Bikram 30 Day Challenge – Days 1 and 2

My brother is concerned that my blogging audience might assume I’m 300lb, given my obsession with food. To offset that assumption (and keep it from coming true…), I’ve decided to write about the 30 Day Bikram Challenge I started this weekend.

I’ve done Bikram before and written about it here. I have a love hate relationship with it (love having done it, occasionally hate the actual doing of it) that’s kept me from making it a full time practice. And BTW, it’s freaking expensive. However, I feel like I need to give Bikram a chance  before I kick him to the curb. I want to see if he’s right that a Bikram challenge will transform my life so I’m committing to 30 days of going every day. Of course, Bikram wants 60 days but I can’t commit to 60 uninterrupted days because I’m a busy girl, dontcha know. So I’m giving it 30 and let’s see how it goes.

Day 1:

I decided against the Tucson Bikram studio and picked Yoga Vida instead. It’s not a certified studio so Bikram doesn’t get an outrageous kickback but they do teach the Bikram method. Now I’ve done Bikram yoga in a certified studio, and I’ve done other forms of  yoga in heated rooms but I’ve never done Bikram method yoga in an uncertified studio where the instructors can teach however they want. And after my first class at Yoga Vida with instructor Stephanie – a sweet, kind soul –  I can say that it’s the whole system without the dialogue.

In Bikram the entire system is tightly regimented. Not only is it always 26 poses in 90 minutes but even the instructors have scripted dialogue. If you visit studios across the country, you’ll hear the same weird references to ham sandwiches, or exactly foreheads and you’ll be told several times to “LOCK YOUR KNEE.” Except at Yoga Vida where they gently and quietly ask you to engage your thighs and lift your ribcage and soften your gaze. You know, typical yoga stuff.

However, it turns out that having done Bikram for a while, I locked my knee anyway and said “just like a Japanese ham sandwich” to myself as I pressed my face into my locked knee. All of you who do Bikram know what I’m talking about and the rest of you are wondering what a Japanese ham sandwich is exactly. If you find out, let me know. It’s the big conundrum of the Bikram world.

The first class was not as brutal as I expected. I am stiff and un-flexible in ways I wasn’t 6 months ago, I definitely had to fight down nausea and dizziness on several occasions and I cut the last camel pose short by a few seconds but my body remembered the poses better than my conscious brain However, I did revisit the thing I love about Bikram the most – I got to turn my mind off and just follow directions for 90 minutes.

Here’s to 29 more days of saving my brain power for other things!

Day 2:

Ouch. Just… ouch. I’m sore from class yesterday and some of the poses hurt anyway, so… ouch. I tend to muscle through pain instead of taking it easy so I had to remember to listen to Janelle (another lovely gentle soul who didn’t yell or tell me to LOCK MY KNEE). Janelle reminded us all to make space in our bodies. Space to lengthen and space for breath. Space to let our muscles fill. Breathing and space are hard things to acquire when your spine is curled so your sweaty exactly forehead is pressed against your sweaty locked knee and every muscle is on fire, so it bears repeating.

I actually thought about not going today. I thought about pretending yesterday was a warm up and starting the 30 day challenge later. Some other time… But having already managed to go once, it feels like a serious loss to start over, even just one class. I have to regularly remind myself that I expend half my effort just getting started. Once I’ve started something, it’s much easier to keep going. Stopping and starting is the hard part. So, I’m keeping on keeping on.

Only 28 classes to go.

For you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup

Woke up crabby and tired. Never good. Went to my favorite breakfast place in Tucson only to discover that they’d changed the menu and I didn’t love their food as much as I remembered.


I felt at loose ends anyway since I had nothing specific I wanted to see, a doctor’s appointment for my annual ob/gyn check up smack in the middle of the afternoon killing my ability to make plans and several failed attempts to see my friend Jen. I gritted my teeth and did some writing and hated it. I wrote an angry facebook status about wanting to punch someone in the face, got caught in traffic on my way to the doctor’s office and arrived late to find the waiting room crammed full of people.

Then I waited two hours to see the doctor.

Two hours during which time a 2 year old child (with stained pants and the continual smell of pee wafting around her) ran around next to me hollering and watching a hyper frantic anime cartoon repeatedly on her mom’s phone, cried when she was told not to pick her nose and then peed her pants (again??) in the chair next to me and was led sobbing out of the room.

Two Hours.

Two hours in which the receptionist’s face got grimmer and tighter and less friendly as ranks of women filed up to the counter to ask when the doctor might see them and she kept shaking her head, walking into the clinic and coming back with no good news.

