Still here!

So I’m sure you’ve all probably thought I dropped off the face of the blogosphere, but I’m still here! I didn’t really go anywhere. You’ll notice I’ve changed the title of this blog; now that it’s more than a month post-challenge, this just seemed to make sense. I’m hoping to get back in the swing of blogging and start writing some new posts (maybe some that aren’t even about yoga). I’ve felt the urge lately.

Since the challenge has ended I’ve still been keeping my practice going strong, but I’m also enjoying taking a day or two off each week. I’m happy I’ve found a good balance, because back in the final days of the challenge the prospect of having time off was actually scary to me. I had this big fear that if I didn’t have the commitment of the challenge driving me to go to class everyday, my practice would eventually trail off. So I actually had to mentally gear myself up and plan my first day off after a total 107 consecutive days of practice. At the time, NOT coming to class seemed daunting. I survived though, hahaha! And now I love being able to have my cake and eat it too in terms of still practicing a lot, but also being able to skip a class if there’s something else I want to do. Truthfully though, most of the time I still just want to do yoga.

As an added incentive to get to class, I’m falling more and more in love with my studio and the people there everyday. Thanks to the wonderful folks who took ownership of Bikram Yoga Northampton back on January 1st, there is this crazy positive energy that just keeps building and building. It’s a place I want to be, and it’s really become a community atmosphere. I feel more bonded to the members of our [growing] community than I ever could have imagined, and I’m certain that I will know many of these people for the rest of my life.

On top of all this, recently I’ve been realizing on a deeper and deeper level just how much I want to go to teacher training someday. I plan to write more on that topic later, but it’s just another reason why my fear about my practice getting away from me is fading fast. I think this yoga will always be a part of my life. And hey, even if I do fall off the Bikram wagon at some point, I know the practice will always be there for me, ready and willing to welcome me back and love me unconditionally as soon as I resume my commitment to it. It will be tough love of course, but love nonetheless.

Right now, though, my devotion is in full swing and a week from tomorrow I will actually be traveling to Harlem, NY to see BIKRAM himself give a lecture! I know his lectures can be crazy and all over the place, but I’m just super excited to take it in and feel his energy live and in person! I’ll be sure to write a post about that experience!

That’s all for now- peace, love & yoga!


The End (Not Really)

Well, I did it. Yesterday at 10:30AM I completed my 102nd Bikram yoga class in 101 consecutive days. And I actually did it every day. (That extra class is from the day my studio held it’s grand re-opening; I did a double that day just for fun since everyone was in a celebratory mood. It wasn’t a make-up.)

So how do I feel? It’s hard to put into words. That’s actually why I’ve been kind of quiet on here for the whole last part of the challenge. I’m not sure how to articulately convey my sentiments towards this experience and towards this yoga in general anymore. It seems like nothing I could say would be enough. It would be like trying to dump an ocean into a bathtub. And rather than spilling a drop, right now I’m just kind of holding onto it and savoring it all. (I’m retaining water- ha!)

I think my facebook status on day 99, which just so happened to be my birthday, did a pretty good job of summing up my feelings of late: “Today I turn 0. I figure nothing before Bikram counts… I wasn’t really alive then.”

I plan to leave this blog open for now. Thinking about changing the title... I know there’s more I want to say; I just haven’t found a way to say it yet. I will slowly start dispensing that ocean. Right now, it’s off to yoga! :)


I'm the guest blogger...

...on the main Bikram 101 blog today! Follow the link to read my post for day 80!


My article for the BYN e-newsletter!

I have made several unsuccessful attempts to post an actual copy of my studio’s March e-newsletter in all its original glory, but I can’t seem to make it work. So here is a copy of the student article written by yours truly! As I mentioned before, I'm so grateful to Audrey & Jeff (owners of Bikram Yoga Northampton) for giving me this opportunity. A few people I practice with have mentioned that they really enjoyed the article, and at least one of them said they want to try doing a challenge! YAY! My studio really does feel like a home to me, and so being able to connect with even more students there is very rewarding. I love expanding my yoga family!


Up for the challenge? Then make a commitment… to yourself!

Written by Stephanie Marek.

How often do you practice Bikram yoga? Have you ever thought about coming to class more frequently than you do now? What about if you made the commitment to come everyday? That’s a tall order for most students. For me though, that has become my reality. As a participant in the worldwide Bikram 101 Challenge, I’m trying to reach the goal of completing 101 Bikram classes in 101 consecutive days. Therefore, since January 1st I’ve been going to class each and every day!

The reasons I decided to take on such a hefty challenge are similar to the reasons why I started practicing Bikram in the first place. I was looking to lift my psyche, to regain focus, and to commit to something that was personally fulfilling. Additionally, I knew the challenge would strengthen my practice and transform my body. Now, at almost 70 days in, I can say that all of those things are being realized. It’s been a pretty amazing experience!

