Triangle Trauma

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It’s the pinnacle pose in Bikram’s series, designed to use every muscle in the body: trikonasana, or triangle pose. It comes about 45 minutes into the sequence, right after I’ve built up a sweat and am breathing hard. In my first few weeks of yoga, the instructors corrected my leg positioning (open them up wider!), but then after that first month or so, I just…haven’t done the posture.

Sure, I try, every once in awhile. But to be honest, with my legs spread that far apart, trying to sink down into my pelvis, it feels like I’m going to break in half. The sweat pools make my feet slip, and I fear losing control. So, with the justification of being tired from a long workout so far, and not wanting to hurt myself, I’ve sat out of this pose. For the last 7 months or so. Only trying it sporadically, and then giving up, because really I don’t even want to do that pose.

But a week or so ago, I went to a posture clinic at my studio, and something profound happened when he was explaining to focus more on the arms in the posture, specifically the top arm reaching it up, and when I tried it I was able to sink down into the pose for one set on each side. I felt super proud of myself! And when I told the owner, Gina, about my breakthrough, she was really excited, and said something profound: sometimes trauma is held in the hips.

Whoa.

I had told her that when I sat down in the pose, it felt like my pelvis was going to shatter, and the feeling was EXACTLY like how I felt right before Potamus was birthed out my tiny little vag-hole. The whole concept that this pose could be bringing up birth trauma felt SO REAL, and it actually helped me to even verbalize that…yes…two and a half years later I can say…my birth experience was traumatizing. Was it amazing in the result? Yes. Was the whole thing taking only 4 hours and feeling completely batshit out of my mind traumatizing? Yes. Was having my water break and him come crowning out in one fell swoop amazing in retrospect? Yes, who wants to do hours and hours of pushing? But was it fucking scary in the moment? YES!

And in triangle I’ve been feeling that. Hot. Sweaty. Tired. Completely overwhelmed and knowing the rest of the class stretches out ahead of me. Sinking into my hips and feeling just like I’m going to give birth again. Totally trauma held in my hips.

I have no idea what this information will do to change my pose. Maybe I’ll try it more and be easier on myself. But knowledge is power, and I hope to use it to my advantage!

use your ears in yoga

I was a yoga newbie once, too, so I’m trying to extend my compassion and empathy toward the newbies I’ve seen lately, but sometimes it’s really hard. I see them in the mirror and my focus breaks. I try to telepathically send them messages, but none of them pick up on my frequencies. And I notice that their fledgling practice has a big impact on my own practice, and for that, I’m annoyed (mostly at myself of course, but a teeny tiny little bit at them, too).

It’s not the out of shape newbies that bother me. Or the ones who come dressed in completely non-yoga appropriate dress (one girl was wearing an outfit best for strolling down the Santa Monica pier, and one was wearing a non-breathable track suit in neon purple, and yet another wearing a dress and leggings…yeah…). The “bad” dressers provide a moment of amusement or extreme compassion (I worry about them overheating and dying in their fancy outfits), but it is the bad listeners that really drive me crazy.

Like tonight, in the back row, perfectly aligned with my vision, was a a guy taking his first class next to his girlfriend who seems to be a regular practitioner (so I would have thought she would have given him some instruction prior). But I struggled watching him. Because he didn’t listen to the instructor. Bikram yoga is all about doing things in a precise, controlled order, to get ‘maximum benefit’ and to keep safety in mind. I’ve seen new students struggle in this way a lot, trying to get their body to bend into the bendiest pretzel position without regard to their personal safety. And in their newness they aren’t even aware that they’re putting themselves in danger. I am mentally shouting at them PAY ATTENTION! but they don’t listen. They hold their positions too long and then get winded when they could be resting. It throws the energy of the room off, and I sometimes get annoyed. And like tonight, I sometimes get worried for their safety.

I haven’t yet come to a good conclusion for how I should handle myself. I know that I wasn’t perfect as a newbie, but the one thing that I focused on was listening to the instructor and tried to follow their directions as much as I could. So it is hard for me to see people struggle with postures when it appears that they aren’t even listening to a word the instructor is saying!

I think the biggest muscles used in yoga are the ones for listening…

Yogavangelist: Introducing Friends to Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga with friends!

Growing up as a fundamentalist Christian, I am no stranger to the ‘evangelist’ idea. I was taught about how to ‘witness’ to my friends, and the importance of ‘preaching the gospel’ so that people I knew could be ‘saved’ and ‘go to heaven.’ I wonder if I just never believed any of the hype, because as an anxious person I never felt comfortable blabbing about Christian doctrine with friends, let alone with strangers. Sure I’d have discussions, but never in an evangelist sort of way.

I wonder if I was just never a good enough Christian, that I must never have really believed in all of it, because my evangelist-anxiety has not extended to things like Bikram yoga. Yesterday my bestie The Anxious Hippie┬ádrove up to visit me for the long weekend, and we headed on out to coffee and a FREE bikram yoga class thanks to the Valentine’s Day special my studio was having.

This makes the 6th friend/family member that I’ve convinced to try a Bikram class, and I’ve invited at least as many more that have politely declined (or outright said HELL NO to the heat!). But she freaking KILLED IT YA’LL. I mean, totally. The heat didn’t seem to bother her one bit, and she had a great balance of working hard, but not pushing herself past her comfort point. It was so great to have her in class!

So there you go. I’m the crazy yogavangelist, and I might come knocking on your door with pamphlets and fliers about the benefits of Bikram yoga! Because Lord knows it’s certainly changing my life (did I mention I weigh less than I did at my wedding 5 years ago? WAHOO!).

How do you share your love of yoga with others?

Merry Yogamas

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This morning, after presents were opened and pancakes devoured, I got the privilege to attend a silent yoga class. The same 26 bikram postures we practiced, but our teacher led us quietly through the poses, only telling us when to begin and when to end. There were fifteen of us breathing and sweating in unison, and the atmosphere was one of joy in the midst of the crazy holiday around us.

I’m so thankful this practice is changing my life.

Bikram Bootcamp?

I have gotten into quite a little routine over at my Bikram yoga studio. I’ve shared parts of my life with certain teachers, and have gotten used to their style of leading the classes. While much of the class is scripted, the words sound different when different people’s energies say things like “bend beyond your flexibility,” or “struggle harder, don’t give up.” Two of my favorite instructors (one who happens to own the studio) have this subtle sense of humor that they infuse into the sessions, and I enjoy when they point out both things we’re doing well and things we can improve on while we’re doing our asanas.

So, much to my surprise, I showed up at my most recent class and there was a teacher I hadn’t yet met. Somewhat disappointed, I made her acquaintance, and headed on in to the studio. I figured, that just like all the other instructors I had experienced, that this class would be pleasantly challenging with a twist of humor.

But I was wrong. Sure I got used to it by the end of class, but her method of delivery was rapid-fire fast and more like a bootcamp drill seargent than a mild mannered yoga instructor. I had heard about bikram’s bent toward a more Crossfit/bootcamp/competition bent, but had yet to experience that in this studio. I’d always felt challenged, but not stupid. And while the instructor never called me out (either good or bad), it was the subtle comments like “party’s over” when we were supposed to be done with the first water break, or actually saying “no water now Amy,” to a woman who was taking a sip right before camel. Good intentions, and a warning I’ve heard before (because it can induce vomiting), but the delivery style felt grating and harsh and shaming.

I didn’t like it.

It’s not enough to keep me from going, though I’m praying that she won’t be scheduled as the regular Thursday Night instructor. While I’m sure I would learn something about myself, my body, perseverance, determination, etc., I’d prefer to do it in a room with a little more humor.