Madonna flow party

Picture a room full of people at a party. Talking, laughing, singing, dancing. Except that, instead of drinking, they’re doing yoga. Awesome, right? It’s not just any music either. It’s Madonna. Best party ever!

Last night, on day 12, I went to a Madonna flow party. Natalie, one of my favorite teachers, has these events every few months. She and her husband Mike, who is also the dj, lead an ashtanga class set to the music of Madonna. It’s the best yoga experience I’ve ever had! Plus, it’s always a fundraiser for a really good cause.

We showed up about 25 minutes early, because it gets pretty packed. Everyone wants to be a part of this amazingness. We ended up with our mats pretty close to our neighbours, but since it was a party, it was all good. People just kept showing up.

Julie and I have been to a few of these material girl parties, and since the music is mostly the earlier stuff, we decided to dress up. I even crimped my hair. Note to self, when crimped hair gets sweaty, it’s a disaster. But it was still worth it!

We took plenty of pictures before class started, because we knew it wouldn’t last. I did keep my hair bow and plastic bracelets on the entire time, but the earrings had to go. Julie’s leg warmers didn’t last very long either. One girl appointed herself judge and awarded us first prize for best costumes. No one else was dressed up, but it was still an honor.

This is Natalie. She’s awesome.

We started of with some sun salutations, then did some warrior 2 voguing and some Like a virgin sexy cobras. I also enjoyed the Like a prayer balancing poses, which turned into a dance session. Holding crescent lunge while singing is a lot easier than you would think. More fun, too.

On my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, number 61 is to go to a yoga-dance class. I’d say this definitely qualifies. Julie even did a flashdance pose. Not Madonna, I know, but the legwarmers could not be ignored.

I look forward to these parties for  months. The next one will be in June, but I don’t know how I’ll wait that long!

Zero-energy yoga

Last night was my last dance/yoga night. I had a pretty strange day. It wasn’t a bad day, but one of those days where the kids took everything I had. My energy, my ability to think, my patience. When I got to dance class, I was tired and I didn’t think I would dance with much enthusiasm. Imagine my surprise when I danced like I was a contestant on “So you think you can dance”!

After that, I was sure yoga would be a breeze. Well, maybe not a breeze, but at least possible. There were signs, but I was too tired to see them. I was very giggly. I walked into the yoga studio and thought “It’s kind of hot in here.” I went a little crazy trying to get a bug off my mat. I kept thinking I couldn’t kill it, it was bad karma. Signs.

The class went something like this.

Lay on your back. Humm, I wonder how long we can stay here?

Come up to seated. Already?

Take plank position. Hold for two seconds, then knees to the floor.

Downward dog. Arghh! Downward dog.

Go through a flow. My aha moment: OMG I have no energy!

Chair pose. 3 seconds, then sit on the floor.

Plank position. Have some water.

Full locust. Keep hands on the floor.

Child’s pose for 5 or 6 breaths. Did she say 5 or 6 minutes?

Gecko pose. No way.

Bridge. What?! Not supported bridge?

Savasana. Finally!

I kind of looked like this throughout the whole class.

After my initial moment of panic at realizing that what I had left to give to my practice wasn’t very much at all, I just did what I could. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened before day 11. I was a little disappointed, because this was my first class with Jen, and I heard good things about it. I could tell it was a great class, I just couldn’t really appreciate it. I’m not worried though, I have plenty of days left in my challenge to give it another shot!

Beginner yoga

Yesterday, on day 10 of my challenge, I went to a beginner yoga class. I convinced my friend Suzanne to come to a yoga class with me last year, and she enjoyed it. Ever since then, we’ve been meaning to go to another class, but it just never happened. When I heard about this beginner class, I told Suzanne we just had to make it, because it was with Natalie. Natalie is definitely one of my favorite yoga teachers. She makes me feel good about myself, and about yoga. There’s no better person to start your yoga journey with.

