June 27, 2019, 6:00am - class 801 with Cate Reese - I made it through the entire class with no issues. I'm bending deeper in Half Moon. I'm better on my right side than my left. I still can't go all the way down in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. I feel I can do the Esak Garcia version of Toe Stand again soon. I did more head to knee sit-ups today than in previous classes. I almost have my right leg extended in Head to Knee with Deep Stretching. I may be able to do Spine Twist Interlocked Hands again soon.
June 29, 2019, 9:00am - class 802 with Joel Pier - 135.9 today. It was so hot in class today. My insistence on not drinking water after Eagle got the best of me and I started feeling anxious after Balancing Stick. I felt the onset of body tingling again, so I sat down, rested, and did alternate versions of Standing Separate Leg Stretching and Triangle. The top band of my yoga shorts keeps digging into my scar, so I have to lower it a bit. Later in the day, I took a walk along the Wilmington Riverfront and scored 19,663 steps for the day.
June 30, 2019, 9:00am - class 803 with Thayne Dibble - I completed Thayne's class without the need to skip a posture. The yoga room wasn't the humid inferno that it was yesterday. I sipped water a couple of times in class. Yesterday, the lack of water made me feel anxious and I found myself overcompensating by splashing water on my face throughout class. Today I sipped water whenever I felt I needed it. I know that if I need water during class, I probably didn't make the best food choices the previous day. I’m proud of my Half Moon today, but my Triangle felt crooked. I’m approaching Toe Stand with the same quiet dignity and grace I exhibited prior to my surgery. I'm starting to see the back wall again in Camel. I got my hands interlocked in Spine Twist.
July 2, 2019, 6:00am - class 804 with Chris Fluck - Class lasted 84 minutes. I remember Chris said that Bikram was able to teach an 84 minute class with the same intensity as everyone else's 90 minute class. Chris can do it, too. I kicked my leg out and dropped my elbows in Standing Head to Knee. I did a bit more than usual in Standing Bow.
July 4, 2019, 10:00am - class 805 with Lauren Semmel - It was hellish hot in the fourth floor studio today, so I'm actually glad the windows were open. The postures felt like they were held much longer than normal because of Lauren's slow-paced, introspective style of teaching. It is as if she teaches the 26+2 from the perspective of how a more traditional yoga teacher from Kripalu would teach it. Many of you know that I'm getting my 300-hour certificate from Pranakriya, which has its roots from Kripalu. I caught a glimpse of the only body in the room that I felt was superb: Katelynn's. Her shoulders and scapulae are more chiseled than mine and I'm usually known for being "buff as hell." The spot next to me was strangely empty. Usually, I'd love it when another teacher practices next to me because that elevates my practice. I finally grabbed my heels in Camel today, the first time since April 1. I did a very majestic Spine Twist with Interlocked Hands. I liked that Lauren emphasized that our toes should be pointed on our bent leg. That's how I always teach it.
July 6, 2019, 8:00am - class 806 with Suzanne Musetto - 136.8 today. One word to describe this class: invigorating. I was able to work on improving my postures without having to worry about enduring the crazy heat of a typical Bikram studio. I still believe that 95>105 in terms of the temperature of a room in hot yoga, but many devout Bikram practictioners will not agree because that's what they're used to. I was overjoyed to discover that I received a scholarship to attend a teacher training on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
July 9, 2019, 6:00am - class 807 with Cate Reese - Since I've returned from surgery, I've only fallen out of Standing Bow once. I felt my legs were strong enough to do Esak's version of Toe Stand. I did it with a bit of wobbling, but I did it! I did a crappy Full Locust; my right arm wasn't cooperating. I also managed to do two grab-my-heel Camels today.
July 10, 2019, 6:00am - class 808 with Maria Spano - 136.3 today. We did the entire class without having to do any "supersets." We definitely need time to rest in between each posture, so the pacing of today's class was great.
July 11, 2019, 6:00am - class 809 with Justin Riley - 135.3 today. Justin complimented my Standing Bow, which felt strong today. I started seeing the mat behind me again in Camel.
July 12, 2019, 6:00am - class 810 with Justin Riley - 134.9 today. Today felt like the most humid day of the week, but I pushed myself through every posture. I felt a little more stable in Triangle and I did a good Esak Toe Stand on the way down, but met with a little wobble in the end. It was all good preparation for my teaching duties starting next week. Justin said something amazing today, about how, over the years, we can take a step back in our practice to go forward. I think my time off from yoga after my surgery was probably a blessing in disguise because it forced me to look at my recovering body in a whole new way.
July 13, 2019, 9:00am - class 811 with Joel Pier - 132.3 today. Today was even more humid than yesterday. I had to sit out of a couple of postures and make them up after class. The good news is I did an Esak Toe Stand without touching my fingers to the ground and I'm getting more and more comfortable doing Spine Twist with Interlocked Hands. Class was huge today with 51 students jammed into the room, so it was easy to miss someone. "Were you in class today? I didn't see you," Tina said to me. "How could you miss me? I always wear the loudest outfits in class!" I joked. After class, I stopped by Goldie to try a falafel sandwich. My work friends were always raving about it and it turns out they were right. They make a really good falafel sandwich, especially with harissa sauce.
July 14, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - Everyone was happy and surprised to see me return to teaching today. Several students really liked my preparation for Fixed Firm. I taught all the different grips for Eagle, Standing Separate Leg Stretching, and Spine Twist.
July 17, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - I saw more of my students whom I hadn't seen in months. Everyone welcomed me back and told me how much they missed my class.
July 24, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - Today we worked on the nuances of Triangle, achieving better alignment from both the front and side angles.
My recovery from my surgery in April is still not over yet. Complications from bleeding led to a series of biweekly chemical cauterizations that helped somewhat, but did not completely fix the problem. Last Monday, I met with my surgeon for an in-office procedure where she used "the big gun" on me - a Bovie Cautery device - that basically resembled a soldering gun. Burning your insides with a soldering gun is no fun and I'm sure there must be some horror film out there featuring it as a torture device. Can you imagine seeing smoke coming out of your privates and smelling burning flesh all the while? I sure did. It's not a nice smell. There was significant bleeding after the procedure and, like many surgical procedures, the outcome is usually worse before it gets better. I temporarily stopped my yoga practice so that my insides could heal. Hot yoga is very intense and demands a well-conditioned body, not one that bleeds during recovery from a Bovie Cautery. I'm still able to teach yoga, but I try to demonstrate postures sparingly. Today was a good day as I was able to demonstrate Triangle with great strength and form.
Since January, I've been tracking my movements with a Fitbit Alta HR, a cheap, discontinued device that works amazingly well. I also own a Withings Body+ that I consider to be a lovely weight and body composition scale. Intrigued with the idea of using one iPhone app to manage all of my health monitoring devices, I bought a Withings Pulse HR to replace my Fitbit. What a sad piece of junk! The first thing I noticed about the Pulse HR is its "one size fits all" wristband. The Alta HR gives you options for small or large wristbands and newer models even include both sizes in the package. The Alta HR fits like a glove and has a stylish, well-designed look. The Pulse HR looks like a 12 year old kid's experiment. The rubber loop used to adjust the Pulse HR's wristband fit keeps creeping to the other rubber loop making the wristband stick out awkwardly. I suppose you could trim the end of the wristband, but there has to be a better, more elegant solution. The fitness tracking abilities of the Pulse HR also leave a lot to be desired as its stats and corresponding iPhone app do not sync as quickly as Fitbit products. We're talking minutes versus seconds. Perhaps the most attractive feature of the Pulse HR is its promise of longer battery life. During my tests, one-third of the Pulse HR's battery was depleted in a week, so recharging once every three weeks is certainly better than recharging once a week on my Alta HR. Newer models of Fitbit, such as the Inspire HR, have even worse recharge cycles. Of course, nothing is as silly as Apple Watch's daily recharge shenanigans. I am in awe of the Pulse HR's battery life, but I am equally in awe of just how bad of a fitness tracker it is. Avoid the Withings Pulse HR and get yourself either a used Fitbit Alta HR on ebay or wait for the next generation of the Fitbit Inspire HR when it has a recharge cycle of seven days or more.
July 31, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
August 4, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - Class was packed today. "What an awesome class," a new student commented of my class. "You have an awesome voice. I wish I could record it, so I can practice yoga at home."
August 7, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
August 11, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26
August 14, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
August 18, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - I had a good practice with my class today. I felt pretty strong doing Triangle.
August 24, 2019, 9:00am - class 812 with Joel Pier - 137.0 today. I was 141.7 last night, so I'm fine with 137.0 for now. This entire week I've been waking up with tingly arms and legs. Perhaps this is a wakeup call to stop consuming so much Pepsi. After a short bout with depression, I went back to the one thing that brought my spirits back up: yoga. This past year has been especially jarring for me. Starting a new job, ups and downs with money, starting all over again in the dating game, and balancing any free time I have with friends have all took their toll on me. I even went back to my roots with what I like, but it just ended up feeling awkward and my partner ended up breaking up with me before anything good could develop. It's a shame, too, because she's a great person. In fact, she is an extraordinary person, being a top jeweller in Philadelphia and a singer-songwriter in a band. The previous man I dated was a world-renowned journalism professor who authored over 20 books and has appeared on television shows by Larry Kane and Anderson Cooper as well as The O'Reilly Factor. He was another extraordinary person, but, sadly, he just couldn't deal with one of my medical issues. Today's class was a return to my roots as well. More people know about me or remember me than I realized because when someone you've only met once or has seen you in a Bikram class remembers you and starts talking to you, that means you left an indelible impression upon them. I should hope they remembered me in a good moment, in a posture where I pushed myself hard and gave it my all, inspiring others to do the same. Today I was only a shell of my former self, starting all over again, sitting out on three sets of postures from fatigue. In a private moment with me after class, Joel reiterated one of Bikram's sayings: "It's never too late to start again." He encouraged me to sit up straight and chant "Hare Kṛṣṇa" to myself again and again. "It can't hurt," he said. I did so and, true enough, I did feel better afterwards.
