BBQ Blues

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I’ve been uber healthy since taking up yoga. Fruits, veg, similar volume of chocolate but almost no fizzy drinks and reduced alcohol. Not for any philosophical reason or planned diet, just that my body has been refusing all the known nasties. So specific have my tastes become that I’ve even started to take head of what fruits are bad, the cons of juicing vs blending and am still experimenting with the salt/no salt conundrum…

In what I believed to be a great state of health I didn’t think twice about a little indulgence as a family BBQ. During the course of the day these are all of the nasties I can remember consuming:

  • Sausage / Bacon / tomato and Fried egg breakfast
  • Can of coke
  • Bottle of Rubicon
  • Lemonade
  • Sausages (x 4) at BBQ
  • Delicious home made cake with raspberries.

I’m not even sure the final item was unhealthy. Come 6 am the following morning, all plans to hit the beach and practice some postures were stabbed away in a wash of burning pains all down my chest and stomach. Recurring around every 15 minutes or whenever I attempted to move I couldn’t even enjoy the sun drenched balcony over looking country and sea… I was devastated. Towards the end of the day I had no real option but to be the passenger in the 5 hour car trip home before finally collapsing into bed. The following day brought further evidence that something was not quite right – indigestion is my best guess but even that doesn’t quite add up.

Several days on I’m treating everything with caution. Surely my intake wasn’t so bad? And if not, what on earth could have triggered it, is my new diet damaging my insides? I doubt it, but until I get to the bottom of it being a little on the hungry side is preferable to revisiting that day. I shall eat with caution…

 

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One of those days…

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I’m hitting 3rd day blues each week. Day one back in the studio is tough and dizzying but fairly stong, day two – massive improvement to the point I’m actually working on the postures, day three – disaster. Like a silent invisible energy vacuum has drained the ability to move, raising it’s greedy heat around about the second set of Pranayama breathing and leaving me useless and practically acting throughout the session. Except for when I refuse to get into the next posture on time, flag or come out early. That’s not acting, that’s for real. Suddenly I feel new to the experience again, wishing time away, imagining cool water or lusting after a water bottle that looks colder than mine across the room. Exhausted Yogi 2I consider stopping, but even Savasana (lying down, essentially) is utterly uncomfortable.

 

Days like these I wonder what the hell is wrong with me. I guess I know the answer really – the reality of widespread redundancy at work hit home during a union and management meeting, I ate far too much too close to class and I ate all the wrong things… I could feel a whole lotta these thoughts going through my body and mind:

bad food 2

I also let yesterdays energy get the better of me as I ignored the passing hours in favour of gardening / tiding / cooking. I must learn to harvest that energy some how.

On the tube home I slept like a baby and woke up a stop too far to change. That’s sufferable, I just jumped on the bus. I don’t have yesterdays energy surge however I know that really this is part of the process… today I probably needed to be there more than ever. Now for lots of juice, vitamins, water, food and sleep to dream up new ideas for a new business idea… an indulgence I experienced on said tube and which point I woke up to a fellow bloggers post who questions ‘do we really try enough to succeed?’  in ‘Stop Trying, Start Doing‘. I admit I’m not a fan of affiliate marketing profiles (sorry Ryan) but it IS great article all the same. The endurance of Bikram yoga is teaching me to keep going through the tough times to reap the benefits, with time I hope to bring that into practice outside of the hot room. This is my yoga.

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Post Yoga Experiences

Emotions

No day seems to be the same. The days of a dead cert ‘high’ are clearly over, however I never tire of observing the reaction my body has to each and every session. As yet I’ve identified no correlation between the practice itself and the esperience after, other than perhaps at the end of my 60 days whereby nothing felt too difficult and I adjusted quickly after class – or was I only dreaming those occasions? Repetition certainly taught me leave the pain in the hot room.

 

Here are the range, from worst to best experiences I have after 90 minutes Bikram Yoga:

