Posted by: kerryalina | 16 October 2013

Bikram for the Socially Anxious

I don’t do well around crowds of people.  Not even a little bit.  I went to a packed film festival last night, hosted by some very dear friends of mine… and spent the whole evening hovering by the door, trying to convince myself not to escape and run out into the cool, quiet night.

I also struggle with unknowns.  I’m definitely most comfortable when I can visualise exactly what a situation will entail, and I lose the plot a little when I don’t know what to expect.  I mean, I once bailed on a girl’s night out because I didn’t know whether the club would have a coat check, and I got stuck in this spiral of despair because I couldn’t figure out what to do with my coat if there wasn’t a check.  It doesn’t get much non-functional than that.

I’d read a whole bunch about how Bikram can help with anxiety in general (along with a whole slew of other issues I was experiencing), and I really wanted to give it a shot.  But, of course, I was just so damn anxious that the very thought of trying something so very unknown was terrifying.  I’d scoured the studio’s website and FAQs for hours; studying them until I knew each word by heart, but I still felt wildly unprepared.  And whilst I know this will be COMPLETE overkill for the vast majority of people, just in case anyone else out there is just as screwed up as I am, I’d like to present:

kerryalina’s Social Anxiety-Friendly, Step-by-Step Guide to your Very First Bikram Yoga Class.

First Things First

  • Remember: every Bikram Yoga class everywhere is the same.  Every time.  All around the world.  Really.  It’s a 90 minute class, with the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises.  I’ve practiced at studios in Melbourne, San Francisco, New York, Bali and Tel Aviv.  Same class.  Every time.
    • Note: “Hot Yoga” isn’t always the same as “Bikram Yoga.”  Any style you want to practice is fine, but a lot of the information below is Bikram-specific.
  • Check out your chosen studio’s website.  They’ll usually have an FAQ or “Beginners” section.  If not, my home studio has a basic one here.
  • Double-check the address.  Find it on google maps.  Make sure you know exactly where it is – my first Bikram class was derailed because I was looking on the wrong side of the street for 20 minutes, and it was weeks before I was brave enough to try again.  I suck.

Preparing for Class

  • Pack your bag the night before.  At the very minimum, you’ll need:
    • Yoga clothes (shorts and a croptop if you’re brave; leggings and a singlet if you’re not.  Try to avoid cotton – it gets soaked in sweat and weighs you down/chafes the skin.  Overly baggy apparel may result in unintentional “overexposure.”  Lycra and “breathable” fabrics are your friends)
    • A yoga mat
    • A bath towel (Not a beach towel (too big) or a hand towel (too small).  Just a regular sized bath towel)
    • A water bottle (don’t freeze it – it’ll never thaw enough during class and you’ll be staring at the useless ice with all the hatred your soul is capable of.  If you really want icy-cold water, fill the bottle with ice cubes and then top it up with cold water)
    • Hair elastics/bobby pins/headband (anything to keep your hair out of your face.  If you have long hair, try a few different positions for ponytails/buns beforehand – you want something that’ll still be comfortable when you’re lying on your back AND when you’re lying on your stomach with your head sideways/cheek on the floor.  I found two braids works well; others prefer a very low or very high bun)
    • A plastic bag (for stinky sweaty stuff.  There will be stinky sweaty stuff)
    • A change of clothes for after class (everything.  Including underwear.  Trust me on this)
  • Optional extras include:
    • A second towel (for a shower after class)
    • Toiletries (most studios provide a shampoo/conditioner/body wash hybrid liquid.  You may prefer to bring your own stuff)
    • A cloth to clean your mat (most studios provide a cleaning spray, but a hot damp cloth works in a pinch)
    • A hairdryer/comb/brush/whatever (my studio doesn’t provide hairdryers.  Some do.  Check the website to make sure, or bring yours just in case)
    • Deodorant (for after your post-class shower.  Don’t use it before class.  It will do nothing)
  • You can rent yoga mats and towels (and buy water) at the studio.  They’re generally around AU/US$2 each.
  • Pay attention to food and drink before class.  Here are the generally accepted guidelines:
    • Drink LOTS of water throughout the day
    • No food for three hours before class (bending and twisting with a pound of lasagna in your tummy kind of sucks ass)
    • No drinks for two hours before class (otherwise you’ll have to pee halfway through)
    • Try not to eat a big greasy meal that day (it won’t kill you, but it won’t make class super fun, either)

