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Sin City Yoga

2 Jun

Last night I tried a Yoga 1 Vinyasa class with Angelica Govaert at Sin City Yoga, a new study that just opened up about a month ago here in Las Vegas. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been struggling with sheer *terror* about going to a studio yoga class, especially anything Vinyasa/Power/Ashtanga based. The last Baptiste Power yoga class I went to almost killed me!

The studio is right off of Rancho and Alta in a little house. The studio space itself is small and cozy and sort of set off toward the back of the property. There’s a nice garden next to it. I immediately liked it and felt eager to go inside, which is rare for me when it comes to yoga. I’ve been sitting on a two month unlimited pass to Bikram Summerlin since Thanksgiving or so and every time I think about using it, I want to puke.

The good news: I didn’t die. I faced my fear AND I even wore form fitting yoga clothing that I can actually practice comfortably in (not Lululemon, though—don’t get it twisted, OK?). This is a huge deal for me, as I am extremely self-conscious and weird about my body still after all of the weight loss. I am always convinced that I will be the fattest and stiffest person in the room and I work myself up into a frenzy of anxiety about it.

Sometimes being in my body feels like I am driving a rental car with all sorts of gee gaws and gadgets that I don’t know how to operate. I am used to hiding underneath lots and lots of clothing. I had a moment when I saw myself in the mirror and almost had a panic attack. I still see a 320 pound or 275 pound person in the mirror. I will continue to stay the fuck away from that mirror until I am a little more settled down in my practice and not in such a weird place about inhabiting my body. Yeah, that should be, um, never…!

The even better news: the class was excellent. I could pretty much “do” all of the asanas and there was lots of hip opening going on, which I desperately need. I liked Angelica’s teaching style and she is very approachable and warm. She told me before class started that she was from Florida, and also that she studies Ashtanga but does not teach it. She said she really has a lot of respect for the lineage and structure, and she feels that if you are going to teach Ashtanga you need to go to Mysore and do the whole deal. She got to study once with Jois right before he died, which I was excited by. Angelica gave me some great adjustments and was very encouraging. I am going back on Saturday for another level 1 class.

Interestingly, she reminded me of my very first yoga teacher, Michelle—also from Florida. I have a good feeling about this.

Update: I ran into Angelica randomly on my lunch break  in Whole Foods today, which I took as a positive sign from the powers that be. She gave me a big hug and was SO nice. I am excited to have a teacher again!

Sin City Yoga website: http://www.sincityyoga.com/

info@sincityyoga.com

702-900-8244

515 Rose Street, Las Vegas, NV 89106– just East of the intersection of Rancho and Alta. Close to the 95 and not too far from The Strip.

There Is No Try, There Is Only Do

6 May

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The first week of May is already coming to a close and I am still plugging away at Ashtanga. I realized that I only lifted weights twice in the month of April. This week I went to the gym once for some cardio and that’s it. Very, very strange. My body is definitely changing. People keep saying that I look taller, which is odd. My smallest pants are looser. The lovely Indian lady who threads my eyebrows grabbed my face yesterday and said, “Your face so skinny! Losing so much weight! What you doing?”. We ended up having a whole yoga and vegetarian food conversation. Stuff is moving around and I am having weird surges of emotion on the mat. I am surprised, pleased, freaked out and sore as f@%k. Metta meditation seems to not only be happening after practice, but is also happening all day long. I find myself spontaneously “metta-ing” at people in my office, people in traffic, animals…it’s odd. I am also more accepting of the fact that I am still grieving and I’m feeling more connected with the anger and other uncomfortable emotions that I have roiling around inside of me. I don’t get this whole yoga thing at all, and it’s OK. Thanks to Ashtanga, I’m a neophyte and I like being a Yoga Newcomer all over again.

I’ve been reading a lot of other yoga blogs lately. I came across an interesting post the other day that was critiquing the “Hallmark Card” positivity of some of my fellow bloggers as well as the tendency to blog about how hard it is to get on the mat and actually practice. It seems there’s a whole school of Hamlet Hallmark Yoga Bloggers that I am utterly unaware of—talking lots about yoga but not doing it. There’s a whole lot of doing going on in my world. Sometimes it’s pathetic, sad, klutzy, lurching “doing” but I’m doing, dammit. Sometimes it sounds like there’s a herd of stampeding elephants in my yoga room, but luckily no one is watching.

