Category Archives: 40 days

I’m Back! + The Year 2012 in Review

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This is really just a post to say that I’m not dead, seeing as I haven’t updated since October! I left off on Weeks 3 & 4 of the 40 Days Challenge (Round 2), and I’m happy to say that I made it through Weeks 5 & 6 as well; unfortunately, life got kinda crazy and I never got the chance to update anything here.

Even though work and life kind of kicked my butt from mid-October until basically the end of 2012, I was still really happy I could take part in 40 Days again. breathe yoga currently has another challenge happening now, but because I’m starting another teaching gig and slightly hectic schedule in just four more days (eep!), I had to drop out. However, if 40 Days is still happening sometime this spring, I should be around for it and ready for the challenge.

One thing that was really great about this last 40 Days was that all of those who finished this time around got to participate in a master class led by several of the instructors at breathe. Each portion of the class was taught by a different instructor, all of them sort of working within their specialties, so to speak. The only drawback was that they took the group photo of about 50 or so of us after a very sweaty vinyasa practice. Somewhere, there’s a picture of me with pigtails in my hair and a tired-but-ecstatic grin on my face surrounded by a bunch of other sweaty yogis. But hey, what are you gonna do?

By the end of 2012, the momentum that I’d had throughout the year with trying new types of yoga and being really strict about my practice kind of waned. Sure, I still went to classes semi-regularly, but as the weather became colder, I had a more and more difficult time motivating myself to go. For a while, I sort of berated myself for it, too—seems counterproductive, right? Thankfully, this past week I’ve gone twice so far and will probably be in class tomorrow morning, so I think I’m starting to get past my “winter funk” as I call it. (The nice weather we’re having right now helps.) To be fair, too, the same thing happened to me at the end of 2011, and look how great 2012 turned out!

One thing that got me past chiding myself for skipping out on classes (since there was a period of about two weeks where I didn’t go!) was looking back on this year and seeing all the great experiences I had related to yoga. Yes, I know, I still haven’t written about Baron Baptiste and Bryan Kest—give a busy English teacher a break, okay? I promise at some point I’ll type up my notes and you can marvel and laugh at both teachers’ wisdom and humor. (And seriously, out of the three big names to come to Rochester this year [Seane, Baron, and Bryan], Bryan Kest was hands down my favorite!)

So here, somewhat in order, is the great list of yoga accomplishments for 2012!

January

  • got into doing yoga on a regular basis
  • tried Bikram yoga at Bikram Rochester and also tried not to run away screaming from the very intimidating Bikram yogis (I respect you guys, but man, you’re intense!)

February

  • started an unlimited membership at breathe and attended classes multiple times per week for the first time ever
  • did restorative yoga at breathe and wondered why I wasn’t doing that all along (and I’ve gone back a couple of times since then!)

March

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April

May

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Amanda and me at the Memorial Art Gallery, and yes, my phone case is shaped like a cassette tape.

June

  • tried Iyengar yoga at the Beyond Center in Brockport
  • debated signing up for teacher training (thinking I’d have the time to do it), but was thankfully offered employment for the fall semester!

July

fourth

August

  • attended a Hatha class with Amanda at the Memorial Art Gallery, where someone probably should have skipped the bean burrito before class (this isn’t an accomplishment, really, but it still makes us laugh and/or become nauseated at the thought of it; I never wrote about this one and you should probably be glad)
  • started to get excited about the upcoming semester and about the upcoming 40 Days Challenge (v. 2.0 for me)

September

courtesy of breathe yoga. (I'm actually in this pic--points if you can see me!)

courtesy of breathe yoga. (I’m actually in this pic–points if you can see me!)

October

  • completed 40 Days for the second time this year
  • attended a wonderful master class with the breathe staff
  • attended a wonderful and kinda wild master class with the very funny but still insightful Bryan Kest

November

  • attended classes (does this count?)
Winter makes me feel like this guy.

Winter makes me feel like this guy.

December

  • attended some classes, did yoga in a hotel room at one point because the mood finally struck me, and took a much needed break (hey, I guess this counts!)

The end of the year may not have been ideal, but some good came from it. One of my favorite instructors, Dahn, actually raised $20,000 for the SEVA Challenge this year on her own (not an easy task), and in order to raise money she held a silent auction back in November. I went to help support her and ended up bidding on and winning a private lesson! I’ve never had my own yoga lesson, but in a couple of weeks Amanda and I will be there, so we’ll see how that goes. I also won on a bid for lessons at another area yoga studio, and since I think they have a Kripalu class, which I haven’t tried yet, I’ll attempt to make it over there sometime this winter. Also still on my list to try are Kundalini, Ashtanga, Yin, and Raja classes, although these seems to be pretty rare in the area; most studios around here have Vinyasa, Hatha, Iyengar, or Anusara classes. At one point during my search last year, I also found a “Spinyasa” class (half spinning, half vinyasa). Maybe I’ll get to that this year, too.

