Day Thirty – Celebration!

The 30 day hot yoga challenge has officially ended.  I feel absolutely delighted to have completed it happily and successfully.  30 hot yoga classes in 30 days is easier said than done but well worth the sweaty effort!  I definitely feel stronger in my practice and am now firm in my belief that I can do just about anything I set my mind to.

We had a wonderful ending class last night with the remaining challengers.  It was a semi silent class, the teacher gave minimal instructions or just told us to move into the next pose.  After 30 straight days, everyone knew what the next pose was. The room was very dark with candles lighting up the mirror and Indian chant music playing softly in the background.  It was a beautiful and peaceful way to end a month of hard work.  Then, of course, we had the celebratory party.  There is always a party.  We ate sushi and drank wine and were merry.

As I said good night to my fellow yogis, I swore that they would not see me for class the next day as I deserved a holiday.

As soon as I hit the publish button on this blog I need to leave as it is now the next day and I just might make the afternoon hot yoga class if I hurry.  It just doesn’t feel right not to go…

: )


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Day Twenty-Seven – Greatest Challenge

I find it astonishing that just as I am finishing a difficult but amazing journey like the 30 day hot yoga challenge, I receive confirmation from the doctors that my beautiful husband has contracted a rare autoimmune disease.  As I successfully conclude this challenge in the best shape of my life, my partner appears to be in the worst shape of his.

It is also very strange that he managed to survive for a decade in one of the dirtiest third countries there is and now, living in one of the cleanest and healthiest countries, he becomes seriously ill?  I am completely baffled.

This was all I could think about in my yoga class today.  I pondered the fragility of the human body.  The impermanence of all things.  I tried to expand my mind with my breath to embrace the entire universe so that mundane problems didn’t seen so huge, but it didn’t work.  My thoughts kept coming back again and again to the poor state of my love’s body.

The 30 day hot yoga challenge may be ending but I am beginning the greatest challenge of my life.

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Day Twenty-five – Home Stretch

Only five days left to the hot yoga challenge.  As the challenge is drawing to a close I begin to question whether it has all been worth it.  Taking on a challenge in any capacity and seeing it through to it’s bitter conclusion no matter what of course has it’s own level of satisfaction and fulfillment.

I have enjoyed in a way that the decision as to whether or not to go to the class has been taken completely out of my hands.  There is no exhausting internal battle with my lazy ego that just wants to sit on the couch and watch a good movie while eating cheese popcorn.  I have not even questioned it during the last month. I took on a challenge and I was fully determined to complete it, no discussion.

During the first two weeks, I experienced a new and very enjoyable surge of energy.  Sadly that has long worn off and now I just feel tired and am looking forward to Sunday, the very last class and of course the big party that is due to follow it.

There is also a bit of pride mixed in there as well as I would like to be able to say that yes, I did a hot yoga class every single day for 30 straight days.  There were 60 people at the beginning of the challenge.  At the half way point, 29 remained and now with only 5 days to go, a mere 15 remain, one quarter of those who started.  I feel delighted to be a part of that remaining quarter.

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Day Twenty-three – Lost In The Shuffle

I feel very sad about the events that transpired this week-end here in the city of Toronto.  A band of misguided strangers came here to destroy this beautiful city.  These hoodlums apparently go where ever the G20 summit is being held, join the protest for a while then branch off to go on a pointless destructive rampage.  They don’t seem to be supporting any cause, just a pathetic bored group of young people venting their own frustrations.  Those who have no capability or intelligence to create only seek to destroy.

Everyone in the yoga studio today agreed that it didn’t have to be this way.  We felt sorry for everyone involved.  Mostly I felt sorry for the legitimate protesters supporting the real issues like my Tibetan friends who spent hours making their signs by hand.

Unfortunately the media reported on only the dramatic bad stuff and the more important messages of the peaceful and law-abiding protesters got completely lost in the violent shuffle.

