Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Flower Petal Blooming

Happy New Year friends!

And so it begins again.  A new year.  A new promise.  A new resolution.

Last year, I resolved to write a blog post once a week.  I was doing well for  a few months but eventually that goal became surprisingly unmanageable.  So much of my life changed last year as result of both choice and serendipity.  My husband lost his job about a year ago at this time.  I voluntarily left my comfortable job in September to pursue my dream of becoming self‑employed.  If you described to me my current life at this time last year, I would have labeled you certifiably mad.  Yet life has a beautiful way of unfolding itself at precisely the right time.  What was once a seemingly unimaginable road became the only viable option in the end.

As I started blogging more seriously in early 2011 about my travels, about culture, and about my home – New York City, and more specifically, the borough of Queens – I discovered joy in the act of writing and in the act of sharing what I knew with others.  After a few weeks, I was getting recognition for my work.  In July, I attended my very first conference for travelers and bloggers in Vancouver.  People at the conference encouraged me to do more.  The seed that I once planted years ago about self-employment began to flourish and grow.

When I hopped on that plane to Los Angeles in September, I had no idea what 9 weeks of full-time Bikram yoga teacher certification would be like.  All I knew was the conviction I felt in my heart that I was doing the right thing even if it was unconventional.  Those 9 weeks challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally.  All of my strengths and weaknesses were made bare for me to face with no place to hide.  As trainees, we were encouraged to “trust the process” even though our hearts screamed out, “F*$K the process!!!”  Breakdowns happened gradually as did the breakthroughs.  By November, I came out a changed person, shedding layers of myself that no longer served me.

In Bikram yoga, the first of the 26 postures is half moon pose where students bend to the right or left creating a crescent shape with their bodies. As a teacher, my job is to remind my students of proper alignment as they hold the posture. In half moon pose, I instruct them to adjust their shoulders so they can “open up their chest like a flower petal blooming.” This tiny adjustment leads to a gradual opening of the upper body where the chest lifts up exposing the heart, the piece of ourselves we shield and protect the most.

Half Moon Pose at LAX: My Love for Yoga & Travel Intersect

Life is like that flower petal blooming. Change happens so incrementally that often we don’t notice it has happened.  Only when we look back and see the distance traversed do we marvel at its occurrence.  So here’s to the accomplishments, the failures, the struggles, and the discoveries of 2011. Together, they form the stepping stones to the unwritten events of 2012. Wherever life leads me this year, I am going to trust the process.

Without judgment and without attachment, I accept that I did not achieve my blogging goal for 2011. Yet once again, I have set a goal that I will write more and blog regularly.

“Never too late, never too old, never too bad, and never too sick, to start from the scratch once again.” ~ Bikram Choudhury

Forgiveness, Courage, and Leaps of Faith: Why I Left My Job

Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes.  As leader of the newly formed, democratic South Africa, he rejected anger, revenge, and violence despite decades of suffering incredible injustice. Instead, he turned to reconciliation and encouraged both the former oppressors and oppressed of his country to work together to do the same. In the movie Invictus, he offered this advice to his black bodyguard who had trouble working with newly assigned white colleagues:

Forgiveness liberates the soul.
It removes fear.
That is why it is such a powerful weapon.

I was drenched in sweat. My face turned to the right, my entire left ear pressed against the soaked towel. I lay on my belly, body and mind still. My Bikram yoga teacher broke the silence in the room and said, “Time waits for no one. What are YOU waiting for?” Her words slapped my face and seeped through my every pore. The clarity I sought for years suddenly came rushing forward out of the fog of uncertainty and fear. That moment propelled me to listen to what my heart had been saying for so long.

Eight years earlier, I felt directionless and burned out. I left my job and took a leap of faith by backpacking for four months through Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Portugal, and England with someone I loved. As I lived through this life-altering experience, I had no idea that the travel bug would bite me so hard. When I came home to NYC rejuvenated, I promised myself that I would see at least one new country every year.

I worked at a private, philanthropic foundation helping give away millions of dollars annually to colleges and universities. I was ambitious, driven, and pushed myself to the limit. I asked for (and got) more responsibilities, pursued a Masters degree part-time, got married, bought a house, and still managed to travel for three weeks to my new country of choice. But soon I would learn that my go-getter attitude was not sustainable. My body eventually rebelled and broke down gradually, cracking under my self-imposed physical, mental, and emotional prisons. Medical doctors only offered me prescription drugs and surgery to help me deal with the severe, chronic pain I felt throughout my body.

