Monday, August 30, 2010

Dog Therapy

As many of you know I got a new puppy this summer. Yes we still have Lada the amazing super dog. But my human “baby” was going off to kindergarten and perhaps I was feeling a little maternal, so I agreed to a new puppy. But come on, how could you say no to this?

The one in the middle is ours. Well just so we’re clear, all three of the human kids are mine, but just the puppy in the middle came home to live with us.

 Yes, it’s yet another black lab. I’ve only ever had black lab dogs. If you’re going to have a dog it should be a big dog. Those little chihuahuas and dachshunds aren’t real dogs. They’re more like rats in my opinion. Besides, little dogs have low self esteem because they’re so little. It’s why they always walk around yapping and biting.

And I am absolutely a dog person. I had a couple cats for a little while. But it was just a phase that I outgrew. I am now and will forever be a dog person.

But, getting a new puppy is a lot like raising another baby; the need for constant attention, full time supervision and baby/puppy proofing of the house. And since I appreciate both my human and canine babies sleeping through the night, I’ve got to keep them active during the day.

Thanks to new puppy Stella, we’ve returned to our daily dog walk sessions. Lada the super dog is so well trained I don’t even leash her. She stays right by my side. Stella, however, thinks her leash is another chew toy. She’s young, she’ll learn. I hope.

Some nights I go early enough so the kids can walk with us. Those are very slow walks where the dogs and kids take turns discovering rocks, leaves, or whatever other joys are on the side of the street to be sniffed and picked up. The kids enjoy it and it’s nice to be out together as a family. Sometimes even the teenagers will join us. The teens don't usually last as long as the dogs though.  We're too boring and it's much more fun to pick on a younger sibling. Eventually they get sent home. They're young, they'll learn. I hope.

Occasionally I’ll jog with the dogs. But Lada is getting too old to make it all the way around the loop, and Stella is too young to run that far. So mostly we walk.

My favorite walks are the nights I go later, after the kids are in bed, the heat of the day is gone and the neighborhood is quiet. It’s tranquil and peaceful. I can take my time and process the events of the day, make plans or just daydream.  It’s the best therapy there is and it’s way cheaper than weekly sessions with a doctor and a couch.

I really look forward to getting home from work and walking the dogs. I need those nightly walks as much as they do. Walking the dogs really helps me end my day on a peaceful note. I’m not sure who looks forward to it more, me or the dogs?

This is new puppy Stella telling me it's time to go.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cues and Rules

I did it! I completed a week of Bikram yoga! Well 5 days anyway. On the sixth day I ran a 5K in the morning and was just too tired to turn around and go do yoga in the heat. Well, I ran and walked my way through the 5K – but still I finished the race and I finished the week!

It turns out that the advice I give to yoga beginners is actually true! You really need to give yoga a second chance. Your first time can be foreign, confusing and even a little frustrating. But the second time, you know more what to expect, you know how to prepare, and most importantly you are better able to stay present and get the full experience.

There is no danger of me jumping the vinyasa ship and becoming a full-time Bikram devotee. I like the challenge of the Bikram class, but I don’t find that same mental/emotional/spiritual peace that a traditional vinyasa class brings me.

Although, I am still intrigued and will return occasionally to the Bikram classes. If for no other reason than to find the meaning of the “Japanese Ham Sandwich.”

Bikram classes are cued the same in every class in every studio. So no matter who your teacher or what state you are in, you’ll hear “from the side you look like you’re holding a box” and “your body is a perfect capital T as in Tom” as you move through the poses.

A forward fold is cued as “from the side you look like a Japanese Ham Sandwich”. Each day I heard that the only thing I could think was “what the hell is a Japanese Ham Sandwich?”

I’ve googled it, searched it in Wikepedia and even looked at pictures of Japanese cuisine. I have no idea what a Japanese Ham Sandwich is. Therefore I have no idea if from the side I look like one.

The other part of a Bikram class I’m still trying to get used to is all the rules. Number one rule is there is no talking in the room no matter what.  It’s almost eerily quiet before class begins.

Number two is new people place their mats in the back of the room. Seriously, at my last class the teacher told a first-timer to move her mat to the back row.  I felt bad for the woman being pointed out like that in front of everyone, so I tried to give her the “you’ll be ok” look as she moved her mat and towel.