As far as Hallmark-isms, I am probably the last person to be espousing any sort of forced positivity. If I’m positive, happy, or blissed out on any given day, I fucking take that shit and run with it. And if I am not, then I’m not. This week is the 15 year anniversary of my abuela’s death and the one year anniversary of my Dad’s death.  I’ve been crying a lot lately and wanting to put my fist through a wall and that’s how it is sometimes. To deny this is futile. I’m human. People who want me to sugar coat my grief and anger are not people I need to hang with, period. That doesn’t mean I am going to actually put my fist through a wall anytime soon, but sometimes the most appropriate outlet for my emotions is the yoga mat. I ran from this when I started doing yoga years ago. I will never forget the day that I first had a full-on meltdown on my yoga mat. I had just finished a class with my first “hatha yoga” teacher, Michelle, back in Florida. We were in child’s pose and all of a sudden I was sobbing hysterically, my skin was crawling and I started hyperventilating. I had to get up and leave the room. I was scared to practice again after that! That was the tipping point for me where yoga stopped feeling blissful and started feeling scary. My practice started getting patchy after that, and the meltdowns started happening more and more on the mat. The only time they didn’t happen was in Bikram class, so I started exclusively doing Bikram until I got into my bike accident and stopped doing anything at all.   

The one thing I am NOT doing right now is going to take an actual led Ashtanga class. I am scared shitless, and keep telling myself all kinds of stories about how hard and humiliating and awful it will be. WTF, man? There are some challenges here, but the most serious challenge is between my ears. Fear and Loathing in my cranium, for reals, son. Yeah, so there are only a few led classes in town and they all seem to be at times when I am at work. I could use my Bikram two month pass (*shudder*) or try another style, but I am utterly uninterested in that. I am instead considering changing my work schedule so that I can attend the one class I found that is a “Short Forms” class. Shit is getting serious when I start thinking about changing my work schedule!

 

The Ashtanga Experiment, Week 4

21 Apr

 

 

I can’t believe I made it a full four weeks of almost daily Ashtanga asana and meditation practice without imploding or something. Considering how much fear I used to have about Ashtanga, I am amazed at how kind of into the practice I actually got. Is it difficult? Yes. Do I have moments where I am thinking, “What the fuck am I doing on this yoga mat right now?”? Oh hell yes. I also spend quite a lot of time laughing, either at my playlists or at how godawfully inflexible I am. Most days, I am pretty eager to get home from work and lock myself in the Slayer Shala and get my yoga on. I actually bought myself proper yoga clothing, which is a miracle of miracles. For years, I was so screwed up about my body image and so engulfed in my eating disorder that I would not wear any form-fitting clothing, ever. It didn’t matter if no one was going to see it but me, it was not happening. I finally got sick of getting tangled up in my pajamas and in struggling with track pants that fit me 75 pounds ago and now look like a clown suit. If I am going to dedicate 5-6 days a week to practice, then I need to have clothes that are functional. I’m not saying I went all Lululemon and shit, but I did hit Old Navy and actually invest in the right size active wear. It still kind of freaks me out, but it definitely makes practice way easier.

I now do not have to go to me knees during any of the plank portions of the sun salutations, and I need to take fewer (ahem) extra breaths. I added some new asanas, and I am now doing up through the dreaded Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, which was my nemesis in Bikram and is still my nemesis. Sorry, I mean, I am making friends with this asana (yeah, right).

My body is still going through a phase of total rejection at the gym. The last time I went to lift weights, my right side seized up again. I was really annoyed and agitated about this. I was talking to a friend who is a yoga teacher and ashtangi, and I started almost sobbing hysterically when I told her that I think I have to give up lifting weights. I am terrified to do this! I’ve been lifting since 1998 and it is something that I truly love. Unfortunately, I think it is truly fucking me up right now and I don’t know how many more clear signals I need before I stop. Not lifting this week as an experiment (me and my experiments).

Things are certainly easier now than they were four weeks ago. I am going to keep going. If a 42 year old who needs to lose 50 more pounds can do this, then Pattabhi Jois was right—anyone can do this practice.