I’m at the point right now where, surprisingly, I don’t have any goals for the new year. It’s not that I’m unmotivated, but currently I’m just trying to see where I end up and what my schedule will allow. In the coming weeks, though, I should have a better idea of my direction for the year, but for now I won’t stress over it.

Do you have any yoga-related goals for 2013, or do you not let yourself plan when it comes to your practice?

40 Days Round 2: Weeks 3 & 4

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I’m two-thirds of the way through 40 Days, and to be honest I’m actually surprised! It’s a lot more difficult this time around. My teaching schedule keeps me incredibly busy, and there are days when I have to choose between getting a stack of papers graded or going to yoga (and that’s not even factoring in the lesson planning and other grading I do, too). Unfortunately for my practice—but fortunately for my students—I tend to choose work instead, but I’ve been lucky to be able to have such a flexible schedule with regard to my own “homework.”

I have been loving the workshops this time around (just as I did before). It’s Week 5 as of my writing this, and I’ve just returned from a workshop on handstands. I didn’t get all the way up into one, but I have a better idea of the foundations for a handstand now. Week 3’s workshop was Detox & Cleanse—one I wanted to go to last 40 Days, but for some reason didn’t get to. I learned about cleanses in this workshop and got information about the breathe 3-day juice cleanse. (More on that in the next entry!) Best part of the workshop: when Cyndi had different participants read the long, complicated lists of ingredients on Power Bars and Slim Fast. Gross! During Week 4, I took a workshop on arm binds. I could do some of them, but I’m still working on the full bind for Bird of Paradise. I only began taking the full bind during side angle pose shortly after the last 40 Days, so it may be a while before I can get Bird of Paradise, too.

I don’t have too much to add this time around; mostly, I’ve just been trying to find the time to go to classes, get my work done at home, and maybe blog about 40 Days! My friend Amanda has been keeping me motivated by coming to class with me each week. Thanks, Amanda!

Some good news before I go: vinyasa teacher Bryan Kest is coming to Rochester next week on October 24 for a three-hour master class. I had signed up too late and wound up on the waiting list, but I got a call yesterday saying that there was a spot available! I’m so happy that I’ve had the opportunity to see Seane Corn, Baron Baptiste, and now Bryan Kest this year. (And I promise that the Baron Baptiste entry will appear here eventually.)

As Jon Stewart says on The Daily Show, “And now, your moment of zen”:

40 Days Round 2: Weeks 1 & 2

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It’s ba-aaaaack!

 

Yes, those are my toes, and yes, they say “40 Days!”

I’m happy to report that I’ve made it through the first two weeks so far. It’s been difficult this time around; unlike last time, I have a very full schedule involving teaching four English classes this semester (and having to read a seemingly infinite number of student essays!). Fortunately, I feel as if I’ve set a rhythm these past two weeks, and if I’ve managed to fit yoga into them so far, I should be all right for the month of October. The requirements are the same as last time: five studio classes (on five separate days) plus one asana or “lifestyle” workshop each week.

The very first day of 40 Days kicked off with a workshop entitled “Tadasana in Every Asana.” This workshop emphasized the Tadasana posture in a few poses—including crow. I’m still not very good at crow, but I liked the workshop and I can always use advice on alignment. The rest of the week went by pretty uneventfully. I took a Foundations class mid-week, which between my teaching schedule and the other 40 Days commitments was a nice respite. At the end of week 1, my friend, Amanda, came with me. She’s been going with me consistently since the end of my first 40 Days challenge, and she threatened to beat me up if I don’t complete it this time. Nothing like the threat of violence to keep you motivated!

Week 2 proved to be a bit more difficult. While I attended all vinyasa classes, two were basics classes because 1. they fit my schedule better, and 2. I began to feel sick in the middle of the week! I have no idea what I had, but I wound up in bed for an entire day just trying to regain my strength. Week 2 also finished (almost, at least) with another workshop, per the 40 Days requirements. This one was on goal setting—not necessarily related to yoga, but it seemed like a really good lesson to assist my Type A-style thinking! We started out with a meditation on imagining a typical day in our lives ten years from now. We thought about the following questions:

Where do we wake up? What do we do upon waking? Who are we with? What do we do in the morning? Where do we work? What is our mid-day like (lunch, working, meeting with others, etc.)? What do we do once we get home for the evening? What’s for dinner? What’s our ritual before bed like?

After thinking about this and visualizing where we each wanted to be, we then wrote down our visualization and tried to connect any common themes and images. We then broke down our goals on how to get there in increments of one, five, and ten years with measurable, declarative statements and with deadlines in mind (e.g. “I save $10,000 for my MBA by September 12” as opposed to something like “I will save money for school”). We shared our goals in small groups and were instructed to share our goals with those involved in them (such as your family and friends) and with everyone. Since I want to participate in this requirement as well, here are some of mine:

In one year (or slightly more, really), I finish my novel by December 2013, I submit something for publication by December 2013, and I consistently practice yoga at least three times a week throughout the next year. Within five years, I own a house with my husband by no later than September 2017. In ten years, I teach English full-time and practice yoga on a daily basis—consistently! I have more goals than that, but I feel like that’s enough to share for now. Really, my goal list is almost complete save for one space (out of eighteen!). I feel like I really needed this workshop to remind myself of my plans in life, and although I recognize that I’ve accomplished a lot so far, I still have a long way to go and plenty to work towards! Because I’m such a productivity geek, I’m keeping the goal worksheet from class in the back of my Filofax to refer to and revise whenever I need it.