Desperate for an alternative, I turned to an Eastern healer and Bikram Yoga. I channeled the same hard work, focus, and determination that put me in this mess to get myself healed. Working to heal myself was hellish and grueling because it was an irritatingly slow process and went against everything that our pill-popping, quick-fix culture teaches us.

In every Bikram studio, students are instructed to look at themselves in the mirror for the entire 90 minute class. As a beginner, I could not look at myself without unceasing criticism. You’re too fat. You’re too injured. You’re not flexible enough. You’re not good enough. Each time I looked in that mirror, I confronted my own worst enemy: me.

The intensity of the heat magnified the challenge of the yoga poses. Many times, all I wanted to do was collapse, give up, or run out of the room screaming. Magically, my teachers knew when to offer me the compassion I needed to back off. Johanna, stay still. All you have to do is breathe. They also knew when I gave up too easily. You fall out, you jump back in! Johanna, what are you waiting for?”

To survive in that hot room required only a calm breath. Surprisingly, even that seemingly simple act was the most challenging. The classes where I struggled to “just” breathe were the ones that dealt heavy blows to my ego. Patience, compassion, and forgiveness were forced to set in because there was little room for self-criticism, judgment, and attachment. The salty tears and gallons of sweat chipped away at the protective walls I built so long ago against hurt and pain. It no longer mattered if I wasn’t good enough, quick enough, pretty enough, or smart enough. All that mattered was that I do my best. And when I fell down or fell out, all I needed to do was jump right back in.

As counter intuitive as it may seem, acknowledging my humanity afforded me the freedom to access my inner strength. Only when I forgave myself could I allow myself the chance to start again.

In the 2½ years of practicing Bikram yoga, I no longer feel the weight of the world.The chronic debilitating pain I once felt, is completely gone. Today, I am the healthiest I have ever been in body, mind, and spirit. I have learned to live my life the same way I practice yoga. I tackle each challenge and uncomfortable situation with a calm breath, a focused mind, and a compassionate heart. I have learned to be okay with uncertainty, fear, and discomfort knowing that these feelings ­shall pass. I am still learning.

Last Thursday, I said goodbye to my colleagues of eight years at my secure job. I venture now into uncharted territory. Yesterday, I arrived in Los Angeles for 9 weeks of full-time certification to become a Bikram yoga teacher. I have always dreamed of becoming self employed, doing things that I love most. Leaving my job and becoming a yoga teacher will make room for my greatest passion: writing travel stories and making travel videos with my husband. I feel that my mission in this post 9/11 world is to promote cultural understanding and healing. As a yoga teacher, I can help others who seek redemption. As a traveler, I can tell you stories about the places I visit and the people who live there. As an anthropologist, I can provide a unique insight to these cultures.

Every morning we awake, we are given another day for the chance to start anew. That journey always starts with the decision to forgive. I’ve learned that forgiveness first begins with ourselves before we can bestow it to others. Only then can we become courageous. Only then can we aspire for greatness. Only then can we inspire others to do the same.

A Goal Without a Plan is Just a Wish

– Larry Elder via Cory Booker

He challenges himself to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle, publicly proclaims it by writing a post on Facebook one day last week and then later that afternoon, writes a second blog post and posts regularly every since?  Aaaaaaack!  And here I am trying to post once a week on my blog?!?

::pause::

::deep breath::

Momentary panic attack now dissipating…

I once read a brief insight written by Jill Koenig, a motivational coach,  called “Running Your Own Race” (short read:  3 minutes, tops).  It brought home the idea that I really can’t compare myself to others because my goals, my capacities and limitations, and my starting point are unique.  So instead, I choose to be inspired by Mayor Booker’s incredible enthusiasm and his ability to bang out a post despite his busy schedule.

There are some true gems in his second post that deal with strategic planning in order to achieve your goal.

Not surprisingly, it starts with the mind.  It starts with a thought coupled with desire.  But a thought without action is useless.

So, he enlists others.  No person is an island.  Introduction to Anthropology 101 at Mount Holyoke taught me that humans are first and foremost, social beings.  Creating a network of people, a support structure is indeed important because we need someone to cheer us on, advise us along the way, and encourage us and make us feel like we are not alone when it gets rough.  I certainly could not have completed last year’s 101 day Bikram Challenge if I did it alone…and I certainly would never have even considered taking it on by myself.

