Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category

(Disclaimer:  I’m not really confident that I’ve articulated myself well in this post but I have committed myself to 100% transparency within these blog pages for good and for bad, so please continue on with a grain of salt.  My apologies in advance if I upset or insult any of my fellow sensitive yogi’s.)

Over the past 2-3 years I’ve developed this love- hate relationship with yoga.  Where I used to do it on a near daily basis and genuinely believed it was a major contributor to me doing so well in my past long distance triathlon events, I’ve really struggled to get back to practicing regularly.

I’ve tried and failed on few occasions now (click HERE and HERE) to incorporate a regular yoga session into my weekly training schedule.  But miss it as I do from time to time, truthfully, I’ve been really nervous – skeptical even – about getting back into it so I’ve never really committed myself to making it a reality.  I’m not even 100% sure why.

Then recently a friend (Vanessa) advertised that she would be leading a drop-in class at a new studio in Fort Erie, On the Mat and I thought to myself, “Okay, let’s give this another shot”.

How bad could it be?

And, honestly, it wasn’t bad at all.

Awesome actually.

I thoroughly enjoyed the class and she was awesome (she played great music completely void of the traditional New Age-y whale song bullshit), however, I also rediscovered one of the reasons why I think I became so disconnected with yoga in the first place: it makes me feel awkward.

Allow me to explain a bit more.

Have you ever had to join a new school in the middle of the school year?  I have and it’s awkward.  Suddenly you’re air dropped into this new room with all new faces and where bonds and relationships have already been formed and cultivated.  You’re immediately the outcast, the unknown…the outsider.

Now, kids being the cruel little monsters they are don’t make it any easier does it?  Often times (it was with me anyway), there is a hazing phase before you transgress to becoming one of the recognized collective and this process can take weeks to months before you’re truly accepted.

Yoga (for a guy anyway) can be just like that.

Of course, as an adult now no one is going to throw pudding in my face or threaten to meet me at the Four-Way stop after class to bash my face into pulp, hells no!

But let’s just say I don’t anticipate a lot of ‘hello’s either.

Suddenly this “Beer Yoga” (click HERE) was beginning to sound a lot more enticing.

Hell, I bet the baby goats in “Goat Yoga” (click HERE) wouldn’t be so off-ish would they?

When I first pulled up outside the Fort Erie studio I looked through the front window as the first class was wrapping up, I saw all your stereotypical henna-ed, dolphin tattooed cuties in their fancy Lululmeon garb and I absolutely panicked.

Honestly.

Full on panic.

I almost pulled away and went home (For the record, I’m glad I didn’t).

Being a little early, once the class cleared out I ventured in when while it was quiet said my hello to the instructor (whom I already know well – Hi Vanessa!), paid my $10 and proceeded to set up my mat and await the next participants to arrive.

Easy-peasy, right?

But here’s where it got a little weird.

There I am, sitting on my mat in the middle of the room, the new guy, the outsider, and in comes the next wave of young spandex-clad yoga bunnies, who suddenly hesitate for a split second when they see the new face…a bearded one at that.  Reading their expressions, it’s as if they think that they’ve just walked into the wrong place or something.  In an attempt to assimilate myself I smile politely and, suddenly, their eyes are immediately diverted to the floor or the other side of the room.

Shit.

Here we go again.

For the next 10-15 minutes I sit there pretending not to notice everyone else pretending not to notice me as they set up their mats pretty much as far away from me as they can along the periphery of the class until, I’m this sole island in the middle of the room with no immediate neighbor.

I don’t care what anyone says:  this makes me feel weird.

Yoga tends to be a very female-centric practice and being the sole dude in the studio doesn’t often come without its awkwardness.  And I get it, the girls are trying not be objectified, or whatever it is they’re overtly concerned with but when did not returning a friendly gesture become normal practice?

I realize that in comparison, I look like Shrek with more facial hair but geez Louise, c’mon girls!

Be nice already.

There’s “No judgement in yoga”, right?

Ha.

Anyway, I signed up for a 10 class pass which I hoped would more successfully re-open the door to my rebuilding a regular practice once again.

And it did.

I went faithfully each week and I now feel stronger, my nagging injuries from the New Year are gone and I’m ready to transition into my long distance phase of training outside beginning next month (tomorrow).

