Saturday, August 27, 2011

30 DAY YOGA CHALLENGE: Day 16-17, Class 13-14.

The storm is coming, yes.  The rain has come down outside in downpour spurts, trickling for a while and then repeating the cycle.  I hear the storm is around Virginia now and is about 8 hours away from hitting us hard.  Everyone is driving like they are in the middle of it already... and have been since yesterday when, big shocker, it wasn't even raining yet.  Panic is all around us and in the middle, I am in Savasana.

We talk a lot at yoga about being fully present and to "be where you are."  On the mat you find yourself in difficult postures... twisting, bending, arching back, balancing on one leg with your arms wrapped around your body like a pretzel in a bind... which demand your focus and concentration fully.  You breathe with each posture, taking note of how you are feeling that day, and you "do what is available to you" so that you do not push yourself too hard and cause an injury.

When you sit on the mat, you close your eyes.  You release all thoughts, memories of the past, and worries about the future.  You sit with yourself in peace and silence.   It matters not what has happened to you prior to stepping on to the mat and preparing for meditation, they are already done and they cannot be changed... so why waste your thoughts and time?  Right now is all you really have.  You breathe in calm and radiate peace and light, picturing the breath as it cycles from the center of your chest up to your third eye and back down again, creating a circuit.  You clear your mind and visualize your positive intentions like an aura around you, allowing it to radiate outward, cradling all living things.  You sit in stillness and allow vibrations of positive energy to radiate forth.  It is almost like you are floating on the energy.  Relax, focus, and enjoy the present's presents.  "Be where you are."

Last night's class was an overall success for everyone involved.  Having had a rough day dealing with the shenanigans of trying to get back into the swing of yet another semester at University, it was nice to step on the mat and leave all that outside in the muggy weather.  There was a fantastic amount of warming up and preparation during practice which was just what I needed in contrast with some of my previous instructors... and Iwona's accent was a nice break from what I call the "Yoga Voice" that too many instructors seem to think they are supposed to use.  (If you've been to a class where they did that "calming" voice where they drop to a low tone at the end of every phrase, you know what I mean).  Savasana was mellowing, rejuvenating, and leveling... enough so that when we walked outside, people verbally noticed.

I took this class two weeks ago and was not a fan.  However, to keep striving toward my goal, I needed to take it today... especially if classes for tomorrow are already canceled in anticipation of the storm.  Gee, thanks, Irene.  Luckily for my sleepy eyes, I have taken enough yoga and invested enough into my practice to find the motivation to continue.  The second the thought to not go crossed my mind during breakfast, I countered this thought by reminding myself not to have any expectations for my practice.  With a clear mind and nothing to anticipate, I was able to be fully present and take the class for what it would be.  I am happy to say that with no expectations, there was no disappointment, only satisfaction that I was once again on my mat with the fan gently blowing on me as I continued my practice.  I did not need to look around, I did not need to compare myself, this is my yoga practice.

I pushed myself as far as I could, understanding my limitations which today came in the form of Flying Crocodile (where you are in low lunge, leaning forward, with both your arms extended outward, one directly out to the side and the other passing under your leg to extend outward).  Trying the pose, I fell, laughed a little, and returned to a modified Crocodile as I shook my head and said, "Nope, not going to happen."  My neighboring yogi laughed in agreement, obviously not even going to attempt it since it was his first yoga class ever.  Other than that, the core and side workout today in addition to the workout on my shoulders and forearms from doing a modified version of Vasisthasana (Side Plank) were enough to get me through the weekend.  Savasana was relaxing but filled with all sorts of strange memories about which teachers I was assigned to in Grammar School and how the other 3rd Grade class hatched baby chickens... and then I completely dropped out of consciousness until we were instructed to come back to the room and I remembered where I was.  I have been relatively mellow since.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

30 DAY YOGA CHALLENGE: DAY 15, Class 12.

The focus of today's practice was surrender.  Waking up and feeling extremely grounded and solid with both weight and form without heaviness or discomfort, I made the mistake of eating a scrambled egg.  From that point forward, I felt heavy, nausiated, dizzy, and moderately exhausted.  I should have left my stomach 1/4 empty, perhaps more.  At this time, the egg was too filling.  My body and meat are also not friends, so I am sure that did not help my cause by any means.  Despite how I was feeling, I vowed to remain dedicated to my practice and shuttled off to the studio.