My friend Sarah recently opened a yoga studio in Coatesville, PA. When I first met Sarah in 2017, I was immediately drawn to her kindness and a true inner light that shone from within. You can see it in her eyes and the way she composes herself. In every Pranakriya course we've taken together, she has never once made me feel differently about her as a person. I hope Sarah does well in her new endeavor.
August 25, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26
August 26, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
August 27, 2019, 7:30pm - Core 30
August 28, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
August 31, 2019, 8:00am - Core 26
September 1, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26
I had a full schedule of classes to teach this week in addition to my usual 9-to-5 job. Somehow I managed to get through it all and tutor a few students in math on top of all of that. Saving up for a cruise my oldest son kept wishing for this year has really drained me, but somehow I found a way to pay for it. My hope is my kids will play a little less Fortnite and spend a lot more time with me while we're away.
August 31, 2019, 11:30am - class 813 - My friend Thomas and I found a spot along the Schyulkill River Trail to do some yoga. The sun was bright and warm, but we managed to find a cool, shady spot under some trees. "The last time I did any yoga was last year with you," he said. Thomas was an avid skater and BMXer when he was younger and admitted he didn't have as much flexibility as he would've liked. "That yoga class you taught me was the hardest thing I've ever done," he said. We did many basic postures and culminated in the very challenging Eight Angle pose, which he was able to do with my assistance. Make no mistake. Thomas is a gifted athlete who is in better shape than 95% of the people I know, so I felt honored to be teaching him. We did all of this after I taught a yoga class in the morning.
September 3, 2019, 6:00am - class 814 with Cate Reese - "Good, Clare!" Cate said as I extended my toes back in Balancing Stick. I had worked on this posture in the classes I taught all last week, saying the words and practicing my pose with the rest of the class. I did not feel I was ready to do an Esak Toe Stand, since I had not practiced it in over seven weeks.
September 4, 2019, 6:00am - class 815 with Marie Murphy - 135.7 today. Marie did a good job teaching her first Bikram class. I would've liked a bit more breathing room in between postures, since class ended at 65 minutes, a record time for a 75 minute class. The dialog was sparse. She didn't continuously chatter like some Bikram teachers, myself included. We held our pose a bit too long in Balancing Stick, but that was also one of my criticisms when I first taught class. I'm close to doing an Esak Toe Stand. Perhaps next week.
September 4, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - "This is the best class I've ever had. Thank you all for being here," I said to my class today. My Fixed Firm Prep has become a regular part of class. "The prep makes a lot of sense," one of my students said. "I'm the only one who teaches it," I said.
September 5, 2019, 6:00am - class 816 with Margaret Welsh - 135.3 today. "Too long," I kept saying to myself throughout class as we held each standing series pose for far too long. I know the new teacher was trying to impress the senior teacher with her knowledge of the dialog, but there is a timing aspect that still needs to be adhered to and if you want to say all of the words, you have to whip them out a bit faster. I felt her delivery of the dialog was more like, "well, yeah... uhm... you do this..." rather than direct commands. The timing problems made her Savasanas very short in the floor series and we also skipped a set of Head to Knee with Stretching as a result. I did Standing Head to Knee off the mat as I had done before. I did Esak Toe Stand on my left side wobbling and losing my balancing only at the very end. The college guys practicing around me did a great job.
September 6, 2019, 6:00am - class 817 with Justin Riley - Standing Head to Knee off the mat... good. Esak Toe Stand... I lost balance in the end. Rabbit... really good. No walking the knees up needed. Head to Knee... very good. My leg was almost straight. Spine Twist with interlocked hands... really good. I could see beyond 180.
I have a group of friends who are not in shape and always seem to boast about their past greatness rather than talk about their present drabness. I have another group of friends who all look good and are constantly working on being the best they can be. The second group have all committed themselves, in various degrees, to yoga. If you are over 40 and not built like a professional tennis player, please don't fuck up your body by running and weigh training. Use your own natural strength to improve the muscle tone of your body with low-impact physical activities like yoga and cycling.
September 10, 2019, 6:00am - class 818 with Cate Reese - Balancing Stick was strong. Esak Toe Stand... both sides good, no touching the floor, and I kept balance by commanding myself to "balance"! Now I have to improve my steadiness and reduce my wobbling and then I can look in the mirror again. Two ladies left the room early.
September 11, 2019, 6:00am - class 819 with Maria Spano - I wobbled and fell out of Esak Toe Stand, but I did manage to get all the way down on the left side without touching the floor. I'm not a fan of the Half-Tortoise/Camel/Rabbit combo.
September 11, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - Today I emphasized aligning with the coronal plane in the standing series and the sagittal plane in the floor series.
September 12, 2019, 6:00am - class 820 with Colleen Hoplamazian - 135.4 today. I wobbled and fell out of Esak Toe Stand again. Rabbit was good. One lady left early.
September 13, 2019, 6:00am - class 821 with Justin Riley - Standing Head to Knee off the mat... good. Esak Toe Stand... I lost balance in the end. Rabbit... really good. No walking the knees up needed. Head to Knee... very good. My leg was almost straight. Spine Twist with interlocked hands... really good. I could see beyond 180. Hey, this is just like last week! Two people left early.
September 16, 2019, 6:00am - class 822 with Justin Riley - Justin improved my Eagle pose today by directing me to place more bodyweight in my heel and to keep my knee above my toes. "Your knee is too far forward," he advised. I was able to go down on both sides in Esak Toe Stand, but lost my balance at the end on the right side. My Floor Bow was pretty good.
September 17, 2019, 6:00am - class 823 with Cate Reese - I felt a little wonky today. My Standing Head to Knee was a little wobbly and my foot wasn't high enough. Esak Toe Stand was good until I lost balance at the end of the left side.
September 18, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - I emphasized extending the arms further to reach beyond the foot in Head to Knee.
September 19, 2019, 6:00am - class 824 with Cate Reese - Half Moon backbend and Camel felt a little more stretchy along my spine. Standing Head to Knee was better. Standing Bow was solid. I lost balance on both sides of Esak Toe Stand.
September 20, 2019, 6:00am - class 825 with Justin Riley - Justin pushed me further in Standing Bow and fixed my backside heel placement in Spine Twist. "I'm working on it, too," he assured. He told us about how our most memorable teachers are the ones who tell the truth rather than sugarcoat things. "You will never find our style of yoga on the cover of Yoga Journal," Justin said, "because it's hard. People want to see yoga as easy." Indeed, this is why I was initially attracted to Bikram Yoga in the first place. It's one of the most challenging and physically demanding styles of yoga out there.
Yoga as a Cure for Diabetes
I get the tingles in my hands and feet every now and again. Since my parents both have diabetes and diabetes affects as many as 1 in 2 Asian Americans, there is a good chance that I will have diabetes someday. How can I prevent or delay the inevitable? I'm hoping yoga will be the cure. "These five postures are very good for diabetes," Swami Baba Ramdev has said.
- Mandukhasana (Frog Pose). Sit kneeling, thumb in closed fists, exhale and suck your stomach in, push fists into the stomach cavity, and bend over to touch forehead to mat.
- Shashankhasana (Rabbit Pose, but is more commonly known as Child's Pose)
- Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes, or Spine Twist in Bikram Yoga)
- Gomukasana (Cow Face)
Hold each posture for 20 to 30 seconds. Do each posture 3 to 5 times. Also, keep your BMI below 23.
September 21, 2019, 9:00am - class 826 with Joel Pier - Joel, like Cate earlier in the week, noticed that my leg wasn't high enough in Standing Head to Knee. Ah, my outstretched leg's heel has to be level with my hips, I remembered. He also noticed that I should bring the hip of my straight leg forward more in Triangle. Ah, that makes my side view more narrow! I was able to do Esak Toe Stand on both sides... until I fell out at the end of the left side. We sped through the last two postures and something told me to just go for it in Spine Twist with Interlocked Hands on the left side. I can interlock my hands on my right side with no problems. In a complete act of faith, I twisted my torso and found a way to slip my left forearm across my lower back, my right forearm between my legs, and hooked my fingers of both hands together. "Cowabunga!" I said to myself, grasping tightly. Holy shit! I've never been able to do this before today. All I did was believe in myself! "We don't do that here," Joel scolded, as he walked by me. "Sorry!" I said, beaming. I actually wasn't sorry, because today I found enlightenment.
I always wonder why some teachers encourage students to drink water right before Fixed Firm. You're about to do an inversion! There really is no good time to drink water during the floor series. Maybe after Rabbit? No, by then, it's winding down time. You can save your water drinking for after Kapalabhati or after the last Savasana. If you must drink water, drink it before the first Savasana, right after Toe Stand. That should hold you over for the floor series.
