Monthly Archives: August 2015

Step Backward to Step Forward

You’ve probably heard me talk about not being able to scoop my hands under my ankles in the warm up series–hand to feet pose. I sort of squish my hands to the sides of ankles but not behind them. My elbows can’t seem to get behind my calves. I’ve asked many teachers about this and they always look a bit unsure of their answer. I’ve been told that “I’m so close,” “It may be anatomical. Maybe your little arms are just too small,” “You know one of our master teachers cannot do that pose. We all have some issue.” I can’t really tell if it’s tight hamstrings, tight shoulders (what I’m leaning toward) or some proportional issue, as some have suggested….

In class the other day my teacher suggested I take a step back. Maybe for at least one set of the posture. Not try to grab my ankles, but focus more on getting my elbows behind my knees and having my hands hang wherever they land. So i tried. My elbows sort of went behind my ankles and my hands stayed at the bottom of my calves. Did not come close to grabbing at my ankles or anything else. The stretch in my hamstrings didn’t seem as strong, although I did feel my shoulders stretching. I’m going to try it for a little while (at least) and see how it feels. I’ve googled how to improved this posture and haven’t found many tips.

I know I’m on the less flexible vs. more flexible side of things (my leg doesn’t wrap in eagle, head doesn’t touch my knee in assorted sit ups and postures, etc.) however, in most postures I feel there’s been progress in the 14 months I’ve been doing this yoga, albeit slow. Here, I’m less sure. There might be in other parts of the posture (how far I’m stretching) but not so much grabbing my ankles.


Has anyone else had to take a step back to move forward?




This is obviously not me!


And then there was calm

I’ve had a rough week, we all do. Travel, work, life… It’s amazing how un-yogic I can be when a few things don’t go my way. Seems like all my patience in the hot room stays there. It’s quite annoying really.

Although I hadn’t taken yoga for a week, I had been to 2 spin classes. They are hard, I sweat, I feel good, yet I don’t get that peace of mind I usually get from yoga. Today I went back, after a week like I mentioned, and despite the noises in my head, the usual distractions and my headband who seems to be calling on my for the entire 90 min, I had a good class, and more importantly felt that calm. That calm that spin, meditation and listening to music (although this comes the closest) can’t provide.

It certainly wasn’t my best class, a little rusty, a little stiff, but it was good. I felt pushed, stretched and strengthened. And, I’m planning to go back tomorrow.


My Yoga Class With Joseph

So I overslept and missed my morning class.  I realized I had a flexible day at work so I went to yoga at 1:30. I normally never go at this time and I was surprised both how crowded the class was (who are all these people?) and that the teacher remembered me (I’ve taken her classes 3-4 times). So I put my mat down and go to the ladies room and fill my water bottle before class starts. When I get back in the hot room who is behind me 2 rows?? Who?? Joseph Encinia, who is a 3-time National Champion and 2011 Male International Asana Champion. (Also known as Leigh Hall’s yoga boyfriend). So, I’m a New Yorker, seeing a famous person in a class, no big deal. Seeing an awesome yoga talent, I’m a blabbering idiot.

I can’t believe everyone in the room is not staring at him. I quietly go over and ask him if he’s Joseph. He says yes and so he doesn’t think I’m some total wacko, I tell him I follow him on Twitter (True) and it’s nice to meet him. He shakes my hand. I try to prod him to move to the front of class so I can watch him, he declines.

I get the sense he wants to be left alone to practice (makes perfect sense) so I try to leave him be, stealing glances on occasion. When I saw his amazing bow (and those of you know I’m struggling), I turned around and said wow. It’s amazing to watch someone who is so amazing. It really is wow.

Apparently, it was Joseph’s birthday as the teacher had us sing him Happy Birthday. What  a treat! Namaste.

Class on your Own

I took class over the weekend and the teacher had a very different style than I was used to. Minimal I would say. Most of my teachers, since they don’t do poses, they follow the dialogue pretty closely and are very detailed. Some even tell you how quickly to get into savasanna (3-2-1, savasanna). This one really said very little. If I were new, I might have struggled, however, because it was different, I just found it interesting. It made me remember some of the key messages (when to suck in your stomach, move your hips forward, arms back, etc.) and I somehow felt more responsible for my practice, my class.

Don’t get me wrong, the teacher was there, she made corrections, she complimented, but she tended to talk about other things (pushing yourself, remembering why you came to class, etc.) vs.  the dialogue.

Are all your teachers the same? Do you have a style you like better?


Life Gets in the Way

This week I had an unusually busy week. A friend’s husband died suddenly last week and the funeral is this evening. I saw her this week and combined with client meetings and conference calls at odd hours, my yoga attendance suffered. Could I have possibly attended more than I did? Yes. However, I did go to 2 spin classes, which are 45 min a pop. A bit easier to manage than 90 min Bikram classes.