So overall, getting back into this yoga thing once again was a big success for me and one I’m not parting with again with some disappointment.

But, alas, there is only so much time in the day…week…month.

You get the idea.

Hopefully, I’d like to keep the practice up once a week on my own (or at the YMCA) but I just don’t have the flexibility to commit to a full on membership at the moment.

But I’ll be back.

Oh, and because I’ve been dying to say it:

Every time an instructor tells me to “clear my mind”, or “quiet my mind”, this is actually what is going on in my brain:

It’s pointless.

So let’s just get to it, shall we?

Oh and, hey ladies, if a new guy in class smiles nicely, there’s likely no need to cross to the other side of the room, maybe he’s just hoping to fit in and be made to feel welcome.

Just sayin’…

Now that I’ve determined how much I absolutely suck at Aquafit, I have started to look at what other options are available at our YMCA during this time period while the girls are getting their Aquafit on.  As luck would have it, there is a yoga class that goes on at the same time.

Perfect!

I used to really get into my yoga way back when; four to five times a week as a matter of fact.  It’s actually one of the primary reasons I attribute my getting to the starting lines at both Cancun 70.3 and Ironman Wales in the shape I was in.  I first started at my YMCA and shortly afterwards graduated joining a local yoga studio where I learned the in’s and out’s of participating in “real” yoga sessions at a proper “ashram” (click HERE).

You may read that as “uninjured”.

The benefits of yoga are already pre-established within the posts of this blog.  At one one, yoga was the only form of strength-based workouts I did.  But then after Wales I needed a bit of a break from…everything.  Eventually, I slowly got back into swimming, cycling and running but, yoga?  Not so much.  My excuse is that there wasn’t a “satisfactory” yoga studio out here that I could visit regularly.  So my yoga practice took a sharp U-turn to Splitsville.  I did try to kick start my practice a few years ago and, well, it didn’t go so well (click HERE).  But seeing as how I’m now trying to focus my efforts on strength building and core given that the EPiC Challenge is off (click HERE) I figured, “hey, let’ giv’er another shot?  What the hell.”

It was like fate had finally smiled down on me.

So the plan was to spend my Wednesday evenings doing some plyometrics and weights specially aimed at building explosive cycling and running power and then cap it all off with a nice and relaxing yoga session afterwards to focus on my core and injury prevention.

Did you hear that?

“Relaxing”.

Ha!

Anyway, as I sauntered into the gym area where the session was being held I noticed a particular lack in the usual hippie-dippie New Age tattoos and fashionable athletic wear.  I mean, it is my local YMCA after all but, regardless, given my distaste for the holier-than-thou “culture of yoga” I began to think that this might actually go pretty well.

WINNING!

Suck it, Aquafit!

I unfolded my dusty yoga mat, slipped off my shoes and socks and readied myself to be “transformed”, or “blissed out”, or whatever the fuck it is they do in yoga.  I forget.

Unfortunately, the first words out of the instructor’s mouth were not would I would consider as being “transforming”:

“Today, we’re going to focus on opening up our hip flexors”.

Fuck.

To put this in perspective, and speaking for most regular runners/cyclists, “opening up our hip flexors” would rank right up there with “pouring battery acid down our pants”, or “claw our eyes out with garden tools” as far as motivating statements are concerned, specifically since I haven’t participated in any instructor-lead yoga sessions for at least two years.

This was going to suck.

And suck it did.

The next 55 minutes or so, we were lead through the usual series of poses and asana’s and at every turn I felt like my either my hips were going to rip apart, or my spine was going to snap like a dry pretzel.  At one point, she demonstrated the “bird of paradise” asana and I can only imagine the look on my face.

It probably read somewhere along the lines of:

I swear, I almost walked out then and there.

Definitely not WINNING!

Oh, and “crow pose”?

Fuggetaboutit!

Of course, this was all largely in part due to the fact I haven’t participated in a well disciplined yoga class for so long, but also because I was still fatigued from the 60 minutes worth of hopping, leaping and skipping I did previously.  So, basically, it was about as far removed from “relaxing” as it was going to get and I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My intentions were good, of course, but the reality of the situation was less than pretty.