September 22, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - "I loved the class. I could tell you've been teaching for a long time," a new student said. I may not have taught yoga as long as other subjects, but I am a teacher of 35 years and I believe that good teaching habits translate well across a variety of subjects. I got my first teaching job teaching computer programming to a class full of high school students. I was 16 at the time. "That voice! I wish I could always hear that voice," another student said, admiring what I always thought was my greatest weakness, but now has somehow evolved into one of my greatest strengths.
September 24, 2019, 6:00am - class 827 with Cate Reese - Esak Toe Stand and Spine Twist with Interlocked Hands were perfect on both sides. I know there's no such thing as the perfect posture, but I achieved my checkpoint in each one and that is "perfectly fine" with me, so now I have to be consistent in my upcoming practices before moving on to a new variant.
September 25, 2019, 6:00am - class 828 with Maria Spano - Esak Toe Stand... right side perfect, left side fell out in the end. Spine Twist with Interlocked Hands... both sides perfect. I touched my forehead to the floor in Standing Separate Leg Stretching, the first time since my surgery in April.
September 25, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - I have a new name for the series of seven postures that includes Standing Separate Leg Stretching, Triangle, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, Tree Stand, Toe Stand, Savasana, and Wind Removing: the Exploratory Series. This is the series in which you really get to explore the limits of your strength and flexibility all the while trying to maintain perfect alignment. Triangle, perhaps the toughest of all postures is sandwiched in between two inversion postures that some find calming. A familiar face from many months ago joined my class today. "I had heard you were out sick for a while. I've been looking for your class," he said. Today's class comprised all core group students, so it was easy to teach them.
September 26, 2019, 6:00am - class 829 with Dan Murphy - I touched my forehead to the floor in Standing Separate Leg Stretching again. I couldn't do Esak Toe Stand without wobbling out on both sides. I wonder if Esak Garcia knows I named this version of Toe Stand after him!
September 27, 2019, 6:00am - class 830 with Justin Riley - Justin liked my effort in Hands to Feet. Standing Separate Leg Stretching... touched my forehead to the floor. Esak Toe Stand... both sides with a little wobble, but did not fall out. I tried to lift myself out of Toe Stand without touching the floor, but couldn't do it... yet. Spine Twist with Interlocked Hands... both sides. I'm working on getting both legs straight again in Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee.
September 28, 2019, 10:00am - class 831 Core 40 - An awesome class with eight advanced yogis. We did the entire Core 40 sequence with additional warm-up drills, Phoenix, Standing Separate Leg Stretching variation 2, Guillotine, Spine Twist 2, and more. "That was a great class," one student said. "You got me moving muscles I hadn't moved in a long time." Others agreed. I emphasized the notion of believing in yourself. "You're all strong enough to do these postures. It's all mind over matter. Think 'Cowabunga!' and just do it. You'll amaze yourself," I said.
September 30, 2019, 6:00am - class 832 with Justin Riley - Justin liked my efforts in Awkward 1 and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. I used Cate's tip on placing my fingertips next to my front foot to help push my forehead higher onto my knee. My quadriceps felt really sore after my intermediate class this past Saturday.
October 1, 2019, 6:00am - class 833 with Cate Reese - In Standing Head to Knee, I got to the point where I tucked my chin in right before rounding down. Toe Stand on the right side was smooth with no major balance issues. I tried to push myself up without using my hands to assist. It ain't happenin' yet! I fell out on the left side as I was trying to extend my spine straight. My right leg finally got straight again in Head to Knee with Stretching. I'm beginning to bend my elbows down. Jai bhagwan!
October 2, 2019, 6:00am - class 834 with Maria Spano - Esak Toe Stand... Lots of wobbling and shaking and then falling out. I sweated a lot more today than usual, probably because of the crazy temperature change outside. The girl to the right of me left early. This type of yoga certainly isn't for everyone. I wonder if anyone noticed the bruises on my wrist today, a result of my vigorous training in aikido class last night.
October 2, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - I went into a little more detail in Awkward, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, and Rabbit.
October 3, 2019, 6:00am - class 835 with Cate Reese - "Good, Clare!" Cate said as I reached my arms apart in Triangle. She may have taken a cue from Joel's old school Bikram teaching where the arms go parallel first, followed by the legs. Esak Toe Stand... started out well on the right side, but fell out at the very end.
October 4, 2019, 6:00am - class 836 with Justin Riley - 132.9 today. I didn't have enough strength today to do an Esak Toe Stand. I fell out in Standing Head to Knee for the first time in a while. Less than four and a half hours of sleep will do that to you. I couldn't do this, couldn't do that as well as I normally do, and then Justin points out my weaknesses in Half Moon. To him, I must be a total loser in Half Moon. Maybe push my arms to where they should be, so I can feel what you're seeing! Yes, I know I suck today, but it's the best I can do today given the fact that I had very little sleep and still made it here. But we all forge onward - all of us - with our injuries, ailments, and mental negativities the night before - I was up all night fighting with my ex - and many of us don't speak aloud about what troubles us mentally and physically, but we quietly go about our business doing this yoga as much as we can to achieve not perfect asana, but stillness in our lives. For some of us, it's the one thing about this yoga that feels good.
October 5, 2019, 9:00am - class 837 with Joel Pier - Marynoelle is one of those yoga practitioners who has a complete practice. Every posture looks great and she does it all with a smile on her face every time I see her. I like practicing next to someone great in the room because it forces me to show my A-game. The only way to improve in this yoga is to get the teachers to notice you... a lot. That's why I wear skimpy, wildly colorful yoga outfits because if I do something wrong, the teacher will notice right away. Some of my classmates, especially the ones who stand behind me, might also notice if I do something wrong, too, which forces me to always strive to show my A-game. Some people might see this as anxiety-inducing, but I see it as a challenge. That's how you improve. You won't improve by hiding in the back or somewhere in the middle of the crowd wearing nondescript clothes. Wear something crazy that will attract attention. I was a bodybuilder at one time and abided by Arnold Schwarzenegger's 8 training principles. One of them, principle number seven, is to Prioritize Weaknesses: "Arnold decided his calves had fallen behind the rest of his physique in overall development. Rather than hide the glaring weakness, he famously cut off the pant legs on his pants and wore shorts to constantly remind himself of his weakness and redouble his efforts to grow his calves. He trained calves more frequently, early in his workouts when he was fresh, and sometimes between sets for larger body parts." This, my friends, is why I wear two-piece yoga outfits to show off my weakness: my belly. Every inch of my body, except my belly, is rock hard and toned. Even with my belly, my body fat hovers around 10% and my BMI is around 20. I also adhere to Arnold's principle number two: Train Harder Than Everyone Else. Classmates, even teachers, have asked me why they aren't losing weight with their hot yoga practice. If I know the person can take criticism, I will respond, "Because you aren't working hard enough. You have to sweat your fucking brains out. You have to reach a point of intensity where a shit ton of sweat is dripping from your face and body after every posture and you feel like you're about to die. If you just go through class like 'ho-hum... this is so serene and peaceful...' then you will never lose any weight. You might even gain weight because you refuse to put in the work. Train like an elite athlete and you will become a good approximation of one." Dedicate yourself to improvement in every class you take, no matter what the discipline, if you wish to see great progress. Asana practice should be intense and difficult. It is during Savasana that you relax, lower your heart rate, and meditate.
October 6, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26
October 6, 2019, 12:00pm - class 838 with Vulgar Yogi - I took Vulgar's first yoga class in her new studio space at SAS Philadelphia BJJ and it was amazing. The yoga was Bikram-style, but sprinkled in between the postures were small doses of other modalities, including Meridian Yoga Therapy and Thai bodywork. "You're getting one of the best teachers in the business," I said to one of her other students. "She's a complete teacher." Later in the day, I realized that I had practiced yoga every day this past week.
October 7, 2019, 6:00am - class 839 with Justin Riley - Wow, I was sandwiched in between two awesome practitioners who bring it all to the table every time they practice. Rob started taking my classes at the studio a few years ago and has been a frequent practitioner ever since. Brittani is great teacher with excellent stillness. Both of them have long, powerful physiques. It was an honor to practice with them because they help me maintain my stillness. Sometimes when a newbie stands near you, he or she can disrupt your thoughts when he or she falls out of a posture. Not these two. They're solid. Justin gave his tidbits of advice. "You come to class to be criticized," he said. I nodded and agreed. "If you're at that level, you'll bring your knees closer together, shoulder width apart," he said during Floor Bow. A number of us, including me, brought our bowed legs back in line. Justin is an ass sometimes, but he always speaks the truth. Good entry into Esak Toe Stand, but I fell out in the final moments. I'm trying to make the entry into the posture more graceful with a dive down and then a scoop up, never touching the ground with my fingertips. Previously, I just bent my leg and lowered myself down, which is potentially dangerous for those who don't have ankle strength.
October 8, 2019, 6:00am - class 840 with Cate Reese - Good entry into Esak Toe Stand, good dive and scoop. I fell out in the final moments of my left side. A brain fart made me want to skip Full Locust.