I had such a great time. It’s pretty special to witness a room full of people experience yoga for the first time. It almost made me wish I was a beginner again! Discovering that your body can move in ways you didn’t think possible is great. It was also interesting for me to see how far I’ve come since I started practicing.

We did some cat/cow stretches, some breathing and even a modified sun salutation. There were a few tougher poses too, like warrior three.

At the end of class, the woman next to me was amazed at herself. She had never done yoga before and she said she felt so much more relaxed and aware of her body.

I tried to think back to my first yoga class. It was about 12 years ago. I chose the yoga option instead of gym in college, and I wasn’t very impressed. I liked it somewhat, but not enough to keep practicing once the semester was over. It was only 6 years ago that I went back to it and started practicing regularly. Now, I can’t imagine my life without yoga!

Unleash your inner dragon

Last night I went to a yin class. Normally, when I’m a once week yogini and not a once a day yogini, yin is not my favorite. It’s slower paced and I like to move. However, since I started my challenge, I appreciate yin a lot more. That’s not to say that a yin class is a break, or that it’s easy. You have to let your body sink into a pose and I’m not always very good at that!

I’m not bendy, stretchy or in any way pretzel-like. Sometimes the teacher will say “Let your hands fall on your feet” and I’m thinking “Feet?! I can barely reach my knees!” This makes some poses less interesting than others.

Take dragon pose. I don’t like it. The h-word is a bit strong for yoga, but I really, really, really dislike it. It’s supposed to look something like this.

I can do dragon pose, for about 10 seconds. After that, forget it.

Nothing about this feels good to me. It hurts my knee. If I lay my hands on my other knee, it feels like I’m pressing down with ciment blocks. If I take the option of placing my hands on the floor, I feel as though my arms are too short. Forget about reaching up, it makes me lose my balance and fall over. This is yin, where you hold one pose for about an hour and a half. I fidget and try different ways to position myself, which totally defeats the purpose. I end up feeling like this.

So here’s my suggestion. Why don’t we all just stop doing dragon pose, and maybe it will go away? Dragons aren’t even real. We can substitute in a nice child’s pose. Or maybe a supported bridge. Now that’s bliss!

Suck it up, buttercup

Yesterday, my friend Adèle joined Julie and I for yoga. I asked her if she wanted to do the rest of the 30 day challenge with us, but she said no. I really don’t know why!

This is us before class. The girls are trying to show how cold it was outside, while I am oblivious.

The class was core flow with Amber. I know what you’re thinking. But the thing is, I like this class. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, we did the crazy hold-the-block-between-your-thighs-while-doing-plank thing. Yes, I feared for my life. But when I’m there, I feel amazing! I am an Amazon, I can hold plank position for one minute (ok, maybe not the whole minute). I’m sure Wonder Woman wouldn’t wimp out on chair pose, so I’m not going to either.

Then, when I’m done, I get this feeling of complete satisfaction. I did something awesome! When I was in high school, I was terrible at math. (I still am, but luckily that’s no longer relevant to my daily life!) When I would actually get something, I felt like I could do anything. This yoga-high is just like that, only better.

See how happy we are?

I’m really happy there are teachers like Amber, who know how to make you push yourself harder, while convincing you that you’re having a good time. Although I don’t think she knows how long a minute is. It always feels longer!

Why yoginis should paint their toenails

Maybe you’re one of those people who has this great motivation that comes from within. You like getting up at 5:30 to go running and going to the gym “is fun!” If so, good for you! I mean it, that’s wonderful. I’m not one of those people. I like to sleep. I am not a morning person. I enjoy watching television.

I like running, I love to dance, yoga is becoming an addiction, but that doesn’t mean I am always motivated. Sometimes, I think of how nice it would be to just sit on the couch and watch a movie. I know I would not be happy with myself afterwards, and so I get myself to the gym or the studio or I go for a run. Once I’m doing whatever it is I was trying to justify avoiding, I feel great!

I’ve found that little things help motivate me, like painting my toenails. If I’m going to be doing 73 forward bends, at least I’ll have something nice to look at!