Finally, week 2 finished again with a yoga class with Amanda. Before that, we attended a meditation class at another studio called Nirvasana Yoga (over near the always awesome Record Archive). Go figure that last time when I did 40 Days I kept bringing up the fact that I couldn’t seem to find the will to meditate, and this time I actively sought out a meditation practice. The class itself wasn’t so bad. For $5 you can get a cup of tea, a quiet place to center yourself, and a little bit of philosophy to ponder once you’ve left. The only part I didn’t enjoy was that we would sit for fifteen minutes, and just when I was getting comfortable and really clearing my mind, we would get up and walk for five minutes. We repeated that process two more times, and although I found the class relaxing, I’m not sure I would go back. Other than being there causing me to force myself to focus on my meditation, I didn’t really learn any new techniques to help me quiet my mind. However, I do find that letting my mind wander and visualize tends to be a fairly relaxing experience anyway.

I didn’t get to go to yoga today for the start of week 3 because I’ve been home all afternoon reading students’ rough drafts after a busy morning and mid-day teaching! Tomorrow night, though, I go back and get to take the workshop on detoxing and cleanses—something I was interested in learning about last time but somehow managed to miss out on. I haven’t been following along in 40 Days to Personal Revolution this time, but who knows—maybe I’ll get to do that cleanse Baron talks about in there this time around.

Speaking of Baron Baptiste, his master class in September was amazing! I’m sorry I’ve been so late with writing about it, but I promise to talk about it soon. I can safely say that I enjoyed the three very intense hours with him far more than I did Seane Corn’s class (even those hers had its benefits).

Another thing I’ll talk about soon was the Hatha class Amanda and I went to in August at the Memorial Art Gallery. It was very different from what we’re used to, and it was, shall we say, memorable. I’ll have more details on that soon.

I may be updating my 40 Days coverage in two-week increments depending on how my schedule is in the coming weeks, but I promise there will definitely be more!

Monthly Yoga: July, Jivamukti Yoga

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the seventh of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

Apologies for the wait in the write-up! August continues to be a busy month as my school year starts. I’m finally back to teaching after a semester off, and while it does cut into my yoga time, I’m incredibly happy to be back!

Before I begin this month’s Monthly Yoga installment, I have some exciting news. The first is big: Baron Baptiste is teaching a master class next week in Rochester! I signed up the day the enrollment opened up. Baron, as you know, is the creator of 40 Days to Personal Revolution, the challenge I completed in the spring, so I’m really excited to study with him. The second bit of news goes along with the first—40 Days is back! It runs from September 17 to October 26, and I’m participating again. Although my schedule will be busier, I am determined to make it through the challenge once more. (Due to time constraints juggling teaching and the 40 Days challenge, there’s a good chance that Baron’s visit will count as my monthly yoga requirement, but if I can, I’ll try to fit something else in.)

For the month of July, I visited Prana Yoga in Fairport for a Jivamukti class, which the studio offers in addition to their usual vinyasa classes. My instructor for the class was Carrie, Prana’s owner and certified Jivamukti instructor. So what is it exactly? Jivamukti is a style of yoga that originated in the 1980s in New York City, created by David Life and Sharon Gannon (who are kind of fabulous) and loosely translated as “liberation while living.” Essentially, it’s a vinyasa flow, but it incorporates a bit of philosophy and chanting. It is somewhat controversial for emphasizing a vegetarian or vegan diet through the principle of ahimsa (or non-violence/non-harming); however, this aspect was not brought up in class. Carrie said, toward the end, that doing yoga (asana) without the philosophical understanding is robbing yourself of a true yoga practice. While studying the philosophy behind yoga was not an initial goal of mine when I began practicing, it reinforced my assertion upon starting my blog that I am a “novice” with much to learn—and I’m glad for it!

Inside Prana’s studio.

This class was fairly small, perhaps because it was a Sunday morning, with only three other students (who all seemed to know each other and sat together, which could be awkward, but I didn’t mind). The class followed a pretty standard vinyasa flow; there were some variations on sun salutations and side angle that I wasn’t used to, but they weren’t too extreme. Carrie was very specific about side angle pose and where each arm goes (lower hand goes outside foot, not inside like I’m used to, and the upper arm hangs at a very precise angle). It wasn’t quite the “anything goes/take a modification” attitude I’m used to at breathe. To be honest, I didn’t really like that, but every studio/discipline is different. Since it was only one part of an otherwise very enjoyable class, I’m not too concerned. Toward the end of class we did frog for our hip opener, and we set up shoulder stand with blankets—something a bit different than what I’m used to.