As both penance and reward, I woke up at 5:15 this am and went to the 6:30 am class, the earliest my studio offers. I gave it my all and enjoyed the class. I plan to go over the weekend as well. And you know what, for skipping a handful of days, I wasn’t too bad. Did all the poses. Expected to be tighter and pay the price-but while my warm up may have been a bit stiffer, hard poses like Standing Head to Knee and toe stand were just where they were days before.

My attitude may be the biggest shift. No drama. I’m not beating myself up for not going, because I know I’ll get there. I know this is an aberration and I plan to return to my schedule next week. And you know what, yoga will be waiting for me.


Taking Things Personally

For those of you who have read the Four Agreements, you know about not taking things personally. This is both an extremely freeing and extremely challenging agreement. When I relate it to yoga, I find I detach from myself, my performance, my foibles… all good. On the other hand, any progress I make, compliments I get, etc. I prefer to take personally. Funny how that works. When I am not taking things personally, I forgive myself for skipping a class, I try to wonder why one particular pose is so challenging (e.g. why can’t I grab my hands behind my ankles in the warm up? Is it my shoulders are too tight? What is it? I try to solve the challenges clinically). I also seem to hear better or pay better attention in class.

Of course, this is all easier said than done. It seems so easy (too easy?) to critique one’s performance, progress or lack there of.  Often when I criticize my class, I want to criticize myself in general, and yoga is a convenient tool. My head games are baby-ish, but that’s how they operate.

So my advice, don’t take things personally. In work, in life and certainly in yoga.




The Bow Paradox

Today I noted my best and worst postures in class were Bow. Worst was standing bow, best was spine strengthening bow. How ironic, since I would think it’s the opposite for most. Must be something going on with me and Bow!

For a good long while my standing bow pulling bow has been a disaster. I’m unsure the root, but I have a ton of problems balancing, and with all the stopping and starting, it’s no surprise that my flexibility has not improved much. Some days for sure we’re all a little off with our balance, however I have had real challenges with this one for a few months… even if my balance is good in awkward pose, standing head to knee, etc. Weird.

Even weirder perhaps is both yesterday and today, my seated bow was better. I say better b/c this may be one of my most challenging postures. “Kick” sounds like such an easy request, but so many times my legs stubbornly raise 1/4″. Moving on to my stomach seems equally impossible. It feels like my legs don’t know how to kick when I’m lying down and pulling them. I’m sure being at the end of the spine series doesn’t help, when I’m a cross between delirious and praying for the end. Seriously, I in no way resemble a bow here, more like a dead bug.

Having said all that, and despite being in a super humid room, today I got my legs higher. Not high, not sure I was even on my belly, but higher. Sometimes you don’t know why…you just do. And be grateful.




Day 23 of the Cleanse and Random Class Comment

I am on Day 23 of my cleanse. I thought it was supposed to end yesterday but the person in charge asked us to continue to form a habit. Sneaky. Here I had dreams of chinese food and pizza. (Well, not really, but maybe an Amy’s vegan, rice crust pizza!) We’re having a call tonight about if we want to re-introduce certain foods back. While I am pleasantly surprised how I am faring, the reboot is extremely restrictive (no soy, no legumes, no seafood, no nightshades, no sugar, no caffeine, no dairy, no alcohol, no gluten, only almonds and walnuts, no other nuts) so I am getting a little… antsy. I am not bursting with energy as I hoped I would, although I do seem better and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some weight. As part of this reboot, I shifted my workouts, to (approx) doing planks three times a week (hellish), 3 cardio and 3 Bikram classes a week. This is a slight decline from my normal 4 Bikram classes a week, however, I wanted to mix things up. I would have liked to add a bar class/pilates type toning but the times don’t work at my gym.

Surprisingly, my yoga has improved during this period. Despite going less and sometimes drinking mostly green juice and salads, I have felt stronger and made some modest gains (see my earlier posts about touching my nose to my knee-woot!)–I did that again yesterday in class. I wonder if the increased cardio has improved my stamina?

In class yesterday (tried a very early Sunday class!) the teacher mentioned something that caught my attention: If you’re tired, you’re more likely to be sloppy and do a pose incorrectly. She suggested it’s better to sit out a posture than do it half assed. For one, you’re more likely to injure yourself and two, you probably need to catch your breath. Nothing she said was rocket science, however, I think in my head, the thought of doing the posture, however lame, is better than not. Sometimes my second set of triangle is frightening and honestly my seated bow is usually hellacious, so I may see if I sitting out a set makes the set I do stronger and more correct. Not sure about that yet.

So, this week I continue the cleanse and my classes, find my edge and push, as Leigh Hall would say!