my self and the yoga. 

It is a never ending practice to find new edges, improve on posture, breathing, reaction times and being able to listen and implement directions.

Today we had Joseph Encinia come teach a workshop at BYSJ. This is the second time he is teaching this workshop at BYSJ. Two years ago when he came, got to attend his talk but could not attend the workshop because of travel. This time I was lucky to be in town. 

It was a four hour workshop which would have gone on for 5 hours were it not for the fact that there was a regular scheduled class after the workshop.

Have posted blogs on special classes and workshops in the past at BYSJ and every one of them has been eye opening.  For example, I learned that drinking water was not a necessity in class after the last workshop. Have not had water during class since March 22nd and it is almost been six months. Putting that into practice and sticking to that for day after day to make it the new habit is one of the things that this Yoga teaches me. 

Yes, you do something for ~1600 classes (excel spreadsheet says 1597 to be exact) and find out that you are still not doing something right or you are not using the right muscle to do the right thing (it might look okay in the mirror but you are not doing it right) and you start correcting it. Maybe after another 200 classes there will be another correction, but it has to be made the new habit or else this doesn't work.

Joseph was amazing today. He did a demo before class to go over the entire sequence in under 10 minutes. Then he broke down every pose and explained the do's and don'ts. Some of us also got to go show him our poses that we thought were messed up and he helped figure out what was wrong and what needs to change. 

When he started doing this and everyone took our their phones to take videos, I looked at it through the iPhone and said "no. I just want to record this in my brain.". You know how sometimes you are in a national park and you just put your Camera back into the bag and just stand there and take it all in. It was like that. Have the beginnng few minutes of the workshop in this video. (I am sure BYSJ will post more information or Joseph will post information on his website)

He was not going to show us fancy poses but how the breath moves through the body and that he demonstrated in 4 hours with is own body as well as ours with amazing clarity.

As in most classes, even if I learn a 100 things, only 5 stick to my mind and can be made into a habit. The rest wait. Folks who know the yoga poses will be able to follow the below. Someday when I can show the difference between pre and post, will post a video of myself doing things the right way. That day will come sooner than later.

Ardhachandrasana or Half Moon pose: Have always struggled to push myself at the end of the half moon pose because of my attempt to keep up the breathing at 80/20. Keep 80% of the lungs full and just breathe 20% in and out. However, my lungs have had difficulty doing that, towards the end, trying to breathe. Today I learned that the trick is to use a lung, instead of both lungs. There is one lung that is compressed and one extended in Half moon pose. Use the extended lung to breathe comfortably. Apparently the "flower petal blooming" is to help drive that point home when the teacher says it in every class! The flower petal blooms from the inside out.. that lung was supposed to do that. I never got that in all these years. 

Dandayamana Janushirasasana (standing head to knee) : The second thing I learned today was that the three bandhas or locks have to be done for a lot of poses. In some poses only two are used, in others three. But the pelvic lock is mandatory. You lose that, you might as well come out of the pose and start all over again. I had no idea how many times I was unlocking it and trying to relock. It simply doesn't work that way. There are also poses where that lock implies pulling your navel straight back in vs. pulling your navel back and up. Again, these are things that you get to see only when you see a teacher demonstrate this up close and personal. I was on the floor and Joseph was standing 6 feet away and I understood. Many teachers have tried to show us this from the Podium and I still could not see the difference.

Purna Salabasana (Full Locust pose) : The third thing I learned was the shoulder joint when rotated outwards makes it easier for the neck to curve upwards. This might seem intuitive to some, but it was not obvious to me.  There is always a balance between strength and flexibilty, and maybe my body is different or my brain is, but it was another thing that I understood only after watching this close.

Tadasana (Tree pose) : Number four was that, a little pull in the inner thighs can straighten your legs and knees in multiple poses. Locking the knee by default pulls the legs outwards and to compensate, pulling in your inner thighs up works wonders. 

Janushirasana and Paschimotthanasana (Head to knee pose and stretching pose) : The last one was ingenious. When doing a separate leg stretching pose, if you push the bone below your big tow away from you, it magically straightens your entire leg on the floor. Just recently one of my task masters, Brad, taught me how to pull my ankle bones towards each other to rotate my feet right. That correction has been going on for almost two months now..and this gets added to it!