Before our Savasana we got to the chanting; that day we chanted the mantra “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.” It sounded quite beautiful, actually, and has this very long meaning (from the Jivamukti page here):

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Let’s look more closely at the meaning of each word of this invocational mantra:
lokah: location, realm, all universes existing now
samastah: all beings sharing that same location
sukhino: centered in happiness and joy, free from suffering
bhav: the divine mood or state of unified existence
antu: may it be so, it must be so (used as an ending here transforms this mantra into a powerful pledge)

Even though I’m not used to chanting, I actually kind of like this phrase. It sounded very pretty coming from all of us at once. I’m not necessarily sure that the chanting itself does any good, but I think taking the attitude of happiness and love for all off your mat certainly has benefits (power of positive thinking and all that!).

Overall, this wasn’t a bad class; it made me want to investigate yoga philosophy a bit more (especially after overhearing one of the other students discuss her teacher training, which is something I think I could be interested in eventually, if anything for the additional instruction on philosophy). I think studying some of these ideas might be a good way of keeping myself centered for 40 Days and throughout my semester—if I can get the time!

40 Days Challenge: Week 6

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I apologize for this being so overdue, but time has really flown the past few weeks!

First off, yes, I did complete the entire 40 Days challenge! Whew! What a sense of accomplishment! So many things changed for me over the course of those 40 Days, and even though it’s not like I changed into a whole new person, I definitely feel like I have a different outlook on life. My mind and body have changed. I feel more energetic, more motivated, and more positive overall, and I can tell that I’ve gained muscle, lost a bit of weight, and even seen some improvement in my skin (!) from both that detoxing sweat to clean out the pores and from the nutrients I’ve received from eating healthier (pretty much as many fruits and vegetables as possible).

The very last week of the 40 Days challenge started out with a bang. Dahn, one of my favorite instructors, had just returned from Baptiste Level 2 training, and she worked Baron Baptiste’s “Journey into Power” sequence into her class. It was an energetic practice; the only thing missing from it was her usual crazy playlist of Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Nelly. Despite the lack of music, I actually got a lot out of the class, and sometimes it’s nice to just listen to your breath (and the breathing of those around you).

My workshop for the week was on Tuesday—Core-Focused Vinyasa. It was exactly what it sounded like. I think this may have been the least popular workshop of the week (we had fewer than a dozen people in it); I think everyone else wanted to meditate or learn about essential oils. Since I had already done those things, though, I decided “Why not work the core a bit?” I used to hate core exercises with a passion; I’d tell myself I was too flabby, too weak, and that it was too painful to do them. I’ve since realized that this is the workout I need the most. Isn’t that what they say: the poses you like least are the ones you need most? The workshop ended up being a lot of fun and not too painful after all.

On Wednesday, I decided to take a Foundations class again—my second one in 40 Days. They’re a great way to still get your asana practice in without having to feel drenched in sweat when you leave, like with the hot classes. I returned to power vinyasa class on Thursday and Friday, and then I was done! The best part of practicing that Friday, besides being finished with 40 Days, was that I brought Amanda, one of my closest and oldest friends, with me! She’s been taking classes with me for the past three weeks now, so I’m really excited that I was able to convert yet another over to the dark side—er, I mean to yoga classes. (Seriously, I’ve brought five people with me at this point! Only two have done it more than once, though!)

I was actually a bit sad that 40 Days was over. Those weekly workshops were such a great reward for making it through each week. Luckily, the Seane Corn Full Day Chakra Flow Immersion followed the next day (I’ll write about that in a separate entry), so I wasn’t away from my practice for long! Another 40 Days challenge is planned for the fall at breathe, so I get to anticipate that as well! Who knows? Give me a few weeks and maybe I’ll make up my own challenge for myself.

Speaking of challenges, I had initially planned to try a new type of yoga each month. However, with my schedule packed full of yoga for the month of May, I sadly did not meet this goal. The good news, though, is that next I’ll write up my account of Seane Corn’s visit, so if anybody out there is really concerned, you can accept that as a substitute in the Monthly Yoga series.

Although it’s a bit late, I want to finish on another happy note. I’ve been struggling with three poses for a really long time: crow (bakasana), wheel (urdhva dhanurasana), and shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana). It may have been over a week after 40 Days ended, but suddenly this Monday, all three of these just “clicked” for me during another of Dahn’s “Journey into Power” classes. I love when things like that finally just happen, and even though I would have liked them to happen sooner (like, during 40 Days sooner), I’m just happy that I finally got there! See? Change does occur when you put forth the effort!

Have you ever completed a 40 Days challenge—or just attempted one? Tell me about it in the comments!

Up next: Seane Corn Full Day Chakra Flow Immersion!

40 Days Challenge: Weeks 4 & 5

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Apologies for the late update! I’ve decided to combine these two weeks since they almost felt like they melded into one anyway.

