own your practice

It’s difficult for me to be a yoga practitioner. Have you ever done a google search for yoga? Or taken a look at the covers of yoga magazines? Here. Let me help you out. When I googled “Bikram yoga students” this is the first image that popped up:

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Here’s the second image I found:

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All the other images are not that different. There is definitely a lack of diversity in yoga. That is not a secret. Confession: I, a fat brown woman in her 40s does not feel comfortable in a yoga room. I don’t like being surrounded by people who I can throw across the room by simply sneezing. It irks me to be surrounded by people who shop at lululemon so much that they likely own stock in the company. It’s not just yoga, though. It’s gym culture in general that makes me squirm. If there were more inclusive spaces to practice, I’d go. Sadly, such spaces are not readily available. Those that do exist are under attack. So what’s a bad-ass queen to do? Own your practice.

When I first started at BYT, I was skeptical. However, I was going to make sure I made the most of my one-month trial. Charles was the instructor that day. After signing me in and walking me through basic etiquette, he said that practitioners are very diverse. In the room, I’d see every age, every race, every body type. He assured me that no one would judge me once the practice got started. This is typical intro-to-yoga speak. I half bought it.

Turns out, he was right. BYT is as diverse as one can get for Arizona (sorry, I’m a California snob). Plus, I was so busy battling the heat that frankly, I just didn’t care about any other excess noise in the room. Don’t get me wrong. Every yoga place as the stereotypical yoga folks practicing. As someone who doesn’t have the luxury of finding safe, welcoming spaces to work out in, I’ve learned that you just have to buckle down and create your own safe space. Note: It takes a village to do this.

Owning your practice means creating a space that’s carved out just for you. For me, it means finding an ally or two (usually an instructor) and let them know what you need from the practice. It also means being honest about your insecurities and your strengths. Everyone has something to offer the practice, and everyone has something to work on. Honesty and perseverance are the best way to establish ownership.

I learned this YEARS ago when I did kickboxing in Goleta, CA. Most of the women in class were sorority-pageant-beauty queen types. My roomies and I were the anomalies. We were all brown. I was the only fat one. It sucked. However, when everyone dropped out of the practice, I stuck with it until I left Goleta. This is largely because I found an ally in my instructor Abel.  He helped me own my practice by seeing my strengths (and wiping my sweat puddles… sorority-pageant-beauty queen types don’t sweat in kickboxing). An ally can make or break your practice.

When I started yoga years ago, it had nothing to do with an actual interest in yoga. It was that the instructor, Dolian, was unlike any Filipina I had ever met. That she reminded me of my mom and aunts (sans the damaging fat girl comments) drew me in. What made me stay, was how she helped me own my yoga practice. In owning my practice, I was reclaiming and cherishing my body – something that took me nearly thirty years to figure out.

A good ally can help you navigate your practice. In the end, it’s you and your desire to stick it through – regardless of the excess noise – is what will help you own your practice.

Celebrating every BODY,

the fierce fathlete

 

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never say never

As promised, here are pix from finishing the challenge. Don’t worry. I always bite the medal.

If you told me a year ago that I would re-visit the 30-Day Bikram Yoga challenge, I likely would have laughed in your face. As I have mentioned previously, I did it because I was half way there and I was ready to do it. When the glass is half full, you may as well go for broke, right? I did the challenge because I happened to fall into the opportunity to finish. Not to diminish the accomplishment, but I want to be demistify the magnitude of  doing something like this. In fact, I would have never considered conquering a 30-day challenge if I did not fail last year.

In order to suceed, I needed to fail first.

There you have it: the secret ingredient to every success story known to humankind. No one knows failure like I do. I have been rejected by over one hundred jobs (and counting). Yes, I KNOW FAILURE. For people that know me, and know my work ethic, this is hard to believe. But this is a truth that I am always haunted by.

Having said that, I also know what it’s like to bounce back from failure. Sometimes it takes a concerted effort to get back on your feet. Other times, it’s a matter of an opportunity presenting itself, and you just striking while the iron is hot. Either way, failure has a purpose. Sometimes, it means that you pick up pieces you never thought you’d run into again. I don’t like to think of my life as a series of successes and failures. Instead, I like to think of it as a series of events that I have survived.