October 9, 2019, 6:00am - class 841 with Maria Spano - More "supersets" with Camel/Rabbit and then Head to Knee with Stretching/Spine Twist. These might be fine in a 60-minute class, but there should be more than enough time to give students a Savasana in between every posture in a 75-minute class. Good Esak Toe Stands with a fall out in the final two seconds of the left side. I mentioned what I'm doing to Tina who might try this more advanced version of Toe Stand. There's a growing interest in having me lead the advanced series, since I learned it from Tony Sanchez. It's heartbreaking that the studio doesn't have an advanced class every week like they used to. Perhaps someone could teach the intermediate class, which I am quite qualified to teach.
October 9, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
October 10, 2019, 6:00am - class 842 with Colleen Hoplamazian - To avoid wardrobe malfunction with my new yoga outfit, I went easy on the first set of Half Moon. If I gave it my usual intensity, an accident would've happened. It wasn't until I was good and sweaty in the second set that I could really drill it. A smooth Esak Toe Stand on both sides. I fell out at the end, but that's okay. Pushing back up without assistance from my hands is something that is quite difficult, but doable. It appears that Esak himself comes out of Toe Stand with his heel high off the ground.
October 11, 2019, 6:00am - class 843 with Justin Riley - "Can you come out the same way?" Justin challenged me in Esak Toe Stand. He saw that I moved into it and kept my balance the entire time without falling out. Now that I know that Esak kept his heel lifted high when coming out, I did the same and was in a more stable position to lift myself up. I was able to lift myself a few millimeters higher than usual, but I hit a wall for today. "I'm working on it. I know Esak can do it," I said. Justin told us a story about meeting Esak in a Bikram training class. Just like all of my training activities, if only I had started, or, in this case, restarted, my yoga journey a few years earlier! I would have taken Bikram's training before I heard all of the stories that turned me off of Bikram. It would have been wonderful to meet all of these superstar teachers in their prime. Still, I am grateful for my Evolation Yoga training with Zefea Samson, Maria Fillipone, and Susan Wyler, three great Bikram teachers who've influenced my teaching in a profound way.
If you haven't had the pleasure, seek out Amar Chitra Katha's The Mahabharata and Valmiki's Ramayana. These are graphic novel versions of two great Indian epics. The novels in the first boxed set have old style artwork that reminds me of the style used in the classic Asterix comics where all the backgrounds are a solid color. The novels in the second boxed set have more modern artwork with detailed backgrounds. The stories are rich in detail and provide insights into how we should live our lives. Be forewarned, however, as a lot of detail is packed into every panel. You will likely flip back and forth between several pages to understand what is going on, especially when you are trying to remember names and places.
October 13, 2019, 9:00am - class 844 with Chris Fluck - My first class on the new floor. The smell of varnish or glue was a little sickening, but I got through the class without any major issues. I aggravated my right knee in aikido class yesterday. I had stability issues in my right leg, but I worked my way through every posture, include Esak Toe Stand. "Holy fuck..." I said to myself as I wobbled out the first moment. "Shit!!!" I said to myself as I wobbled out again. I smiled, then laughed at my situation. "It's not going to look pretty, but I'll just have to shift my hips over to the left and bear all my weight down the centerline of my body," I said to myself as I lowered myself down. I try not to bend my knee until my hands go below knee level. Not this time. My knee was sore. Coming out of Esak Toe Stand, I know I have enough strength to lift myself out of it. It's just not happening yet. It might happen in a cowabunga moment. We'll just have to wait and see.
October 14, 2019, 6:00am - class 845 with Justin Riley - "That's really good, Clare," Justin commented as I straightened my spine, leaned back, and kept my hands together in Esak Toe Stand. "Now, to get out of it, you almost have to lean and stretch forward with your hands and hop out of it," he said. Suddenly, I had an "a-ha!" moment. Being in a position where you have your butt lifted off your heel would make it easier to do the hop than if you sat your butt on your heel and let the weight of your butt bear down on your heel. Once you bear your weight down on your heel, the longer you remain in that position, the harder it becomes to come back up without touching the floor with your fingertips. Remain lifted off your heel and you have more of a springboard to work with.
October 16, 2019, 6:00am - class 846 with Maria Spano - I fell out on each side of Esak Toe Stand. I was visibly frustrated and upset, but sometimes you have to go backward in order to go forward. The timing of each posture was perfect, but somehow we still ended up doing supersets of Camel and Rabbit.
October 16, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
October 17, 2019, 6:00am - class 847 with Cate Reese - "Don't do what Clare's doing," Cate advised everyone in Toe Stand, "because if you're not ready for it, you can compromise the knee." Cate once described it as a very advanced version of Toe Stand that I simply called Esak Toe Stand, named after famed yogi Esak Garcia. I fell out at the very end of both sides again. A little too much was on my mind from last night. A note from my doctor confirmed my worst fears: I am prediabetic. My A1c has always been right at the top end of the normal range, but my recent bout with sugary foods has pushed my A1c to 5.7. For the past month, I knew that something was wrong even before I was told... the tingles every morning in my hands and feet. I know it has a lot to do with my love for Pepsi. I've cut down my soda intake tremendously in the past month. As Bikram says, it's never too late to start again.
October 17, 2019, 4:30pm - Bikram 90 - On this cold and windy day, I taught a class at a brand new hot yoga studio in the suburbs. The space was small, cute, and full of character. When you walk through the front door, you are immediately immersed in the hot room. The temperature is set to more practical levels and because the room is small, whatever temperature you set the room to, it feels ten degrees hotter. I adjusted the temperature throughout class, knocking it up two degrees here and there as class progressed. I could tell that these students were die-hard Bikram fans. They pushed themselves hard. "At first, I was worried that you didn't go through Bikram training, but you knew all the words. Your class was great," the studio owner said. I told her not to fear because I have an amazing pedigree with Sandy Robin and Joel Pier as my mentors. "They're Super-Bikram," I said, assuring her. "Oh, definitely! You're one of us, one of the family," she said, nodding. She asked me for my availability as she plans her schedule for the upcoming weeks. #borntoteach
October 18, 2019, 6:00am - class 848 with Chris Fluck - "That's really good, Clare," Chris said of my Standing Separate Leg Stretching. He also liked my Full Locust. "You have a beautiful practice," my friend Tina said after class. She was excited about my announcement that I may enter the 2020 USA yoga championship. Before anyone judges me and states that yoga is not about comparing yourself to others and winning contests, I am with you totally. I did not and still do not believe in the competitive aspects of this "sport." What I do believe is when anyone has enough guts to put herself up on stage in front of hundreds of people, with all the blinding stage lights accentuating each and every muscle on her body, and she is able to hold a great posture in spite of the genetic limitations she supposedly has, that should be a shining example of a winner in anyone's book.
October 19, 2019, 9:00am - class 849 with Joel Pier - A little shaky this morning from the big carb meal I had last night. I knew I should've had the fish dish instead of the pasta. I made it through all of the postures, sweating my ass off after every one. A little bit of fatigue during Bow pose. I did a standard Spine Twist as I didn't want to get scolded today. After class, I asked Joel for a push on my back. "Hmm, nothing there," Joel said, pushing into my lower thoracic. "Nothing there, either. How come?" Joe; wondered, pushing into my mid thoracic. Suddenly... CRKKK CRACKKK!!! "Ahh, there it is, your upper back," he noted, as he pushed into my upper thoracic.
October 20, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - All of my core group people showed up, so I turned the class into a master class where I made adjustments on everyone throughout class. I used what I learned from Sandy Robin and Joel Pier.
October 21, 2019, 6:00am - class 850 with Justin Riley - I noticed that my second and third toes grip the ground in Standing Head to Knee. In a leap of faith, I released the grip and I was still perfectly balanced! I still have the wobblies in Esak Toe Stand. Something is goofy with my knees the past week. I had my bloodwork done today at my workplace's annual biometric screening event. Compared to last year, my blood glucose level dropped from 98 to 96. My triglycerides dropped from 65 to 55. My cholesterol dropped from 260 to 180. Last year, I was not prediabetic, so it's quite possible that I may no longer be in the prediabetic range all because I stopped drinking soda! My HDL has always been over 100. "This number is phenomenal. Really, really great," the nurse said. I told her that I was prediabetic and she looked shocked. "You don't have the body type of a prediabetic," she said. Yes, thin people can be prediabetic, too. Many of my colleagues are afraid to get their biometric screenings done and all I ever hear from the ones who get it done are "Oh, I've been told I should lose weight and exercise more." I'm always told I'm a superhuman by the biometric screening people. I tell them it's because I do yoga almost every day.
October 23, 2019, 6:00am - class 851 with Maria Spano - I'm working on Standing Head to Knee. In L shape, loosen my grip on my toes, relax, tuck chin, stomach in, lower forehead down, look at my shin... my knee... my thigh... I got halfway down. We'll save the rest for another day. I came back up and out of my pose gracefully. In Esak Toe Stand, my right side was flawless. I then tried to come up the same way, but couldn't. There's still a point of impasse that I have to get through. My left side was wobbly. Floor Bow looked good today. My knees and feet were aligned and my legs up high. I should practice standard Spine Twist more so it looks like USA Yoga's expectations of it, because there's no bonus for my interlocked hands variation. If all the stars align, I can get close to a perfect score here. From what I can gather, if you get really great scores on easier postures, that's actually better than mediocre scores on difficult postures.
