Things I’ve Learned From Yoga Class

1.  Pretty much the only way to get me to consistently exercise is to make me pay for a set number of classes up front

I’ve been doing yoga for six or seven years now. As with most things in my life, the degree to which I am consistent with my yoga practice varies wildly depending on things like my mental state, my bank balance, which direction the wind is blowing, what I had for breakfast, whether Mercury is in retrograde…you get the picture. Classes that I have to shell out actual money for seem to be the only way I’ve found to stay really committed to the practice. It’s like my frugal Puritan ancestors are scowling down the generations at me whenever I think about skipping a class I’ve already paid for. Being a disappointment, even to completely imagined ancestors, is not something I handle well, so off to class I go!

2. I’m capable of more than I think

Watching the yoga teacher demonstrate the positions she wants us to get into often involves me snorting sarcastically in my head about how there’s no way my fat ass is going to be able to do that. But then, she sends us to our mats and starts walking us through the pose, and what do you know? I CAN actually do that! It’s not always easy and it’s NEVER pretty…but I can usually do it.

3. I’m not as capable of as much as I thought I’d be

The last time I took a real yoga class, I was about 50lbs lighter and quite a lot more regularly active. I had spent the previous seven winters stacking, carrying and re-stacking many tons of cord wood and 40lb bags of wood pellets to heat the little converted barn that I lived in. I was fat, yes…but also pretty strong. Nowadays, thanks to moving to more civilized living conditions (which I do NOT regret, just so we’re clear – I really like not having to get up and feed the woodstove at 2am just so the pipes don’t freeze), I haven’t had to haul more than the very occasional bag of pellets in about six years. I work a desk job where I often sit for six to eight hours straight without taking more than a two or three minute break to walk to the copier and back. The sum total of all these factors is that I’m still fat, but now I’m also a) nowhere near as strong as I once was and b) really fucking stiff and tight, especially through my lower body. There are dead simple things in yoga that I find INCREDIBLY hard to actually do. And that’s ok, honestly. I’m mostly at peace with it. Which leads me to #4…

4. I don’t have to keep up with anyone

Sally might have done six leg lifts to my three but it doesn’t. Fucking. Matter. We’re all doing what we CAN, and that’s enough. Have you ever tried to give yourself genuine, non-sarcastic, non-second-guessing credit for having done enough? It’s a lot fucking harder than it sounds, believe me…but it’s also very liberating.

5. I’m never going to magically become an extrovert

The class I take is a restorative class, which involves slow movements and poses held for a longer time. There’s a lot of focus on breath, even more-so than with standard yoga, and at the end of class the teacher takes us through a guided relaxation meditation. At the end of the meditation, we slowly sit up, settle back into ourselves, chant “om” a few times (which, honestly, I wasn’t down with it the first couple times but it has grown on me), and then the teacher invites everyone to “extend your greeting to others if you wish”. The first class I went to, I thought this meant saying a general “Namaste” to the room and then peacing the fuck out, BUT NO. What she means is saying “Namaste” to each. person. in. the. room. Like, one at a time, making deliberate eye contact with each person, bowing your head and saying “Namaste”.  I’ll freely admit that I’m straight-up uncomfortable with this. It makes me anxious and completely harshes the mellow I just worked hard on developing over the last 90 minutes of class. After that first class I felt really bad about it, like I was a failure or really immature or something because I couldn’t do two seconds of mild bonding with a bunch of randos. But then that point #4 about doing enough started to kick in and I realized, you know what? Fuck it. She’s saying “extend your greeting IF YOU WISH”. If I don’t wish to extend my greeting, that’s my fucking business. Sitting there with my head bowed and eyes closed while everyone whispers “Namaste” around me is enough. I don’t have to feel bad about being an introvert, just like they don’t have to feel bad about being extroverts. I’ll do me, they can do them, and we’ll all leave class with mellows still intact.

6. I hate practicing. Like, I REALLY hate it

If my mom is reading this, she’s saying something like “no shit, Sherlock” at the computer screen right now, because I’ve ALWAYS been this way. Basketball, multiplication tables, guitar, lines for plays…the list of things she fought with me for refusing to practice as a kid is almost as long as the list she could make you of things that I just straight-up quit on because, if I couldn’t master something within a few tries, I basically wanted no part of it. I don’t know if it was a product of my ADHD or just a character flaw, but I never entirely grew out of it. It’s better than it used to be but it’s something I still struggle with, and yoga class has definitely been stirring it up for me lately.  Logically I know that I’ll get better at things if I keep doing them, but the actual having to repeat things over and over that I KNOW I’m doing incorrectly bugs the shit out of me. Most of the time it’s not even a matter of comparing myself to others, like “oh, Sally can do downward dog without bending her knees and she’s like 70, I should be able to do that”. It’s simply, “the correct way to do downward dog is to not have to bend your knees. I physically can’t do it the correct way, so why bother doing it at all”.

