- Exercise & Fitness
Notes from the Yoga Underground
My Yoga Experiences--They Are What They Are
The following journal entries are just a smattering of what I experience during a month of yoga classes. There's no linear order to the these entries. I utilize a variety of yoga teachers with varying styles. There's no common thread through these entries. They are my experiences--good, bad, and indifferent. They are written at the end of each class, unfiltered and true to myself. They are what they are.
November 2013, Journal Entries
11/1/13 Good, Good Transitions
Today in yoga I am making so many good transitions with Charles. I am a little shaky transitioning from stationary to balancing poses, but I'm doing better. My goal today is to focus on transitions not only in yoga but in my daily life, from client to client as a therapist and from task to task in my personal life. I like Charles. He doesn't focus on changing you or making adjustments or having the best playlist. He just does yoga. He does it without any mystical, new age jabber. It's just plain and simple yoga.
11/2/13 The Hippie Dancer
Today in yoga something weird happened. We were doing our normal vinyasa with Charles, then this kookie young girl started to dance around everyone liked she was stoned. We all couldn't believe what we were seeing. Charles was moving into high lunge when he almost lost his balance as the hippie girl, who must have had a Grateful Dead song playing in her head, began to dance around him like a Flower Child. He was stunned, but smiled and resumed the class. We tried to ignore her and to stay focused, Eventually she tired and moved back to her spot on the mat. Lesson: if you focus on what you are doing and ignore the distraction, eventually things return to normal.
11/3/13 Me, Myself and Her
I'm doing a lot of hip openers in yoga. Feeling tight, restricted mentally and physically. I'm stressed at work. I have a patient who is suicidal--don't know if I should intervene more or intervene less. I think I did everything that I could, but I just don't know. Should I commit her to a hospital? God, I don't want her to kill herself. So I squat down in a malasana pose with my hands to my heart and I just contemplate my direction at work and follow my breath....I breathe in and I breathe out...
11/4/13 I Could Do This All Day
Slowly moving from Warrior 1 to Warrior 2. I could make this transition all day. Each warrior asks me to do something different. Then moving from low to high lunge, grounding down on the balls of my feet, and lowing my knee to the mat, back and forth, building strength. I'm just focussing on the movements not the burning sensations in my thighs. I am doing moving meditation and breathing. My breathing is easy and I feel happy in this moment. I feel strong enough to do yoga all day as the blood circulates through my body and my breath goes in and out of my lungs at an even pace.
11/5/13 My Mat is my World
I go into the spinal twist from staff pose, bending one leg over the other, keeping my spine straight, and then twisting from the belly. I take a breath and twist some more. I hold the pose for a few seconds. When I twist, it's hard to breathe but I have to breathe in my upper lobes. My cystic fibrosis lungs struggle with this. I'm aware of my diminished lung capacity but I smile, knowing that I can compensate for this disability via calming myself down and relaxing into the pose. I just focus on what I can do on the mat. My mat is my world. I do everything on it--I breathe, struggle, sweat, balance, smile, envy, and make improvements on it...
Yoga Writing Exercise
Stay in one pose, like the triangle pose, for 15 to 20 breaths. Slowly move out of it and then write down your experience, thoughts related to the body, mind, and spirit. Do this for a few poses and then compare your responses. Notice the different thought patterns from pose to pose.
Expanding, Gathering and Integrating
11/6/13 Expanding Out and Gathering In
Ellen is so graceful as a teacher and she models that for her students. I don't care if she keeps referring to the bra line or female body parts, just as long as her yoga class flows and is creative. We raise our arms and expand out, then bring our arms to the heart--gathering in and integrating. We repeat this several times as a moving meditation and as a lesson of using the Universe around us. It makes me think that I sometimes limit myself. I try to do everything on my own, when there's a whole Universe out there ready to help me to live my life to the fullest. It's a mantra--expanding out, gathering in and integrating. I think about this for the entire day and how I can utilize this mantra.
11/7/13 Beach Yoga
I like to do backbends like the camel pose on the beach. I do several slow-motion sun salutations and enjoy the sounds of the crashing waves and the caws and chirps of the sea birds. I like to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and on my heart. I feel like I can take in a much deeper breath on the beach. I lay on my mat on the sand and pull my knees to my chest and drop them to the left and look over my right shoulder to the Pacific Ocean and watch the waves and the surfers and the kids playing and the bales of seaweed. I relax. It's all good.
11/8/13 Morose, Yes, but Inevitable
In savasana, I can hear the words…let it go, let it go. I notice where my body touches the floor. I sink and melt into the earth. I breathe from my pelvic bowl up my spine and out through my crown. I realize what it means to be in the corpse pose--the final pose. I think about my death and implement a dying visualization. Morose, yes, but relaxing and preparing for my eventual demise. I smile as I watch my last breath exit my lips and see my body decay with a half-smile on my face. Morose, yes, but preparing for the inevitable. I lose everything and that's okay. I just let it go. There's nothing left to do.
11/9/13. Light Visualization
Alana's voice is gentle and nurturing as she guides us through a visual meditation in mountain pose. Let the light in the center of your heart radiate throughout your body and outward. I can feel the soft white light nurture me and give me warmth. We slip into a slow-motion vinyasa, breathing with each movement, moving gracefully to upward facing dog and moving our hips to the sky in downward facing dog--and we close the vinyasa with our hands to the heart. I can feel the heat in my body and the white light radiating from my heart. I smile. We all smile.
11/10/13 Is That Person a Tranny Next to Me?
