Saturday, January 17, 2009

my first week

Everything hurt. It amazes me each and every time I fall off the wagon, how truly hard I fall. 

I managed to get to yoga twice this week. It doesn't sound like much, but given the monumental soreness and exhaustion, I'm rather proud of myself. 

On Monday, I went to a class that I knew would be good for stretching and a relaxing pace. Farah at Open Door combines restorative with hatha yoga, and focuses on breath. Taking time in each pose, you're able to allow your body to open up fully and relax into a pose. Nothing is fast or jarring, and your body welcomes the opportunity to truly relax. 

Usually I would take Farah's classes to rest between power classes, but this time I felt it was all I could handle. And I was right. I could have cried. My body had retreated into the days of old, when I wasn't doing yoga. My joints were stiff and cranky, my breathing shallow, and everything hurt. The simplest postures were frustrating as my body fought me every step of the way. To have come so far only to have to start at the beginning again. 

And the exhaustion. Normally yoga is invigorating for me, giving me energy I didn't know I could have. But this week my body cried for sleep. I could barely muster the energy to cook dinner after coming home from work. All I wanted was to curl up on the couch with some tea and go to bed before 10. I can't stress how unusual that is for me.  

And ravenous! I couldn't seem to eat enough. I craved everything.  I would eat two breakfasts and a snack and still want more. Never satiated, craving things I knew are bad for me. When have I EVER enjoyed drinking pop? Gross. Is it leftover conditioning from the holidays? Is that why I want nothing else but chocolate at 10:30 at night? 

Sugar. I usually have control when it comes to sugar. I don't crave it, and when faced with it, I can moderate it. A chocolate bar will last me weeks, sometimes a month. I can have one small bite and feel satisfied. Not lately. A chocolate bar is gone in seconds and I want more. Then it dawned on me, am I replacing the sugar found in wine? An almost daily glass of wine habit is a hard thing to break. I haven't had a drink in a week. That may seem like a small feat, but for me, it feels like a milestone. It's not even necessarily the wine. It's the ritual of drinking a nice glass while cooking. But then that glass becomes two... 

On Thursday my plans fell through, and I found I was able to go to yoga. I made up my mind to go and didn't allow myself to waver. And I am SO GLAD I went. Finally! Finally, my body cooperated with me, easing into postures that had once been so easy. I felt a glimmer of strength in my muscles and my lungs allowed my breathing to go deeper. I know it must sound cliché, but I felt like I was coming home. To a place I knew, where I was accepted and comfortable. My body and mind were once again joined, not separate and combative. I felt a warmth and gratitude that had been evading me for so long. I can't tell you how invigorating I felt. That night, I came home and slept like a baby. No herbs or remedies to help me sleep. Just a radiant feeling of being relaxed. 

This week has been exhausting and trying, but I am finally beginning to see. Insomnia, which I have been struggling with for so long, is simply a symptom of a mind/body disconnect. Stress, lack of exercise, drinking... all of these contribute and exacerbate the problem. But it comes back to the necessity of that union. Without it, we don't have balance. And balance is what enables us to face the world each day. 


Monday, January 5, 2009


I fought myself every step of the way, but I went to yoga class tonight. So much so that I was dressed and scuffling my way to class in the snow and had to continuously talk myself out of turning around and going home.

You see, home is so warm and comfortable. I could make myself a nice dinner and relax on the couch under a blanket for the evening. Instead I opted to eat leftover chicken, sit down for half an hour and then leave the house. It's so hard when your mind and body are fighting for laziness.

It was a mellow class, which was perfect. I had a good little sweat, though, and realized that inversions are really hard when you have extra belly fat. Try crunching yourself in half and then trying to breathe. Not fun.

But in savasana, corpse pose, I experienced profound calm. Waves of comforting heat washed over me, and I felt truly rested. Like I had slept for hours.

Now that sounds like an idea - sleep.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

biting and chewing

I have a bad habit of biting off more than I can chew. Or building something up in my head until it's so big I scare myself. So big I'm scared to do it. Then I do nothing at all. 

Bikram is a prime example of this. I was going to get an introductory unlimited week's pass at a studio and go for a week before work starts to see if I wanted to join and go regularly. Bikram is expensive, so I wanted to be sure I could commit. Well, it's now the day before I go back to work and I have yet to get off my ass (which is getting bigger by the moment). Bigger or flatter... hard to tell. 

So, I've decided in the interests of simplicity and to save myself some embarrassment, I'm going to start with some low-key restorative yoga tonight. I'm going to my favourite studio, Open Door, on Main Street. I need some mellow rejuvenation to end my two week holiday of gluttony, and start my month of no drinking and eating well. 

Interestingly, back in the summer and early fall, I went to yoga 6 times a week. I felt fantastic, and I was losing weight steadily. I wanted something to measure my progress against, so drunkenly (yes, drunkenly), I wanted to see if I could do a posture that I hadn't been able to do before. So, I laid down on the floor and tried to raise myself into the elusive wheel, or urdhva dhanurasana. The wheel is hard to do, especially since the trend is to be asked to do it at the end of a power class when you're more apt to want to sleep (savasana - corpse pose). 
The wheel: check out

I could do it! It wasn't exactly easy, but I could get up and I could actually hold it for awhile. It felt AMAZING. 

Yoga is sneaky like that. There are good practices and not so good practices. Some days you want a relaxing hatha class, and others you need an adrenaline shot in a power class. It's hard to gauge if you are actually making progress unless you practice regularly. Dare I say even everyday. So, the fact that I could do the wheel was monumental for me. It meant that my body was getting stronger. 