Yes, I finished (and survived). That road is never easy, nor is it paved in gold. It rarely ever is. Regardless, it’s good to take a moment and celebrate the victories.

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I found this somewhere on Facebook…. Call me crazy, but I think it’s great advice. 

Celebrating EVERY body,

the fierce fathlete

30 days of Bikram Yoga

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Tricked you! This photo is from when I finished BYT’s 26 in 2 challenge. An updated pic with my shiny new medal will be on its way soon.

Remember when I said I would never do a 30 Day Bikram Yoga challenge? Yeah. I lied. In case you missed it, I wrote all about it here.

Right now, I’m happy to say that I actually finished. Maraming salamat to the folks at Bikram Yoga Tempe for helping me push through. When I attempted this challenge last year, I hated the 2.5 weeks I stayed in. It was exhausting and counter-productive. That’s largely why I opted out and switched to the anniversary challenge.

So why put myself through the same torture?!

In truth, a lot has happened in this last year. Some things that factored in my second attempt at conquering a 30 Day Bikram Yoga challenge:

  1. I was already halfway there. To complete the Bikram Yoga Tempe Anniversary Challenge, I had to complete fourteen classes in the last eighteen days. After doing the calculations, I realized that the 30th day landed on the day that I would have to fly out to San Francisco for the holiday break. Luckily, the nice folks at BYT allowed me to deposit those last eighteen days into the 30 Day Bikram Yoga challenge.
  2. I have a much better sense of my practice. Last year, I only went to the 5:30am classes. Waking up at 4:30am every morning, coupled with my heavy teaching load, and extra long days left me exhausted. It came to a point where I felt I was actually hurting my practice more than I was helping it. This time around, I now know that taking some classes in the afternoon or evening is actually good for me.
  3. Unlike many other yoga places, BYT actually factors in one rest day per week. This is a total godsend!
  4. I was ready for the challenge.

To celebrate finishing two challenges in a row (and to turning the big 4-0 in the next few weeks), I’ll share a series of posts that address the various lessons I have learned in going full tilt boogie in my practice. These posts will be tagged under: The Fathlete’s Guide to Surviving a Bikram Yoga Challenge. Hopefully, you will enjoy the talk story. For those of you who are already engaging in some type of yoga practice, I hope my stories help you with your processes. For those of you who hesitate to even start, I hope my stories can assist you in re-considering.

See you soon!

Celebrating EVERY body,

the fierce fathlete

challenge accomplished.

… and I managed to post this within the year that I actually completed the challenge!

To re-cap from my last post, I signed up for and officially finished this challenge:

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YES! I gotta send some love and thanks to the folks at Bikram Yoga Tempe. Every year, they organize an anniversary challenge to celebrate another year of running a successful business. It is a well-deserved celebration because they run an AMAZING studio. (Ahem, all you other BY places really need to take note!)

When I first signed up, I thought this challenge was going to be easy peasy. 26 classes in 2 months (9 weeks) is no big deal for me, since I average 3-4 classes per week anyway. However, this semester I was traveling a lot more than I did last year. Therefore, I had to go full tilt boogie during the last part of the challenge. Just to give you a sense of how hard I had to push, I went to 14 classes during the last 18 days of the challenge. IMG_7761

Though I had to push at the end, I’m glad that I put another challenge in the books. In fact, because I had to go so often toward the end, I decided to continue and put those last 18 days toward a 30 Day Challenge. Yup. I’m doing what I had declared I wouldn’t do: complete 26 classes in 30 days. However, after doing some calculations, the 30 Day Challenge would end on the day that I have to fly out for the Thanksgiving holiday. Therefore, it would be a great way to bring in the holiday break. As of this writing, I am seven classes (and eight days) away from finishing my second Bikram Yoga challenge of the year. Once the challenge is done, I’ll give a full report, including why I decided that things would be different this time around. Until then….

Celebrating EVERY body,

the fierce fathlete