 

 

Introductory Offer

30 Mar

Yes, this is a blog about yoga–heavy metal and yoga. Two tastes that do not go well together, you might be thinking to yourself. Two things that have saved my life at different points in my current incarnation…they happen to be two of my favorite things, and nothing makes me happier than hearing the screechy falsetto of, “Get your hands of off my woman, motherrrrrrfuuuuckkkkerr!” while I am sweating my ass off on my yoga mat. In my yoga room. I am lucky enough to have my own little yoga shala on the first floor of my house, and I am going to take full advantage of it for as long as I am able to live here. Now if I could only unearth all of my old Slayer posters so I can build a little Tom Araya shrine in the corner….it will really complement the Tibetan thangha paintings and incense…

Sometime in the late 70’s/early 80’s, I got my hands on the Richard Hittleman’s 28 Day Yoga book. I was a chunky little binge-eating Cuban-Italian kid living in the hood and going to Catholic school. I started doing yoga in my bedroom by myself. Why, I have no idea. No one I knew did yoga, and I knew I needed to keep it a secret from my family because it was “weird.” I can remember the first time I figured out how to do Plough pose—I was thrilled! Shortly thereafter, my Mom found my Hittleman book and told me yoga was “Satanic” and took it away from me. I was crushed. It seemed like everything I liked, apparently, was Satanic. D&D, kissing girls & boys in closets, unicorns, Ursula K. LeGuin, Randy Rhoads and now yoga? I went back to binge eating cheez doodles and hiding.

I started doing yoga as an adult (not even going to front like it was “a practice”, OK? Or even worse, “my practice”) in 1999. Initially, I took classes at the gym because I had heard yoga was good for asthma and so far, nothing else had worked. I was already working out doing cardio and weights a couple times a week at that point. I was about 250 pounds, still drinking and occasionally doing various drugs, and desperate for something that would help me to breathe. That first class kicked my ass! Not only was I huffing and puffing and sweating, but I was way less flexible than I had ever imagined. I wanted to kick the girl next to me who had her ankles behind her head in her smug little face. Clearly, I had issues. But for some reason totally unknown to me, I kept going back to that class twice a week for a few years. Then I started practicing at home, and then I started going to a Bikram studio.  Around this time I started dating a wonderful boy who decided he liked this whole yoga thing I had going on and we started doing yoga together. At first, it was amazingly fun. And then at some point, he morphed into someone I liked to refer to as “The Yoga Guru Asshole”—correcting my postures, lecturing me on various asanas and breathing practices. Instead of taking this with a grain of salt or maybe discussing it with him and telling him how much it bothered me, I took it as a sign to completely stop doing yoga and in fact to start hating yoga and anything even vaguely related to yoga. I liked to blame him, but of course it was all about me and my own brand of bullshit.

Fast forward to 2007. I was probably close to 275 pounds and extremely miserable. I stopped drinking and doing drugs this year, but every other area of my life seemed to be falling apart. I tore a tendon in my ankle from my crazy exercise purging behaviors and ended up in a wheelchair for almost 5 months while I healed from surgery. I hired an assistant at work who happened to be a dedicated yoga practitioner. I was venting about how I needed to get back into doing yoga, but how much I hated it with a burning passion. The new age bullshit, the skinny bendy people, the quasi spiritual crap–hated it. He said, “Maybe you just need to practice at home and listen to some metal. Or something silly. Like The Darkness.” He then busted out into this perfect imitation of Justin Hawkins and did a tree pose. Ah ha, I thought.

Now it’s 2012, I’ve lost 76 pounds, been clean and sober for 4 years and 7 months, been vegan since August 16th 2010 and I have been practicing (or doing) yoga for almost two years, usually while listening to heavy metal and usually in my bedroom. I think I can count the number of classes I’ve been to in the past two years on one hand! I still “suck” at yoga and am about as flexible as a stepladder, but I do my best. Yoga has been, ironically, a huge part of making peace with myself and recovering from addiction, alcoholism, binge eating and exercise bulimia. Yoga is for everyone, dammit. You don’t need fucking Lululemon yoga pants or a Bikram studio. Yoga doesn’t care if you’re old, young, fat, skinny, male or female. Yoga doesn’t care about your race, your tax bracket, or whether you can put your ankles behind your head better than the person on the mat next to you. Yoga, quite frankly, doesn’t give a damn. The impersonal, totally accepting love of the process of yoga is a most excellent thing. There’s enough room for all of us.

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