“Keep it Light”

Yesterday was day 30 of my 60 day challenge. 30 consecutive days of yoga, and I am halfway there!

And it has been a challenge, emotionally most of all. I was deeply reluctant about signing up. My practice hasn’t been the same since I came home from Australia (never take breaks, kids, that’s the lesson… just kidding). Over the holidays I struggled and suffered and dragged myself through every single class. My hip flexors were chronically, painfully tight and class only seemed to make them ache worse. Standing Bow almost always sent me into a physiological and psychological nosedive. Any corrections, and my faith in myself and my abilities crumbled. Teaching was fine, but practicing was a nightmare. I started to wonder whether I would ever be able to handle the heat again, and my mind quickly devolved into an identity crisis.

The idea of having to go through that every day…… Shudder. BUT, inspired by my friend Chris, who has brain cancer and is currently undergoing radiation and chemotherapy yet again, I mustered up my determination and committed to the challenge.

And it definitely has not been easy. My hip flexors feel better (thanks actually to keeping up a regular advanced practice and being diligent about my after-class hip-stretching homework). I still have had some really rough days–for instance, one where my teacher-friend hugged me when I burst into tears after class, or another where a different teacher-friend hugged me because I cried through the last half an hour of class (I love my teacher-friends). And every Standing Bow still feels like a psychological roller coaster. I have also had some anxiety flare-ups, and while practicing helps, the difficulty breathing also makes practicing even more challenging and even less fun.

This time around, I do not push. Right now, for me, pushing only leads to failure and frustration.

Cynthia taught my class yesterday afternoon, and during party time she reminded us to “keep it light.” To let go of the struggle, the suffering, the resistance that only makes what we fight against stronger. My practice has felt heavy, I have felt heavy. This was the perfect time, and the perfect reminder: I become preoccupied during Standing Head to Knee that Standing Bow is just around the corner, and I fear it coming. Keep it light. And for now, that’s the best I can do. In Standing Bow, I pour all of my energy into changing the pattern, all of my focus into remembering that I can feel strong and good in the posture. And when I waver, I remind myself that how I might feel now is not how I will feel forever or even tomorrow. Keep it light. This stayed with me for the rest of my class.

At BYSJ, we begin the year with a pack of Angel cards which have themes for meditation written on them. We invite everyone to choose a card to act as a guide or intention for the year. Mine? Exactly what I needed.

My 2015 Angel Card

My 2015 Angel Card

Release
1. allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free.
2. allow (something) to move, act, or flow freely.

Yes, please. 

Branching out: my first demonstration

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a demonstration for the 11th anniversary of Bikram Yoga San Jose. Trees run deep in BYSJ’s visual ideology, and I like to think of this studio as the roots of the south bay yoga community–out of this studio have come three more studios. It’s an amazing place. In every detail you can feel the attention and love of the folks at the heart of this place– particularly Michele, the studio owner, and Chris, Michele’s studio co-pilot (not his official title, but certainly the most apt).

I started teaching here on January 1, 2013, and this budding relationship was one of the most rewarding parts of my entire year. So it meant a lot to me that Cynthia (who choreographed the routine) asked me to help out for the anniversary–a way of reciprocating the love.

We dedicated this demonstration to Chris, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August and has had a rough time of it but has also displayed a tremendous fighting spirit throughout. We were lucky enough to have him present during the demo.

Anyways, enjoy (especially me falling out of a few, ha!).

The participants (from left to right) were: me, Dawn (a fellow teacher), Cynthia (owner of Bikram Yoga Mountain View and 2007 International Yoga Asana Champion), Jason (fellow teacher and Invitee to the upcoming Nationals), Michele (our wonderful BYSJ leader), and Michelle (manager and student at BYSJ).

international champion and yogi extraordinaire

This past weekend the International Yoga Asana Championships took place in Los Angeles, and I’m ecstatic to say we have a WINNER!

Ali Godoy, International Yoga Asana Youth Champion 2013

Ali, practicing her routine at BYMV as coach Cynthia Wehr looks on

Ali Godoy, whom I’ve had the privilege to teach and the pleasure to watch her train, won the women’s youth division. I can’t imagine accomplishing that now, much less as a 13-year-old. On top of being super flexible, she’s a wonderfully sweet, bright, humble girl. I’m so proud and happy for her!

For those of you who didn’t watch this past weekend–unfortunately the videos don’t seem to be up on YouTube (yet!). But here is a recording of her performance from Nationals (where she placed 2nd). Hope it provides you some inspiration in your own endeavors, yoga-related or otherwise!

Confluence

Cynthia at the confluence of strength and flexibility, made all the more meaningful by having seen the hours of training she put in to prepare for this demonstration

In case you don’t have time to watch the videos from the Asana Championships (though you should), here are some beautiful photographs from the Former World Champions’ demonstrations. Just some Tuesday morning inspiration for us all!

60-Day Challenge: Pow!

I finished my 60-day challenge yesterday! So grateful to have done it, also secretly glad it’s over. Just when I thought I was sailing towards the end, I caught a cold and struggled through teaching and practicing for the past four days. I am, however, overwhelmingly relieved that I have not lost my voice and that I was able to complete it!

like a champ

like a champ

The transformation from this time last year (when I accomplished my first 60-day challenge) to now astonishes me. It was still hard this time–I imagine that, like class itself, the challenges never get easy–but much less daunting. Last year, I was proving to myself that I was capable of doing it. This year, I was maintaining that dedication, so my approach was methodical and patient. Lots of my fellow challengers fell behind and had [consecutive] days of doubles or even triples in order to stay on track. I think I only did maybe four doubles; otherwise, it was a day-in, day-out time- and energy-management goal. I didn’t try to kill myself, ever. To make this practice sustainable for me, consistency and compassion are crucial.

In other, more inspiring news, this weekend was also the USA Yoga Asana National Championships, and I had the joy of coming home from teaching this morning to get to watch the Champion’s demonstrations–including Cynthia Wehr, who owns my home studio. Every time I see her perform, it’s absolutely breathtaking. She’s such an incredible human being–everyday, she’s so humble and sweet I think we all forget a little how privileged we are to have her. To have her teach me, to have her take my class, to practice with her. But boy, did watching this remind me! Especially her smile and quick exit…. never the glory-seeker, Cynthia. Just a beautiful mensch, inside and out.

Anyways, if you have time and would like to see the pinnacle of yoga asana grace, watch the champions or even the finalists. Even when they fall out of postures (they ARE like the rest of us, if only a little!), they do it with such charm they will astound you yet more.

Happy March, everyone!

Happy birthday!

Today is the 1st year anniversary of one of my studios, Bikram Yoga Mountain View.

So today, I just want to say happy birthday to you, BYMV!

Thanks to you, I did my first 60-day challenge.
Thanks to you, I finally nailed the “head-to-knee” part of Standing Head-to-Knee.
Thanks to you, I stood up on the hallowed podium and taught my first class.

Cynthia and Jen really put their hearts and souls into designing and running this studio, and it shows (oh, how it shows). They’ve created this beautiful purple palace that has nurtured and changed the lives of so many yogis over the past 365 days. And that was only the warming up exercise–now the real BYMV begins.

So many sweaty, happy BYMV yogis!

I can’t wait to watch the next year unfold!