Rocking Up

  • The studio opens half an hour before class starts (eg. doors open at 5:30 for a 6:00 class).  Try to get there as close to doors opening as possible, or 15 minutes before start time at the latest.  If you arrive and the doors are open/unlocked, you’re fine to go straight in.
  • When you first walk in, there’ll be an area for shoes – generally clearly marked and/or already full of shoes.  Take your shoes off and leave them under the benches/in the cubbyholes/wherever the studio says.
  • There’ll be an area with paperwork somewhere near reception.  If you can’t see it, walk up to the reception desk (you might have to wait in line).  They’ll probably ask for your name – just tell them that you’re new and they’ll point you towards the forms.
    • The forms are generally just basic name/contact details and a medical waiver saying you won’t sue them if you faint.
  • Take the forms back to reception (wait in line again if necessary).  Most studios have an intro deal – in Australia, it’s generally $19 for 10 days – and they should sign you up for that.
    • Also ask and pay now for any mats/towels/water you need
  • The receptionist may give you a spiel about when to drink water and what the class will be like (hot.  duh).  If you’re not sure where the change rooms or hot room doors are, ask.
    • It can also be helpful to ask the receptionist if there are “cooler” areas of the room – these are generally close by the windows or doors and may be more beginner-friendly.  Realistically though, everywhere will feel like the surface of the sun to begin with.
  • Go get changed into your yoga gear/do your hair/whatever.
    • Some studios have free lockers for your valuables.  Others you have to rent.  One I’ve been to had free lockers, but you have to bring your own padlock.  I’ve never really bothered with lockers (everyone is in the hot room and the front doors are locked during class, so who’s gonna rob me?), but check out your studio’s website for their locker details.  Otherwise, just leave your bag in the changeroom
  • Enter the hot room!  You only want to bring in your yoga mat, one towel, and your water bottle(s).

Let the Fun and Games Begin!

  • The studio’s usually a long, narrow room with mirrors lining one of the long walls.  The lights will probably be off.  There’s carpet on the floor.  It’s HOT and also humid.  It might smell a little funky.  You’ll get used to it, I swear.
  • Beginners set up in the back row – this will be along the long wall with no mirrors.  Put your mat down so that the short edge is facing the mirrors and lay the towel on top, covering your mat.  If there is someone in front of you, try to stagger the mats so that you can see yourself in the mirror.  If there’s still some time before class starts, lie down with your head towards the mirror.
  • There’s generally a small podium in the middle of the front row/mirrors – that’s where the teacher stands during class.  Don’t worry about being close to the teacher’s podium; they don’t practice during class.  They explain what you should be doing, but they don’t do the poses along with you.  You watch the people in front of you to get an idea of how to move.
  • Please don’t talk when you’re in the hot room (even quietly!).  People will make angry faces and maybe even loud shushing noises at you.  The shushing is much more distracting than your original talking, but for some reason they do it anyway.
  • When the teacher walks in, they’ll turn on the lights and say hi.  This is your cue to stand up and face the mirrors.
    • They might ask if there are any beginners in the class, or call out your name.  It’s just so they can keep a closer eye on you so you don’t get hurt.  Just stick your hand up when they ask.

During Class

  • Class is always the same postures in the same order.  You do each posture twice and then move on to the next one.
  • There are a couple of different sections to the class, roughly separated as follows:
    • Breathing exercise (5 mins)
    • Warm-up (20 mins)
    • Standing series (30 mins)
    • Floor series (30 mins)
    • Breathing exercise (5 mins)
  • The teacher will be explaining, step-by-step, how to do each posture.  It’s very important that you follow these directions.  If you’re not sure how to do something, look at the people in front of you and copy them.
  • Don’t drink any water until after the warm-up (your teacher will say “Party Time!” to let you know when this is).
    • After this, you can drink water whenever you want, but try to do it only in between postures – not when anyone else is balancing.
  • You’ll sweat.  A LOT.  Just go with it.  Everyone around you is sweating rivers as well.  Nobody cares.  It’s cooling you down, so try not to wipe it off.
  • You’re probably going to feel dizzy/nauseous/overheated/really freaking weird during class.  You might feel like you’re dying.  THAT’S OKAY.  Everyone else does too, I swear.  They’re just better at ignoring it.  I can promise that you’re not actually going to die/throw up/faint/whatever else your brain is telling you.
    • If you can’t keep going, kneel down on your mat.  Join in again when you feel better.
    • Don’t leave the room.  Really.  It’s going to be the only thing you want to do, but the best thing to do is just stay on your mat.
    • Drink some water if you want, but try to take little sips.  Too much water sloshing around in your tummy will just make you feel ill.
  • The first 60 mins are all standing-up postures.  The last 30 mins are postures where you’re lying/sitting on your mat.  So when your teacher tells everyone to lay down for the first time, you know you’re already two-thirds finished!