Restoration was the theme for Week 4. Baptiste recommended a three-day fruit and juice cleanse. I wasn’t entirely successful, but instead of accepting failure, I added in veggies and simply concentrated on healthy eating in general. Here’s a snapshot of what I did for those days:

On Monday, I ate a banana before yoga, and I ordered one of breathe’s amazon cherry smoothies for “lunch” (with acerola cherries, papaya, strawberry, banana, and OJ—delicious!). I ate vegetable soup for dinner with a nine-grain bread and some tropical fruit and carrot juice to drink. I also drank water and had a couple of snacks—sort of cheating, but nothing truly awful (a slice of nine-grain bread with almond butter and cacao nibs). On Tuesday, I drank water mostly and a chai smoothie (chai, almond milk, banana, and honey—my favorite). I snacked on cantaloupe, and for dinner I ate sauteed veggies (eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms) in a balsamic marinade and sprinkled with no more than an ounce of goat cheese. I ate a nine-grain bread with it and drank a berry smoothie drink (from Bolthouse Farms). Dessert was a small piece of chocolate and herbal tea. Finally, on Wednesday, I started the day with chocolate granola with almond milk, and later I drank tropical fruit/carrot juice and ate a spring mix/spinach salad with campari tomato, yellow bell pepper, blueberries, goat cheese, walnuts, and pomegranate dressing (I like to call this a dessert salad because of how sweet it is).

I continued the rest of the week with snacking on cantaloupe, blueberries, and veggies, and drinking plenty of fruit smoothies and juices. While it wasn’t a traditional cleanse, I noticed that I felt amazing eating this way! I avoided things like soy products, eggs, dairy (except goat cheese, which doesn’t bother me), and alcohol until Sunday; I already don’t eat meat or seafood, so that wasn’t a problem. Not only did I feel happier, lighter, and not at all bloated like I do every now and then, but I also got a sense of accomplishment from fitting into a dress I haven’t worn in at least three years! I had gained a few stubborn pounds a while back that just would not come off, and with the regiment of the 40 day challenge, I’ve noticed a slight amount of weight loss—just enough to fit back into a few things that haven’t fit properly in a while. My metabolism is definitely “revved” thanks to some of Cyndi Weis’s advice from the Week 1 workshop. I’ve also been drinking kombucha tea drinks, a natural probiotic, which has definitely aided in digestion—plus they taste great!

The workshops I’ve taken for Weeks 4 and 5 were Discovering Shoulder Stand and Exploring Arm Balances. Other than using the wall for support, I am really not much closer with my shoulder stand, but I have been attempting to build strength in my shoulders. Part of the arm balance workshop focused on crow (bakasana), which I’ve always had trouble with. I’m much closer now—I just need to work on actually holding the pose rather than immediately falling out of it. The only downside is that I have ugly bruises on my triceps—yuck! I like the switch from lecture workshops to asana challenges. The lectures were great, but it’s been nice to get advice on some of the poses I’ve had trouble with for the second half of 40 days. For Week 6, I’ll be taking “Core-Focused Vinyasa.” I’m excited because, although core exercises used to frighten me, I actually look forward to it now because it’s one of the areas that needs the most work. Plus, I love the feeling I get when I leave a class with a tight abdomen. It hurts in a good way, I guess!

Now that we’re in the home stretch, I definitely feel a great sense of accomplishment. Getting back into an old outfit or two was a sort of informal goal of mine for 40 days, so I’m glad that I’m getting there. My energy levels are way up; yesterday, Joe and I went on an awesome six-mile hike through a park trail near us. I’ve even managed to get my friend Amanda interested in yoga, and she’ll be accompanying me to class on the last day of the challenge—what a way to end it! (She’s the fifth person I will have brought with me to breathe—think I can get a toaster oven or a subscription to Time for “converting” so many people?). Finally, Seane Corn’s full-day immersion is coming up on Saturday, so I’ll definitely have a great report for you guys after that! It’s amazing to me that it’s already here!

Watch out, Week 6! I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum!

Now, some inspiration. DDP Yoga might not be my thing or yours, but you can’t deny how inspiring this video is! Here’s an extended version of the shorter video that’s been going around.

40 Days Challenge: Week 3

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Week 3 is over! Here is your celebration song! (Well, the chorus is on point, but the rest of it is pretty unrelated.)

My third week of the 40 Days challenge started out in pain! I must have slept poorly on Sunday night because on Monday morning, the right side of my neck and part of my right shoulder were completely tense. It was so bad that I couldn’t tilt my head all the way back, and turning my head to the right made me want to scream in agony! Throughout Monday, I thought the pain would gradually disappear, but by the time I went to my class that night (in order to attend the meditation workshop afterward), I was still hurting. It’s kind of weird how much something simple like being able to move your head and neck freely allows you to do so much in your yoga practice. For my practices on Monday and Tuesday, I almost felt impeded by the pain; I found myself having to take child’s pose more often, and even “easy” poses like low cobra just weren’t happening because I couldn’t put my head back even a little. Needless to say, this was not a great way to start my week!

