KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN

If you read my posts on a regular basis you already know that I did a personal yoga challenge for the month of February.  Also, that I do yoga, when not challenging myself to do it every single day, usually 4-5 times a week.  In the various styles of yoga I have done, the very last pose of most classes, and the one pose that is considered the hardest, is called savasana.  This is pronounced either sha-va-sa-na or sa-va-sa-na.  It is a Sanskrit word that means corpse pose.  It is called that because you are lying on your back, not moving.  Personally, it is one of my favorites.  The idea behind it is to do absolutely nothing, which means you quiet your body and your mind.  The body, I really have no problem keeping still, at least not for the 5 or so minutes that usually constitute savasana; my mind, though I like to think it is quiet, the truth is, it probably isn’t.  Actually, I know it isn’t.

In what I will call ‘normal’ yoga, that is, all the different types of yoga that I have done, except Bikram, when you are in savanna, your eyes are closed.  And honestly, there are times when we are in, say, warrior two, and the instructor will encourage us to close our eyes, just to feel the pose.  Most poses on the back can be done with the eyes either open or closed, which to me means to have my eyes shut, and I like it that way.  Since most of the classes I do are outside, I wear sunglasses, whether it is sunny or overcast;  but even with my eyes protected, I prefer them shut.  Bikram, however, is a completely different story.  When I was going to Bikram yoga, my teacher would say, ‘This is a 90 minute meditation with your eyes open the entire time.’  I will admit that the first week or so, I had a really hard time keeping them open.  I got better as the month went on, but I still had to mentally and purposefully keep them open, especially when we are in the mini-savasanas between the poses on the floor that make up half of the class.  To me, yoga is as much about feeling the postures and poses as the actual position of my body.  And I feel things better with my eyes closed.

While my mind was supposed to be quiet, I was thinking about how keeping ones eyes open can be a metaphor for life.  When we do not keep our eyes open we can miss what is right in front of us.  Or conversely,  we shut our eyes to what is right in front of us.  We can choose to see or not see, and we can do that whether our eyes are open or shut.  How can one possibly stop to smell the roses if those roses haven’t been seen first?

When I lived in Europe, I walked more than I took the bus or taxis.  And when I walked, I frequently would look up, and I mean, way up, so that I could see the tops of the buildings, which were more often than not, even more beautiful than the view at street level.  I would never have known this had I not looked up.  At the same time, if you are always and only looking up, then it stands to reason you will miss whatever is on the ground in front of you.  It is a balancing thing; you kind of have to do both.  Of course, Mae West said that “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”  Personally, I do not think that you can ever see too much.

We’ve all had experiences where, even with our eyes open, we cannot remember how we got where we are, literally or figuratively.   So, eyes opened or eyes shut, it is up to us to see, or not see, where we are, and maybe even more importantly, where we are headed. Still, if you aren’t aware of what’s truly going on around you and are walking with your ‘head in the clouds,’ you just might get hit by a bus.  Awareness, then, seems to me to be the real key, whether your eyes are open or not.

 

 

 

I DID IT!!!

Yea!  Yippee!  Music cued and I’m doing the happy dance!  Okay, really, I’m just sitting at my desk typing, but in my mind, I’m dancing.  Yesterday was day 28 of my own personal yoga challenge, and I am happy to say I did it!  Of course, if it would not have rained all last night and this morning, I would have had 29 days in a row since I always do beach yoga on Sundays.  Unless, of course, it is raining.  When I realized beach yoga would not be happening today, my first thought was, ‘I’ll go to Bikram;’ my second thought was, ‘what’s wrong with you?  Your body needs a break.’  So, no yoga today.   My body truly does need a day of rest.

This what I learned from doing 28 straight days of yoga – it is exhausting.  For whatever reason, I definitely need a day off to let my body recover and recuperate from all I ask of it on a daily basis.  I also think if I did beach yoga 7 days a week, I’d probably be okay.  It was the Bikram that I found so difficult.  And not difficult in that it was hard, but, rather, it was the heat and sweating like a racehorse that did me in.  Don’t get me wrong, I kind of liked it, or I at least liked the challenge of doing it.  I did not manage to fall in love with it, though I will continue to do it, but only one day a week.  What I also learned is I need to walk.  It is like breathing to me, and when I am unable to do it, I feel like something vital is missing.  I simply did not have the time to do yoga every day and walk, too.  Maybe if I didn’t have to work… but I did, I do.

I was so busy getting through last month’s challenge that I never thought of anything to do for the month of March.  Like I mentioned a few posts back, January was cleansing and no sugar or alcohol; February was continuing to eat clean, and though I did drink alcohol a couple of times, for the most part I stuck with not drinking, and, of course, my yoga challenge.  I think for March I will take it easy and spend the month deciding on a challenge for April.  It seems a good thing for me to challenge myself.

Below are a few quotes about challenge that spoke to me.  Perhaps they will inspire something in you, as well:

“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.”   ~Summer Sanders

“Challenge is the pathway to engagement and progress in our lives. But not all challenges are created equal. Some challenges make us feel alive, engaged, connected, and fulfilled. Others simply overwhelm us. Knowing the difference as you set bigger and bolder challenges for yourself is critical to your sanity, success, and satisfaction.”   ~Brendon Burchard

“I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don’t know anything about.”   ~Joel Osteen

“Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in our lives as a direct result of facing an extreme challenge – whether it’s coping with a serious illness, daring to quit smoking, or dealing with depression. Researchers call this ‘post-traumatic growth.'”   ~Jane McGonigal

Of these four quotes, the last one explains, perhaps, the why I feel it necessary to challenge myself.  I guess in some ways I am still healing from my sexual assault, and this is my brain’s way of continuing my ‘post-traumatic growth.’  I like it!  It makes sense to me.  I think so much of what we do, of what I do, is more unconscious than not.  These small or not-so-small challenges I set for myself are a way of being more conscious in my life.  And if life truly is a journey, not a destination, as Ralph Waldo Emerson believed, then the way I see it, the more conscious we are, the better that journey will be.  So much, well, really, everything, changed in my life on 24 September 2011, which has turned out to not be a ‘bad’ thing.  I’ve just had to learn how to embrace what now is.  I will continue to challenge myself, and, hopefully, continue to grow.  And that, I believe, is a very good thing.