After Class

  • After the final breathing exercise, the teacher will say something about “final Savasana,” then turn off the lights and leave the room.  Stay and just lay on your mat for a few minutes.  Let your body and mind process what you just put yourself through.
  • Take your mat/towel/water bottle and quietly leave the room.
    • If you hired a mat from the studio, you might have to hang it up at the back of the hot room before leaving.
    • Laundry hampers for rented towels will be in the changerooms or near reception.
  • Shower/change/whatever.  There are usually only a few showers and lots of people wanting them, so try to be fast!
  • Grab your shoes, say bye to the teacher and you can finally escape out the front door :)

Concerns and Minutiae

  • Glasses?
    I wear glasses during class – they’ve never fogged up and the only time I have to take them off is the very first forward bend (Hands to Feet pose).  Others prefer to leave their specs in the change room.  Try both ways, see what feels most comfortable for you.
  • I’m not flexible/I’m too fat/I’m so old!
    The standard response is “Saying you’re too stiff for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty for a bath.”  And there’s Bikram’s Choudhury’s famous “You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from the scratch once again.”  And it’s true, of course.  But here’s the thing: what most people mean is that they’re scared they’ll suck.  And honestly?  You will.  You’re going to suck.  You’ll be looking at all these crazy flexible gumby people in the front row effortlessly gliding into postures, as you struggle to just get a hold of your foot.You know what?  It doesn’t matter.  Not one person in the class cares what you can and can’t do.  Nobody will laugh.  Not one person finds Bikram yoga “easy.”  Everybody struggles with something – those flexi freaks might be working on their strength.  Or they might struggle with the heat.  Personally, I can stretch like the devil but my balance sucks.  Everyone has been where you are.  Most of us are STILL THERE in some ways.  Try to stop comparing yourself to others (it’s harder than it sounds!) and focus on acknowledging how much your own practice improves over time.  Go in there and OWN that suck.
  • I can’t do what the teacher’s saying/There’s no way I could do those poses!
    Bikram Yoga is described as a beginner’s series.  It’s true, in a way… but also a little misleading.  A beginner’s series doesn’t mean that you can do everything perfectly on your first class.  It means that you can do at least the first step of everything.  Here’s an example – Standing Head to Knee pose has the following steps:
    1. Shift your weight to your left leg and lock the knee
    2. Interlace your fingers and pick up your right foot
    3. Bring your right foot out in front of your right knee
    4. Kick your right leg out so that it’s parallel to the floor
    5. Flex your right toes back
    6. Bring your elbows down below the calf muscle
    7. Tuck your chin in and touch your forehead to the knee

I’ve been practicing for two and a half years and I still can’t get past step 4.  But everyone can do step 1; even if it’s just for a few minutes.  That’s what’s meant when Bikram is described as a beginner’s series – you can do at least part of each posture.

So, follow along with the teacher’s instructions as long as you can.  When you reach a part of the pose that’s utterly impossible, stick with whatever you’ve managed so far and just hold it.  If all you can do is step 1/lock the knee, just stay there and lock the knee as hard as you possibly can.  Eventually you’ll have the strength/stability to pick up your right foot :)

Have I forgotten anything?  Are things different in your studio?  Are you new and have questions I haven’t answered?  Hit me up!

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Posted by: kerryalina | 9 October 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different

Way back in May, one of my friends mentioned that he would be doing Tough Mudder this year.  He giddily went on to describe what’s involved – a 20km mud run with obstacles designed by British Special Forces, meant to test your “all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.”  As I sat on my couch laughing at this insanity, he suddenly turned to me and exclaimed “Hey!  You should do it too!”

I was almost too shocked to respond.  “I can’t,” I stuttered, grasping for the first possible excuse.  “I wear glasses.  They’ll get smashed.”

“So?”  was his response.  “Get some contacts.”

Shit.  I could TOTALLY get some contacts.