I skipped going to the studio on Wednesday, and I was starting to feel better on Thursday, but I was still a bit tense, so I opted for a Foundations class. I don’t go to them often, and usually if I do one, it’s because I did a vinyasa class before it and want to use Foundations as a cool-down. The Foundations classes at breathe are a lot of fun—you get some good stretches in and go for poses that might not necessarily “fit”in a vinyasa flow class. However, the classes are more low-impact, and if you’re looking for the same level of intensity you get in the hot classes, you probably won’t find it there. Still, Foundations was just what I needed that day. I’d been craving a Foundations class for a while; doing five power vinyasa classes in one week can be difficult! Sometimes I forget that it’s okay to slow my practice down and rest every now and then—even if it’s just taking child’s pose for a sort of yoga power nap! (As an added bonus, the Foundations classes that I have attended have always featured plenty of laughter! Many of the students in these classes are somewhere around my parents’ age, and they have a great sense of humor about what they’re doing and don’t take it too seriously. Picture doing yoga with a bunch of sarcastic aunts and uncles, and that’s pretty much a Foundations class!)

By Friday, my neck felt better, and I was able to complete my last two classes on Friday evening and Saturday morning. I was glad to get them done by that point because my husband and I attended a wedding on Saturday afternoon, and I just didn’t want to have to worry the whole time about getting up early the next day to make it to my last class for the week. This turned out to be useful since I felt a bit under the weather on Sunday. (Seasonal allergies maybe? Who knows?)

Baptiste’s theme for Week 3 was equanimity: “the art of meeting life as it meets you—calmly, without drama or fuss.” I admit that this theme didn’t feature prominently in my thoughts this week, but I noticed that I was able to let go of some stress from Week 2, thoughts that were unrelated to my practice and really not even helpful to hold on to. Also, despite attending a workshop dedicated entirely to meditation, and featuring a short period to practice meditating, I have still been totally failing at developing a meditation routine. I’ve noticed a wave of calm come over me in the past week, though, which could have resulted from making it to the halfway point of 40 Days or maybe just from learning to release those negative thoughts. (My choices in music the past few days may have had an effect as well, and I promise I’ll have some yoga practice playlists up soon!)

Week 4 is all about restoration. I’m supposed to be doing a fruit/juice cleanse for three days this week (I chose to add in veggies as well), but I’m not so sure how this is going to go. With the theme of restoration, though, a restorative yoga class might come in handy at some point this week.

And now, some Week 4 inspiration:

This is how I felt when I began doing yoga! What are all these crazy people doing? (Please note, this is totally not a pose in our classes. Honestly, unless you’re in Cirque du Soleil, I’m not sure if it’s even possible.)

This video makes me laugh every time I see it. Yes, it’s an advertisement, but penguins + yoga = winning combo!

Listen to the music I posted above! Seriously, it’s magical! See you next week!

40 Days Challenge: Week 2

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For the 40 Days challenge, Week 2 was all about vitality–“living a life of enlightened knowledge and action,” according to Baptiste. I didn’t really feel it much at the beginning of the week, or at all for most of the week. Even though I was happy that I made it through Week 1, Week 2 started miserably for me. The weather went from gorgeous on Friday of Week 1 (80 degrees and sunny!) to 30 degrees with (I hope) one last bit of snow on Monday morning. Crazy! On Monday, I was all set to go to a workshop on alignment, but I honestly looked out the window and wanted nothing to do with driving in that mess. I called breathe and rescheduled for Cyndi’s Digestion workshop on Tuesday night, and later on Monday I attended Dahn’s 1:00 p.m. class in Pittsford (one of my favorites). Even driving in that was horrible, but I made it to class and enjoyed myself. Despite the crap weather, my practice improved my mood, and suddenly the snow wasn’t so horrible.

On Day 2, I went to breathe owner Cyndi Weis’s class at 6:00 p.m., and we did a lot of core work; my abdomen felt magical by the end of the night! Afterward I stayed for her workshop on digestion to improve nutrition. I won’t go into detail on it, but it kind of reminded me of a certain song from the Scrubs musical episode. The information was, as always, very interesting and useful, so even though I was sad about missing the Principles of Alignment workshop (which I hope they’ll repeat at some point), I was happy to have attended this one.

Surprisingly, before this challenge, I had never driven out to breathe’s Webster location. I usually stick to Pittsford, and I go to the downtown annex on East Ave. every now and then as well, if it fits my schedule better. I always thought Webster was too far away, but I found out that it is manageable to get to. I was supposed to go on Monday of Week 2, so on Wednesday, since the weather had improved, I decided to try Webster to attend Erica’s 4:30 class. Erica read selections from a book called Manual of the Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho, an inspirational book about manifesting courage and motivation in your life. I really liked her reading to the class; there was something very inspiring about that. I think that since the Webster studio was a brand new experience for me, it felt like a whole new yoga practice for me as well. I didn’t even groan when Erica asked the class to do eight (!) Sun Salutation B’s on our own! Normally, the instructors tell you to do two or three, but hey, like I said—whole new yoga class (almost)! (I also had the Amusing Thought of the Week (TM): my wheel pose is awful, and I have trouble lifting my head up when I’m in it. I decided instead that when I do it, it’s not a wheel–it’s a flat tire! This is probably only funny to me, and I don’t care.)