I hope that my practice today can somehow add a little peace to my sad city and soothe the hearts and minds of those confused and angry individuals who caused such sorrow. May they quickly understand that violence is never the answer.  May they learn to use their energy in a positive and creative way to help and not harm.  May they discover Yoga.


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Day Twenty-one – Bright Red

Normally I go to the late afternoon classes when my body is already warmed up from the day’s activities.  With the heat in the yoga room, I can go much deeper into the poses more quickly and that’s a wonderful feeling.  This morning I went to the early morning class for a change.  I thought that early on a Saturday morning there wouldn’t be many people and I would have lots of room.  There was quite a crowd, doesn’t anyone sleep in anymore?

This early class seems much harder than the later classes.  I have to take it easy for the first twenty minutes as my sleepy body feels quite stiff.  The first few flows are difficult.  The teacher is excellent and seems to know exactly what we are experiencing.  She gives us a perfect warm up and eases us gently into the more difficult postures.

The room is nice and dark and I am having trouble waking up.  A few minutes after we start I begin to hear some very strange noises coming from somewhere in the middle of the room.  As the class progresses they get louder and quite bizarre.  At one point it sounds like a wounded animal caught in a trap, at another point, like a high-pitched whine.  I am intrigued but manage to resist the urge to jump up and see where it is coming from.

At one point we are standing on our left foot and hand, the right hand and foot are high up in the air.  I can now see the entire room.  Instead of concentrating on my breath like a good girl, I start to look around to locate the weird noise maker.  Unfortunately, standing in this position, it’s a bit harder to breath so the person is temporarily quiet.  I suspect that the noises are coming from a tall guy I’ve never seen before a few mats over from me.

A while later when we are sitting on our mats facing front, I locate the guy in the mirror.  Perfect view.  I glance at him often during the next couple of poses to determine whether or not he is the culprit.  After a few minutes I decide that it is him.
When we practice the yoga ‘asanas’ or poses, we breathe with what is called the ‘Ujaya’ breath.  This is where the upper throat is constricted slightly, just enough so that you can hear yourself breathing.  It helps to maintain concentration.  What the teacher should say but never does is that only you and not all your neighbors (or the whole room) should be able to hear yourself.  So here is a newbie breathing as loudly as he possibly can and making very eerie sounds.  I can see that I am not the only one freaked out by this.

As I am thinking this I am watching him intently.  I am shocked out of my negative thoughts when I notice that he is staring back at me!  I immediately topple over and fall on my mat with a loud thud.  I spend the last 10 minutes of class trying to avoid looking in the mirror at all and rush out of the room as soon as we finish.  I keep my head down so nobody can see my bright red face.  They will probably think it is just from the heat anyway…


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Day Nineteen – Impermanence

I had a very interesting conversation with a Tibetan friend of mine today.  He is the only Tibetan guy I know who is interested in yoga, healthy eating and discussing meditation techniques.  He told me that according to Buddhism, we live in what is called the desire realm.  We are searching for happiness but we are looking in all the wrong places.  Happiness cannot be found in external objects as they are impermanent and do not last.  Everything is changing moment by moment.  Material things, people, everything.  We can only find lasting happiness on the inside through the practice of meditation.

My friend wants to travel to India to study yoga with the great masters.  He will study the ancient yogic philosophies about the path to enlightenment.  He gets very excited when we discuss the similarities between yoga and buddhism, as there are many.   What we in the west call yoga is actually only one small part of a vast science.  The yoga postures or ‘asanas’ are practiced to strengthen the body in order to be able to practice deep breathing exercises or ‘pranayama’ for long periods of time.  Meditation is then practiced until enlightenment is achieved.  Yoga poses are only one step on a very long road to liberation.

If you understand the nature of impermanence, it makes life so much easier to handle.  Your expectations in life become more realistic and therefore your disappointments are reduced.  When you enter into a relationship with someone expecting that it’s going to last ‘forever’ then you will one day most likely be disappointed.  People are impermanent, people and relationships like all phenomena change.  What we think is solid and permanent is in reality energy moving around so fast that it cannot be seen with the naked eye.  All matter is like this.  If you meditate on the nature of impermanence and then accept that this is a fact of life, you will be disappointed less often and will definitely become a little more relaxed in life.