He plans the work and works the plan. Years ago, I got this advice from a good friend after I described how overwhelmed I felt at work.  I think the key to this strategy is flexibility because the unexpected always comes when you least expect it.  Be like a bamboo in the wind:  strong yet flexible.

So, here’s my plan for my 2011 Challenge:

  1. Write it down. Now I understand why writers carry a notebook.  Inspiration hits at any moment.  I need to write down my ideas when they come.
  2. Brainstorm. Inspiration may be great but it is not always present.  Collect insurance by coming up with ideas.  No idea is wrong or silly.
  3. Dedicate time. Based on my schedule:  Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, (and possibly) Fridays are good days to get up early and write.  Perhaps Sunday will be the start of a first draft, and then a few days of percolation, Wednesday for crafting, Thursday for polishing and publication.
  4. Set realistic expectations. It is so easy for me to do the opposite!  When I write, I feel like I have to write an exposition, a treatise, a thesis.  No!  This is a blog.  It is a space for coherent musings that hopefully will encourage others to respond and initiate a dialogue.  It doesn’t have to be perfect because it will never be perfect.
  5. Plan ahead. Start writing other posts and save drafts so that when time is scarce, it will be easier to polish it than start from scratch.

My goal is to form long-term habit of writing but I need to take it one day at a time.  Looking at the big picture, I often get overwhelmed at the huge task before me.  Last year, in the first week of my bikram challenge, I was struck with paralysis.  With only less than 10 classes under my belt, I wondered how the hell I was going to get to 101?! Then, I recalled the words of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Take the first step in faith.

You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

The 2011 Challenge

Last year, I participated in a worldwide Bikram 101 Day Challenge, organized by lovely bloggers The Missus, theDancingJ, and bikramyogachick.  That’s right.  I committed to practicing bikram yoga daily for 90 minutes a day for 101 days straight.  Start date:  January 1, 2010.  Me and hundreds of other yogis chronicled our daily progress individually on our blogs and collectively on the official Bikram 101 blog.  After a bumpy start and a subsequent reset, I began the challenge in earnest in New York City on 9 January and completed it in Johannesburg, South Africa on 18 April.

As I look back on 2010, my goal was to take care of me and and heal myself.  In particular, I wanted to heal a knee injury that subsequently required surgery 18 years ago.  Over time, it caused such chronic and debilitating pain that I lost all strength and mobility in my leg.  It eventually prevented me from having an active lifestyle (running and eventually, even power walking was out of the question)…and from wearing high heels!

That was then.  This is now.

Ever since I started blogging in 2004, I resolved to blog more with every new year.  I wanted to write about topics that fulfill my spirit:  travel, culture, food, my hometown of New York City, and yes, yoga.  For the last six years, I’ve fallen short.  This year, my resolve is stronger because several factors in my life have come together to make it so.  I love to write.  I love the process of crafting words together, connecting ideas, and putting together my musings into something coherent and thoughtful to share with the world.  More importantly, I absolutely love exchanging ideas with others, getting into a conversation and hearing what others have to say.

I take strength from the lesson I learned on April 18, 2010 as I sat sweat-drenched in that Johannesburg studio after the final breathing exercise when the teacher announced that I had just completed my 101 day challenge.  There were gasps of astonishment at first and then…claps…then…cheers from 40+ yogis in the room.  I will always remember that moment and relish in the glow of feeling accomplished.  After that moment, I realized that I can achieve anything ANYTHING when I insert 110% of my focus and effort.  It also requires discipline, sacrifice, and accountability.

So today, I am proclaiming to the blogosphere that I am participating in the WordPress Post-a-Week-2011 Challenge.  I am going to post something on my blog at least once a week.  Today, I was particularly inspired by Newark mayor, Cory Booker, who very publicly and eloquently set a personal challenge for himself.  No more excuses, no more waiting for the time when things are “right”, no more self-imposed obstacles.  I’m not going to sit back and dream.  I’m gonna do…I mean, write.

Guest Blogger at Bikram101 Blog

Day 79

Hi everyone!
I wrote a post for the Bikram 101 blog, which you can find here. Stop by, look around.  Enjoy.

My life is insane but my daily practice has kept me grounded.  I am so grateful.  I miss you all and I promise, when things aren’t crazy, I’ll be back to blogging…but probably after this challenge is over.

I’m proud of all of us as we get closer to the finish line!  I’m happy we did this all together.  Namaste!