Shaving my legs works too. There’s nothing like reaching for your ankle and feeling smoothness instead of prickly skin, especially if it’s hot yoga and you’re all sweaty.

Promising myself a treat also does wonders. “After this, you can go to Booster Juice!”

I know this is silly, but for the days when the couch is calling, I take whatever motivation I can find!

What motivates you?

What I learned after a week of yoga

This morning I went to a yin class at Pure. It was the perfect class to stretch my muscles out from yesterday’s 108 sun salutations. My teacher was Edith. It seemed like everything she said was directed at me. I was feeling grumpy and she talked about love and kindness. I was sick several days during the week, and she said we would be focusing our poses and our energy on our liver and gallblader, which is where I have problems. Then, at the end of class, she sang. A lot of teachers chant, but this was in another category all together. I’m not sure what it meant, because it was probably in sanskrit, but it was beautiful.

It was also day 7 of my 30 day challenge, which means I have completed number 86 on my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, “Do yoga every day for one week.” I can’t believe my week-long challenge has turned into a month-long challenge! I’ve learned so much during the past week. I thought I would share a few things that you will need to know if you decide to take on a challenge like this.

– You will notice a weird smell. It’s your mat. It smells like feet.

– You will stop doing the dishes.

– You will run out of milk and not go to the store to buy more. You will try cream in your tea, but that too will have gone bad.

– You will do lots of laundry because all your clothes is sweaty and smelly.

– You will not have many conversations that don’t have the word “yoga” in them.

– You will stop watching tv.

– You will start saying things like “I have yoga hair.”

– You will eat less junk food because why would you cancel out an hour of core flow with a bag of chips? (This does not apply to the junk food I ate at the movies last night.)

Most of all, you will be happy you decided to do this challenge with a friend, otherwise you might not have gotten past day 1!

108 Sun Salutations

On my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, number 18 is to do 108 sun salutations. Today, I did it!

I’m not sure exactly what the meaning of the number 108 is. I’ve looked into it, but there are so many opinions, it’s hard to figure it out. I just knew it was a challenge I was up for.

Our instructor, Sheila, said we would divide the 108 salutations into sets of 27, with a 5 minute break in between. She had two bowls of beads in front of her and would transfer one at the begining of each salutation.

My first set was pretty good. I had lots of energy, but not much focus. My thoughts went something like this: Breathe in, breathe out. I can’t wait to see The Hunger Games tonight! Upward dog, dowward dog. Maybe I’ll get popcorn. Reach up, swan dive. Then Sheila said it was number 27, and we took a break.

During the second set, I was a little more focused. However, at one point, I became tired and thought for sure that she would say before the next sun salutation : This is number 54. She didn’t. There were at least 10 left! Well, I think there were 10, counting these out is hard.

The third set was the hardest for me. My shoulders were tired and my swan dives were shaky. Number 81 seemed pretty far away.

Just before the last set, one woman asked if we could dedicate our last 27 salutations to a girl named Ellen who is awaiting a double lung transplant and is deteriorating fast. I nearly lost it. I get emotionnal very easily, especially when I’m tired. My first 2 or 3 salutations were wobbly, then, I decided to give it everything I had left. I have two perfectly good lungs, there was no reason I couldn’t do this. Every breath felt like a gift and I realized how increadibly lucky I am.

Just before our last 5 sun salutations, the teacher put on some upbeat music. The main lyrics were “reach for the sun”. I found some energy I didn’t even know I had left and made those last 5 sun salutations the best of my practice.

I learned something about myself today. I am much stronger, mentally and physically, than I give myself credit for.  I also enjoyed myself much more than I thought I would.

At the end of all this wonderfulness came a 15 minute savasana. 15 minutes! Bliss.