It’s certainly not always easy, though. And I’m not just talking about all the yoga. Finding the motivation every single day can get difficult. I quickly realized this was as much a mental challenge as a physical one (if not more mental). Also, I’ve had to make some adjustments just due to logistics. For example, I’ve had to alter my regular Monday through Friday, 9 to 5:30 work schedule whereby I leave early on some days for class and then work extra time on other days to make up for it. I’ve also had to sacrifice a lot of my free time normally spent with family and friends. That is probably the hardest part, but it’s not forever. Also, I know that when I’m saying “no” to certain social invitations what I’m really doing is saying “yes” to myself. It feels very empowering, and I never have any regrets or feel like I’m missing out. The people in all facets of my life understand this and are incredibly supportive. And to me, being personally fulfilled means I have more to offer back to those I care about anyway. It’s all been so worth it.

Making Bikram a part of daily life is something I would like to encourage all my fellow students at Bikram Yoga Northampton to try sometime by doing a challenge. It won’t be easy, but then most things that are worth doing aren’t. Your challenge can start on any day you choose and be however long you decide- 7 days, 10 days, 30 days, or more. A challenge of any length will provide excellent healing benefits. Not to mention the well-earned sense of accomplishment you will feel upon completion. Maybe you even have a mat buddy (or two, or three) that you can rope into doing it with you- there’s nothing like a little group energy to provide inspiration and motivation! The idea is just to decide whatever challenge is right for you and commit to it. Every day. Your practice will change, your body will change, and your life will change! You’ll actually be making a commitment to yourself, and you won’t regret it!

Stephanie has been practicing at BYN since October of 2009. She works as a full-time Media Buyer for a local advertising agency. Someday she hopes to go to Bikram Teacher Training. The Bikram 101 Challenge is her first challenge and you can read more about her experience at http://ladyyogaga.blogspot.com/.


Not a real post...

But just a note to say I'm very excited that this month I will be writing a little piece for Bikram Yoga Northampton's recently launched e-newsletter! I'll be sharing a bit about my experience doing this challenge and encouraging other students at my home studio to try doing challenges of their own! I'm so grateful to Audrey & Jeff - owners of BYN - for giving me this opportunity! I'm honored to be one of the voices speaking to my peers that I practice along side of everyday. Yay! Another channel through which to spread my yoga love!


Long overdue post about posture clinic with Diane Ducharme

The halfway point of this challenge was punctuated by a special event for me; on day 51 I attended a posture clinic given by Diane Ducharme. You may remember a previous post about when she guest taught at my home studio. Her reputation in the Bikram world precedes her. Therefore, I was really, extra, super excited to take her seminar! And at this point I need to give a shout out to my Fairy God-Yogini, Jenn, who made it possible for me to even go in the first place… Jenn, you’re the best! Thank you!!!

For my non-yogi friends reading who don’t know what a posture clinic is, I will explain. Basically, it’s when a VERY senior Bikram teacher leads a group (usually a mix of students and other teachers) through the series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises at a much slower pace- 6 hours, versus 90 minutes for a regular class. It is conducted in a hot room, but the heat is not cranked as high as usual since most of the time you're just listening while the seminar leader answers questions and discusses every posture in detail.

A posture clinic is an appropriate forum to get individual help. It's perfectly okay to ask questions about your own specific challenges, or you can just ask the leader to observe you doing a posture so you can get some personalized feedback. Plus, the teachers authorized to lead these seminars are actually allowed to touch students when they’re giving corrections. Overall, at posture clinic you learn a lot of neat tips – “secrets” as Diane calls them – about every posture in the series, and you also get tailored-for-you, hands-on help with the trouble spots in your practice. What you learn won’t necessarily make the postures any easier, but it will help you achieve better form. And with Bikram yoga, form is key since the emphasis is all on trying the right way.

It is important to note that the format of a regular Bikram class never allows for this level of depth and personal attention. Due to the specific pacing of the Bikram dialogue there’s just not enough time. And per Bikram himself, regular teachers are supposed to refrain from touching students when giving corrections. Therefore, a posture clinic is a very useful tool for anyone who wants to take his or her practice to the next level.

My day at posture clinic started fairly early (for a Saturday, for me). I was up and on the road before 8:30, as I had to travel out to
Bikram Yoga Auburn where it was being held. The sun was shining and the hour in the car flew by (belting out Lada Gaga really helps pass the time). When I got there I was a little nervous since I’ve never practiced anywhere but at Bikram Yoga Northampton. I knew some other people from BYN who would be coming, but they hadn’t arrived yet so I was on my own for the moment. I immediately liked the vibe of the Auburn studio though. It was bustling with eager yogis and it felt bright and homey. The lobby was being staged for a Shakti trunk sale, and in the hot room another class was just finishing up. There was a good energy and I could sense right away it was going to be a fun day.