Even though I told myself I would try to do my classes Monday-Friday to free up my weekend, I ended up skipping class on Thursday. The weather became gloomy once more, and as a result, I just wanted to curl up and sleep. I actually missed being on my yoga mat, but not enough to go through a vinyasa class. I almost considered going to a restorative class that night, but I ended up staying in with my hubby instead. I went to class on Friday morning, and then Saturday morning, and I’m pretty certain that morning yoga is the best thing ever. I typically prefer morning classes, if they’ll fit into my schedule, and I notice that when I attend those, I feel energized for the remainder of my day. On Saturday I needed it; my dad and I organized a surprise dinner for my mom to celebrate her birthday and her retirement last week. It was great to see the family and spend time with them late into the evening just catching up (and they know all about my 40 Days challenge and are really supportive!).

I didn’t have quite the same level of energy during Week 2 that I carried in Week 1, but by the end of Week 2 I was happy that I had made it and hadn’t been tempted, despite bad weather and bad moods, to give up. Finally, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from page 13 of Baptiste’s 40 Days, which my instructor read at the end of my Saturday class. I like this particular anecdote about the simple (and maybe not so simple) ways in which we can manifest change in our lives by stepping out of our comfort zones.

“We can convince ourselves that we need to keep our identities as we know them intact. We think we need the stuff, the money, the status, the security, the big house, the persona we’ve created. Psychologist Carl Jung spoke openly about his lifelong desire to go to Rome to study the great written works within the Vatican library. For many years, he would periodically make train reservations and then cancel them. Though he longed to read these great works, at the same time he was afraid because he feared he would see within the great spiritual writings and works of the wise men of old that his life’s work was all wrong. Jung was very honest about his conflicted feelings. It was as if a voice within him whispered, ‘What if I’ve built my whole life on sand? What will that say about my thought systems, my achievements, my identity?’ Unfortunately, Jung never was able to step out of his comfort zone to make the journey to Rome because he so feared seeing himself in this new light.

“At some level, we all have this conflict within us, and it scares us. We are afraid to let go, to face the groundlessness and uncertainty. Way down deep, we feel that if people saw us unmasked, the naked us, the authentic us, they would recoil in horror. We are terrified of ourselves, so we maintain the illusions, patch the leaks, and hide. We have become so very sophisticated at presenting our masks that we almost fool ourselves, but not quite. Many of us sense that something is wrong and that deep change is needed—a brave unveiling of who we are at our core. But we doubt ourselves and our worth, so, like Jung, at some level we cling to what [we] already know and accept as reality. We veer away from taking that journey inward and therefore out of our comfort zone, not realizing that the way out is in.

“Once we’ve gone inward, we can then step out beyond our comfort zone and find the courage to flow from our hearts. Going out on the ledge, we have no choice but to be real. When you are standing directly in the face of the unknown, all the rest of the phony stuff doesn’t matter. In moments of great fear, everything else just falls away and there is nothing but you, your heartbeat, and your breath. Those are the moments of pure truth, when you are cornered into simply being.

“We cannot transform without leaving our comfort zone; there is no secret passage around this basic law. You must face your fears, abide in unconditional openness, and cut through all your tendencies to hold on.”

That idea of being “cornered into simply being” is how I tend to feel on my mat. The person I may be outside of the yoga studio, no matter what’s happening in my life, simply isn’t who I am when I’m immersed in my practice. Fear and doubt tend to leave my mind the more my mind connects with my body. If a great man like Carl Jung could feel that sense of fear and doubt, what can I do, even in some small way, to release my own doubts? I feel like I’m able to get some of my best “thinking” done on the mat, especially if it’s just being able to let something negative go and not give it any further thought.

40 Days Challenge: Week 1

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As I’ve mentioned several times, I’ve just begun breathe yoga’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution challenge. The challenge involves going to breathe five times a week for any class and attending one lifestyle or asana workshop per week; in addition, I am trying to follow some of Baron Baptiste’s guidelines for the challenge as outlined in his book of the same title.

What an amazing week so far! I’m on day four (four days of yoga in a row—holy crap!), and I feel amazing. I will admit that today I had to fight myself a bit to go to class. I did make it, though, and now I only have one more day left to attend class, preferably tomorrow. The other two days I will use for home practices. I noticed that on day one I was totally pumped to begin; I attended a class in the evening so I could stay for the nutrition workshop afterward. Day two I still had the same momentum, but day three I had a little bit of trouble getting going in the morning. Today, however, I was just tired. I tried to bargain with myself (“Maybe I can go Friday and Saturday instead!”), but eventually I forced myself to go to class. I’m glad I did. Where I felt slightly rundown this morning, despite a decent night’s sleep, my energy has been crazy the rest of the day. If you saw my status on Facebook about feeling like a badass housewife, that’s why: despite any initial reluctance this morning, I cleaned, did the shopping, fixed stuff, did laundry, and wrote two blog entries, and I didn’t feel the need to slow down and rest once! I can already feel the difference the 40 Days challenge is making in terms of my energy.