I don't need to be skinny. But I do want to be strong. 

I mentioned not drinking. Yes, I have stated what thousands have stated before me - I am going to quit drinking for the month of January. I have my reasons. And I've tried this before and lasted a whopping 10 days. But I last tried it in November, and well, that's just stupid. Everyone is gearing up for the holidays... there are dinner parties and nights out, and eventually your resolve is worn down. You chalk it up to bad timing. 

Nothing wrong with picking January. January you're broke, everyone is fat (no offense), and the inclination to hermit is growing. So why not. This is a grand experiment, as I've never done it before. I want to see what happens: will I lose weight, how much money will I save, will I sleep better, will I have more energy, will I be more productive? 

Begs the question: why do we drink at all? 

It's January 4th. How have I done on my month of no drinking? ahem. Not so well. I found a bottle of red in my cabinet, and I know that I won't be able to not drink if it's there. A beckoning pleading bottle of tastiness, begging to be opened. So I opened it, finished it, and vowed that I would start tomorrow. Officially the end of the holidays. I was stupid to think it would happen the weekend BEFORE the end. 

Sometimes I'm not that bright.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Not so hot

Heh. So, I didn't end up going to bikram yoga last night. My husband and I instead went out for a late lunch of sushi and wandered around our neighbourhood in the sunshine. Then we planned a nice dinner and got some groceries. I can't say I'm unhappy with my choice.

Honestly, I'm a little frightened of bikram yoga in Vancouver. I tried it once in Ottawa at Rama Lotus (great studio), and loved it. Ok, well, 'love' might be a strong word. Bikram yoga is undoubtedly an intense experience. The one and only time I went I found it was a mixture of exhilaration and nausea. The first 45 mins. were great. I felt exalted and powerful. My body was limber and robust, and I surprised myself with my vigor. Then we took a short break midway through to hydrate. It took a turn for the worse. (Anyone ever sit down for a long session of tattooing? Same principle applies. You take a break and all the blood rushes back to your skin. All of a sudden it's the most painful tattoo you'll ever get!)

The 'sit-ups' we were asked to do between poses got more and more difficult. You'd do the pose, then lie down, spin around, do a sit-up, then spin around again and go into the next pose. I got dizzy. My stomach was revolting and I found myself struggling to pull myself up. It went downhill from there. I thought I was going to die. I couldn't breathe. This wasn't fun anymore. 

After the class, which I survived against the odds, I started to feel better. Much better. So good in fact that I could feel the radiance of my skin. Everything felt amazing. Food tasted better. A shower was orgasmic. My body was a temple of purity. 

I always said I would go back, but I never did. We moved to Vancouver, and I heard stories of the rather militant approach to bikram yoga here. Where the instructors actually yell at you if you do something wrong. And call you out to the whole class. Yell? In yoga? I can't reconcile that idea... for me, I don't go to yoga to do everything 'right'. Some poses are a real struggle. I am fairly flexible, but I've had a back injury and some poses are difficult. If you have extra weight around your middle like I do, some poses are so uncomfortable you can't breathe. But I try. And over time I get better. It's an evolution that can't be rushed for the sake of appearances.

So, I don't know if I will ever go back to practice bikram yoga. I would like to. But more importantly I just need to practice. It can be hatha, ashtanga, yin, iyengar... anything. As long as I'm there.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Just go already!

I've been practicing yoga for the last six years, off and on. Sometimes I go hard, going to a class every day for months, and sometimes I'll skip it for months. No reason. It just falls off the radar and I focus on other things (I have far too many interests). But those months when I don't go, well, they suck. I don't sleep well, I eat more, I gain weight, my body aches, and I get chronic daily headaches. 

I haven't gone to yoga since mid-October. And I feel like crap. 

So why don't I just go? That's the question, and I honestly have no idea. I fall off the wagon and it takes a bulldozer to get me back on. Doesn't help that I'm carrying all of this extra weight either. 

For the past few weeks I've been stuffing my face with so much food and drink that I could barely breathe. The 'last supper' syndrome where you tell yourself that come January 1st you'll be better. You won't eat as much and you'll get off the sauce. It's funny too, because ordinarily I am very healthy in my food choices, and try to restrict the alcohol. But this Christmas, all bets were off. 

It's a new year now. I woke up this morning and knew that the indescribable thing had happened - that click, the turning point, the moment of clarity - when you realize that you feel different. You know you're focused and determined again. So now is the time to establish my goals and intentions. Not new years resolutions where you're inherently set up to fail... no, something much stronger than that. Goals that can be realized over time, and intentions that you may realize everyday. 

My overall goal is to become a yoga instructor. After what I've just written, you may be surprised. But I'm convinced not all yoga teachers are perfect all the time. They slip too. Maybe not as monumentally as I do, but that's part of this journey. I think anyone can be a yogi. I don't want to reprimand myself for my shortcomings, but rather learn from them and continue to evolve. 

My goals? To go to yoga class as often as possible. To try bikram yoga. To build a stronger more healthy body. To lose weight. To sleep better at night. To drink less. 

My intentions? My intention is to be open to what yoga can offer me. To be kind to my body. To practice discipline and restraint. To focus my energy. To love with my all, so I may be a good wife and friend. 

Today there's a bikram (hot) class at 4 and 6 pm. I should go.