I was the only one to arrive prior to the beginning of class.  Although that initially made me nervous, I gathered my thoughts and reminded myself of my intentions, hearing the words in the back of my mind, "They will be thankful if even one person shows up, so let it be you."  I ascended the staircase, laid down my yoga mat in the usual spot near the windows and fan and kindly greeted the instructor.  She was considerably sweet and set me up with a block to place along my spine and one to rest my head so that I could relax and meditate while opening up my chest, breathing deeply and calmly until any others arrived.  Shortly later, in a burst, they did.

The class was not my favorite as far as Asanas and flow are concerned.  I felt that I needed more warming up prior to twisting and stretching than I normally do today.  I believe it was my body anticipating the forthcoming rain and hurricane to follow.  My joints were cracking constantly today and I felt a bit like the Tin Man.  I need to flaxseed oil them up.  I noticed that putting in seven consecutive days of work with no summer vacation to be had this year and little to now sleep in the last month or so has really taken its toll on me.  Normally calm, collected, strong, and enthusiastic in my poses, I found myself unable to focus or find peace in my practice.  There was much discomfort mentally due to some recent disappointments and a natural hormonal shift and imbalance as yet another month comes to a close.  Half way through practice, I found myself wishing it to be over.  It was not until the instructor began to share with us the truths she has come to reflect on this week that I was able to decide the intention at which I needed to dedicate my practice.

The focus of today's practice was surrender.

Turning our backs to one another and our gaze outside through the windows at the trees, we stood in tree pose, hands at heart center pushing together gently in prayer, up through the mid-line, above the head, and out into tree pose, holding the energy and my focus like a ball of energy between my palms as I watched the trees steady and strong swaying gently in the wind outside.  My particular focus was on a tree planted along the sidewalk in a small patch of dirt.  I identified with it.  A lonesome organic organism standing tall and strong, rooted in the city amid man-made industrial constructs.  My toes extended down into the floor like the roots of the tree as I closed my eyes and felt fully present for the first time today.  I surrendered to who I was.

The focus of today's practice was surrender.

I struggled a bit through the other poses, not fully stretched because of my overworked mind during the asanas prior, but managed to come to a relaxing savasana.  Savasana is always different for me.  Sometimes it is full of visions... ballerinas, the stage, parading in a pale green gown with flowers in my hair as I dance through Central Park on a bright sunny spring afternoon... sometimes I picture myself falling backward through my body, through the floor and the darkness into what seems like an endless abyss like a droplet of water hitting an endless deeply purple sea of universal unity, oneness, and peace.  I feel my body gently rocking with the waves as they absorb me fully.  Today, however, I focused on surrendering to the thoughts and situations that had been plaguing me through class and resolved to sit with them presently, then pass.

The focus of today's practice IS surrender.

I have a long night ahead of me tonight at work in the bookstore.  Today's practice was completely necessary to give me something to focus on during the often taxing and stressful points in my work-night.  Now that I am aware, I can breathe in and out deeply, bringing oxygen to my brain and clearing my mind to properly move through the situation.  Let's hope that by surrendering to the situation, remaining present, and breathing hope and positive energy into even the most negative patron, tonight will pass quickly and smoothly and I can return to a restful state tonight before practice in the morning.

More Insanitea!

Today was our second trip to Insanitea... and today we learned that it is absolutely impossible to only allot one hour of our night to drink tea there.  Sadly, however, that was all the time we had to enjoy a pot of tea each before closing.