October 23, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
October 24, 2019, 6:00am - class 852 with Colleen Hoplamazian - Standing Head to Knee... going for forehead to knee today... fell out, but gracefully. "That was a very graceful fallout," Colleen noted. Esak Toe Stand was perfect coming into the posture and holding it on both sides, but both ended with a fallout. I then tried to move out the same way I went in. "It's hard for me, too," Colleen said. Ah, she knows what I'm doing! Much respect to her. I'm more and more ready for this yoga championship every day. I'm not super bendy flexible, but I'm strong as fuck. Ironically, many of the postures I'm choosing for my routine are considered flexibility postures. I'm going to be teaching on Friday mornings at 6:00am at The Bridge Hot Yoga starting November 1. I'm excited to teach there, but will miss Justin's 6:00am classes here.
October 27, 2019, 9:00am - class 853 with Thayne Dibble - For the first time ever, I was late to class and missed the first set of Pranayama. All of Market Street was blocked off for a run and my Lyft driver had to find an alternate route around this mess. It felt crazy hot in the fourth floor room today. Thayne told me to lift my leg higher in Standing Head to Knee and I was so out of it, I almost said "Yes, coach!" in response. I sat in the left side of Tree to get my bearings and then stood up and proceeded to do an Esak Toe Stand on both sides right after. The rest of the class was uneventful for me. I felt so exhausted from the heat.
October 28, 2019, 6:00am - class 854 with Justin Riley - 133.8 today. Standing Head to Knee... looked a little wobbly today... touched my forehead to my knee, but then fell out. Esak Toe Stand... down without issue... fell out last moment... couldn't come back up the same way on the right... a little better coming out on the left. I think I just need to hum a little tune to myself as I go into it and out of it because I feel I'm more than strong enough to do it.
Dear Soda (or "Pop" as they call it in my beloved Canada),
You and I have had a wonderful relationship over the years. As a child, I made friends with the always entertaining Rudy Bier from Philly and the effervescent Ginger Yale from Canada and all their cousins, and who can forget the always beaming Doc Peppard, the kid from Texas with 23 different personalities rolled up into one? We were allowed to play with them so long as we shared a plate of deeply greasy food together. We shared a lot of such food. My parents would sometimes bring home the occasional vagabond to play with, the ones with no names other than Orange, Grape, and Cola. These were funny little names for kids, but we lived in funny times, so we always gave everyone a chance.
I had an active imagination. Sometimes I dreamed of spritely little faeries slicing through the fields, dancing their way up the mountains, as I watched the dew drops after the rain. Sometimes a mellow feeling came over me from the warm summer sun, or was it the moon shining over the mountains of Kentucky? I was somewhat fond of Uncle Coca but even more enamored with Aunt Poopsie, but now we must part ways because you Sodas have all infected me with something that is truly unforgivable. You opened up a pathway to a disease that can take my body parts. I love my hands and feet more so than you.
So go fuck yourself, Soda.
You are no longer welcome in my temple.
October 16, 2019 is No More Soda Day. Join the revolution.
October 29, 2019, 6:00am - class 855 with Cate Reese - I've been practicing reversing out of every posture the same way I go in, especially in Standing Bow. Standing Head to Knee... touched my forehead to my knee, but then fell out again. Esak Toe Stand... down without issue... fell out during spine stretch at the end on both sides. I didn't hum a tune. Getting out felt like I hit a brick wall again. I did two complete Camels, so today was a good Camel day.
October 30, 2019, 6:00am - class 856 with Maria Spano - Standing Head to Knee... lost balance again after touching my forehead to my knee. I felt like I could suspend my leg indefinitely before I drop my head down, so the weak point has to be that I'm releasing energy at the final moment where my head drops down. If I could get this down pat before the contest, I could get a higher score overall. Esak Toe Stand... fell out again on both sides. Good class with proper Camel and Rabbit.
Tony Sanchez taught me a version of Eight Angle that he called Side Crane that has he top leg on top and the bottom foot hooking underneath the top ankle. The USA Yoga version has the top foot hooking underneath the bottom ankle. The two versions feel different, but, thankfully, I can do both. How long can I hold my pose? Sometimes I feel like I can hold it forever.
October 30, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
October 31, 2019, 6:00am - class 857 with Cate Reese - 130.9 today. Standing Head to Knee... I fell out trying to push and keep the energy forward through my leg. I didn't get to touch my forehead to my knee. Two steps forward, one step back. Esak Toe Stand... fell out again on both sides, but lasted longer than yesterday. I showed Tina after class that the next progression is Eagle arms with Toe Stand. A ringing in my ears before Camel. I took it easy with my Camel today, only doing a full expression on the second set as I usually do. After class, the ringing came back and I couldn't hear in my right ear. My pulse was sky high at 136 bpm. I'm now at that dangerously low weight for me where if I push myself too hard, I might end up in the hospital again.
November 1, 2019, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - This was my first time teaching a Friday 6:00am class at a new studio called The Bridge Hot Yoga in Narberth. Kaitlin, the studio owner, encouraged me to practice along with my class if there are three or fewer students. I typically don't practice with my class, but do demonstrate postures like Eagle and Triangle. "I was better last time," my student said of one posture. "We all move two steps forward, one step back toward our goals," I said. "Oh! I got a little farther this time!" he said of another posture. "You're doing great!" I assured, recounting memories of myself and other yogis experiencing difficulties with the postures during our first classes. "I've trained housewives to athletes and they all say that this is the most challenging workout routine they've ever experienced," I said. It's hard, but the results are so worth it.
November 2, 2019, 9:00am - class 858 with Joel Pier - 131.1 today. Standing Head to Knee... I touched my forehead to my knee and then fell out. Esak Toe Stand... fell out again on both sides at the very end. No ringing or loss of hearing in my ears this time. I eased up on Pranayama breathing, Half-Tortoise, and Rabbit and found lots of energy to move through class. Joel brushed his fingers along my spine in Hands to Feet and Standing Separate Leg Stretching to remind me to get my lumbar spine straighter. I practiced Shoulderstand Lotusre class.
November 3, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - "The goal of every posture is not to keep stretching and stretching and stretching, but to achieve your pose and freeze it for at least five seconds," I said to my class today. "Don't stretch beyond your flexiblity. Rather, stretch to your maximum edge."
November 4, 2019, 6:00am - class 859 with Justin Riley - "That's good, Clare, really good. Right hip down!" Justin said, as I got into my Standing Bow pose. My first set of Standing Bow is more like a Quadriceps Stretch. I prepare my lumbar spine with it. My second set is where I delve into depth. Prior to class, I tried to see where I was at with my six contest postures. Five of my six postures looked really good, but my final posture, my pièce de ré·sis·tance, looked horrible. I had trouble lifting myself up in the posture! Last week, I was fine. This is what I get when I stuff myself with too much pizza and steak over the weekend. You know there's an issue when your smart scale doesn't even recognize who you are when you step on it.
November 5, 2019, 6:00am - class 860 with Cate Reese - "Wait, my knee is bent right, but my torso doesn't feel right," I said, lifting myself up a bit to get my right elbow slightly above my right knee in Triangle. "Good, Clare," Cate remarked. That's the mark of a great teacher, always looking at her students, even the senior ones. She demonstrated Triangle and how the feet and hips are supposed to be positioned. Sadly, I felt an irregular pain in my right arm, probably from my attempts at Eight Angle yesterday.
November 6, 2019, 6:00am - class 861 with Maria Spano - I fell out of Standing Head to Knee before I could shift my gaze down. In the front mirror, I watched myself in slow motion with my extended leg swinging out to the right and falling down... crash. It was actually much more graceful than that, but it might as well have been a crash. I fell out in Esak Toe Stand, but managed to get right back into it without hesitation, lifting my spine up with my hands in prayer. Every day I feel closer, yet also farther away, from lifting myself out of the damn posture. "That was really good, Clare," Maria said. I did two Camels to full expression, but I felt Rabbit was actually my best posture today. Throughout my practice, there was a lot of imbalance on my left leg. I recently switched to UGG boots, which force my feet to walk flat. Yesterday, as I was walking, I heard a little crack along the bottom of my foot. I didn't think much of it until I felt a slight pain in the arch of my foot. That could've been the cause of my imbalance today.
November 6, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
November 7, 2019, 6:00am - class 862 with Colleen Hoplamazian - 132.7 today. It took four whole days to get back into contest shape again. Standing Head to Knee... elbows touched the calves. Just held it there today. No need to go further. I lost my balance coming out of my pose, but managed to regain my composure with two winding turns of my leg in mid-air. I refuse to lose my balance, even when it tries to lose me. "That was a very interesting way to get back in," Colleen said, smiling. I returned a smile and knew I must've looked like a cartoon character doing that. The zanyness of the moment hid the fact that it was actually incredibly difficult to do what I just did. I could've just as easily tumbled to the ground. Colleen liked my Half Moon and Esak Toe Stand. "Beautiful, Clare. Really good," she commented. Esak Toe Stand with Eagle Arms might be my next variation.
