This past month has felt like one of the longest — and shortest — months of my life. When I think about how much yoga I have done the first 30 days — 45 hours of yoga to be exact — it boggles my mind because it feel like the challenge just started yesterday. And then I see the entire second half of the report card still empty. Sigh. It’s the start of the second half, ladies and gentlemen; here we go.
It’s 1:20 a.m. Saturday morning and I’m just now leaving Cool River, where my friend and I have been dancing for the past three hours. I’ve only had one glass of wine because I’m driving and because I’m (somewhat) more mature than I was in my 20s, determined not to derail myself by missing another class. Besides, sober dancing is infinitely more fun than drunk dancing.
Our teachers are always telling us to stay present in the moment, in the hot room, and focus on what is happening right then and there. I like to think this is a good general life lesson as well. I debated leaving at a more reasonable 11:00 p.m., but the spectacular energy of the moment, of the cathartic dancing, was so powerful that I dare not pull myself away.
Class that afternoon is sublime. I’m not sure if it was because I was still coming down off of my dance buzz or it was because the teacher kept us laughing, but it is one of my best and favorite classes ever. My new mantra: Carpe Bikram.
I can tell even before class starts that it’s going to be a brutal one because I start popping beads of sweat as soon as I step into the room. It’s a morning class at the downtown studio to boot, which means it’s not only going to be full, but a mentally tough and focused crowd. There’s a definite vibe to each of the studios, and the downtown studio is the go-to for the working professionals and dedicated yogis squeezing in a session somewhere in their packed day.
For lack of a better spot, I end up in the front row, even though I’m not really feeling front-row worthy today and I'm just hoping the energy of the class can get me through. Class is somewhere around Dante’s eighth circle of Hell, which is reserved for those who have committed conscious fraud. This is ironically appropriate given my less-than-divine mood this morning. I’m focused on myself in the mirror trying to make even the most miniscule amount of improvement somewhere when my snarky interior monologue pipes up. You still can’t even do a Toe Stand. And you always fall out of Standing Bow. What makes you think you can hang in the front row?! Fraud!
During Cobra pose and Bow pose, the teacher reminds us that our body follows our eyes, so I turn my eyes up towards the ceiling away from the mirror and tell my inner monologue to zip it. Sometimes victories aren’t pretty, but they are still victories.
While my mind is starting to get back into the morning yoga groove since the insomnia has subsided a bit, my body is acting like a spoiled brat. It’s not sore or tired, its just never been a morning person, and lets me know so during class:
Body: See how stiff we are? We’re never this stiff during the afternoon classes.
Mind: That’s not true, you just don’t like getting up.
Body: True, but look. We can’t even lock our knees in the forward bending part of Half Moon like we can in the afternoon classes.
Mind: You’re not pulling hard enough.
Body: And your standing bow isn’t nearly as good in the morning classes.
Mind: You’re not kicking hard enough.
Mind: Lazy bones. Now be quiet, tighten up and get focused.
Finishing class strong is always a good feeling, and I leave charged and ready for a day of work topped off with dinner with an old friend where I order shrimp scampi for the calories and carbs, plus a glass of wine for general celebration.
I make it to another morning class! It’s hot, humid and tough — just the way it’s supposed to be. It’s packed. The mood is serious. A phrase that floats through almost every class is “Pulling is the object of stretching.” Today, this is followed up by “You have to go past where you think your maximum is in order to make progress." These two pearls keep rattling around in my brain the rest of the day.
This experiment and experience started as a test to see if I could physically survive 60 yoga classes in 60 days. Having now passed the halfway mark, heading into the final 25 classes, it’s clear that this journey is far more about mental strength, determination, patience, self-acceptance and the emotional lessons than physical stamina.
When a construction crew begins a job, the first thing they do is level the site. They demolish and remove anything in the way before laying the foundation upon which they build a permanent structure. That’s me right now: A human construction zone.