Journal entry from day 5. Original date: 1.5.10.

So up until today I had pretty much been feeling the same in class as I always had when I was practicing 2 or 3 times a week. Lots of people were asking me how the challenge was going in the first few days, and my stock answer was, “Good. The same. No major breakthroughs or breakdowns yet.” Well, I’d say tonight I hit a bit of a snag.

It happened in the second half of class- the floor series. Now normally, time seems to fly by once spine strengthening is over; I get to Fixed Firm (Supta Varjasana) and I feel like it’s the home stretch. From that point on it’s all my favorite postures anyway. (Well, for now they’re all my faves- I go through phases.) That was not the case tonight. I was desperate for class to end and it seemed to take forever. My eyes were glued to the clock.

Then, between the first and second set of Half Tortoise (Ardha Kurmasana), a feeling came over me and I realized, WHOA, I AM EXHAUSTED! I suddenly had no energy. My eyelids were heavy and I have never wanted to just curl up and go to sleep so badly during each and every Savasana. For real- I think if I had shut my eyes I could have slept. My body felt like lead as I was hurling myself up in each sit-up between postures. Through the rest of class I was admittedly going through the motions without much effort.

I actually started to feel a little panicky, too. It was on my mind that I would have to be right back at the studio first thing tomorrow morning to practice. I have tickets to see a show in Providence with Mike and Nina (purchased before I knew I would be doing the challenge), so I won’t be able to attend my regular evening class. Therefore, I felt like I would not be getting enough of a break between classes given how tired I was. And then, I REALLY started to panic when I thought, Uh oh, all this yoga is catching up with me. I don’t know if my body can handle this. What if I’m always this tired throughout the rest of the challenge??? I’ll never make it! OMG . There I was stuck in my head, getting in my own way.

Luckily, Jenn reminded me after class that everyday is different. You bring a different body with you each and every time you enter the hot room. I will not always be this tired. Phew. I kept repeating this to myself on the way home. And I also realized on the way home that plenty of yogis out there do doubles on a regular basis. Therefore, I really need to quit panicking about doing an evening class followed by a morning class- it’s not that big of a deal. Seriously. I just have to let go of what happened tonight because now that class is over it has no bearing on anything- not on tomorrow’s class, and certainly not on the rest of the challenge.

Now that I’m home I’m writing this entry, eating Honey Nut Cheerios in bed, and then it’s lights out for me. I want to feel as rested as possible for tomorrow. Here’s hoping for a better day 6!


Journal entry from day 1. Original date: 1.1.10.

So today was day 1 of the challenge. DAY ONE!!! I took class at 10am. On my way to the studio the sky was bright and I felt good (read: not hung-over). And I’ll admit it; I don’t think I’ve experienced a hangover free New Year’s Day in quite some time. But I knew this year would have to be different. I originally thought the morning class would be my only option for practicing today, so I opted to host a low-key New Year’s Eve celebration with Mike and Sarah. As is turned out, the studio did hold class at 4pm today also- meaning I probably could have partied harder last night and slept it off this morning as per my usual New Year’s ritual. I’m glad I didn’t though. Starting 2010 off differently was a good way to set the tone for this challenge, as I know life is going to be very different for at least the next 100 days.

When I got to the studio there was a good energy; Jenn was teaching and everyone seemed to be bristling with New Year’s fervor, invigorated by the clean slate 2010 has to offer. (By the way, I say things like “energy” now. Nina thinks I’m going to be an incense-burning, crystal-toting, new-age hippie by the time this challenge is over. I told her to just please make sure I don’t start wearing patchouli. That’s where I draw the line.) I was there decently early, so I staked out my spot in the front of the hot room and just relaxed on my mat before class.

After a quick high-five from Charlie, a teacher and fellow challenge participant, class started… just as usual. No fanfare. No pomp. No Circumstance. And to my surprise, my mood matched. I had thought and maybe even hoped that I would experience some sort of inaugural-like swell of emotion today, but there I was doing deep breathing (Pranayama) and it seemed like just another day in class. Hmmm. It was day 1 of a 101-day Bikram challenge, but instead of feeling overwhelmed I felt… the same?