I was distracted throughout the yoga session with Melodee. There was a person next to me, a bit too close. I glanced over and I thought that person was a man. Then I noticed that the person was wearing LuLuLemon pants. Was that a woman? Then I noticed the person's masculine body, the muscular back. No, I thought, she's a man. That's right. I finally figured it out. But the person could be transsexual? Despite my confusion, I focussed on the eagle pose and then the shoulder stand. I didn't think of her until at the end of the class. Oh, she's not a transsexual, she's a woman, I realized. This classifying people according to gender has really done me in. Peoples genders flow like the moving poses of yoga--from male to female and somewhere in between. Move on, Mark.
11/11/13 Hamstrings--Tight as a Bow.
I call Barry the hamstring doctor. Anytime I take his class, the hamstrings are a focus. It's man's yoga. Working those tight hamstrings--forward folds, low lunges, legs up in the air, pressing the back of the thighs against the wall--it's all good. We work them hard. They are a part of the body that could limit us. They could hold us back to the point where we get frustrated. My hamstrings are sometimes as tight as a bow. All I want for Christmas are to make my hammies as loose as a baggy pair of jeans.
11/12/13 Playing with Blocks
I love to put a block under my tush and have my legs in the air. I love to put a block under my sacrum and do a supported bridge. I like the block at its highest level. I like to have a block when I do a reverse triangle. I warm up with blocks. I used blocks up against a wall for wheel. I use blocks up against the wall for half moon. I love those wooden blocks just like when I was a kid playing with blocks. Only this time, I don't throw them at anyone.
11/13/13 Gurgling Lungs
I do yoga for a lot of reasons. I do it because it strengthens all aspects of my body including my mind. I like the diversity of it. I like the meditation part. I like balancing on one leg. I like the fact that I have a mat and carry it around in a cool knapsack. I like the tradition of it. I like the peaceful and relaxing aspect. I like the fact that sometimes when I get out of a yoga glass I feel about twenty years younger. But I mainly do it for the gurgling in my lungs, my cystic fibrosis, my 50% lung capacity. I do it so I can breathe better.
11/14/13 I love the Mountain
I always love the strength of mountains--the Poconos, the Santa Ynez, the Rockies, the Blue Ridge--you name it. So it wouldn't be a stretch to say that I love the mountain pose. I love the feeling of standing tall and engaging all my muscles and practicing it everywhere I go--the supermarket, standing in line at Chick-Fil-A, waiting at the bus stop. Raised mountain also feels good. I like to raise my hands above my head and look up and do a slight back bend and then slowly swan dive to forward fold. I enjoy the freedom of the mountain pose. There's no twisting or bending or worrying about what do it. It's simple as it is therapeutic. I love mountains. I love their strength and their longevity. I want to have that strong mountain feeling at least once a day.
According to Hatha Yoga, the Moon is female and the Sun is male. Moon poses are hip openers and poses that stretch the psoas muscle and poses that set your roots down into the ground like a tree pose. Moon poses embrace the world, not acting on it. It is moving about life in a gentle and loving way. All men could benefit from this by doing more moon poses.
Yoga Helps Me to Feel as Strong as a Mountain
Sometimes Words Get in the Way
11/16/13 Too Many Words
Sometimes there's too many words in yoga. Too many needless words. Some yogis and yoginis feel that the more words, the better. The louder the music, the better. The better the playlist, the better. Simple and economical is my choice. So when I hear too many words in yoga, I focus on making it simple in my mind, not listening to the teacher's blabber or the words of a song, but to get into my own sense of yoga stability. Because if I'm confused by all the noise and chatter, my yoga becomes confused and choppy.
111/17/13 Just Let Your Hair Down
I don't want my yoga instructor to take things too seriously. I don't want my yoga teacher to be so strict and authoritative that he's a yoga nazi. Yoga should be fun. I want to have fun in the poses. Because It's just a yoga class. It's not the State Bar Exam that I have to tense up and stress over. The yoga class is for me--for my own benefit. I don't have to please anyone--the teachers or my peers. I tell myself to chill out, ease up, and have fun. Just let your hair down and enjoy doing the poses.
11/18/13 I Keep Thinking of the 5 Elements
Ever since yogini, Ellen, brought it up, I've been thinking of the 5 elements that all of life consists of. The five elements are--earth, fire, air, water and ether. We're all a blend of the 5 elements of nature. So we are all connected with one another. No one is any better than the next. We are all the same and composed of the same things. I thought about this idea in yoga today and I felt more connected to everyone.
11/19/13 The Core Significance
Ellen always talks about the core so I focussed on it. The core is a place where your energy resides. It's the place where your power emanates to the rest of your body. It is the foundation of most poses. By engaging the core you then engage everything else. It is the starting point of yoga. Engage the core, and you will do yoga more safely and effortlessly. By engaging the core, you protect the back and the hammies and other parts of your body. Engage the core. Be powerful.
11/20/13 Everything Meets in the Middle
Today I focussed on the center line of my body. I squeezed everything into the middle during all my poses. When I do this I feel stronger, better balanced in my poses and have more energy. I scissor everything in toward the mid line of my body. In a sense, I tell all my body parts and my internal organs to meet in the middle of the school yard during lunch time. I smile as I scissor in doing Warrior 3.
11/21/13 to 11/27/13 A Week Off--Good Yoga Practice
I'm taking a week off from yoga. I'm feeling congested and a bit fluish and my mucous is dark. I will just rest. Maybe I will take a walk, but not anything strenuous. I will focus on feeling better and not pushing myself. I remember Ellen telling us that taking care of yourself is the best yoga practice.
11/28/13 I'm the Best Yogi Ever!
Carla said something that got my attention. She said when we are in Warrior 2 we should do the pose like we are the best yogi ever--like we are super confident and competent. Like we can do the Warrior 2 pose better than anyone on the planet. "Be proud." she said, "when you do the pose." I kept telling myself throughout the class that I'm the best yogi ever until I started to believe it. A little imagination is good in yoga.