November 8, 2019, 6:00am - Bikram 90
November 11, 2019, 6:00am - class 863 with Justin Riley - Justin pointed out something I did in Awkward 1 that I never noticed until now. As I sit down, I change the positioning of my shoulders and arms when I should keep them more level and static. I started over again and got back into my Awkward 1 with this piece of knowledge. Also, I should not let my hips sink below knee level in Esak Toe Stand if I want to have any chance of coming out of the posture the same way. I think I can get a good curl in my spine in Fish if I do what I do in Fixed Firm. I'm working on getting a real tight Rabbit, so I don't have to do the knee shuffle. I just went right into Spine Twist without the extra stuff. I wonder if anyone noticed all the bruises I had on my lower back and legs. I look like I was assaulted. I got the bruises from aikido and karting this weekend.
November 12, 2019, 6:00am - class 864 with Cate Reese - 132.3 today. I found myself in a very uncomfortable situation today in Half Moon. As I stretched up, I could feel my bruises around my ribs. It hurt like hell and I could've given up, but I didn't. I calmed myself and moved onward, deeply bending in my second set. "There is... no... tomorrow..." I said to myself, stretching my fingers further upward. "You can't wait another year..." That referred to the yoga competition I should've entered two years ago when I was 49 turning 50. Every year, it gets a little harder to do all of this, but I forge onward. Esak Toe Stand looked smooth coming in on both sides. I didn't press my luck coming out. Floor Bow looked higher today. I curled myself a little more in Fixed Firm to prepare for Fish. Spine Twist was textbook. I'm at a good weight, since my body fat is at 9.7%. I recorded my video qualifier for USA Yoga today. Except for an obstruction of view on the left side that affects one posture, I'm happy with it. I didn't go all out on my postures, instead opting to follow Tony Sanchez' wisdom: "Yoga is a discipline that should be based on alignment, symmetry, balanced effort, and relaxation. One must learn to flow through the poses with the least amount of resistance to develop a safe, sustainable, and fun practice."
November 13, 2019, 6:00am - class 865 with Maria Spano - It was super-cold this morning and nothing could be done to warm up the yoga studio. We were practicing in what felt like room temperature. Maria spent extra time with the new students in class, so we had to do combination super-sets of Camel-Rabbit and Head to Knee with Deep Stretching-Spine Twist to make up for lost time. More bruises appeared on my thighs and torso from karting last night, including a lump that formed over the previous bruise on my spine. Racing against the leaders of the track was an eye-opening experience.
November 13, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - I reiterated Tony Sanchez's yogic wisdom and talked about his views on Standing Head to Knee.
November 14, 2019, 6:00am - class 866 with Cate Reese - After a week of falling out of Standing Head to Knee, I finally mustered enough strength to go into and out of it without falling out. I didn't touch my forehead to my knee, but I got my elbows down. I got into Esak Toe Stand smoothly, but lost balance and fell out. I had some issues with pushing my hips forward in Camel, no doubt related to the bruises on my torso.
November 15, 2019, 6:00am - Bikram 90
November 16, 2019, 9:00am - class 867 with Joel Pier - 133.7 today. Standing Head to Knee... I held it at elbows touching the calf and then reversed out without falling. Esak Toe Stand was smooth going in, but I fell out again. I did a standard Spine Twist. I practiced Shoulderstand Lotus before class.
November 17, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - Thank you to the ten students who stopped by the front desk to tell me my class was great! I'm happy to be able to integrate my knowledge of Tony Sanchez's teachings with the familiar 26+2 series and add my own experiential knowledge to the class as well. #borntoteach
November 19, 2019, 6:00am - class 868 with Cate Reese - I felt strong in Standing Head to Knee. Hell, yes! Esak Toe Stand was smooth going in, but I fell out again. I didn't bother trying to come out without touching the ground. Spine Twist was good, but not great. I will probably practice one more time this week before my vacation. Onboard my cruise ship, there are yoga classes, but nothing as intense as Bikram Yoga. Why do I practice Bikram Yoga? It rehabilitated me after a grueling stomach and pelvic surgery back in April. Time and time again, I found this yoga to be the best way to heal the body of aches, pains, and illnesses and heal the mind of anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. I discovered this video that aligns with my thoughts about why I think Bikram Yoga is awesome.
November 21, 2019, 6:00am - class 869 with Colleen Hoplamazian - 132.7 today. I lost my balance in Standing Head to Knee, but quickly regained my composure to prevent a fallout. I held my Standing Bow well, so much so that I was the last one standing and Colleen took notice. Practice felt better today than Tuesday. I was a pesceterian the past two days, eating all plant-based foods with fish as my only source of protein.
November 22, 2019, 6:00am - Bikram 90 - These students are hard core Bikram! So nice to see their strong efforts.
November 28, 2019 - On this day each year, most Christians give thanks to their friends and family and what they have. I will give my thoughts on a spiritual Thanksgiving because if I tell God-fearers that I'm more like a Hindu or a Buddhist, they automatically want to slay me. For me, Thanksgiving is about being grateful for the people in our lives we share our time with and the things we have that good fortune has bestowed upon us. The kind of person you were in the past or a past life shapes who you are today, however, we are all capable of change and transforming ourselves into better versions of ourselves. We should be thankful that God gave us this earth to experience all its beauty and sustenance. We should be thankful that we were given tools like yoga to help strengthen our bodies and minds. We should be thankful for the gifts we were given to us that can help others improve their lives. Ultimately, Thanksgiving is not about what we are thankful for in our own small circles, but about being grateful for what we can do for everyone else. To be selfless is what real love and Thanksgiving is all about. That is why I teach so many things, so I can show my love to the world. #borntoteach
December 1, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - "Think about the planes in every posture and you can't go wrong," I advised my students, borrowing from Tony Sanchez' wisdom.
December 2, 2019, 6:00am - class 870 with Justin Riley - 135.6 today. I didn't gain as much weight as I had thought from my cruise vacation last week, so that's good. Now it's back to training for the big event. In Pranayama Breathing, Justin told me to suck my belly in, lift it up beneath my ribs, and pull back my abdomen to get my weight over my heels and prevent a backbend. "Press the feet inwards, not outwards," he advised. "That's good," Justin commented on my Half Moon. "It's more about the lift than the bend," he said. He appreciated my extra effort in Balancing Stick and gave me something to think about in the version of Toe Stand I do. "You have to conserve a ball of energy to help you come out of it," he advised. Another possibility is to not go down all the way to build up the muscles of the standing leg. If you are willing to work your ass off in class and sweat like a waterfall, you will benefit greatly from Justin's wisdom.
December 4, 2019, 6:00am - class 871 with Maria Spano - I touched my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee, but fell out gracefully. To give you an idea of what the moment you touch your forehead to your knee feels like, it's like "Head down... look at stomach... stomach looks fat... must lose pudge gut... suck stomach in... look at thigh if you don't want to look at fat... forehead touching knee... boop!!! Haha!!! Wowww, am I really doing this? Hey, wait a minute... why is my leg floating in the air like that? This shouldn't be possible! Whoa, I'm tilting foreward! Tilt back, dammit!!! Whoa... shit!!!... WHOA!!! Aaaaggghhh!!! Wipeout..." I always look composed in class, but this is what's happening in my head every time.
December 4, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - "Sit down halfway, like you're sitting on a chair behind you," I said in Awkward 1 and 2. "Now lean back towards the coronal plane, the imaginary wall behind you." Bikram meets Tony.
December 5, 2019, 6:00am - class 872 with Colleen Hoplamazian - 133.7 today. All around good class taught at a Chris Fluck pace with all of the technical details plus charming, quirky sound effects. Colleen is one of my favorite teachers at this studio. After being introduced to an infinite supply of food on my cruise last week, notice how quickly I regained control of my weight with just a few classes. I am living proof that this yoga works!
December 6, 2019, 6:00am - Bikram 90
Many of you probably wonder how I stay so motivated at almost 52 years of age when many of my friends and coworkers choose to live sedentary lives, gaining weight and complaining about it. I motivate myself by making deliberate goals. For the first week after my pelvic surgery in April, I could barely walk. For the next couple of weeks, I had trouble sitting down without hemmorhaging blood. For several months after, I still bled, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. The one thing that kept me on track to healing and becoming strong again was knowing that I was an outstanding yoga teacher. I kept saying to myself, "Your students miss you. Your students need you. You need to heal. You need to train your body by beginning all over again. Crawl before you walk. Walk before you run." In a little over five weeks, I was strong enough to go hunting and killed a wild hog with my bow! In another month, I started Bikram yoga again. Over the summer, depression overwhelmed me and I stopped my yoga practice for more than two months. Autumn arrived and I was back with a renewed sense of purpose. Some people find solace in physical activities. If I had to practice just one thing, it would definitely be yoga. Nothing else makes me feel better after practicing it.
December 9, 2019, 6:00am - class 873 with Justin Riley - 133.7 today. Although I weigh the same as the last time I checked (Thursday), I don't understand why. I ate like a beast Friday night and all day yesterday. Last night, I even capped off my eatfest with two holiday Krispy Kreme donuts, the ones with extra toppings and fillings. The rest of the day included a scrapple, hash brown, and eggs breakfast, a Snickerdoodle McFlurry, and a turkey burger and potato chips for dinner. The only indication of being below my usual Monday weight was a severe lack of energy during certain postures. After giving it my all in Standing Head to Knee and Standing Bow, I could only pull off one set of Balancing Stick, Triangle, and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee. I knew by the dizziness and ringing in my ears when it was time to sit down and do Child's Pose. Usually, I'd be very upset with myself, but today I knew I had to rest because I felt I'd be in danger if I didn't. I knew I was dehydrated. I didn't go all the way down in Esak Toe Stand. This was good because, for the first time ever, it felt good to go down and come back up without using the floor to assist. The rest of my practice was okay. Hopefully, it will be better tomorrow.