And that’s how I ended up doing Tough Mudder.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Ironically, that friend then ended up dropping out of the race.  But at 8am on a sunny Spring morning, my team of four lost souls turned up to the racetrack on Phillip Island.  I’d never even walked further than 10km at a time, and having polished off a couple of bottles of bubbly and an indecent amount of chocolate the night before, we probably weren’t in the best condition to be climbing and swimming and running through electroshock wires.  None of us thought we’d be able to finish the course.  But hell, we figured that at the very least we’d have a few laughs.

And that we most certainly did.  Even the most terrifying obstacles were achievable with three other people cheering you on, hauling you up, pushing you over.  We each had different strengths and different fears (swimming, heights, enclosed spaces), which meant I could encourage my teammates when they were struggling and gratefully receive their reassurance when I just wanted to curl up and die.

After five gruelling hours of trawling through mud and climbing over obstacles, we stumbled across the finish line – triumphant and filthy and absolutely bloody exhausted.

The Four Mudsketeers

The Four Mudsketeers

—————————————————————————————————————————-

I was chatting with one of my friends the following week, and she asked how I’d felt during the race.  The answer was something like “awesome! –> getting tired –> OH GOD KILL ME NOW –> ALMOST DONE JUST KEEP GOING!”  And she asked how I’d kept going during the times when I wanted to die.  I hadn’t really thought about it until that moment, but my instant response was: “Just some tricks I learnt from Bikram.”

“Oh,” she said.  “Bending like a crazy gumby freak?”

Ahahaha.  No.  There is not a question in my mind that I could not have achieved this without my Bikram Yoga practice.  It has nothing to do with fitness or flexibility (although I’m sure that helped!).  Rather, it’s the mental resilience and knowledge of my own body that helped me cross the finish line.

Without two and a half years of arguing with myself, I wouldn’t know the difference between “I want to sit down” and “I need to sit down.”

Without two and a half years of pushing myself through postures that I “hate” (I used to inexplicably get HOT and SICK and TIRED whenever Full Locust loomed up ahead, only to have a miraculous recovery immediately after) I wouldn’t be able to recognise that my brain’s reaction when I don’t want to do whatever’s immediately ahead of me is to go into full-on “QUIT NOW” mode… and I wouldn’t have developed any number of mental tricks to do get through it anyway.

Without two and a half years of pushing myself to my limit, I wouldn’t know how to stop before pushing myself into injury.

Without two and a half years of yoga, I wouldn’t know how to breathe.

Posted by: kerryalina | 2 June 2013

Out of Commission

I’ve had a bit of a rough time lately.  I injured my leg in a Master Class a couple months back and decided to stay away from the studio until it healed enough to put my weight back on it.  Unfortunately, as soon as I got to that point… I crashed my car.  My first car.  That I’ve had for less than a year.  “Devastated” would be an understatement.  Also an understatement: “mortified and ashamed.”  I went camping with some friends and whilst driving on a gravel road for the first time, I braked just slightly too hard and lost control.  I went into a spin, slammed into an embankment and wrote my poor little Polo off.

Also pictured: Tow-truck driver who tried to rip me off

Also pictured: Asshole tow-truck driver who tried to rip me off

Luckily (thank god!) there were no other cars involved and nobody sitting in my car, and yet I wasn’t alone: I had friends nearby to help me.  I wasn’t seriously injured, but I was bruised, battered and suffering from a hell of a case of whiplash.  Once again, yoga was put on hold until I got some range of motion back in my neck.  Although I know that Bikram would have helped me heal quicker… when moving my head a centimetre in any direction was cause for pained yelps and insta-tears, just the thought of Pranayama breathing was enough to make me hyperventilate.

Around this time, there was what seemed like an endless list of things in my life that weren’t going to plan.  But to avoid drawing the pity party out any further, I’ll just hit the most pertinent point: right around the time my neck finally healed, I ended up in hospital with what my doctor referred to as “super bad bronchitis.”  And then my bronchitis meds interacted with my whiplash meds in a really super bad way.  Which wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had.

You’re getting the picture, right?  It was a two month period where pretty much everything – big and small, personal and professional – felt like it was going wrong.  And not only was my life collapsing, it was doing so in a way that prevented me from attending class, that was keeping me away from Bikram – the one thing I’ve come to rely on to help me through dark times.

But instead of wallowing in self-pity, instead of getting frustrated and upset and angry… I just waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I took my medicine and I did my exercises and I waited.  And yesterday my leg was strong and my neck could move and my lungs were clear and I went back to class.