  • Confusion. Once I left the room far too early. The blood must have got to my head as, delighted with the speed I was dried and dressed at I actually believed I was on track for getting to work on time. (1/2 hour after the end of class, 3 tube stops and a change away). Arriving on the platform in unison with the correct train I convinced myself I was on the wrong side. Mildly annoyed I ran up and down the bridge to the other side, bundling myself onto the next train. Watching the doors slide together I began to query my decision… 3 stops, a horrendous change and over an hour later I got to work. Doughnuts all round. 
  • Total exhaustion. All the way home. And bed.
  • Feeling pretty relaxed and happy, only to have it battered out of me by means of oublic transport and arriving home not much better than I left.
  • Deep exhaustion that lasts for about 20 minutes. This is best remedied by lying on the benches outside under a strip of natural light from the ceiling, absorbing the cool air and listening to conversations flow around me. This is usually followed by feeling fairly relaxed, but unexceptional. 
  • A bit wobbly but instantly refreshed by cool air. Most likely when I’ve tried to fight the need to fidget in final Savasana. A cool shower feels like heaven and my mind is free from distraction until interaction of regular life kicks in.
  • Urge to stretch in unusual ways. Odd.
  • Need to laugh and/or cry for no apparent reason. Also odd.
  • Loose from head to toe. I’m sure this is supposed to be every session but I’m not quite there yet. It does make me resent picking up heavy items / carrying bags etc thinking all the while of my freshly stretched spine… such is life. Beautiful sleep. 
  • Clear, deep lung breathing. Who knew air could be so good? Amazing sensation.
  • Excitement. Pure, uncontainable excitement that makes me smile at EVERYONE. And talk to anyone. I could talk for a day about any small pleasure in life – usually fruit juice. 
  • Acceptance of everything occurring in my life – generally accompanied by the aforementioned excitement. This can be followed by a calm energy that keeps me cleaning / tidying / gardening / baking through to the early hours of the morning. 
  • Bikram Yoga Juice. I can only imagine this is like being high. Indescribable. Utterly amazing. Wish this happened every time – the chance that it may is often my motivation.
  • It took me some time to figure this one out, but reading Benjamin Lorrs’ ‘Hell Bent’ I’ve come to understand that my spontaneous decision making that occasionally follows a session is rooting in ‘changing my mind’. This has been as simple as arriving at work with 4 pairs of shoes I’d not normally look twice at after early practice, and life changing as embarking on my relationship after 14/15 years of friendship with my housemate.

This is only a snapshot of key experiences, there are multiple shades between and hopefully new ones yet to emerge. Today the excitement came before practice! I have no idea if it is a specific part of practice, back-bending possibly – or the entire series, but it’s awesome (nearly) every day.

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From Heat to regular room temperature – Bikram Yoga

It took some time to get used to 40 degrees. As some of the postures became more recognisable, the breathing got harder. The breathing recovered, stronger, and the heat would wipe me out. Achieving comfort between eating well, at the right time, breathing fluidly, keeping the mouth shut, adjusting the weight and tolerating the heat was a mean feat. Over the course of the 60 days I got there and almost instantaneously lost compassion for the ‘me’ in my first few weeks of practice. I tried at times to remember just how tough it had been, particuarly when I could barely feel the heat any more.

I did give consideration to the guy at reception who observed ‘ you must barely notice the temperature nowdays’. He was right – I could feel the room was hot but my breathing and sweat had adjusted to take care of the discomfort. All I had to worry about was improving my postures, breakthroughs were few and far between.

I knew immediately that to not go every day was not such a great move, but with little choice I embraced my fate and ate, drank and partied my way back to a less desirable state of health. Until the Yoga retreat.

 

I’ve never practiced ‘normal’ yoga – at regular room temperature. I fully expected to be less stretchy, but went with the flow.

Day 1 was very poor. Following the flight and a 2 hour time difference (against), waking up at 6am to get to practice was fuelled with excitement of our new practice. I worked hard to get my legs straight in Janese sandwich but realised early that the teacher had overestimated my abilites based on the 60 day challenge. Fixed firm was a no-go for most of us in the class. I was creaking in places I’d never heard before and cramp was constantly threatening to creep into the arches of my feet. I could hold my standing bows but I couldn’t actually back-bend into them and my toes had mysteriously grown so far from my hips that I practically had to fold my lef in half to reach them.

I’m good at the ‘no ego’ ethos of Yoga and quickly dropped the urge to scream ‘I can DO this!’. Ironically I seem to have become bessotted with the only form of practice where ego is prevalent and competitiveness is throughly encouraged – not ideal for someone who naturally sees the best in everyone else around them.

I learned fast what I can NOT, in fact do that I thought I could. The heat, of course changes this, with heat I can stretch, bend, focus in a hot haze of survival and enjoy and ant-free savasana. I cannot get my foot to my ankle in Eagle without a bucket load of sweat. I cannot bend more than an inch backwards in half moon. I cannot flex my foot back from the ankle, nor lift my leg to parallel. I can barely see the floor in seperate leg head-to-floor, let alone get my forehead down on it. The list goes on…

At the end of each class I was far from exhausted. Recovery took a minute or so and an Orange off one of the trees. I always felt looser as my mind juggled the new sensations I was experiencing without the aid of heat to get me into deeper positions. I had new goals.

Attending each of the availaible classes meant that the instructors got to know me and my practice well. They could show me exactly where my biggest errors were and physically re-aligned me. During step 2 in Awkward pose I had my heels teased up beyond what I imagined posible, seperate leg head to floor I was lifted, twisted and lowered until my hands flew out in front of me – still unable to reach the ever sinking floor infront of me. During Savasana I had my feet massaged.

I learned in this time that my shoulders hunch far further forward than I could have imagined, and my butt sticks out so far behind me in tree that I look as though I’m on a space hopper. For the first time ever I figured out how to get my hips in a straight line, and what that really means to the preperation of a posture.