The theme for week one, according to Baptiste’s book, is presence. The idea is to be fully aware and present throughout everything you do, whether on your mat or otherwise. I actually like the idea of being present and have encountered it before. It sounds almost deceptively simple. Of course your body is present in everyday situations, but what about your mind? How many times have you talked to someone and not really listened? Perhaps you wanted to be somewhere else, or you were worried or anxious about a later event. Being present is important in our distracting, technology-obsessed culture; we need a reminder to get away from the screens around us and just focus on what’s important, whether it’s friends, family, a task or assignment, or just the beauty of the world around us. I try to be present on and off the mat; it does me no good to be distracted in any situation.

One thing, however, that I’ve failed at thus far this week is meditation. Baptiste mentions starting and ending each day with five minutes of stillness in week one to clear your mind, and sadly this is something I’ve either forgotten or didn’t want to do. I’ll see what I can do to change this in the coming weeks, but despite feeling positive overall, this is one area where I don’t feel entirely confident. I am not really very good at clearing my head other than when I’m focused on a really intense yoga practice, but maybe this speaks to my need (and most other people’s) to be constantly doing something rather than just focusing on breath and stillness.

Another way my challenge has differed from the book is in terms of diet advice. On Monday night, I attended my first challenge workshop at breathe, called “Rev Your Metabolism/Boost Your Nutrition,” hosted by owner and dietician Cyndi Weis. Cyndi’s advice resonated with me a lot more than Baptiste’s. For starters, Cyndi actually has credentials in nutrition, unlike Baptiste, and the advice she gave didn’t veer toward wanting to change the diets of others. After all, food is such a personal thing for many, and what works for one person may wreak havoc on the body of another.

Cyndi discussed the idea of revving your metabolism by sprinkling your nutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats) throughout the day to help you avoid crashing or feeling rundown. Carbs give you immediate energy, but proteins and fats, she said, are necessary for longer-term results. Her nutrition advice was in a similar vein in terms of not correcting others but helping the individual tap into his or her needs. Eating whole foods rather than processed ones (i.e. eat the stuff your grandma can actually identify as food) and eating a variety of colors (greens, reds, oranges, purples, browns, etc.) are some of the best things you can do for yourself. Minimizing processed foods should be common sense to most of us now, but sometimes we all need a good reminder (I know I do!). After shopping today, I have a fridge stocked with fruits and veggies, and although I’ve been a strict vegetarian for over a decade, it’s good to remember that even a supposedly healthy diet such as that can always use some improvement.

I am so excited for week two to begin. In terms of trying to set a routine, I think I’ve moved past any initial resistance, and going four days in a row (five tomorrow?) proves to myself that I can do it. Next week I’ll be learning about alignment in yoga, and the theme for the week is vitality. In the meantime, I’ll try to see if I can get myself to meditate at least once before the week is over!

40 Days, Yoga Controversy, and Inspiration

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My 40 Days challenge begins on Monday, and I am super excited! I have already begun mapping out which workshops I want to take and paired them with classes before or after they take place (hey, minimizes my driving from Point A to Point B–no sense in going back to Point B twice!). Throughout the challenge, I’ll try to give weekly updates and try to sync my activities with those that Baron Baptiste has discussed in his book on the topic. The first week is all about the concept of presence, which I’ll talk more about next week.

Truth be told, I actually began planning for the 40 Days challenge last week. Since its primary feature involves attending five classes per week, I began that last week with classes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Yes, Easter Sunday! This was a benefit class at breathe, with donations going to their Off the Mat, Into the World challenge for this year. It was a great day of yoga alongside probably about 40-50 other people who all wanted to be there (or, as the instructor joked, had to make up some kind of excuse to be there!).

I’ll have a new monthly yoga entry fairly soon; I’ll be trying Anusara yoga this month (this weekend, in fact, if things go as planned). While the founder of the movement may have faced some recent controversy, I don’t think this reflects on the practitioners of Anusara-based yoga. I may be a “novice,” but to me, all yoga is good yoga. If it speaks to you, it must be doing something good, regardless of what others may say or believe.

And now, some inspiration for the upcoming week:

Y is For Yogini is full of a great mix of yoga and humor, but this list of Yoga Class Pet Perks (not Peeves) makes me smile. (This list is a good, and humorous, bonus!)

I am so excited to see Seane Corn in May, and this article she wrote about her days pre-yoga really sheds light on how transforming a yoga practice can be.

Think all yogis look like the ones you see on the pages of Yoga Journal? Think again! Check out these two amazing galleries of yoga for everybody–and every body!

Finally, a quote from Baron Baptiste’s 40 Days book that I really liked when I first read it. It resonated with me, and maybe it will resonate for you, too.

“Never making a decision is a decision unto itself. It is a decision to stay in a personal fog. Staying in the confusion is safe, because in the fog, we never have to face the mundane that comes with committing to a path. Everyone tries to avoid the mundane path, but that is the path that makes us grow.” (16)

Committing to the goal of completing the 40 days challenge may seem tedious or mundane, but it is certainly one that will bring results! I am so ready for Monday! How about you?