Day 29

We were lucky here in London yesterday as we had a small preview of what summer has in store. The temperature was amazing, so I spent good part of my afternoon on our local swimming pool. It was pretty busy and the braver amongst us enjoyed water and swimming, I however stuck to the edge of the pool and sunbathing trying to top up my UK winter depleted vitamin D reserves. I went to the 7pm class with one of my favourite teachers, after whose class I always feel worked out to the maximum, and last night was no different. While some of them occasionally swing the studio door open for a couple of seconds to let a bit of air in and help students through the more challenging postures, this is not his ethos. No doors opened, not even for a nanosecond last night and it was hot! hot! hot! Overall a good class, my legs are stiff this morning and ache from all the stretching at the back. These past 29 days have flown by. Ok, admittedly there were days where I thought this will never end and 9 months of pregnancy comparably seemed to have passed a lot quicker, but these were only moments. Relativity of time, eh? 
Finally, I can't round up my blog tomorrow without saying a couple of things about the one and only - Ustrasana or Camel posture - the deepest backward bend of the bikram series. This has always been one of the most revealing, surprising and more than anything else - emotional postures for me. Very often I get strange pulsating waves all over the front of my abdomen and on some occasions a strange swelling feeling in my throat, similar to the the one you get when holding back floods of tears. I never quite know how I'll feel after I come out of it, sometimes I want to sob and cry, sometimes laugh and sometimes I am awash with waves of calmness. Something happens every time, without warning so I'm always cautious when this one approaches. Quite a number of people told me they feel super nauseous while attempting to hang in there and I remember this being the case with me a couple of year ago too but this has now gone. Powerful stuff. The following are some benefits of Camel: 
- stimulates the nervous system
- compresses the spine and relieves back problems
- flushes blood through kidneys and improves the elimination of toxins
- opens shoulders, rib cage, creates space for lungs and digestive system
- strengthens back and shoulder muscles
- improves flexibility of neck and spine
- extends throat, thyroid gland and parathyroid glands
- slims abdomen and waistline
Now about those emotional outbursts, and promise my practice is not an exception, they happen to most of people especially in the beginning. I am no expert, as a matter of fact I know very little about chakras and all that stuff but here is what they say:

Known as a “heart opening” yoga pose, Ustrasana stimulates and balances both the fourth and fifth chakras located at the heart and throat centers, respectively. In many practitioners, the heart and throat centers are often closed off and protected, as evidenced by slouching, lowered chins, and poor posture. For this reason, practicing Ustrasana can sometimes stir up emotions in the practitioner more than other poses. It is important to keep a calm awareness of your feelings when practicing this pose; fear of your emotions can create stiffness in the body and may lead to injury....Ustrasana can be an emotionally moving and energizing yoga posture. It is vital to listen to your body throughout the pose. If your breath becomes short and strained, ease up a bit. Keep your thoughts calm and steady by returning your awareness to your breath and the present moment. Like a camel, Ustrasana can take you on a journey to new and foreign parts of yourself. Take the path slowly, stay in the moment, and allow these new parts of yourself to open wide.

Therefore, if you would like to 'Let it go' just bend back and open up your heart! Namaste!

BALKAN FLOOD RELIEF - just in case you missed yesterday's post


Day 28

Very short post today, well more of an appeal really. I can't help but feel terribly saddened and upset by the news coming from Balkans over the last couple of days and my thoughts are with people there. A large area has been struck by the worst floods for decades after three months' worth of rain fell on the region in just a few days causing rivers to burst their banks. In Bosnia, landslides have buried houses and disturbed land mines that remained after the war in 1990s. Thousands of adults and children have had to flee their homes and more than 35 people have died but the numbers continue to rise. One ray of sunlight in all of this comes from witnessing the solidarity of people in action, both from media reports and seeing a huge number of people in my personal social networks who are offering help, making donations or volunteering on the ground. So, if you are in a position to do something perhaps you can start here. Here is a link to 'Novak Djokovic Foundation' blog listing how one can help. Thank you!


Day 27

Wonderful weather here in London this weekend. Day 27 was the perfect sort of day to make the most of our local Arts Festival. A couple of weeks ago I picked up this booklet from a local store listing addresses of an incredible number of artists opening their homes for public and displaying their works. (big thanks to my friend J for the heads-up!) So, on Saturday the four of us set off to explore the art in our neighbourhood. We walked for four hours, visited a good number of open houses and studios. Girls' stamina was impressive, an odd biscuit or treat here and there offered by generous hosts kept them going for hours. In the end we came home in very late in the afternoon, having bagged a painting along the way, just in time for me to make it to a late evening class. 