Two hours in which the boyfriends of some young looking girls grew restless and asked louder and louder questions about how much longer? Exactly?

Two hours in which I watched my last chance to see Jen drift away and I had to go out to my car and eat a protein bar so I didn’t rip off the receptionist’s head and feed it to the loudest boyfriend. I tried to heed Bruce’s advice and “control my breath so I could control my life” but anger and irritation is SO much easier.

Two terrible no good very bad long boring hours.

I finally got in the clinic to be seen and met the sweetest most apologetic nurse, Margaret, who did everything she could to get me out of there as quickly as possible and filled up my water bottle twice (in Tucson that’s better than someone handing you free money). Then I met the doctor who was also great and apologetic and worked fast but didn’t seem aggravated or annoyed. Good people. Sucky situation. My best suggestion is that the clinic teams up with (insert giant chain restaurant here) and get those blinky flashy coaster things. Give them to patients when they check in, tell them not to go more than 15 minutes away and call them when the doctor’s ready. How hard would that be? Can’t be worse than a waiting room full of agitation.

I left the clinic at 5 and contemplated – with no pleasure – a 530 yoga class. I didn’t want to go but figured that with a facebook status about punching, the least I could do (karmically speaking) was sweat out some of the hate. So I showed up at the studio (and PS Tucson, replace the carpet in your studio. It smells terrible. Or better yet, rip it out and get hard wood floors. Otherwise, the room is great.) Anyway, I go into the room and get into savasana and try to breathe before class starts.  People are drifting in and out of the room and then two women start talking! In the studio!! This is not right. The Bikram studio is a quiet zone and there should be no talking. Go outside! But these two girls are chatting about vacations and husbands and kids and what all and then other people in the studio sit up and start talking amongst themselves while I’m lying in savasana with my fists clenched channeling my inner librarian and thinking SSSSSSHHHHHHHHH! as loudly as possible hoping my thought waves knock them silent. I think this is using yoga power for evil, but I’m not certain.

Finally the teacher, Bob, comes in and turns on the light and says we’re getting started. We stand up to start the first round of breathing and a late person arrives. Tucson is the only Bikram studio I’ve been in that allows latecomers and this is the second class I’ve taken where people have been late. Late guy #1 bumbles into class and sets up right in front of me. I try to ignore him in the mirror and breathe when late guy #2 comes in about 20 seconds later and sets up right behind me.

Really really???

Again, I try to ignore them while they fumble around with towels and water and organization and find the rhythm of the exercise when late guy #3 (!!!!!) comes in after we’ve completed the first set of breathing and walks through the whole class to set up on the far end of the room.

By this time my outrage is barely contained and I’m bound to make this the most focused intense class of my life when Bob starts in with the Bikram dialogue and something seems… different about his approach.

Oh, I know. Clearly he’s an auctioneer in his other life.

An AUCTIONEER! Who does Bikram! What does a yoga auctioneer sound like? Here’s a sample:

WE’re gonna start with half moon pose feet together HEELS touching TOES touching ARMS UP fingers interlaced release your index Fingers And REACH! (breath) REACH to the right and then to the left GO all the way down PUSH your hips out (breath) DON’T let that hip roll in CHIN up THROAT visible! (breath) Now go down go down go down left right Left Right LEFT RIGHT COME TO THE MIDDLE AND STOP!!!

Are. You. Serious???!!!!

And so it went for the whole class. (Right leg right leg right leg lamppost concrete no knee LOCK that knee FOCUS on the thigh YOU HAVE NO KNEE Pick Up Your Left Foot AND BREATHE!) Plus he told stories and counted one Mississippi 2 Mississippi and referenced that old joke about the little boy misspelling and the teacher asking where the other “p” was and the boy saying it was running down his leg.

Pee jokes! In Bikram!

Man, I tried to hold onto the anger and outrage and then I just gave in and started laughing. I couldn’t help it. So ridiculous.

And this all leads to my Bikram lesson of the day: it doesn’t have to be serious.

It’s not all about the pain and agony and discipline. Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s silly. Sometimes you get an auctioneer.

And this marks the end of my Tucson stay. I’m driving up to Prescott this afternoon and headed to California on Monday.

Roller Derby Girls tonight!! So come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about it.

Happy Easter weekend.

See you tomorrow.

The life you could have while other people watch TV

Ross Ward said he built Tinker Town while other people were watching TV. Yesterday I saw the results of another man’s life work and I’m pretty sure he didn’t watch any TV either.

That’s the DeGrazia Mission in the Sun in northern Tucson. Built by an artist named Ted Degrazia in honor of the Virgin Guadalupe

Painted inside:

With an open roof to let the prayers of the people find their way to God.