What I’ve Learned So Far

Days FORTY ONE to FIFTY

Well friends, so much can happen in 9 days that it amazes me to think how much can and will happen in the remaining 51 days of this challenge.  Let’s see where to begin…

Comments on my practice:
My right knee no longer feels pain.  Once in a while, my left knee feels like I applied icy hot to it after some classes.  I feel strength in my quadriceps in a way I’ve never felt before.  All parts of awkward are strong and I’m even managing to kick my heels up even higher in the 2nd part.  The right knee feels strong.  I am so happy.

I always seem to lose the 10-fingered bikram grip especially in standing forehead to knee.  Otto called me out and instructed me to keep the heels of my hands together.  It worked for the second set in standing forehead to knee, I nailed it with a firm grip.  Three days later, he saw me losing my grip again and called me out again by saying, “Same thing as the other day my lady…you’re losing your grip.  You gotta break that bad habit.”  I haven’t taken a class with Otto in months and this week, I’ve taken three.  He has greatly improved as a teacher and for that I am grateful.

Out of nowhere, an emotional release occurred after the first set of camel in Corrine’s class.  I sobbed and my chest heaved.  My neighbors could see I was bawling but I didn’t care.  For second set, I stayed in savasana while others did the sit up but during the set up, I heard Corinne prod me in her firm but gentle way, “ActionJoJo, second set.  You’ll feel better, yeah?”  When a teacher…especially of Corrine’s caliber, asks you to do something, you do it.  I did it because I trusted her even when I couldn’t find the strength in me to trust and believe in myself.  In the second set, all I could do was kneel and put my hands to the back of my hips and push forward.  I was still bawling.  It was a powerful moment for me as I reaffirmed the important fact that I need to allow others to help me.  I can’t do everything on my own, as I tend to like to do thanks to  my superwoman-complex (more on that later).

I feel more acutely and can physically see in the mirror, the imbalance between the right and left side of my body.  My right is tighter and therefore, shorter in the mirror.  I see it prominently when I sit Japanese style to set up for locust and rabbit, and in final breathing.  The amount of skin between the bottom of my shakti top and the top of my shakti bottom is less on the right than on the left.  Crazy!  I hope these next 50 days will help in balancing me out. 

My spine is changing and I can feel it.  My spine cracks when I straighten up in half moon, both sides.  My lower back cracks and then slowly releases as I set up for the first set of standing forehead to knee.  I am entering a new phase in the spine strengthening series.  In rabbit, when I start to pull on my heels, I can feel my spine cracking and realigning itself.  I now am beginning to fully grasp why Bikram says, “You don’t have to chase the chiropractor, chiropractor will come to you!”  When I look in the mirror these days, I don’t recognize my back.  My thoracic spine has become more prominent and I see a slight curvature in my upper back whereas it was quite flat in the past. 

Update on Life:
We signed a contract on the house and this last week has been spent negotiating with banks to find the best deal on a mortgage and the lowest closing fees.  We admittedly lost sight of the fact that we needed to plunk down another $20,000 on closing costs in addition to the money we set aside for the downpayment.  It definitely freaked The Husband out, which led him to asking what else have we’ve forgotten to budget for.  Thankfully, The Husband is focusing on this part of the process:  finding the mortgage, dealing with the lawyers, and reading the fine print.  I dealt with the front end of this process by contacting the realtors so I feel we have divided the task of home buying that plays up to our strengths.  In fact, he negotiated so well that today, we got a bank to agree to lock in an interest rate of 4.75%!  Woot!!!!  Now we go through the application process and sometime in the next 4-6 weeks, we close.  That means we move, which means we pack!  Acccccccccck!

I am up to my ears with work.  I come in to the office and there are piles on my desk.  I leave and there are old piles and new piles on my desk.  I am grateful to have a temp helping me who is smart, quick, and self-sufficient.  I am planning for our upcoming board meeting and planning for my own three week business trip to South Africa in mid-April through early May.  Regardless of when we move, April is going to be mad mad crazy. 

The Olympic athletes have inspired me to re-visit the bigger question of what it is that I want to do in my life, a life full of passion and fulfillment.  There’s something stirring in my heart…yearning to accomplish what I dream about in my career:  one that involves travel and being in front of the TV.  But how am I to fulfill this dream now that I have a mortgage?!  Am I stuck now that I have such adult responsibilities?  When is this career shift going to happen?  We need to renovate the house:  where are we going to find the time?  the money?  How about expanding our family — when will we start?  HOW AM I GOING TO GET ALL THIS DONE?  HOW?!  HOW?!  HOW?!