Savasana Bliss

Today was day 5! I went to Pure again. I love that place! Today’s class was a 75 minute hot flow. My goal was to give it my all and not sit out any postures, even the core stuff. I did pretty well. I was going strong for the first part, right up until a child’s pose break. After that, my runner’s lunge and airplane were pretty shaky, but I found my groove again and the rest of the class just flowed. (Haha, flowed. I’m so funny.) I had Amber as a teacher again, and I liked her much more than I did on Monday! She adjusted some of my postures and fixed my pigeon. I didn’t even know it was broken. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more now. Maybe.

After class, I was drained and needed a moment to breathe and relax….oh wait, what? You’re taking my picture? Let me pose and smile.

Near the end of class, lying on my back, I was almost giddy in anticipation of what was coming : savasana. On it’s own, savasana is basically just lying on the floor. But after you’ve been through 47 flows and 87 different postures, it’s bliss. Over the years, I’ve mastered the art of being perfectly still. I don’t move, I don’t fidget, nothing. It makes all the poses and the sweat worth it. If I could bottle the way I feel during savasana and sell it, I would be a millionaire.

As much as I like to take pictures and have my picture taken, there was no way I was messing up my savasana for a photo. But I wanted to add a visual. Doesn’t this look like heaven?

As much as I love this pose, I have one small problem. I can still my body, but not my mind. Try as I might, there is always something going on in there. These are some of the things I think about during savasana:

– The peanut butter sandwich I’m going to eat when I get home. Note to self, eat before yoga!

– What kind of Booster Juice I’m going to get.

– The sweat dripping into my ear.

– The “check engine” light that just went on in my car.

– Grey’s Anatomy.

– Blogging.

I kind of worry about letting my mind go blank. What if it stays that way?

One teacher once said that thoughts will come up, and that I should just aknowledge them and then picture them floating away on a cloud. I tried this. It made me think of Care Bears. Then of Care Bears doing yoga. Namaste, Cheer Bear!

Yoga vs Hip hop

Today is day 4 of my 30 day yoga challenge. It’s also Thursday, which means it’s hip hop day. Julie and I have been taking dances classes together since January. We decided to go to the 4 o’clock yoga class, then hip hop at 6. This presentend a challenge because I work untill 3:30. I’m a teacher, so it’s not like I can tell the kids “I’m heading out early today, see you tomorrow!” I decided to get them ready to leave 5 minutes earlier than usual, so I could leave as soon as possible. But when we got outside, the parents, who apparently had not received the memo about my bright idea (which I thought up 10 minutes earlier), arrived at the same time they normally do. When I got to the yoga studio, I was out of breath and worried I would be too late for class. I was greeted with a relaxed atmosphere, a smile and a “Go ahead in, you’re fine”. I learned something today: Chill out. It’s yoga.

When I got to hip hop, I considered passing on what I had learned to my dance teacher. She’s pretty stressed out. And she stresses me out with her stress.

Yoga today was a hot flow class at Pure. My teacher was Edith. She was great and she didn’t stress me out at all! She made us do things I haven’t done often, like seated pigeon. Much better than regular old pigeon. But the thing is, I can’t say “I nailed it!” because that’s not very yogic-minded.

I can say I’m good at hip-hop. I’m not a superstar, but I can pick up choreography and follow the beat. I like being able to toot my own horn!

At the end of my yoga class, I was happy with myself. I didn’t feel so good today at lunch, so I didn’t eat much. I only realized I was hungry during my first downward dog. It’s not easy concentrating on eagle pose when you’re thinking about peanut butter sandwiches and cupcakes (Not what I normally eat, just what I was thinking of)  but I did it!

See how Julie and I are not touching each other? That’s because we were all gross and sweaty. But we were also pretty proud of ourselves for having completed the first part of our crazy Thursday schedule!

Hip hop is not something I had done before, and apparently, I’m “too cute”. You really have to bring out your aggressive side. I usually can’t find mine. Also, I wear pink and smile a lot. This is our tough look. Intimidated, aren’t you?

One of my favorite yoga poses is dancer, and it’s definitely because of the name! Today was a good day. Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.