And it was glorious.

I think one of the greatest things I’ve learnt through Bikram is some semblance of patience.  I’ve never been a fan of delayed gratification – if I want it, then I want it all and I want it now.  I’ve always been the type to download a new television series and watch the entire thing in one sleepless weekend; the person who decides at midnight that I want ice-cream, immediately walks to the supermarket to buy a punnet, and gorges myself on the entire thing before rolling uneasily into bed.  But that doesn’t work well with yoga.  It doesn’t matter how much you want that perfect Standing Head to Knee, it’s just not going to happen without putting in years of boundless effort.

And so over the past two years, this impatience of mine has become a much less visceral desire.  Sure, if there’s something I want then I would prefer to have it now.  But if I can’t, then that’s okay.  And if I do have to wait, I can do so without becoming frustrated and anxious.  I put in the effort that I can, and then I just wait.  And I’m okay with that.

Perhaps the word I’m looking for isn’t patience, exactly, but acceptance.  And I’m so very grateful that I found it.

Posted by: kerryalina | 22 March 2013

Okay, Let’s Talk About This

I wasn’t sure whether to approach this topic; I’m sure it will be controversial.  But silence implies acceptance, and that’s something I’m not willing to give to this situation.

I’ve been getting a LOT of hits lately from people searching on some variation of “Bikram Yoga” and “Sexual Harassment.”  It’s because of this (update: a non-sensationalised article with a link to the full lawsuit can be found here).  If you don’t want to click through, then here’s the short story: a 29 year old Bikram student/teacher trainee has sued Bikram Choudhury for sexual harassment (persistent and unwanted advances at teacher training) and discrimination (“sabotaging” her teaching career after she repeatedly turned him down).

It’s serious.  And it’s awful.  I’m not even slightly interested in rehashing the details – this woman has gone through enough without having the experience dissected by a blogger who’s never met any of the involved parties.  But I really, really want to say is this:

This is not okay.

I firmly believe that Bikram Yoga does nothing but good.  But Bikram Yoga is not Bikram Choudhury.  And Bikram Choudhury – however benevolent and well-intentioned his motives may have been originally – has long been a force unto himself.  An amusing and highly charismatic force, most assuredly, otherwise he never would have got this far.  But for every crass joke that you can’t help but laugh at, there’s a hint of discomfort that lingers afterwards.  And for every reassurance from Bikram Choudhury that he “loves women,” there’s the whisper that asks “Yes, but does he respect them?”

There are many who attend Teacher Training and have nothing but positive experiences.  But the rumours of uninvited and unwelcome propositions have been around for years.  While they are just that – rumours – they’ve been too long-lived and too similar to be the invention of a few malcontents.  And the fact that so much support and so many similar stories came out of the woodwork once this suit was filed, suggests that nobody felt safe enough to share their experiences at the time.  And you know what?

This is not okay.

  • If you want to cheat on your wife?  That’s your decision.  It’s a shitty decision, but it’s yours.
  • If you want to hit on your students?  That’s your decision.  It’s a morally ambiguous one, given your position of authority, but it’s yours.
  • If you single out women (and only women) to give you special attention during class?  This is not okay.
  • If you continually proposition students to the point where they’re breaking down in tears?  This is not okay.
  • If you take advantage of your position to blackmail students into agreeing to your advances, or to punish them when they don’t?  This is not okay.

This is not okay.

This is not okay.

This is not okay.

Posted by: kerryalina | 21 March 2013

Rollercoaster

I have been ROCKING it lately.  Cooler weather and no humidity makes for a happy kerryalina.  I was even more excited once I heard that Juan Manuel Martin Busutil (the current world asana champion) was coming to my studio for a Master Class!  I’ve done master classes half a dozen times – they’re generally the usual beginners’ class but with short breaks for demonstrations, corrections, explanations and tips interspersed throughout.  Afterwards there’s a Q&A session followed by a demonstration of the visiting champion’s competition routine.  I LOVE master classes – they’re always packed, the energy is amazing and I’ve learnt so much from them about extending and fine-tuning my practice.  I couldn’t wait!  It was going to be great!  But then I arrived at the studio and was reminded once again that the number one rule in Bikram?  Is NO EXPECTATIONS.