The answer to which is that I paid money to be there so I better damn well do SOME kind of downward dog or those frugal Puritan fucks from #1 are going to come back to haunt the shit out of me, obviously.

Erin_Motz_Crow_Pose

More like NO pose. PS: I took this image from Yoga Journal. Hopefully telling you that means they won’t sue me. Ommmmmmmm.

progress > perfection

The NaBloPoMo prompts are killing me with the boring this week, and it’s only Tuesday.

Today it wants me to talk about what the hardest part of a project is for me.  Which, given that I’m already struggling to complete this “blog every day for a month” project, is quite the coincidence.

So, what’s the hardest part of a project for me?  It depends greatly on the project.  If it’s a project that I’m super into and excited about and have lots of ideas for, I’m usually good until halfway through, when my interest will inevitably be pulled toward other newer, more shiny and exciting things.  These are the types of projects that I usually end up taking a hiatus from while I indulge my “ooh, shiny” impulses elsewhere, then come back to them later on and finish them up.

If the project is one that I’m not into from the very beginning then the hardest part is actually getting started.  I will procrastinate as long as possible before finally buckling down and getting shit done.  Sometimes it’s procrastination via distraction, ie: finding many other shiny things to be awed by and “forgetting” about the unsavory project.

But sometimes, it’s procrastination via analysis paralysis.

Take kettle bells, for example.

15 pounds sounds wimpy, but you try swinging one of these motherfuckers. NOT EASY.

15 pounds sounds wimpy, but you try swinging one of these motherfuckers. NOT EASY.

I bought this kettle bell a few weeks ago with the intention of learning how to do some of the (many!) specialized exercises that they are used for.  I have some previous experience lifting weights and doing body-weight exercises like squats and lunges, so I understand the general mechanics of what goes into something like a kettle-bell swing, theoretically.  I took the bell home, I looked up a beginner’s video on YouTube, I followed along, everything was basically honky-dory.  I decided that yes, I thought the kettle bell might work for me and so I should commit to learning how to PROPERLY do the lifts and swings with good form now so that I don’t end up hurting myself later on with a heavier bell and bad form.

This sounds perfectly reasonable in theory – responsible, even!  But, it was the first step down the analysis paralysis path for me, as it so often is.  I read a bunch of articles about kettle-bell swings and proper form.  I found all kinds of tips and tricks, videos, and things I should try.  I even started a draft email in my Gmail to save the myriad links to kettle bell articles and videos I wanted to be able to revisit later.  I read and thought about this all SO MUCH over the course of about a week that I actually started to make myself worry that I wouldn’t be able to ever do it right without like, an expensive personal trainer or moving to Russia and devoting my life to all things kettle bell, etc.

To my credit, I realized that I was kind of going into crazy-mode at that point and stopped reading kettle bell articles…but that hasn’t made it any easier for me to actually get back to the project of, you know, exercising with the kettle bell.  Every time I walk past it now I find myself thinking, “I have to work on my squat form before I can even attempt to do swings the right way, so I’m not even going to bother”.

Which leads us to possibly the worst part of projects for me, which is that I’m a perfectionist.  If something isn’t coming out the way I want it, I’m apt to scrap the whole thing and start over fourteen times rather than work with what I’ve already got.  Blog posts are a perfect example of this.  You wouldn’t believe the number of times I start writing, decide I hate what I’ve said, and delete the whole thing.  I get so overly concerned with how I’m saying what I’m trying to say, that a whole lot of the time I just don’t say anything, because it’s easier than trying to go back and edit things to make them sound how I want.  In terms of the kettle bells, even throwing that 15lb kettle bell around with terrible form is probably going to do me more good than harm because it’s exercise I’m otherwise NOT doing, but in my head I’m so convinced that imperfect = BAD that I have a really hard time bringing myself to even try.

Progress is more important than perfection.  Reminding myself of that every time I get stuck in an “I can’t do this right so I might as well not do it” feedback loop is a project in and of itself.

new morning habits

This is my dog, Junior:

IMG_20150909_084551813

Don’t let that sweet innocent face and exposed belly fool you. This dog is a MONSTER.

Since I’ve started trying to get into this “do yoga in the mornings” habit, Junior has developed an accompanying new habit.  It’s actually a series of habits strung together into one ridiculous performance of dog fuckery the likes of which I feel few people could truly appreciate without video documentation, but I’m going to do my best to describe it to you.

Stage One (which honestly is the same basic Stage One that we had on non-yoga mornings):

Junior starts whining at about 6am.  Husband and I take turns alternately pulling blankets / pillow over our head for ten minutes at a time while the other one pets Junior and tries to soothe him back into another half hour of dozing.  It never works.

Sometimes there’s also a Stage One, Part B where-in I try to sing the song of Junior’s people back to him in an attempt to offend him so deeply that he fucks off and lets us sleep a while longer.  Again, never works.  It does have the residual bonus of being a minor husband trolling maneuver, though.  I mean, he’s never SAID he doesn’t like it…but I can infer.