Ted DeGrazia lived in Arizona during the 20th century (1909-1982), trained at the University of Arizona, worked with painters like Diego Rivera and became internationally famous when UNICEF reproduced one of his paintings on their cards. His work pervades the Southwest and I never cared for his style, thinking it was all these big eyed kids that look like a Southwest version of Precious Moments.

But several years ago a friend of mine got married in this chapel and I remembered it being beautiful so I wanted to revisit it. I didn’t know about the Gallery of the Sun next door.

I didn’t know he did work like this:

Or this:

Or that he designed and built this gallery, the chapel, and several houses with his hands and hand tools, framing it with an axe and a hammer and applying adobe by hand. I didn’t realize that he filled the gallery with 15,000 original pieces of artwork.


That’s just a fraction of his actual work since he sold many of his paintings and stacked a 100 others on the back of a mule and dragged them into the mountains and set them on fire in 1976 in protest of tax laws. How can one man get so much done?

I loved this recreation of his studio:

And the way each portion of the gallery flows into the next, taking you on a journey of his artistic process.

In addition to everything else (he was also a musician and published his own music, you know, in his spare time…) he built a little gallery for his friends on his land and now a group of his artist contemporaries take turns using the studio and selling their work to visiting DeGrazia fans. El Cruz Armendariz is the guest artist of the week and he sang me a song and told me stories about working with DeGrazia and his close relationship with the Native Americans in the area.

Even though I’m not a fan of DeGrazia’s most popular work, I think this gallery is the perfect representation of Southwestern art and anyone who visits Tucson should make a trip north and check it out.
And speaking of things I never knew existed, how about this Wishing Shrine called El Tiradito in South Tucson’s Barrio Viejo?

El Tiradito means Castaway, Fallen One or Outcast and this sacred spot was dedicated to sinners way back in the 19th century.

The residents of Barrio Viejo fought to keep the city from tearing down the shrine in 1971 and as a result, some historic buildings in this area were saved and can still be seen, like this little nearby museum dedicated to the area.

Many stories about the origins of El Tiradito float around but each story has a common thread of murder and betrayal, some with romantic Romeo and Juliet overtones and some violent and bloody, more like Macbeth.

People visit El Tiradito to light candles and pray for the wayward sinners they know or to make wishes.

Legend has it that if you light a candle and make a wish and the candle stays lit all night, your wish will come true. Here’s mine:

I haven’t yet gone back to check and see if it’s still lit. I think I’d rather not know.

After an afternoon spent wandering through historic Tucson and soaking up Southwest flavor, I showed up early for my Bikram class, pretty excited to be there. Did it go well? No. Do I know why? No. Does that lead to my Bikram thoughts of the day? Yes.
Bikram lesson of the day: The Practice is a practice.
My yogi friend Joe says “we work with the bodies we have today.” And my body that day was not having it. Class was SO HARD. Jules and I had talked about how Bikram can push you around, press you to the furthest reaches of your ability, break things open inside you and make you cry. I’ve never had that experience with any other kind of yoga. Is it the heat? The sameness of the classes? The extreme body bends one way and then the other? I don’t know.
I do know that it’s the first physical activity I’ve done where I’ve gotten benefits right from the very beginning. Bikram says no one is too old or too sick or too broken to do Bikram yoga. Do what you can. Stay in the room. Do a little more tomorrow. Or, in my case, do a lot less than you did yesterday. I had less of everything except my will. My will was stronger and I had so much less to work with that in some postures all I had was effort. I just plain couldn’t do them. Couldn’t keep my balance, couldn’t get off the floor, couldn’t do it. And it took all my will just to try.
And then I cried during the final savasana. Why? Opening up, letting go, trying. All these things are hard and cause pain and sometimes tears. Just is what it is. I know the room was hot and I hadn’t eaten enough or drunk enough water. But sometimes I just cry. Fortunately, in Bikram is looks like sweat so no one knows and it all has the same benefit: Release. They say the cure for everything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea. I’m only lacking the sea.

After that rough class, I recovered with dinner:

And drinks:

And friends:

Thanks for coming by. More Tucson tomorrow.
See you then.

This post brought to you by Bikram and Jules

Isn’t that pretty? That’s how my night ended. Some griping first, and then the good stuff.

The problem with visiting Tucson is my stuff. I don’t live here. But I used to live here so I have stuff stored here and a truck.