 

 

A YOGA CHALLENGE

The yoga studio I most go to when not doing beach yoga is Mosaic.  Starting on the 21st of this month, they are beginning a 30-Day Challenge, which includes doing yoga for 30 days, eating clean, and meditating.   I thought I would participate, but after looking at the studio’s class schedule, I realized there was no way to make it work for me.  So I decided to make my own challenge.  I started on February 1, which makes today the eighth day of my challenge.  My usual yoga schedule for the last year or so has been beach yoga on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with the occasional class at Mosaic when it rained.

I love to walk, and as I’ve talked about before, pre-attack, I used to walk 60-90 miles each week.  The reason I got so much mileage is living on Coronado Island and walking everywhere.  My actual workout walk would be anywhere from 6-10 miles, depending on the day.  As I have also mentioned before, after my attack, my walking went to zero miles per week.  I could barely even walk to the grocery store in the middle of the day.  Eventually I was able to get back to walking, but only after the sun came up.  I have never gotten back to the kind of miles I used to put in.  That is partly because of not walking in the dark and partly because I’ve been really busy with work and don’t feel like I can take the time to walk when I need to be working.  In any case, my schedule of late has been walk on Mondays, walk sometimes early with my friend Mike on Tuesdays, bike to beach yoga on Tuesdays at 8:30a, Wednesdays sometimes walk, but usually this would be my off day, Thursdays bike to beach yoga at 8a, Fridays walk, Saturdays walk and Sundays walk to beach yoga at 9:30.  It may sound like a lot, but, really, it isn’t.  I need to move my body.  A lot.

For the month of January, I decided to drink no alcohol, eat clean, cut out sugar and processed carbs.  Though I was not 100% successful, I’d say I was better than 90% ‘good.’   I was actually in bars 3 different times during the month and drank only water.  That wasn’t as hard as it sounds when one of the bars I was in has drinks that are $15.50 without tax and tip!  Anyway, I chose to begin the year with a cleanse of sorts because I have yet to lose the weight gained after my attack.  And while it is not much, at most 10-15 pounds, and since I am tall and was thin to begin with, it’s not like I look bad; I am just not comfortable, and so decided that 2015 is the year to make it happen.  I have to say the biggest benefit of not eating sugar, which is what alcohol becomes, is very few hot flashes, and even the ones I’ve had have been tiny and not disruptive.  That alone should be enough to keep me from ever drinking again!  And to be honest, I did have one, and only one, glass of champagne on the 31st, so I did not remain alcohol-free the entire month.  I haven’t had anything since though, so that must count for something.

For February, with the idea planted in my brain to do yoga for 30 days, I decided to challenge myself to do it every day this month.  Saturday was an easy choice: go back to doing the ashtanga class I used to do in Pacific Beach.  Now I just needed to fill Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  The obvious choice for this was to do Bikram yoga at the studio here on the island.  Best of all, they have a 6a class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Perfect!  (I did a class there almost 2 years ago, and though I didn’t hate it, I had never gone back.  It really was difficult with hot flashes and made them worse.  I couldn’t see torturing myself even more so.)  I got a Groupon for $99 of 2 months unlimited yoga.  So, I had my schedule down: M,W,F Bikram, T, Th, Su, beach yoga and Sa ashtanga in Pacific Beach.  I figured the biggest challenge would be M,W,F, and oh, was I right.

I did okay on my first Bikram class last Monday.  Yes, I sweated buckets, but, thankfully, the heat did not give me hot flashes (must be the no sugar.)  Also, since I am a year more into my practice of yoga in general, I am simply stronger and better able to do the poses.  So, my first class was okay.  Since beach yoga is never a problem, Tuesday’s class was uneventful.  I did choose to walk to it, just to get some walking in.  Wednesday’s Bikram class had me wondering what I was thinking making this challenge for myself.  I was so sore.  I have been ‘Epsom salting’ myself on a nightly basis, which I’m sure helps, but I was really hurting.  I went to bed at 8:30p and slept 9 hours.  I also took ibuprofen in the middle of the night and woke up feeling much better.  Thursday beach yoga was good, as usual.  I wasn’t so much dreading Friday’s Bikram class as I was looking forward to Saturday and Sunday, which meant no Bikram.  Talk about a vacation!

Yesterday’s ashtanga class, which I had not been to since June, was awesome.  It is a pretty challenging class, but I love it.  This class is outside, on the grass above the ocean, not on the actual beach.  Steve Hubbard is the instructor and this class has grown from just a few at the beginning 7 or 8 years ago to over 200 people today.  There were between 230 and 250 yogis at yesterday’s class!  And today’s beach class was also wonderful.

Tomorrow it is back to Bikram at 6a.  I think, maybe, hopefully, the first week was the hardest.  While I cannot imagine ever loving Bikram the way I love doing yoga on the beach or my class in Pacific Beach, stranger things have happened.  I will continue to keep my mind open and enjoy the challenge I set for myself.

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The picture is from my Saturday class, taught by the wonderful Steve Hubbard.  I took this shot from Steve’s Facebook page.  You sure can’t beat the location!