Forcing my body straight I temporarily lost the ability to raise back to tree from toe until eventually, one day, I was doing it right. On a straight, firm, locked knee. This is of partucular relevance – towards day 50 of my 60 days I began to get sore knees. It was no coincidence, but took me some time to realise that it was around this time I’d begun to lift out of toe. During my ‘on-off’ month I’d begun to wonder if I’d have to give up Yoga – my knees were sore everytime I stood up/sat down and I was begining to get reeled in with scare mongering articles online about how bad Bikram Yoga is for the knees… the only thing against the articles was the lack of experience that the authors appeared to have. Many of these conclusions came from a few practices, if that. To find out, and see the proof, that the ONLY cause of my sore knees was coming out of Toe Stand wrong was a revelation that made the entire holdiay worth it before it even began. Unfortunately now I am back to struggling to lift myself from the ground however the pain has gone.

All in all, ‘cool’ yoga never gave me the Bikram Bliss. I became more in touch with parts of my body that the heat had been releasing without effort from me. I adjusted my alignment to something that would see me through future practice and I learned to avoid injury.

12 sessions of this seemed to yield progress… but how would I fare with a return to the hot room?

Rumble Roller

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Today I bought…

A ridiculous amount of food from Pret A Manger. As ever. But, after two days deliberation I also bought one of the above – a Rumble Roller. 

Lots of books about yoga discuss these ‘rolling pin’ type tolls for massaging the muscles, describing a rather awkward sounding set of exercises in which this item is placed under the legs whilst the user, supporting themselves by their arms rolls backwards and forwards, essentially providing themselves with a massage. Whilst exercising. I wasn’t convinced. 

Whilst on Yoga retreat (I promise to deliver the goodies on this experience some day soon) a fellow yogi enthused about the complementary relationship between running and yoga. This, I have since found is a highly debatable issue, but as long distance running was a passion of mine I shared my final obstacle that lead me to hang my running shoes. Even now, I cringe at my last attempt with a group of die hard BMF’ers (British Military Fitness – 5 times a week at 6 am before work, often followed by another post-work sport) who were running (overground) all of the stations of each tube line, one line at a time. My challenge wasn’t to complete the entire line but to cover 10km of the distance in support. The Northern Line was fantastic, but by the Bakerloo I was having familiar problems. An early onset of the searing pain through my shin didn’t quite knock me out of the game, but after pulling out and catching a bus to re-join I was finally defeated at Edgware Road Station and waved goodbye to the team before hobbling very slowly down the spiral staircase… I almost expected the security guard to give me a hand. The pain was so persistent that arriving at Stratford Station was a concern and I nearly stayed on a little longer.

 

I don’t remember getting home that day, but I do remember a feeble apology attempt to the group leader that was met with a silence still echoing through my contact list to this day. When I heard that she herself succeeded in completing the challenge on a fractured shin and collapsed on the kitchen floor in her own vomit that night I knew I could never be that hardcore, pursuit of the sport seemed pointless. 

The pain, it transpired, had more to do with a contracted calf than the shin itself. My calfs do get MAHOOSIVE when running regularly, so this made sense. (In fact when I tried to take my leggings off after practice today I had a highly embarrassing and painful situation where the bottoms refused to pass my calfs…)

Drafted in at last minute to run in the Thunder run, the injury was beginning to play on my mind, bringing me back to the Yogi’s advice.

1.Start slowly (Well that opportunity is out of the window) 

2. Continue to practice Yoga alongside training (New experience, and it’s working! Again, for another day)

3. Try using a roller to massage the muscles after training.

 

I didn’t much intend on the third until my test run. The following day climbing stairs was difficult thanks to the top of my thighs, the thought of Awkward pose in yoga was frighting. Gary needed to get trial shoes and left me wandering around the store – dangerous. Here I found an extraordinary looking collection of rollers. Some looked like dumbbells, others with grids. I can’t explain why I was most drawn to this fearsome looking foam roll, probably an Indiana Jones prop in a previous life, but that evening I ‘YouTube’d the hell out of it. And finally fell asleep with boredom.

During todays practice I realised it had to be done. With 30 minutes to get from St James’s to Westfield, Stratford it was a big ask… closing doors loomed large as I barged some foreign exchange students to the right side of the escalator and bounded into a store of slightly taken aback shop assistants. It occurred to me I may have been their first customer all day.

So. 

I brought it home. I tried it. It was exhausting and painful. I wasn’t sure I was doing it right but kept on anyway, because that’s pretty much what I do. Then I got bored and went on a hunt for food.

At that point I realised that I really DID feel as though I had just had a deep tissue sports massage. It was glorious. I’ve not attempted to use it on my back, I’m not sure if you’re supposed to, I certainly need to get a little more acrobatic to get best use out of it but wow- totally different effect from Shakti Mat, but there is not no tension in any of my leg muscles. I understand that weight lifters use this for their arms (mine aren’t quite at that level) but for £40 I can have that leg massage feeling whenever I want. And hopefully my legs won’t be too strained in all this last minute training for Thunder Run.