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Day Eighteen – Decisive Change

Hot yoga eighteen days in a row, who would have thought it possible!  Days fourteen to twenty-one are supposed to be the most difficult.  I can definitely understand why.  Until day sixteen, I was doing fine and then suddenly it started getting monotonous and tiring.  For the first time, I was not looking forward to going to the yoga studio.  When I arrived  it felt like I had just left.  I noticed that I was putting my mat down in exactly the same place everyday.  Over the weeks I was arriving earlier and earlier to make sure I could lay claim to my favorite spot.  The spot of course is the closest to the door and therefore the coolest.  This was prime real estate.  Was this really fair?  What if other people wanted to stay by the door but couldn’t get there in time?  Was I being terribly selfish?  Was I creating bad karma?

Maybe this was one of the reasons why I was feeling a bit off, always practicing in the exact same spot day after day.  Yesterday I noticed that another 30 day challenger was also in the exact same spot day after day.  Right in front of me!  So not only was I in the same place but I also had the same view every single day.  This would never do, it was time to shake things up.

I walk into the practice room with purpose, stride all the way to the very back and throw down my mat decisively.  Ok, maybe that’s a little too far back.  I quickly pick up my mat, move three places over and throw it down with finality.  There, that’s perfect.  I resist the strong urge to pick the mat up yet again and walk quickly out of the room before I can change my mind.  By the time I had changed and was back in the room, the other spots would be filled up and I would not be able to move.  Why does this thought excite yet make me nervous at the same time?

Well I must say, I throughly enjoyed today’s class and it flew by quickly.  I felt light and strong during the session and quite blissful as I lay down for the final relaxation.  Sometimes a little adjustment in life can do wonders.  The trick is to recognize what needs to be changed and to implement the plan decisively without changing your mind too many times.

As I walked home, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and I swear a cute guy smiled at me.  Life was good again.


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Day Seventeen – Internal Worlds

I am not having a good day.  My stomach started to feel strange just after lunch and now ten minutes into the class I realize that this might be the longest class of my life.  I hardly have any energy and even the most basic poses are difficult to hold.  There is always the option of just lying down on the mat until I feel better I tell myself.  “No way, you won’t give in, never!” I hear back.  Wow, who is that?

I was discussing this very fact with a couple of the other students in the studio just yesterday.  Why won’t we lie down when we need to, why do we insist on pushing through?  Mostly ego and pride we decided if I remember correctly.

As I struggle through one of the harder warrior poses, I begin to look at the issue closely.  Because I am doing the 30 day challenge, I don’t want to just give up and lie down with the excuse that I’m sick.  I somehow feel like this is cheating.  Is it?  How sick am I?  How sick do you need to be to consider it not cheating?  Yes, I certainly have less energy than normal and am slightly nauseous but I am still able to keep up with the rest of the class.

I find it quite fascinating to listen to this internal battle going on in my mind.  I know that in yoga, you should really try to focus your mind only on your body and breath but today I feel like an exception is justifiable.  It feels like a scientific experiment or perhaps a mini war of my internal worlds going on.

My ego loves to take advantage of the fact I feel sick and use it as an excuse to do as little as possible.  I am aware of it’s tricks.  “Perhaps you should leave”, it says, “you are so sick poor baby.”  “No!”, my (other more rational) self says, “you’re not that sick, just a bit of an upset stomach, you can always lie down if it gets worse.”  “What?” the ego cries in alarm, “lie down?  Never, how embarrassing that would be!”  It’s like I’m watching a movie inside my head.  Since I can’t seem to get into the yoga today anyway, I mentally sit back and enjoy the show.  Interestingly enough, my ego would rather I admit defeat by leaving the room entirely but never by lying down.  That would be like announcing to everyone else in the room that I cannot handle the class today.  Is how I look to others more important than my health?