Karina chose the Angel's Dream, a mix of maple and wild blackberry that "enhance a blend of teas from sri lanka, taiwan and india to create a heavenly, full flavor black tea."  Her tea was indeed heavenly and delicious with a fantastic burst of flavor, but perhaps too much for my taste to have wanted to finish an entire pot for one.

I, on the other hand, chose the Chai Green Tea which is a green gunpowder tea from Shri Lanka complimented by "warm notes of cinnamon, clove, and cardamom."  The first cup was very light and mildly flavored in comparison to the Angel's Dream, but as the tea remained in the pot to steep longer, the flavor began to come out.  After an hour and multiple cups of the tea from my glorious little white teapot, the flavor was so potent that you would never have guessed it to be the same tea as the first cup.

On the side, I got an iced version of their Granny's Green Apple as per the recommendation in the menu. I had some difficulty tasting the apple, perhaps because of the caramel-typed flavor over-powering it?  I did, however, notice the similarity in lingering after-taste also present in the Bohemian Raspberry but taken down a notch from the floral-patterned-shirt-with-big-glasses-in-a-loft-apartment-in-williamsburg-brooklyn vibe.  This, too, tasted better after allowing to sit a while and in fact grew better with time.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Summer is in full-swing which means that I find myself working the strangest combination of shifts on nearly every day of the week, the sun and I have become strangers, and that I have had one too many plates of seasoned waffle fries at 3am.  Usually by this point I will have strategically planned some elaborate $500 vacation for 5-8 days that will have me dancing in the streets and cartwheeling someplace warm.  However, this year's vacation fund went to a new laptop for grad school.

All work and no play was making Jenny crave yoga... especially after standing all day.  Those hammies get tight!  I needed some serious sun salutations and lucky for me, that angel came down to help me in the form of a Groupon.  My two long months without a single forearm stand were about to end... at Shiva Shanti Yoga School.

Hesitant at first because I hadn't much experience with Vinyasa Flow before, I snagged up my friend Rich and invited him along as my motivator.  The class was nice and mellow, giving me the stretch that I needed to lose sight of the day and find myself fully present in each and every pose... enjoying and breathing... breathing and enjoying... and enjoying breathing.  Yoga was that leveling, grounding, peaceful outlet I needed to counteract the negative effects of being on my feet for 30+hrs per week.  I was hooked instantly.

Friday came and I had my braces removed.  This was a remarkably exciting day for me and was the first day of my newly transformed images of self.  I took the time to reflect on how far I have come in the last two years, breaking out of my shell and coming more into my own, finding security in my silver sidewalks like training wheels to help me on the road to becoming a better Me.  I decided that with this new phase of life, I would develop new habits, attitudes, and a more positive demeanor... and I did this in the best way that I know how... a challenge!

Although I am often not a fan of competition, but very competitive when you pit me against someone, there is no person in the world who can motivate me to continue on toward victory than the person whose reflection I see in the mirror every day.  I am my most worthy opponent and my most dedicated competitor.  Yes, I find myself tough to beat at times, but in the end we are proud of what we've been through and are at peace again after the journey.

That said, I devised a plan grow outward and inward:

The plan was to take 6 classes a week for 4 weeks, totaling out to 26 classes in 30 days.  Here is how the challenge has panned out thus far.

DAY #1, CLASS #1: THURSDAY - 8:00PM - Vinyasa
DAY #3, CLASS #2: SATURDAY - 10:30AM - Core Yoga
DAY #4, CLASS #3: SUNDAY - 8:30AM - Vinyasa
DAY #5, CLASS #4: MONDAY - 6:00AM - Energize Early Morning Vinyasa
DAY #6, CLASS #5: TUESDAY - 9:30AM - Vinyasa

NEXT GOAL: WEDNESDAY - 9:30AM - Shiva Shanti Yoga