December 10, 2019, 6:00am - class 874 with Cate Reese - 132.4 today. Yesterday, I ate a sliced chicken breast sandwich (all my sandwiches often contain lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise) and five vegan chicken nuggets for lunch, a Krispy Kreme raspberry filled donut, and a vegan chicken sandwich for dinner. I felt much stronger today, going deeper in my backbend than any time in recent memory. Cate demonstrated the nuances of Awkward and I immediately noticed she has the best thigh muscles I've seen anywhere, the kind that could put most female bodybuilders to shame. My Standing Head to Knee and Esak Toe Stand were rock solid. I did two Camels with hands on feet. I'm now of the camp where I feel stretching the arms up in Spine Twist is unnecessary and even detrimental to getting your two shoulders level. Less than five hours of sleep after watching the Eagles win last night.
December 11, 2019, 6:00am - class 875 with Maria Spano - 132.4 today. Yesterday, I ate a vegan chicken sandwich for lunch, various finger food from a holiday party, two Krispy Kreme donuts, and ten vegan chicken nuggets for dinner. The new girl to the right of me had a killer backbend. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw her in the upcoming asana championship. We did a superset in Half Tortoise, Camel, and Rabbit. I love that Maria teaches us something new in every class, but I hate having to do supersets. They always make me feel nauseous afterwards.
"A large Matcha Green Tea Latte," I said to the gloomy-looking Starbucks employee. "$5.02," she replied. Moments later, another employee appeared with my bittersweet drink. I could've made it better myself. Suddenly, an overwhelming thought consumed me. How is the average person able to afford a $5 drink ($6 with tip) that costs less than $1 to make? Why is a muffin or a cupcake more than $1? If you saw a $1 cup of coffee or tea and a $1 muffin or cupcake, would you buy it? It seems as if we are conditioned to pay more because of perceived value. That $5 latte or that $4 cupcake seems to taste so much better because it's priced like that. We tend to savor the moment of an expensive thing moreso than a cheaper thing.
December 11, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26 - At the end of class, a young female student, perhaps twenty-something, walked up to one of my older male students, a regular in my classes. "Sir, you are an inspiration. You're so flexible," she said to him. "It's all because of her," he replied, pointing at me. What people learn in my classes are not just words coming from a script, but an integration and application of almost 40 years of fitness knowledge. You can't do a certain posture? I'll show you another posture you can do to help you move towards the one you might not be ready to do yet. I was a teaching fellow (a higher rank than a teaching assistant) for Boston University when I was 19 years old, so educating people has always been my strength. #borntoteach
December 12, 2019, 6:00am - class 876 with Cate Reese - 132.6 today. Yesterday, I ate a vegan chicken sandwich and five vegan chicken nuggets for lunch, two Krispy Kreme donuts, a large Starbucks Matcha Green Tea Latte, and twelve vegan chicken nuggets for dinner. You might be wondering why I'm eating so many donuts. This Sunday, a friend of mine brought over two dozen holiday donuts for my kids and I, so I basically have dessert for the next week. I do not advocate eating donuts if you are trying to lose weight or want to be optimally fit. Still, it's been a nice little experiment to see how much donuts can affect my body over the course of a few days. My bodyfat has gone up from 10% to 13% in just two days. Yikes! I believe the donuts satisfy my craving for meat, as I am usually on a meat-based diet, but they leave my throat with a greasy feeling every day. Conclusion: Don't eat donuts every day. There were only five students in class today. The construction project has certainly taken its toll on attendance. The brave souls who made it are working around the inconveniences. Cate was great as usual.
December 13, 2019, 6:00am - Bikram 90
December 14, 2019, 6:00am - class 877 with Kaitlin McKendrick - 132.1 today. "Whoaaa... that voice!" I said to myself. It was calming, soothing, and melodic, which gave the entire class a meditative quality, especially in Pranayama Breathing. Kaitlin recited as much detail about Eagle as I do. Her command of the dialog is extraordinary. I felt underdressed in a class full of mostly women in their capris and tanktops, but it was a wise decision to wear as little as possible because the heat was spellbindingly warm. If these students didn't know who the Friday 6am teacher was, they sure do now. One student introduced herself to me after class and said she wanted to take my class someday.
December 15, 2019, 10:00am - Core 26 - I demonstrated Esak Toe Stand today. There are a couple of students whom I feel are ready for it, but will they embrace it? We'll see.
December 16, 2019, 6:00am - class 878 with Justin Riley - Class was in the fourth floor studio today and it was not hot. We had to work extra hard to generate our own inner heat. I curled in to touch my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee, but fell out. Esak Toe Stand felt good. I went all the way down and felt like I could almost get over the hump to come back up. Two good Camels today. A bit of weight gain from all the good food this weekend.
December 17, 2019, 6:00am - class 879 with Cate Reese - Given the studio construction project and the weather today, it was surprising to see a full class of students. The heat was good today. I sweated my ass off. I curled in to touch my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee, but fell out again. Esak Toe Stand was wobbly and I fell out. My knees were shot from last night's aikido class in which we practiced some kneeling techniques. I did one good Camel. Due to time constraints, we just did one set of Head to Knee with Stretching.
December 18, 2019, 6:00am - class 880 with Maria Spano - Argh, please, no more supersets! You can't combine Half-Tortoise, Camel, and Rabbit into a superset and do it twice. Honor the need for Savasanas in between each individual posture! I do enjoy Maria's classes, but she needs to time things better so she doesn't need to go into supersets, especially in a 75 minute class.
December 18, 2019, 6:30pm - Core 26
December 19, 2019, 6:00am - class 881 with Colleen Hoplamazian - Only a small handful of people on this chilly day. The temperature was 18 degrees (6 degrees with the wind chill) in the morning. I'm still a little wobbly from my aikido training on Monday and Tuesday, so my single standing leg postures were not as solid as they usually are.
December 20, 2019, 6:00am - class 882 Bikram 90 - It was freezing this morning, almost as cold as yesterday! The temperature and upcoming holiday must've kept people from braving the weather to come to my class. My one dedicated student asked me if I could practice with him, just so it wouldn't feel so weird with one person barking orders at the other. I agreed and practiced the entire class right next to him. "Thank you," he said at the end of class, "for going above and beyond." It felt good to practice on a Friday morning after several weeks of teaching.
December 23, 2019, 6:00am - class 883 with Justin Riley - 133.2 today. "What are you doing?" Justin asked, seeing me go through my stretching routine before Fixed Firm. "I'm old, so I have to do this," I replied. "No, you're not," he said, disbelieving. "I'm turning 52 soon," I assured. He paused. "Good for you!" he said. "That's the thing about yoga. You never know how old someone is," he said to the rest of the class. If you watch me take a class, all of my little movements in between postures that might appear as fidgets to the untrained eye are actually deliberate movements that help prepare my joints and muscles for the rigors of the next posture.
December 24, 2019, 6:15am - class 884 with Gerardo Candolino - 133.2 today. Somehow this Bikram Express class managed to squeeze two sets of most postures into its 60 minute time frame (two sets of everything except for Tree/Toe, Wind Removing, Fixed Firm, Locust, and Half-Tortoise). There was very little dialog as most people knew what they were doing. One guy lifted his legs up vertically in Locust. The pace was rapid with only moments of rest in between postures. The dialog in the second set was basically, "Take it home!" I sweated just as much in this class as any 90 minute class. We did not get to lie on our backs in Savasana during the floor series; it was more like Savasana in kneeling position, stretching the spine up towards the ceiling. We did an interesting posture-sit-up sequence in Head to Knee with Stretching that gave us back some missing sit-ups. Class was held in a smaller room next to the main room and music was playing in the background. It was a good size room for a small class.
December 25, 2019, 11:15am - class 885 with Gerardo Candolino - 131.0 today. We ended Bikram 90 in an impressive 79 minutes! There was hardly any dialog, except for "stretch" and "change" cues. In Standing Head to Knee, I curled my forehead towards my knee, was about an inch or two away, and then curled back up with control and not falling out! Like yesterday, Gerardo had music playing in the background. Today's selection was music from The Nutcracker. Gerardo practiced with us and I could see that he was an amazing practitioner. In fact, the entire class had very strong and dedicated practitioners. It would be an honor to teach them.
December 26, 2019, 6:00am - class 886 with Cate Reese - 131.8 today. I almost did another amazing Standing Head to Knee again, but lost my balance at the end and then saved myself from falling out.
December 27, 2019, 6:00am - class 887 Bikram 90 - In smaller classes, teachers are typically encouraged to practice with their students, so I did just that today.