We ended up moving through our poses next to each other and it wasn’t long before I could hear that her breathing was becoming very labored. I kept sneaking glances at her to try and check on her. I noticed she was stopping and sitting frequently, even putting her head down a few times.

The teacher in me was getting concerned, so I risked breaking rule number one and whispered to her to just breathe.  I encouraged her to slow her breath down and the rest of her would relax. It worked and she made it through the rest of class.

Rule number 3 is no wiping the excessive sweat off your body.  We are supposed to learn to be stronger and be able to hold our foot over our head without slipping.

Rule 4 is if you absolutely must drink water, please do it between the poses and not during. Although, I think the instructors would really prefer if you just didn’t drink water at all.

Rule 5 may possibly be no blogging about the experience. What happens in “the torture chamber” stays in the torture chamber. 

Wonder what the consequences are of breaking the rules?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yoga, Tuna, and Heat

I’ve been practicing yoga for more than 5 years now and teaching for almost as long. I love my vinyasa practice and I enjoy a good Kundalini yoga class when I get the chance. I’d heard about Bikram yoga and figured I’d give it a try.

Bikram yoga is done in a room heated to about 105 Fahrenheit with 60% humidity. The founder,  Bikram Chouduroy, has been quoted as calling his classes “the torture chamber.”  I know I have to try this.

Bikram yoga claims to improve your cardiovascular system, help you lose weight and increase your willpower and determination. On the downside, the extreme heat can be difficult to deal with and there is a higher rate of injuries in hot yoga classes. And still, I want to give it a try.

So on a hot summer Memphis day, when the outside temp is 99 and the heat index is 113, I walk into the local Bikram studio full of confidence and maybe a little cocky. I am a registered yoga teacher after all. The woman at the desk signs me in and reminds me class should be taken on an empty stomach. Oh, it’s been 3 hours since I’ve eaten lunch and I assure her I’ll be fine.

I enter the room, and like most new students I head straight to the back and lay out my mat. The room is packed full of barely clothed silent people. I take a seat on my mat and scan the room. Yeah it’s hot but no worse than outside.

The teacher soon walks in. She’s a tiny waif of a woman, full of tattoos and an almost shaved head.  She doesn’t scare me. She asks who is new today, and when I raise my hand she again gives me directions to just do what I can. Seriously people, I’ll be fine.

There is no actual physical warm up; we just begin with a series of standing poses.  I know these poses, I’m doing ok and holding my own. But it is hot in here.

Soon I am literally dripping sweat. I mean there is an actual puddle forming on my yoga mat. Oh, that is why everyone has a big towel over their mat.  Ewww, was that just sweat from the mostly naked hairy guy next to me?

Fifty-five minutes in to class and we finish the standing series. Oh this isn’t so bad, yeah I’m dehydrated and my heart rate is racing, but I’ve got this. And then, I feel it. A not-so-good feeling in my stomach. Worse, I taste it. That tuna fish sandwich from four hours ago is making an appearance. I am stronger, I will keep it down, and I will finish this class.

We move to the floor series, which seems to be moving faster than the standing part.  Oh please don’t tell me pull my knees tighter to my chest. I had tuna for lunch!

The almost bald tattooed woman is now yelling at people to bend deeper and to make it hurt. She’s starting to scare me now. I notice quite a few people are just lying on their mats. I wonder if they have heat stroke. Or maybe they are just playing dead so the screaming lady will leave them alone.

At this point I’m not only questioning my lunch choice but I’m questioning the physical logistics of all this. How am I supposed to wrap my elbows around my knees, pull them over my ears, when I’m so sweaty my hands are slipping any my eyes hurt from all the salty sweat dripping into them? But I will finish this class!

Finally scary lady says it’s time for savassana, which in the yoga classes I’m used to means lay quietly and peacefully, and turn off your brain. In this Bikram class however, it means you are finally allowed to drink some water. Oh, so the 33 ounces I’ve been chugging for the past 90 minutes was against the rules? My bad.

She ends with a few announcements, which I can’t hear because my ears are too clogged with sweat and everyone quietly gets up and rolls up their literally soaking wet mat and towel.  I make my way out of the room and pick up a copy of the class schedule. After all, I paid the new student intro rate so I will get my money’s worth. I just won't eat tuna before the next class.

As I walk to my car I realize the outside temp has dropped to 97! Oh it feels wonderful out here!