I didn’t let myself get hung up on the fact that I wasn’t feeling in class the way I expected to feel. I’ve learned this is a quick way to ruin some perfectly good yoga. (I also know it’s better to just not have any expectations. Period. Alas, I’m not there yet.) I let it go and tried to focus. Then suddenly, it hit me; I had already been all juiced up emotionally in the weeks leading up to the challenge. I cried A LOT while having inner monologues like: Can I really do this? Logistically how will I work it out? It’s a big commitment and I’m commitment-phobic. But I need to commit to something- that’s part of why I started practicing. This could change my life. I’ll have to sacrifice though. And what if I fail? I’m not good at being not good at things…

I realized all of that was the first round of emotional stuff. It came before the challenge even began. But by making the decision to do it and showing up for the first class on the first day of a new year – consciously starting off differently than in years past – I had already quelled my first surge of emotion. Therefore, what I felt in class today was different than what I expected. On day 1 I felt peace.


Ready, set... blog!

So I’m a little late to the blogosphere, but here it is: My blog chronicling the Bikram 101 Challenge. I had debated about whether or not to start a blog, as I felt that keeping up with the demands of the challenge itself might be enough; I didn’t want to feel added pressure to have to post. However, curious friends, family and colleagues have expressed interest in knowing the progression of my seemingly gargantuan and maybe-a-little-bit-crazy-but-still-totally-awesome undertaking. The whole thing seems that way to me too sometimes, and so therefore I think I should attempt to share my experience. I may not post every single day, but I’m hoping for a few times a week.

For those of you who don’t know what Bikram Yoga is, and/or haven’t caught wind of what I’m up to, here’s a little background:

Bikram Yoga is a series of 26 postures (asanas) and 2 breathing exercises done in a room where conditions are intentionally very hot and very humid. Just how hot and humid? Over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 40% humidity! The extreme heat allows one to safely achieve a much deeper stretch in the postures. The goal is to stimulate internal organs and deliver highly oxygenated blood all throughout the body- healing it from the inside out.

Bikram is a demanding practice, and during the 90-minute classes it is natural that participants will be sweating buckets, breathing hard, and getting their heart rates up. And yes, we’re still talking about yoga here- it is a serious workout. Given the intensity it is, of course, natural to experience some discomfort- nausea, dizziness, a sense of being overwhelmed, etc. But as regular practitioners adjust and grow more attune to their own bodies, they usually overcome these symptoms. As any Bikram teacher will tell you, most people only experience difficulty with the heat for the first couple of classes. From then on, their only issue will be when the room is not hot enough.

Although it’s fair to say that Bikram is a challenging form of yoga, it is still, for the most part, a "come one, come all" type of practice. Within the same class there will often be students who’s fitness and ability levels vary greatly. Also, contrary to popular belief, yoga is not only for those who are flexible. Flexibility will improve with continued practice, but it is not a prerequisite.

The physical health benefits of regular practice are as plentiful as one could expect from a rigorous workout such as this. However, beyond that, there are mental and emotional benefits galore that Bikram provides. This is actually the reason I started practicing some months ago. I was looking to lift my psyche, regain focus, commit to something that was personally fulfilling and just for me.  Just for me.  It is OK to put ourselves first sometimes. We deserve our own time just as much as anybody else, and sometimes our own self is the person most in need of it. After all, if we’re not taking care of ourselves, we cannot effectively take care of anyone else. And to me, being personally fulfilled means I have more to offer others anyway.

These thoughts are what brought me to
Bikram Yoga Northampton to begin practicing, and it was there that I came to believe in Bikram’s restorative powers. So much so that on 1-1-2010 I took my commitment to an even higher level by becoming a participant in the Bikram 101 Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to do 101 Bikram classes in 101 consecutive days. As I was previously only practicing 2 to 3 times per week, this considerably ups the ante. Recently there was an article featured in O Magazine written by a woman who was attempting to makeover her life by doing a 60-day Bikram challenge. In part 2 of her narrative, author Paige Williams has this to say:

“One afternoon in the middle of ustrasana, or camel pose—a killer backbend that some consider the toughest posture in the whole practice—it occurs to me that if I can remain calm and focused while in such a physically stressful state, I can get through anything. The studio around me is full of people who know just what I mean. They practice not because a Bikram studio is a particularly lovely place to spend 90 minutes a day but because without it, they would be angry, inflexible, immobilized, fatigued, intolerant, petty, pained, and maybe even dead. The type-A personalities feel calmer. Every student has a story.”

So, here I will tell my story.

The challenge is already well underway and day 30—an anticipated milestone—is right around the corner. However, I’m going to post some of my journal entries from the earlier days. I’ll be trying to keep up with regular postings here going forward.