December 28, 2019, 9:00am - class 888 Bikram 90 - Joel was away today and the studio had to identify a substitute teacher. One of my supporters, Mary Noel, made a recommendation to the people at the front desk that I should teach the class. It was up to the studio owner to make the final decision, but she assigned Maria to teach the class. As fate would have it, one of the studio's long-time students dropped to her knees from dizziness. Maria and a couple of students had to assist her out of the class. "Are you okay with teaching?" Maria asked me. I nodded. I was in a bit of a shock because I had never seen anyone drop in class in a while, maybe four years! I didn't remember that we had already completed our first set of Half Moon before the emergency. I gave my strongest performance possible weaving among the crowd and teaching from my heart. It was wonderful to see everyone give it their all. A couple of people left early as they always do in a class of this size: 34 students. I had not taught at Hot Yoga Philadelphia in a while, ever since the name change. It felt good. We even did the Sandy Sigh. "In honor of a great teacher who used to teach here... she was one of my favorite teachers and I was one of her favorite students, we'll do the Sandy Sigh," I said, to the delight of many of the room's practitioners. "I hope she teaches here again," I said with sincerity. We ended class with our usual breathing exercise and everyone clapped and thanked me for filling in for the main teacher. "Everything happens for a reason," Mary Noel said. "If you had started class, you might've had to tend to the emergency, but it was in the cosmic order for you to teach today." Indeed, God works in mysterious ways and maybe it was just my destiny to teach here today and even honor Arjuna on the wall in Spine Twist. Many people told me I taught a great class. I saw a lot of happy, smiling faces and was amazed that long-time practitioners still remembered me from years past. I called Sandy today; I had not spoken to her in a long time. I gave her the news and we updated each other on our lives. #borntoteach
December 29, 2019, 10:00am - class 889 Core 26 - Today's class had three of my friends from Philly plus some regulars and newbies. I just realized I taught yoga classes three days in a row! One of my friends claims he does something similar to hot yoga while in the sauna. "Every day, I go to the gym, do my workout, and then stretch in the sauna for two and a half hours," he said. In my class, he displayed none of the strength, balance, or flexibility of someone who did that much stretching every day. Like many of my macho friends, he couldn't even squeeze his hands together over his head!
December 30, 2019, 9:00am - class 890 with Justin Riley - "This is not a competition," Justin said in Standing Head to Knee. I was rock solid going into and out of my pose. I chose not to touch my forehead to my knee today.
December 31, 2019, 10:00am - class 891 with Colleen Hoplamazian - 130.9 today. In my first set of Standing Head to Knee, I am typically very unassuming as I round over and hold the ball of my foot. Some people kick out too soon without an understanding that this posture is all about building strength, not demonstrating balance. I believe you can also slowly stretch your lumbar spine in the process. In my second set, I step back behind my mat, stand on the hardwood floor, and proceed through all the steps of the posture. If you want to prepare for yogasana competition, you must learn to do your postures on a hard floor. As I kick and extend my leg forward, I examine myself in the mirror. With every muscle on my upper torso bulging out, I look twice my size. I move my eyes to my shin and quickly look toward my belly as I round over, touching my forehead to my knee, kicking out as forcefully as I could to keep my extended leg straight. I reverse out with the same strength, kicking forcefully to maintain my balance. I slowly bend the knee of my extended leg and place my foot down on the ground. It was the best Standing Head to Knee I ever did. What a way to end 2019!
January 1, 2020, 10:00am - class 892 with Brittni Devereaux - 131.6 today. New beginnings! After a crazy night full of drama, I found some peace in the yoga room by just practicing my poses. I feel I should've just taken the New Year's Eve yoga class last night instead of go through what I did. I had four hours of sleep, but I still managed to do all of my postures. I even touched my forehead to knee again in Standing Head to Knee. It was a bit wobbly compared to yesterday, but Brittni stood right beside me going through all the steps of the posture herself. "Keep pushing the big toe of the standing leg down as you kick out," she repeated. This little trick enabled me to maintain my balance coming out. In previous classes, I would've fallen out. Brittini has us hold our poses longer than most teachers, but also reminds us to breathe in between postures.
January 2, 2020, 6:00am - class 893 with Colleen Hoplamazian - I was able to touch my forehead to knee again in Standing Head to Knee, but fell out on my way out. When I fall out, I end up in something similar to a dancer's bow. "If you want to fall out gracefully, fall out like Clare," Colleen said to the class.
January 3, 2020, 6:00am - class 894 Bikram 90
January 4, 2020, 9:00am - class 895 with Joel Pier - In spite of the crazy heat in the room, no doubt exacerbated by the 91% humidity outside, I demonstrated a good, solid standing series. Unfortunately, my energy fizzled out during the floor series. I was a little dizzy, short of breath, and had to splash water on myself several times to regain my focus. Locust was more about stretching than lifting today and everything beyond that looked like shit. It was not the gold standard that everyone expects of me. The saving grace was Spine Twist. I had not done the Interlocking Hands version in a while and discovered it was quite easy on both sides.
January 5, 2020, 9:00am - class 896 with Chris Fluck - My class was much stronger today than yesterday. The outside humidity was not a factor. I couldn't touch my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee yesterday or today. I've been doing Fish in Lotus for my second set of Fixed Firm.
January 5, 2020, 3:30pm - Bikram 75 - I've never taught a 75 minute version of the Bikram 90 class before, but it wasn't difficult making the adjustment. One set of Pranayama, Wind Removing, Fixed Firm, Head to Knee with Stretching, and Kapalabhati. I made corrections during class. My timing and pacing was on point and I even managed to squeeze in two sets of Eagle and my warm-up stretches before Fixed Firm. I kept my usual talkative self to a minimum so I could end class on time and without the need for supersets.
January 6, 2020, 6:00am - class 897 with Justin Riley - So... close... to touching... forehead to knee... again... in Standing Head to Knee. I fell out gracefully. "Consider moving through the posture hitting each part for three seconds," Justin recommended to me. "I want it to look smooth," I replied. "It does, it does. It looks good," Justin reassured. Coming out of Esak Toe Stand, I was able to elevate myself an inch higher this time. "I saw that. You're getting better at coming out," Justin said. "I just let go," I said. There is something to the mental thought process of letting yourself go and allowing your body to not be hindered by its ego or its perceived limitations. It's difficult to describe the process, but it has something to do with getting to a point in your pose where you freeze, blur your vision, faze out, and let your mind go. I feel I can hold my poses much longer this way. Don't forget to breathe!
January 7, 2020, 6:00am - class 898 with Cate Reese - I felt a little weaker today than yesterday. My knees feel really wobbly, a sign that I'm doing a bit too much yoga. I started to lose my balance in Standing Head to Knee, but I somehow recomposed myself and lifted myself back up again. It looked like the foot of my standing leg was anchored to the ground by a magnet! "Good, Clare!" Cate said, complimenting my Floor Bow. I did Fish in Lotus as my second set of Fixed Firm. I wish someone would press their weight into my back in Head to Knee with Stretching so I can get flatter.
January 8, 2020, 6:00am - class 899 with Maria Spano - "Nice, Clare!" Maria said as I touched my forehead to my knee in Standing Head to Knee. Unfortunately, I fell out as I reversed back out. I always do a very classical version of Standing Head to Knee where the top line of my leg is parallel to the floor. I am now seeing many asana athletes raise their leg even higher so that the bottom line of their leg is parallel to the floor. This requires more flexibility in the hip, but you don't have to bring your forehead down as much. I did Fish in Lotus in place of Fixed Firm. I saw Thayne do this the other day.
January 8, 2020, 6:30pm - Core 26
January 9, 2020, 6:00am - class 900 with Colleen Hoplamazian - 133.4 today. Same as yesterday with Standing Head to Knee. In Standing Separate Leg Stretching, I tried to flatten my spine as much as possible by elongating my neck and continuously stretching the top of my head forward and tilting my pelvis forward and down. Pull the heels and stretch... stretch to flatten back... I turned to look at my spine in the front mirror... oh, my god, my shoulders look like chiseled armor plates! My ribcage is only 32.5 inches - smaller than most women - but my shoulder muscles make me look much larger. Even though I'm fussing with my belly weight every day, the rest of my body is continually getting stronger and more toned. One of my guy friends said I looked too skinny, but he's used to seeing mesomorphic women. In Esak Toe Stand, I went into both sides smoothly, but this time I wanted to feel what it felt like to have my Lotus-bent leg extended, even if I was balancing on my fingertips on the mat. My extended leg felt solid as a rock. I did Fish in Lotus in place of my second set of Fixed Firm. I felt my elbows dip down more this time. I've been doing Spine Twist without the need to stretch my arm up.
After nine hundred classes, I still can't do things the superflexible people can, but that's okay. That's not my body type. On a good day, I can do Half Moon side bend, Eagle, Triangle, Toe Stand, Cobra, Locust, Fixed Firm, Half Tortoise, Rabbit, and Spine Twist with the best of them. That's pretty damn good. I'm probably never going to be able to do a standing split in Standing Bow or touch the insteps of my feet with the top of my head in Stretching, but that's okay. I was never a gymnast, dancer, or ballerina. Everyone has their good and bad poses. As we get older, we try to look for ways to maintain and even strengthen our bodies while avoiding injury. Unfortunately, I see people in their forties and fifties doing stupid things, like running when they're overweight and lifting weights when they haven't done so in ten years, all to try to recapture their former glory days when they were slim, fit, and beautiful. We do not have the same bodies now that we had when we were young. In many cases, we are wholly different people than our twenty-something selves, so why not try to approach your health and fitness regimen from a fresh perspective? Low impact exercise, such as walking and yoga, is a lot more beneficial for the aging body than running and weight lifting. Take that as good, solid advice from a former runner and weight lifter.