First problem: One of my teachers pulled me aside when I arrived and asked if I’d be willing to demonstrate some poses for the class.  My first shocked reaction was “But I suck!”  I quickly realised from his reaction that he probably interpreted this as fishing for compliments, so I panicked and immediately followed up with “…but okay, I’d be happy to!”  I smiled, walked away (glowing with the unexpected ego-boost)… and immediately started freaking out.  I mean, it’s one thing to continually fall out of Standing Bow in class; it’s another thing entirely to do it in front of approximately five million yogis.  What if he wanted me to do Standing Head to Knee?  I can’t even kick out properly!  And it would be not only in front of all my fellow students, but also every single teacher!  I was already feeling stiff and uncoordinated today; there was no chance I was going to cover myself in glory.  And that’s when I realised:

I've made a huge mistake

Second problem:  Juan’s definition of a Master Class was substantially different to everyone else’s.  Instead of giving us the benefit of his years of experience and in-depth knowledge of yoga… he stuck to the dialogue, cranked the heat, maxed out the humidity and worked our asses off.  Which is great and all… but I can get my ass kicked by pretty much any Bikram teacher.  I don’t need to pay $35 for the privilege.  His Q&A session consisted of a few life stories (every question about yoga or postures was met with a lacklustre “Well, it depends.”) and in the end, he didn’t even do his demonstration.  I can honestly say that I didn’t learn a single thing yesterday, which left me feeling frustrated and resentful.

Third problem:  When we were already struggling with the overwhelming heat (half the class had dropped to their mats by Party Time), what does he throw at us?  THIRD SETS.  Of Half Moon (“Lol, okay.”), Standing Head to Knee (“…srsly?”), and then Standing Bow (“You have GOT to be kidding me.”).  By that stage I was so overwhelmed, exhausted and frustrated that I wildly kicked up and up and UP… and suddenly crumpled to my mat in pain as I felt my inner thigh muscle strain and my leg give out from under me.  You guys.  It felt like I had been STABBED IN THE THIGH.  I honestly thought I had torn my muscle in half.  And as I’m curled up on the ground, clutching my leg and sobbing in pain, Juan looks straight at me and says “We’re not moving into Standing Bow until everyone joins in.  It’s a team exercise!  So stand up, miss.”

Which brings me to my fourth problem.  It’s one that is completely down to personal opinion, and I’ll admit that I obviously haven’t had enough time to have in-depth conversations or really get to know him.  But as far as I can see?

Juan’s kind of a dick.

Here’s a tip for teachers everywhere: if your student limps from the room in tears to get ice for her battered muscles, don’t mock her.  If somebody else runs out and loud vomiting sounds can be heard from the bathroom shortly thereafter, don’t laugh that he just can’t handle your class.  And if you come across both these wayward wannabe yogis sitting together after class and feeling sorry for themselves, try to show at least a little compassion rather than berating them for leaving the room.  Because once you’ve done all these things (and more!), the only impression you’ve left is that of arrogance and an overwhelming lack of understanding.

Posted by: kerryalina | 13 March 2013

Dirty Little Secret

It’s no secret that I love Bikram.  I love the sequence, the teachers, the community, the constant opportunities to learn and grow.  But you know what?  I think I’d love it even more at room temperature.

Sure, I can appreciate the virtues of the heat.  As soon as I enter the studio, I can feel my muscles relaxing and lengthening.  The sweat pouring from every square centimetre of skin makes sliding into Eagle a breeze.  The heat adds one more element of difficulty, encouraging the adoption of grace and focus under pressure.  And while I’m sceptical of the toxin-cleansing claims that run rampant in the hot yoga community, I’ll happily admit that when practicing regularly, my sweat becomes clearer and less pungent, which can only be a good thing when later I’m running for a tram on a 40 degree summer day.

But, dammit, I just don’t like it.

I always assumed that at some point I’d become acclimatised to the heat, that I’d begin to not even notice it – even start to welcome it.  And to a certain extent, that’s been true – at least it no longer hits me in the face like a steamed towel when I walk through the front doors.  When I came back from my four month break, there was even two blissful months where I didn’t notice the temperature at all.  I had some classes where I was too exhausted to complete all the postures (*coughTrianglecough*), but not once in this glorious period did I even begin to feel overheated.  At some point, I decided that this was it.  I was acclimatised.  I could take whatever the thermostat threw at me and work it, baby!

So of course the next day, I got hit by the yoga bus.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.  I make it halfway through spine strengthening, then spend the rest of the class edging ever closer to panic.  Lying gasping on my mat, convincing myself that I couldn’t breathe, that my heart was beating out of my chest, that if I didn’t get out of the room RIGHT THIS SECOND, I was going to die.