Without this challenge, I think my mind would have been spinning its wheels worrying about how to accomplish all the goals in my life during this huge period of transition.  But these last 50 days have shown me that like my body, my life will open up and unfold at precisely the right time.  Everything will fall into place and when they do, I will be ready to embrace them.  All I can do and all that I can be responsible for is today.  Yes, I can dream of the future but I can only focus on the task at hand.  Like our challenge, if we focus on accomplishing 101 days of straight yoga, it could paralyze us.  But we take it one day at a time and the challenge becomes manageable and less daunting.  Similarly, my body was not ready to have my forehead touch my knee on day #1 but with patience, surrender, and hard work, I am starting to do it on day #50.

So what I’m saying is that despite the craziness, the unknowns, the doubt, and yes, the fear, I have hung on to my faith.  I am teaching myself patience and surrender despite my Aries tendencies of craving instant gratification. I can happily say that I feel peace and contentment and believe in my core that all will work out:  a beautiful marriage, an expanded family, a renovated home, a fulfilling career, and a passion-filled life.  All the pieces will fall into place and I really don’t need to know how.  I just need to work one day at a time, trying to fulfill my dream in the best way I know how. 

I’m surprisingly okay with that.

For the purposes of my own record keeping, day:

  • #41 Thurs, Feb 18 – 7 am w/ Danielle – class was uneventful
  • #42 Fri, Feb 19 – 5:30 pm w/ Corinne – bawled during camel – great release
  • #43 Sat, Feb 20 – 10 am w/ Caroline – “In this yoga, you should struggle, not suffer.” – Felt light afterward
  • #44 Sun, Feb 21 – 4:30 pm w/ Mark – first time taking his class…I enjoy the cadence of his dialogue and his NY Italian-American accent.  He sounds like he is singing!
  • #45 Mon, Feb 22 – 6:30 pm w/ Mark – super juicy – if I wasn’t in the front row, I would’ve taken a knee – but pushed myself…I think I was acting too proud in front of my fellow yogis.  Half a$$ed some sets in the spine strengthening series. 
  • #46 Tues, Feb 23 – 6:00 pm w/ Otto – strong forehead to knee thanks to a correction in order to  maintai the classic bikram grip; “Vera Wang, Vera Wang!” Otto yelled during tree pose.  He later explained, “Act as if you are wearing a Vera Wang gown, all $10,000 of it.  Proud.  Chest up, stomach in!”  LOL — I’ll never look at tree pose the same way again.
  • #47 Wed, Feb 24 – 5:30 pm w/ Otto – mind was like jelly today & had to sit out one set of separate leg stretching and balancing stick.  It also probably didn’t help that I had a pastrami sandwich & french fries (which I never eat) for lunch; they sat like a stone in my stomach
  • #48 Thurs, Feb 25 – 6 pm w/ Becca – strong class and felt light afterwards
  • #49 Fri, Feb 26 – 5:30 pm w/ Otto – another strong class although there was a moment in pranayama when the women next to me where holding back giggles from something Otto said and I was getting affected.  Found myself inhaling and giggling and exhaling and giggling at the same time. LOLOL
  • #50 Sat, Feb 27 – 4:30pm w/ Alina – drenched by pranayama but stayed strong

Inspiration

Days THIRTY EIGHT, THIRTY NINE, FORTY

Have people been watching the Olympics?  I have been so inspired by all the athletes but in particular, I marvel at Shaun White and the kind of pioneering moves he demonstrates on the halfpipe.  My mouth just hangs open as I watch his height and the speed of his rotations.

The ice skaters are another group I simply have a new appreciation for now that I’m doing bikram yoga.  I see lots of beautiful backbends in many standing spins and tons of foreheads to knees in sitting spins.  Gosh.  The struggle I have doing these backbends and foreheads to knees just standing still much less balancing and doing this while spinning on ice?

And last but not least, I have a newfound respect for Apolo Ohno and his zen attitude on the ice during competition.  When he first came on the scene 8 years ago, I thought he was such a cocky kid but 8 years have made him grow and gain maturity and experience.  He seems more confident now and just so at ease whenever he races.  When the gun goes off, he starts but holds himself in the back off the pack and then watches and observes serenely.  When you think he’s not going to make his move, he jumps and gracefully glides by his competitors, passing them as if it was no big deal.  It is so beautiful to watch him because he makes it look just so easy and natural.  I kinda think I have a crush on him now!  LOL

What these athletes do to push their bodies and train for these games is just incredible.  Some are healthy and some are injured like poor Lindsay Vonn who manages to still win gold despite the severe shin injury.  As someone who is injured, I wonder where it is you draw the line between pushing your body and taking care of it?  I am happy that this yoga is teaching me where that line is.