“This heat cannot be good for you if you are sick, maybe it will make you sicker” continues the ego, determined to win the battle and escape.  “Ignore the heat and concentrate on your breath like you always do dear” says my more reasonable self.  Interestingly enough, I notice that I can now feel my heartbeat in my stomach as that is where the problem is.  It seems to be getting louder.  In the end, I ignore both voices in my head and compromise.  I lie down for the last couple of poses so I don’t risk throwing up on my mat.  I think that would be a definite embarrassment…


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Day Sixteen – 36 Hours

Time is flying.  I seem to plan my entire day around my hot yoga class.  It has become the central focus of my life.  Even though I have more energy from practicing yoga, there never seems to be enough time to do everything that I need to get done in a single day.  24 hours are not enough.  If anyone had bothered to ask me, I would have voted for a 36 hour day.  That would be perfect.  I could do all of the things that I normally have to do, all that boring daily routine stuff and then there would be a few hours left to do the things that I would really rather be doing but never have enough time for.  I would take more photos, go for a bike ride and perhaps eat a little more chocolate.

Like always, there is a mini stampede to get out the door when the yoga class ends today.  The teachers explain at the end of every single class that it is very important to stay awhile in savasana, the final pose, where you are just lying on your back doing absolutely nothing.  It’s my favorite pose of course.  This is the all important time between the yoga session and the return back into the mundane world.  We need some kind of buffer to make the transition as easy as possible.

These few minutes lying and relaxing on your back is also important to absorb the practice that you have just done, to maximize the benefits gained during the class.  It may not look like it requires much effort to sustain but it does.  It requires mental effort.  After a long and steamy hot yoga class, we are tired but ready to jump up and get to the next stage of our lives.  The mind, the ego really, is always raring to go.  It never likes to slow down or be bored.  It takes effort and discipline to hold it back, to not give in to that strong urge to move for just a few minutes more.

Maybe if there were 36 hours in a day instead of only 24, it might be a little bit easier to stay in savasana, and perhaps even enjoy it a little…


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Day Fifteen – Tibetan Spirit

I feel so happy today.  The class is packed, I have forgotten my headband and my stomach feels a bit delicate.  None of this bothers me at all though.  I feel quite blissful as I breathe deeply and move in and out of the postures as smoothly as I can.  Perhaps it is the pure joy of practicing yoga mixed with a sense of accomplishment, having now reached the half way point of the 30 day challenge.  I really can do this.

The teacher today is very funny.  Right in the middle of a difficult balancing pose he says,  “I’m not saying that your butts don’t look good sticking out but it would be better if they weren’t”… making everyone giggle and wobble slightly.

Humor makes everything easier.  Over the years I have somehow learned to take myself and situations less seriously.  I can’t say for sure if this comes from the yoga, meditation or buddhism.  I suspect that it’s a combination of all three.  Also contributing to this mellow attitude is having had the good fortune to be married to a wonderful Tibetan man.  Having grown up as a monk, he is very easy-going and rarely gets upset.  I have only ever seen him angry while he’s driving on the terrible roads in India, competing for road space with the terrible Indian drivers.  I think the Tibetans are just as crazy on the road but I would never dare to voice this opinion (especially while he’s driving!)

Whatever happens in life, he is fine with it.  No matter what I need or want he says “sure honey, no problem”.  I admit that I was not so relaxed when I met him and had a bit of a control issue.  Over the years, just being with him has made me calmer, more relaxed and subsequently, happier.  I deal with situations better and am not too disappointed if things don’t go my way.

Most of the Tibetan people that I have met in my travels are like this.  Even though they have lost their country and freedom, they somehow manage to stay optimistic and content with life.  They are easy to be around and love a good prank.  Joking, teasing and an abundance of laughter are always prominent at any Tibetan gathering.  I look forward to visiting the beautiful land of Tibet soon when the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people are allowed to return home once again.


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