My day started with moving my truck, or rather trying to move it. My storage facility moved my truck to a bigger (more expensive) empty space some time back because they were doing construction but they charged me for a smaller space and then they forgot about it and didn’t move it back. A month ago they realized their error and wanted to charge me the more expensive rate and have me pay back all the months it had been in that space when it hadn’t been my choice to begin with! I don’t live in Tucson so any change in my storage units requires lots of phone calls and negotiations.  Is there anything more futile than fighting long distance by phone over something neither of you has control over? I think not. But now I’m in town and told them I’d be happy to move it to a smaller space. Then my truck wouldn’t start. !@*$(@Y#$%!!! I feel like such a girl when that happens because I never know what’s wrong and I can’t fix it. A failing on my part as I could learn but I haven’t. I just want it to run. Is that so wrong??

I guess the battery died so the storage guy helped me jump it and what was a 15 minute procedure turned into an hour plus paperwork; so by the time I visited my storage shed I was already irritated and ready to get more so.

And… just… Yikes. I have so much stuff. Some of it I love and some of it I’d happily throw out, but I’m never in town for long enough and throwing stuff out would require spending my limited time going through all the boxes, making decisions, taking it all somewhere, yadda yadda…. It makes me tired just typing that. Regardless, at the end of it I’m rolling down that door and locking it up and not doing anything different with the stuff I want to keep.

Bottom line: I don’t want all my stuff in boxes. I want it in a house. Spread out with some room to breathe. I want to be able to visit my things and see them all. But while I’m a nomadic gypsy, it’s financially imprudent to spend money on a place just so I can see my stuff. But every time I visit I kinda sorta wish I could rescue a few things and torch the rest of it and be free. I know I’d miss all those little things, my books and paintings and such and I do want a place… eventually… just not now… ergo, boxes. Sigh.

3 hot dusty frustrating hours later wherein I opened a bunch of boxes and sorted and reorganized a bunch of things so I could find them again and found room for more things, like my sewing machine, I looked at my watch and realized I had about 30 minutes to get to Bikram at orange grove and oracle. Once again, a mad race across a city to find a place I’ve never been and get into a yoga frame of mind before I have to be all in it. I arrived as Nicole was locking the door. Literally the latest I have ever been for a class. At least this time I knew enough to turn off my radio while I was driving and try to focus so I wasn’t completely frantic and crazy when I walked in. Nicole asked me if I’d been at that studio before, had me sign a waver and told me I had 30 seconds to change before class started.

So much for serenity now.

I walked in the room, saw my friend Jules, found a spot near her, had time for one deep breath and then dove right in.

Basically, taking time off sucks. It’s been 5-6 days since I last did Bikram and I can feel it. Or the lack of it. But fortunately, I’ve done Bikram enough now that I’m not all the way back at square one when I take time off. More like square 2. Possibly 2.5. But it’s still a relearning, how to breathe, how to stretch, how to stay in the moment, how to listen. The teacher, Nicole, said my words of wisdom today.

Bikram lesson of the day: It’s will over matter.

That’s different from mind over matter, isn’t it? Mind over matter is letting your brain control your body. Will over matter is exerting yourself on yourself. Making yourself do it. Making the stretch, holding the pose, gritting your teeth, letting it hurt, breathing through it. Not giving up when you want to. Pushing yourself further and deeper. Nicole is the first teacher I’ve had to be specific that some poses will hurt. Are supposed to hurt. She also said where they should hurt. And the kind of pain you should feel. Stretching pain vs. stabbing pain. Some poses make you feel dizzy and nauseous and that’s ok. They should. It means they’re working. Your body is working in a way it’s unused to. Let it be. Breathe.

Jules and I had dinner after and talked about the things we’ve learned in Bikram. We’re both kinesthetic learners and things we learn physically make a big impact on us mentally and spiritually. She said two things that really stayed with me:

1. Lean into the discomfort.

I love that. Don’t lean away. Lean into it. Acknowledge it. Let it be uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. If it were comfortable, you wouldn’t be working.

2. When you rest, rest completely.

How hard is that??! In life or in Bikram? It’s such good practice in Bikram to soak up those 20 second savasanas between poses. To learn to rest completely after activity so your body can absorb the fresh oxygenated blood or relax muscles or whatever. And in life, imagine how much productive we would be if we rested completely when we rested?

We talked about our lives in transition. How productive and difficult it is to transfer Bikram lessons to our shifting lives and how much we’ve learned about life in these classes while sweating it out, doing the work, and pushing ourselves beyond our flexibility.

It’s hard. That’s good.

On the flip side, we also talked about pole dancing and boys and then we went for a moonlight walk through the River walk under a nearly full moon.

Moonlight walks, philosophical talks, Vietnamese food and a sweaty Bikram class = complete satisfaction.

More Tucson tomorrow. See you then.