Now, I am absolutely 100% certain that I’m not going to die.  But I’ll be damned if I can convince myself of that during locust pose.  And I’m pretty sure it’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy at this point – I expect the panic to hit, I’m waiting for the panic to hit, and so of course it does.

I’m hoping it’s related to this unprecedented (and soon-to-be-broken) heat wave that Melbourne is currently experiencing, but just in case it’s not… does anyone have a magic tip for staving off the monkey brain?  Or reassuring tales of heat acclimatisation suddenly occurring after two years of practice?  Because I’m rapidly approaching the point where I just give up the last half hour of my practice as a lost cause.  Maybe I can start writing out my grocery list during Camel instead ;)

Posted by: kerryalina | 9 March 2013

Gratuitous Photo Shoot

This isn’t a real post.  It’s an excuse to share pretty pictures.

Last night, I had a handful of free tickets to a ballet performance at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.  It was a picnic-on-the-grass type of thing and since it was so low-key and accessible, I took a bunch of friends who hadn’t had a great deal of exposure to ballet before.  I was really anxious before the performance, fretting that it would rain, that my friends wouldn’t enjoy it  since it wasn’t really their “thing,” that we would be too far from the stage to see anything.  I needn’t have worried.  It was a perfect night, made even better by the weather and company.

Super Happy Ballet Friends!

Super Happy Ballet Friends!

(That's me on the right)

(That’s me on the right)

Wandering through the Royal Botanical Gardens after the performance, we came across a beautifully lit fountain.  Inspired by the dancers we’d just seen, the gorgeous scenery and (above all) the presence of cameras… I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.

Balancing Stick

Yoga in a dress. Just realised the boys behind me got a hell of a show…

 

Kisses

Poses by the non-yogis

 

Standing Bow

Possibly my favourite photo of me, EVER.

 

bEsT fRiEnDs 4EVA!!!

bEsT fRiEnDs 4EVA!!!

I’ve wanted some photos of my postures forever, but it just never seemed to work out.  But here I was, suddenly presented with patient friends, a stunning backdrop and (most importantly) weather hot enough that my muscles already felt warmed up!  It was obviously meant to be :)

 

Posted by: kerryalina | 2 March 2013

Feathers Hold it All Together

One year ago*, I was waiting outside a Bikram studio for a teacher who never showed up.  It was at that moment – when I desperately wanted to go to class, but was denied the opportunity – that I was suddenly aware of just how much yoga had come to mean to me.

Being locked out not only gave me the space to come to this realisation; it provided the impetus to commit to my 60 day challenge.  And running out of space while explaining that on Facebook is what prompted me to launch this blog.

Over the past year, I’ve connected with so many beautiful people, shared their struggles and triumphs, and had a few of my own.  I’ve come to understand myself and my practice in a way I never could have dreamed possible.  Every step of the way, you utterly wonderful people have laughed with me, held my hand, cheered me on and commiserated over disappointments (sometimes all at the same time!).  In many ways, having the teacher sleep in that day was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

To celebrate Bikram Butterflies’ birthday, I want to share a video that’s currently one of my favourite Bikram metaphors.


Start with something almost inconsequentially small.  Build on it constantly; repeat the same steps, again and again, with concentration and focus.  Over time it will grow into something amazing.  But never forget that that first step – however small – is what holds it all together.

And above all, remember to breathe!

* I’m a few days late.  I suck at birthdays.

Posted by: kerryalina | 1 March 2013

Yes… And Then What?

I rejoined my local Bikram studio right before Christmas.  It nearly didn’t happen.  After so many months off, I was very close to just giving yoga up as a lost cause.  Maybe it just wasn’t for me.  I was so tired.  I was unfit.  I was in pain from my hips and scared of triggering more heart palpitations.  My practice would have gone backwards.  I wouldn’t be able to DO anything.  It was going to HURT.

In the end, the only way I convinced myself was to follow through on each and every one of those thoughts.  Rather than bemoaning the fact that I was too tired to go to class, I tried to figure out why that would prevent me from attending.

“I can’t go, I’m too tired!” 
Yes… and then what?
“Well, I’ll go to class!  And I’ll be tired!” 
Yes.  And if you go straight home, you’ll be tired.  Being tired is a constant because you didn’t get enough sleep last night.
“But I’m soooooo sleepy.  I’ll probably fall asleep on the mat!”