Stage Two:

Resigned to my fate of eternal sleep deprivation, I claw my way out of the tangle of sheets and feel around the bedside for my glasses like a developmentally challenged raccoon feeling for a dropped morsel of food.  Once glasses have been located and placed on my face, I pick up my phone and stumble from the bedroom to the bathroom.  I can usually get about five minutes of peace at this point before the whining starts up again, assuming I’ve had the presence of mind to actually shut the bathroom door.  If I haven’t, then there’s immediate whining and, far more disconcertingly, disappointed staring.  We’re still talking about the dog at this point, by the way.  Husband knows better than to follow me into the can first thing in the morning…or ever, really.

Stage Three:

After the whining has once again reached Emergency Alert System proportions, I abandon the bathroom and stomp downstairs.  It should be noted that Junior isn’t actually whining this way because of any deep and desperate need to go outside, by the way – he’s literally just being an attention-whoring tit.  Also, this may be your first sign that my choosing not to procreate was probably the right decision.  Anyway – Stage Three culminates in me rolling out the yoga mat on the living room floor and firing up my favorite yoga video on the laptop.

Stage Four, AKA: The Pre-Trolling Warm-Up:

The pre-trolling warm-up begins with me laying down on the yoga mat to begin the practice.  While I’m on the floor trying to like, harness my chi or find my center or whatever, Junior is busy looking out the living room windows, scanning for neighbors, neighbor cats, chipmunks, birds, swirling leaves…really anything that moves in any way.  Once he inevitably spots a target, he unleashes a tirade of the shrillest yaps imaginable.  To his credit, the yaps are usually interspersed with some pretty amazing tiny-angry-Wookie noises which I do find amusing, but generally this stage ends with me picking up the nearest dog toy and chucking it at him to try and shut him up.  There are usually grumbles coming from the husband upstairs at this point as well.

Stage Five, AKA: Full On Trolling, AKA: Shit Gets Real:

Shortly after I run out of dog toy bark deterrents to chuck at Junior, Stage Five goes into full swing.  Because, you see, my dog does nothing by half measures.  Just barking and whining while I’m trying to better myself via the ancient art of yoga is simply not enough for him.  He will at this point bound off to another part of the living room where he stockpiles all of the stinky dirty socks that my husband peels off and gives to him at the end of every work day (hey, at least it’s not underpants?), and gleefully return with one of said stinky socks in his mouth.

Now, to be fair to Junior, we DO treat socks as dog toys in this house and always have, so he comes by the sock-fetching naturally enough and I have no problem with that.  However, when he takes the sock by one end, carefully orients the other end of the sock right next to my head and then proceeds to shake the ever-loving shit out of it in a manner such that it rapidly and repeatedly fwaps me DIRECTLY IN THE FACE…I tend to take that personally.

After the sock-face-fwapping, we proceed quickly to Stage Five, Part B, which is where Junior moves from above my head to somewhere near my hip and actually launches his entire 12 pound self directly into my solar plexus, quickly and effectively undoing any deep oxygenation, chi harnessing and/or muscle relaxation I have thus far accomplished.

Conveniently, this is just about when the yoga video wants me to stand up and start doing more painful movey-aroundy stuff anyway, and it’s also pretty much when my husband has finally started to wonder what the hell is going on down in the living room. He comes downstairs at this point, leashes Junior up and takes him out while I finish my yoga routine in relative peace.

"Namaste? That roughly translates to 'abuse mom with sock', right? I mean, my accent may be a little off, but I'm pretty sure that's what it means."

“Namaste? That roughly translates to ‘abuse mom with sock’, right? I mean, my accent may be a little off, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it means.”

chair pose can suck a d

I signed up to do a 30 day yoga challenge with some knitting friends of mine. It’s pretty simple – you have to do at least 10 minutes of yoga a day for 30 days. It took me a couple days to find a video that worked for me, but I found one and I’ve been doing it the last couple mornings. It’s fine, except that the last pose in the routine is chair pose.

If you’re not familiar with chair pose, basically the best way to describe it is the 7th level of hell. You stand with your feet close together and stick your ass back like you’re sitting in a chair. A chair that’s NOT there. Everything in your body wants to just…sit down…but there’s nothing to sit on, so you sit-hover and grit your teeth and try to remember to breathe and hope your quads don’t explode in giant swaths of fiery doom before it’s time to stand back up.

This morning, as I was sit-hovering in chair pose, cursing the name of the instructor in the video and basically the entire country of India as well, trying to focus on my breath…suddenly, all I could think was, “chair pose can SUCK A DIIIIIIIIIIIICK!”  At first I laughed, but it wouldn’t go away so I embraced it and started chanting it in my head like a mantra. It actually ended up really helping.

I wonder if I could make Angry Yoga a thing…