On the agenda was a regular class taught by Diane from 10-11:30, then posture clinic from 12-6. Taking the regular class first was optional, but I knew it would be a good way to get warmed up. Plus, I had to get a regular class in to count for the challenge anyway (I’m a purist). Soon my friends from BYN got there and it was time to head into the hot room and claim our spots. It ended up that all 5 of us were right beside each other in the front row- I was next to the podium! There were about 60 attendees in all, and we were PACKED in there like sardines! At least, it seemed that way to me; I’m used to having a couple of feet on either side of me when I practice. However, for this event there were strict instructions upon check-in: Mats 6 inches apart! I thought I was going to hate it being so crowded, but it was actually a really cool experience. The group energy from that many people breathing and moving together was awesome! I thought my practice was pretty strong and focused. I tried really hard to maintain good form because I wanted to represent for BYN and be a shining example of the outstanding level of teaching there. :)

After class there was a 30 minute break. Everyone put on fresh practice clothes, refilled their water bottles and munched down snacks. Then, all 60 of us piled back into the hot room and the posture clinic began. Everyone chilled on their mats (well, as much as it's possible to "chill" in a hot room) while Diane shared her “secrets” and gave feedback and corrections to people who wanted her to evaluate their postures individually. This really made the teaching come to life. It's so cool to be able to see someone's form improve right in front of your eyes! I had brought a notebook so I launched into full-on school nerd mode and was scribbling away the whole time. At the end of talking about each posture, we would all get up together and do at least 1 set of that posture so we could try applying what we had just learned right then and there.

What I learned was… a ton! Way too much to reiterate here! Plus, all the notes I took relate to my own practice anyway. They range from little bad habits that I need to ditch to a few big adjustments that have entirely changed certain postures for me. I also wrote down some verbatim Diane quotes because she has a great sense of humor and isn't afraid to tell it like it is! Here is one of my favorite little gems she told all of us about
Awkward Pose (Utkatasana):

“If you are tucking [your glutes] on this posture I can guarantee you will need knee surgery someday because YOU ARE FUCKING IT UP!”

Did I mention Diane likes to curse? Yep, the lady has got her F-bombs and she’s not afraid to drop them (when necessary, for emphasis). Personally, I fucking respect that.

In all seriousness though, this was an amazing day spent with an amazing group of people. And I actually got so much more out of it than just cool tips to help me with my practice. I will never forget the intoxicating hum of 60 people all doing Deep Breathing (Pranayama) in unison. I will never forget the woman in the back row wearing the bandanna and the brown tank top who absolutely LIT UP and exclaimed, “I can do it!” as Diane coached her through the full expression of Toe Stand (Padangustasana) for the first time. I will never forget the claps and the “Oohs!” and “Ahhs!” of all of us yogis who were genuinely moved as we witnessed people reach new personal bests. I will never forget the good times shared over post-clinic margaritas and guacamole with some of my BYN friends, Chris & Christine. And I will never forget the kindness and generosity showed to me by Jenn which allowed me to be a part of all this.

My fist posture clinic was an awesome experience I will always remember, and it certainly won't be my last! It's changed up my practice for the better, and it's strengthened the connection I have to this yoga and to all those who believe in it and practice it. I would highly encourage anybody who has the opportunity to take part in one to do so!


Toto, I don't think we're blogging in Kansas anymore.

Fear not my lovely 10 followers; I have not abandoned you or this blog. I’ve just been feeling kind of mentally exhausted lately by everything pertaining to the challenge (par for the course during this leg). I feel a little guilty since I posted a bunch of back entries from my journal right off the bat to get everyone up to speed, and then suddenly I found myself struggling to find my voice on here and start blogging in real time.

I’m still getting to class everyday – and still enjoying my practice – but lately it’s everything else that seems to be weighing on me. I JUST did laundry- how did I go through all my yoga towels already?!?! Ugh, I can’t take packing my yoga bag AGAIN! I’m sick of drinking WATER- I really just want a tall, non-fat, no whip, White Mocha from Starbucks! It’s like I still want to practice with all my heart, but I wish somehow everything else I need to do could take care of itself. I would like to be magically transported by bubble each day to the studio in a perfect state of hydration with clean yoga clothes, towels and mat in hand. And then after class I would like to click my sweaty heels together 3 times and end up back on my couch, showered, rehydrated and ready to blog. (Gosh, it was about time I worked in a Wizard of Oz reference! Favorite. Movie. Ever.)

Like The Wizard though, I’m just a real person behind the curtain. I obviously don’t possess the supernatural powers necessary to make all of that stuff happen on it’s own. So when something had to give these past couple of weeks, it was unfortunately this blog. I did sit down to try and write a few times, but nothing worthy of posting was really coming together.

On the other hand, although I pulled back on writing my own blog, I'm not feeling that I've become withdrawn at all from this experience as a whole. I’ve still been avidly following my other favorite Bikram yoga blogs, and I've been having a lot of great discussions with my teachers and other yogis at my studio about our practices. Also, a few of my best friends have even tried Bikram over these past couple of weeks, and I know at least one of them is already totally addicted and loving it! (How many classes your first week, Nina? Four? Five?!) Her frequent YRQs (yoga related questions) and the resulting talks have been a great source of joy for me. Collectively, my yogi friends, teachers and fellow bloggers have been like my Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, and I’m so grateful for your support and accompaniment on this journey!

This past weekend Bikram's own Good Witch of the North even descended upon me in the form of senior Bikram teacher Diane Ducharme. I took a seminar with her and it was such an AMAZING day! Her passion for this yoga is invigorating and it has certainly compelled me to get back in the blogging spirit.

New posts coiming soon. I'm still with you my pretties, and this little blog too! :)