In terms of practice, I have noticed an incredible increase in my core strength. Nowhere is this more visible than in the tricky Trikanasana or the Triangle pose. This challenging master posture used to be my pet hate, but increasingly I begin the standing series longing to get into the Triangle.  Bikram C. says that when you improve your triangle, you improve your life 360 degrees: sexually, mentally, physically, financially, emotionally. Woohooo! I won't question this a lot, whatever the benefits all I know that at the moment it's just so much fun doing it!
The other posture where my core strength comes to the forefront is the Half Tortoise - I go down with control, and easily touch my forehead to the floor before my hands reach the ground. This was pretty much impossible to achieve at the beginning of this year and after two pregnancies so close to each other. But, I'm there now!

Finally, the last thing I've been meaning to mention here for some time now is how the incredible it is to check the Google Stats for this page every now end then. Sometimes it is slightly overwhelming to see how many of you guys are there and how truly global the audience is - loads of you guys in US, all across Europe - UK, Spain, Belgium, Finland to name just a few; Russia, China, Australia... I could go on and on. So if you are reading this, thank you for your time and please do get in touch either here or via e-mail. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments, especially if you are practicing bikram or doing/planning to do a challenge some time in the future or thinking about going to your first ever class. Namaste!

Day 26

In the studio where I practice the last evening class on Friday's is usually a candle lit class. Up until now I have instinctively avoided these, but last week due to a number of engagements I had on during the day, had no choice but give it a go. This is meant to be a good way of unwinding at the end of a busy week. I however, did not find it relaxing. It was hard work, the room was very hot and unusually humid, more than on your average bikram day. This meant that even before the class begun, while waiting on the mat, I noticed small drops of sweat rolling down my back. The fact that you can't see yourself in the mirrors also means that you need to really go back to your body and concentrate super hard on every little inch of it to find all those little adjustments that one needs to make in different postures. I don't think the candle lit class will be on my regular schedule in future, as it kind of goes against of things that I embrace in bikram - one of which is the open eye meditation in bright light environment. Looking at your very scarcely dressed reflection in the brightest of lights for 90 minutes some may call brutal, I on the other hand find liberating. You learn to appreciate your body and what it can do. Love and cherish any imperfections no matter how big or small because they are there for a reason and make you who you are. Namaste!

Day 22-25

Been pretty busy over the past week but still managed to squeeze in daily 3 hours for my practice, sadly not enough time to write here so decided to bundle up day 22, 23, 24 and 25 posts together into a brief oveview. Here are some things I learned...

...about People
- sometimes yoga studio is like a small reflection of the world outside. When you go a lot you tend to bump into people that spend a lot of time there themselves. Sometimes you acknowledge each other by a quick smile, nod or hello, sometimes you make friends. I noticed that during the practice I like to practice close to some people - you just share the similar focus, they move at the similar pace to you, and if they fall out of the standing bow they go right back into it - these are the people that help you keep in balance, just like friends out of studio. Then there is nervous kind of practitioner, and there are many others - competitive guys, shufflers, etc. - I've started avoiding having my mat to close to them...

...about Postures
- "The posture begins when you want to come out of it'. True. When at most uncomfortable, with perseverance ultimately you will make that little bit of a progress - kick up higher, balance better, touch the forehead to the knee etc. that will keep you coming back for more the next day, and the day after that and after. I often get asked how come I don't get bored doing the same 26 poses every day and that is why. Every day is different and every day your body allows you to do different stuff, some days more of one thing some day more of some other. Speaking of which, on Tuesday I finally just managed to touch my head on the floor between my feet in Standing Separate Leg Stretching. My husband can vouch for that, as he went to the practice with me and saw it happening while standing in front of me and hanging upside down trying to sort out his own Standing Separate Leg...
I also began viewing the whole practice as a single thing instead of the series of 2 breathing exercises and 26 postures. In practice this means that I treat coming out of the postures with the same care I treat my postures, coming out slowly and with control, linking one posture to the next.
Can't log off without saying how much the opening sentence here applies the the final Savasana. Usually my first instinct when I get into it and hear the final 'Namaste' is to run out of the room and find some cold air, but I'm finding the longer I make myself lie there the better, calmer and more energised I feel once away from the studio

- yoga with Korean food induced upset tummy combined with pms cramping not fun (for ladies out there - heat does help). Do not try this at home.
- Jackie Brown is still Q.Tarantino's best film...