Eventually, she invited us to lie down on our mat to begin our warm down and, I swear, I think a single tear rolled down my cheek.  I was that relieved.  However, this was some good news though at this point.  As it turns out, I can still Shavasna like a champ.

Yay me!

I still plan on keeping with it as my schedule allows.  But if anything, this class reminded me of how far I’ve strayed from being a ‘yogi’ as well as how much work it’s going to take me in order to feel somewhat comfortable on the mat again.  Fortunately, I have a whole year to get reacquainted with my practice.

In a way, it’s kind of my practice coming full circle again in that I’m back at the YMCA where I first started and I think that there’s something pretty apropos about that so I’m taking it as an ultimate sign that it’s time to get my bendy-twisty on once again.

Let’s do this.

Fuck That: A Guided Meditation

Posted: July 21, 2015 in In Transition, Yoga
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You might remember that I once attempted to dabble in meditation (click HERE  for a little reminder).  I was kind of an experiment to see if any benefits could really be gained from it.

Long story short:  I failed.

Miserably.

My times didn’t improve (or get worse for that matter) and my workouts were no less difficult.  Oh well.  Nothing venured; nothing gained, right?  I’m just not the hippie “love and light” kinda guy I guess.  Now, I still use positive visualization from time-to-time (in fact, there’s a great post forth-coming on this very topic, hopefully, in the near future) during my training and competitions but when it comes to just relaxing and clearing my mind, well, not so much.  I just can’t disconnect that way.

Even during my regular yoga practice a few years back, I couldn’t stand all that “breathe in peace and light”  bullshit.  I mean seriously, how do you breathe in light?  C’mon. Often, I’d skip shavasna all together if I felt the instructor was overly aggressive in spoon-feeding me this hocus-pocus.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the quiet 10 minutes of just laying around in quiet but don’t hassle me then with “peace and love” hooey.  Just let me lie here…quietly.  To each their own I suppose, but meditation it seemed wasn’t for me…until now.

This…THIS,  is a mediation I can get behind:

Yeah.  This could work.

Unfortunately, my yoga practice has been suffering a bit.  Well, suffering in the sense that I’m not doing it daily as I used to do.

Mostly, I do a little at the gym as either a core strengthening routine, or as a warm down after a heavy weights session (or workout).  Sometimes I just slip down to the lake and spend 45 minutes or so stretching lightly, or doing some Sun Salutations.  Mostly, it’s an excuse to listen to some tunes on my iPod and enjoy an easy, effortless stretch down by the water.  It’s not that I no longer subscribe to yoga as an important strengthening tool or recovery vehicle – it is – but time simply does not allow me to do everything I’d like to do so concessions have to be made.

Anyway, I received a pass recently for my birthday to enjoy a free yoga session.  What a treat!  I miss my near daily instructor lead yoga classes so I was kind of eager to participate.  I packed my shamefully neglected yoga mat (I never use it down at the lake as the grass works just fine) into the car along with a change of clothes and after work, made my way to the studio nice and early to claim my spot in the class.

Let the bendy-twisty commence.

However, it seems I am a little out of the yoga loop now.  Sure, there were still all the cutesy frog, dolphin and Sanskrit tattoos galore, but the mood of the place was decidedly…different.

When I first arrived, I was recognized by a few patrons of the studio who greeted me enthusiastically so which I responded in return, to which I was shushed.  The girl at the desk wagged her at me finger (albeit very nicely) and pointed to the sign on the nearby door that read ‘Class in Session’.  Oops, my bad.  So I lowered my voice to a whisper.  Hell hath no fury like a granola cruncher scorned.

I got changed next and waited patiently with the other Lycra Lululemon clad yogis in the lobby for the class to let out so we could get in and get set up, as you do.  When the door opened, it was chaos.  It was like rush hour on the TTC or something, with an entire mob of yogis all pressing forward to get in quickly and claim a spot of available floor space.  It was like the great California Land Rush.  I ended up stuck between two girls who were, apparently, making a nest with pillows and blankets and stuff.   Both of them had dolphin tattoos…in the same place.