Those were things to remember and apply. Then again, there was what he left us with. No amount of teacher instruction, workshops is going to improve what we do unless we OWN it and work hard for it. 

We had a girl in the class who has been going through severe arthritis for 20+ years and we could literally see the surgery marks on her for various corrections, and she showed us what real dedication, drive, intent and intensity meant. I have no excuse after seeing that. 

Joseph himself had a heart attack at the age of 13 after he had a lot of treatments for his Arthritis and he turned his life around. He is vegetarian and does Yoga every day! 

He almost choked when he said "some of you lucky to be here without any chronic conditions. some of us are here because of chronic conditions. Doesn't matter why you are here. Own your practice and you will see results. Some of us have to work a lot harder and overcome challenges, but at the end of the day it is the same for everyone. don't be stubborn. don't be too patient. Dont be too determined in a stubborn way. have the right intent and intensity in your practice"

On a side note to my wife and kids and other close friends who keep asking me "how come you do all that yoga and never have six pack abs?".. Joseph answered that one too. Six pack abs are good for body building but it is difficult to back bend with those and back bending is key to a healthy spine. So I would rather have my back bend than a six pack, not that there is anything wrong with a six pack.

The thing that impressed me most was how down to earth Joseph is and how sincere he is in spreading the knowledge he has acquired over time and by experimenting with his own body.  

Was really happy that BYSJ brings teachers like this for such special workshops, so regular students can learn more and improve. We also get to see stuff up close and personal and understand body mechanics, something that is difficult to do watching Youtube videos or even teachers on the podium doing the occasional demonstration.

This was a beginner workshop, but in a way I was glad to take this workshop now and not six years ago. Most of the stuff he said would not have registered then, as I would have constantly doubted if I had certain muscles he was talking about. Takes a few years to realize that we all have the same muscles.. just that some are never used or activated in normal life, and we use the most dominant ones to make the poses look like the end result without doing it right. . . slowly things normalize and the body changes.

The learning and discipline continues. Maybe the next time Joseph shows up, the top five things that I managed to remember at the end of class will be the new normal!

Saturday
Jun232018

Combining two interests

Yoga and Photoshop..

call it what you want, but these two pictures were a good time pass.

Jr. volunteered to take the individual shots. She said it was more fun to keep clicking and watch me do yoga than have to do the Yoga herself.. also she got to yell "body down, stretch forward" a few times. (had taught her to repeat the right keywords at the right times to motivate me). 

One of my teachers Matt always tells me "Sundar, you have to take it one millimeter at a time. Trust the process. It is a process. Go for progress instead of perfection". Every word is etched in my head. 

Being a process engineer by background, this Process is asymptotic and can be imperceptible on a day to day basis.. but, a millimeter a day adds up to 36.5 centimeters a year.. that is more than a foot! That assumes you come every day. Sometimes a weeks break can reset you more than 7 millimeters.. but that is another story. 

If you keep going and practice routinely, you can see the millimeters add up.

Will leave you with these two pictures of the half moon pose backbend 

and standing bow pose

both of which were incredibly difficult for me to do as a beginner and as a regular student in every class.. Was probably going back or forward only to the first step you see in the pictures. Today can do slightly better than the lowest bends in these pictures given all the poses we do prior to doing this (in heat) compared to directly jumping into it without any warm up at home. 

Matt was right.. those millimeters all add up over the years. 

All that said summer is always a tough time to keep up the regularity of the practice. So the process takes an erratic path and some semblence of regularity is regained in fall.

Was originally going to spot the 10+ things wrong in every pose, but today has been a good day. So instead I took a different approach, admired my handiwork on photoshop and decided all those things can wait. 

They are going to take a lifetime to fix.. and I am surprisingly okay with it!

Hope all of you got to do or try some Yoga on International Yoga day on Thursday. If you tried it for the first time, hope you had a lifechanging experience and you keep coming. If you got your regular yoga done, go you! 

It takes an inner will to be absolutely selfish to go do Yoga on a regular basis. The only way you can take care of others if you take care of yourself first.