…I highly doubt that.  And if it does happen, I’m pretty sure the teacher would understand.”
“But…
I’m too tired to do yoga well.  I’ll be… I’ll be bad at it.”

In the end, that was what everything boiled down to.  Unfit?  I couldn’t possibly make it through the series without sitting down.  In pain?  I’d have to back off postures if I noticed them damaging my body.  Practice has deteriorated?  But I’m so used to getting compliments on Balancing Stick!  Sore muscles?  I wouldn’t be able to reach my feet in Stretching Pose!

Um.  Please.  I’ve done a 60 day challenge.  I’ve done classes where I bent forward but could only wave at my toes from afar.  The only thing stopping me from going to class was this stupid fear that I would be bad at it.

And you know what?  I’ve already had incredibly awful classes in the past; days where I felt like I got hit by the yoga bus.  I’ve had classes where it was all I could do not to run screaming from the room after the first posture.  I’ve had a class where I basically DID run screaming from the room.  And I still went.  If there’s one thing that Bikram’s taught me, it’s how to absolutely suck at something and still own that shit.  

So I went.  And I sucked SO BAD and I did it with a smile.  Because after the previous three months of diligently practising my physio exercises, watching in tears as my hips slowly deteriorated from occasional twinges to constant pain, the hot room was a revelation.  Three classes in one week and the pain was gone.  Completely.  Without a trace.

Oh, Bikram.  I’m sorry I ever doubted you.

Posted by: kerryalina | 4 October 2012

Goddammit

Did you miss me?  Who am I kidding; of COURSE you missed me.  I missed you all like crazy too.  But it’s been really tough writing about the joys of Bikram lately because, well, there just hasn’t been much joy during Bikram.  And now there’s not much Bikram.

I’ve written before about my issues with tachycardia in class.  Eventually I reached the point where it was happening more often than not. I begrudgingly accepted that it probably wasn’t normal to have my heart jump from 60 to 200bpm during the very first posture, so off I toddled to the doctor… who promptly advised me to quit Bikram.  Which…  yeah.  Like that was going to happen.  Second opinion, here I come!

Second opinion was the same.

Third opinion; third time lucky… kind of.  This doctor just banned me from Bikram until I could get my heart checked out.  Which has been difficult for a number of reasons; not least of which is the fact that I started a new job fairly recently (and promptly flew off to America for a four week holiday).  Unfortunately, this means my ability to take a couple of half-days off work to visit a cardiologist is fairly limited right now.  There’s also the fun fact that the portable monitor they’d use to track my heart for 24 hours?  You can’t get it wet.  And the only place my heartrate reliably goes nuts is at Bikram.  Let’s think about the logistics of that for a moment.

So I begged and I pleaded and I gazed upon the doctor with puppy dog eyes, until he sighed and said that if I wanted to take risks with my heart there was nothing he could do to stop me, but PLEASE, for the love of god, take it easy in class and call an ambulance the second it happens again.

If there are two thoughts you don’t want to have going into Bikram, they’re “take it easy” and “call an ambulance if your heartrate rises.”  Way to harsh my buzz, dude.

So with this enthusiastic consent from my doctor, I struggled through a handful of unsatisfying classes; flopping to my mat gracelessly and making frustrated faces at the mirror every time my pulse started to rise.  And with all that extra time to think, I started focussing on how much more my hips have been hurting over the past few months.  They’ve always been dodgy – pretty much any movement will make them click and clunk in their joints – but lately it’s gone from “huh, that’s a funny noise” to “owowowowowow.”  I decided that since I had all this free time due to the severe lack of Bikram in my life, I might as well get it checked out.  And off I toddled to the physio.

Who promptly advised me to quit Bikram.

Not just Bikram, in fact, but yoga in general.  Apparently I have fairly severe hip dysplasia, and apparently yoga is the WORST THING EVER for hip dysplasia.  So, you know, it appears I have a talent for falling in love with life-changing activities that will completely ruin my body.  That’s something, right?

Right???

So I came home from the physio and cried into a plate of cupcakes.  Then I started working on my page full of exercises to try and get the right muscles working.  My physio is dangling in front of me the vague promise that maybe, one day, if I work really really hard, I might be able to go back to class.  As long as I don’t go too often.  And balance it out with pilates or something.  And (once again) if I take it easy.

I give it a fortnight before I decide that Bikram is more important than hips.

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