I tried to be friendly and polite by saying ‘hello’, but they just gave me a blank stare and resumed with their pillow forts.  I swear the temperature dropped a degree.  But it wasn’t just these girls as nobody was talking, like, at all.  Everyone seemed to be avoiding each other as they fussed with their mat and assorted accoutrements.  Eventually, the class filled up as other exercise bunnies also poured in and I ended up sandwiched between two sets of feet directly above and below me, both decorated with some sort of cosmic henna pattern on their feet.  Maybe there was some sort of deal down at the local Henna Shop or something.

This sure wasn’t the lake, believe me.

While the class itself was great, I couldn’t get into the mental swing of things.  I found the rather devout dedication to silence to be awkward. I’m a talker – I admit it.  I hate having to be 100% silent.  Now, I definitely get the whole ‘Silence is Golden’ rule of yoga but, I still like to feel as if I can openly communicate with the instructor and maybe the participants around me when it is appropriate and fun to do so and, even then, only sparingly.  After all, if it’s not fun why bother?  This, however, felt decidedly different.  It was rather like being in a Trappist Monastery.  Definitely not the ‘fun’ I had originally envisioned and remember.

So what changed?  Was I once so dedicated to my practice that I was this serious too?  God I hope not.  I don’t think so anyway.

So what is it then?  Why did this class feel so different from what I remember loving?  Of course, the faces had changed since the last time I practiced at that location but, that couldn’t be it could it? I did try to be friendly and that clearly failed.  So what gives?  I felt like that creepy stalker guy who’s more interested in scoping out fresh ass than they are in the yoga.  Is that how the girls viewed me now?

Maybe part of the whole issue resides in that I haven’t been attending regular classes for a while, preferring now to do them solo now as time allows.  And when I do, I’m typically outdoors and plugged into my own world completely void of others.  Suddenly, being back in a crowded studio with a group of other strangers all doing the same thing had a rather cultish feel to it.

Maybe I’ve just temporarily lost my tolerance (interest?) for the whole dogma surrounding yoga.  Perhaps when we attach too rigidly to a belief system as the others seem to be doing (my opinion only), it’s possible that we also shut down the potential for connection.  My best experiences in yoga have been about having fun and building a connection to myself, to pushing into my self-imposed limitations, to my physical body, to the teacher, to the practice, to the other students in the class.  This typically involved some sort of spoken communication, albeit brief. But these students didn’t seem to be too interested in connecting to anything verbally or otherwise; much less having fun.  I mean, I’m sure they are having fun otherwise they wouldn’t be there in the first place, but maybe their idea of fun just happens to be much different than my own.

Thing is, I don’t mind a little distraction with my yoga.  I like the open communication; the teasing, the laughing, the music, the assorted yoga weirdoes, the regular poops, the sweat and, yes, the occasional yoga fart…the whole enchilada.  The workout is nice too of course as it is always a good idea to get feedback from the instructor regarding form and technique which might begin to slip when you only practice on your own.  I’m sure I was far from perfect yesterday.  And sure mediation is nice as well as I love me some good Shavasna but, really, that it’s not the entire be all and end all point of the practice.  To me, I shouldn’t feel like I’m going to church.

I also realize that many people do go for that whole meditation-spirituality thingee (and good for them!), but I think I’ve either moved past that or I just missed it altogether.  I think for the time being, my yoga practice will remain solo, on my own terms.  This may change in the future and I may wander back into the neighborhood Ashram once again but for now, the lake and my iPod suits my needs perfectly.

Spray-On Yoga Pants

Posted: March 31, 2014 in Yoga
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This one is for all my yoga peeps.

 

Sadly, we’re probably not far from this actually being realized.  I think I’ll stick to my cycle shorts though, thanks.

Yoga Music Pick #7

Posted: September 10, 2013 in Yoga
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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Yoga Music Pick.  That’s partly because I haven’t been practicing all that often or, that when I do, I attend a class that follows the standard wind chimes and whale songs philosophy of ambiance.  But lately I’ve been trying to reconnect with my practice a bit on my own terms.  You might as well read that that as ‘whenever I can fit it in’.  Hey, some yoga is better than no yoga, am I right?  And since reconnecting with my home practice is part of my recent ‘We Can Rebuild Him’ plan to regaining my overall injury free fitness, I’m definitely trying to find the time more often, hence, more yoga.