#38, Alicia

Off for President’s Day but The Husband and I decided to still go to 7am yoga and then off for a breakfast date to reward ourselves.  We are happy we did.  We were done with yoga, grocery shopping, and our breakfast by 11am and home by 12noon.  Lots of chores on my list such as laundry and cooking for the week.  We decided to indulge instead and took naps and ditched all the shores.  What luxury — all this time!

Class was solid although it wasn’t as hot as it could’ve been.  On days like today when the heat isn’t up and in the morning, I focus on alignment and use more strength since I lack the flexibility of evening, juicy classes.  The knee continues to bother me but somehow it feels better.  I don’t know…the tightness in the knee especially when sitting in Japanese style doesn’t bother me anymore.  I suppose it is less painful but maybe it’s because I’ve learned that my knee sorts itself out eventually and the tightness goes away.  Maybe I’m just becoming more accepting of my pain as part of myself, and coming to love it as part of me, rather than being disappointed and frustrated everytime it shows up.  I don’t know…

#39, Danielle

I had to drag my a$$ to class because the thought of doing another 61 days of bikram just was a little depressing.  I am feeling a bit of lack of motivation…perhaps because the long weekend made it hard to get back into gear.  What got me through a relatively uninspiring pranayama was thinking about those Olypmic athletes and the determination they must’ve had to training every day.  Apparently, Apolo Ohno trained 12 hours a day for these Olympics!  Insanity.  Their hard work motivated me to stay focused and determined…as if these classes were preparing me for the yoga championships or even an Olympic yoga competition!  It was a neat way to find new motivation.   My legs felt like lead in awkward…so heavy but I tried to stick with it and managed to do the best I could today.

Despite the blase start, I was thrilled to discover that I can get my forehead to my knee in standing separate leg head to knee pose on both sides especially my tighter right side!!!  I can’t do it in the morning, but these evening classes, I can.  Hooray!  My front leg is totally bent but I don’t care…I can finally get the forehead to my knee.  And in head to knee pose, I can do it too.  I am noticing that I can flex my toes even further back in this pose, in standing forhead to knee, and all the sit ups.  I have also noticed that my spine/back cracks as if it is realigning itself in the first set of rabbit.  When it does this, I feel such a great release that I actually look forward to rabbit these days rather than the dread I used to feel.

I also notice that the hair clip at the top of my head, although small and flat, managed to get in the way of some poses so I’ve started to take it off, beginning at fixed firm.  In rabbit, this small adjustment has allowed the pinching sensation at the top of my head to go away and I can really focus on keeping the weight on my legs and keeping the tops of my feet down and my heels together.  Isn’t it amazing how the removal of even a small barrier, in this case a hair clip, that we create can make a world of difference?!  Huh…who would’ve thunk.  

#40, Kara

Super juicy class and I managed to set my mat up directly underneath a fan blowing hot air on me.  In the mirror, I could see my hair blowing in the wind.  I panicked and said to myself, “Sh*t.  Is hot air going to blow all over me in class?”  And then I laughed it off and enouraged myself to think that I was in the middle of the Sahara but more humid with a constant wind.

The Olympic athletes continue to motivate me so I had strong determination and focus in class today.  By the end I was losing steam but managed to push myself and got my forehead to my toes in the third part of head to knee pose.  I managed to get a compliment from Kara as a result.  Another fantabulous day of touching my forehead to knee and both parts of awkward were okay.  No pain.  Hallelujiah!

It is Ash Wednesday today and it is my favorite time of the Roman Catholic liturgical year.  These next forty days are a period of reflection and introspection, of giving more of ourselves to others, of fasting, in order to culminate in the joyous celebration of Easter.  There are so many commonalities between my Catholic faith and my practice of bikram yoga…perhaps one future post will be about this.  For now, all I will say is that the season of Lent and Easter remind me that every day we start anew, that we have an opportunity for rebirth.  We die and are reborn metaphorically each day.  With each new day is a clean slate, to be a better person, to live life passionately and peacefully, to forgive ourselves for past shortcomings, and to do the best we can.  It is all we can ask of ourselves.  I learn these lessons in the yoga room and they are further reinforced by my faith.