This afternoon I took such an opportunity to get into some bendy-twisty on my mat at home in between business meetings (and after a 5k Fartlek run workout – yeah, it’s a rough day).  My musical selection you ask?  Why, the ‘Together We’re Heavy’  album by the Dallas symphonic rock band The Polyphonic Spree.  Some of you might remember them as ‘those weirdoes in the colored robes’.  Yes, those guys and, no, they’re not a new age cult.  Although, if they were, that might also appeal to some yoga types to be sure – but they’re not.  Honestly.

Largely the brainchild of former Tripping Daisies front man Tim DeLaughter, the group grew from the ashes after the Daisy’s guitarist Wes Berggren died of a drug overdose in 1999.  Shortly afterwards, DeLaughter collaborated with twelve other musicians, trying to put a sound together that reflected the music he grew up with; something his children would be proud of; something celebratory.  He wanted to explore the orchestral palette and pop sensibility of The Association, the 5th Dimension, Wings, and The Beach Boys; and the vocal style of Ozzy Osbourne from Black Sabbath.  Relax fellow yogi’s, I’m not trying to push heavy metal on your practice; quite the contrary actually.  Think of it this way:  how can you not love a band that makes use of flutes, violins, whistles, tubular bells, organs, piccolos, French horns, glockenspiels, flugelhorns, a theremin, and a full backing choir?  C’mon, that’s some inspired shit to get your yoga on right there!

If these guys don’t look like a “yoga” band, I don’t know what does.

This album comes with a warning however.  Typically, while practicing yoga and listening to music we tend to be attracted to music that helps us focus and ‘become one with everything’  (whatever that means).  ‘Together We’re Heavy’, if you’re not careful, might ‘become one’  a little too much.  It’s just that infectious in its ‘Carpe Diem-ness’.  You may just feel the urge to abandon your practice and ditch the mat altogether to go out to do something truly inspired.  But that’s what yoga is to me…getting inspired and daring yourself to be great.   So this feel good mood totally works for me.

Enter the Returning Yogi’s Mind

Posted: May 23, 2013 in Yoga
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Low and behold, the injuries I’ve sustained that have prevented me from running lately are – *knock on wood* – being to subside, so I’m making it a point to be more conscientious about conditioning myself properly in order for my strength to return fully.  Part of this healing process is getting back to my yoga practice and working on my functional strength.  With that in mind, I tried the yoga class today at the Fort Erie YMCA which, it must be said, might have seemed more like sitting in on ‘Pablum Time’ at the Seniors Recreational Center but, regardless, I’ve come to understand that yoga is the practice of time and experience; so never judge a book by it’s cover.  There is no ‘judgement in yoga’ after all, right?  Besides, any yoga is good yoga in my book.

As it’s been a while, I found it hard to quiet my mind while we worked through our flows with the instructor and, yoga being yoga, there are always lots of interesting personalities to focus on so the opportunity to people watch is typically spectacular.  And, hey, remember that I was easily about 30-40 years younger than anyone sitting around me so I was constantly having this inner dialogue with myself about what I saw going on around me.  It’s a hard thing to turn off.  Kinda reminds of exactly what’s going on in this video:

 

So just what kind of thoughts were going through my head today you ask?  Well, here is a random sampling:

1.  “Geez, my toes are really sweaty.  Why do my toes sweat?”

2.  “What on earth is that guy doing?  I wonder what they call that pose – ‘Epileptic Bat’ maybe?”

3.  “Holy crap do I ever feel beautiful.  I should work out with old people more often.”

4.  “What does ‘just be conscious and present on your mat’ really mean?  Where else would I be?  What kind of drugs are these people on?”

5.   “Did that guy fart or is his Bengay just rancid?”

6.  “I wonder what kind of ambient music they played in yoga classes eons ago when these people first started practicing?”

7.  “Oh my God.  I think that women’s spine just snapped!”

Don’t hate me.  I simply can’t help myself as I’m a victim of my own Douchery.  Regardless, I plan on returning when I can and, hopefully, make peace with the surroundings and learn to quieten my mind and just enjoy what it is that I’m doing – being healthy.