March 13, Wednesday:

It’s been a long time. Shouldn’t of left you.

I’ve begun mentoring. I feel like I’m a natural. I am gaining a lot of confidence. I am going to be a sick teacher. Yoga shall be my life!

My personal practice has fallen by the wayside for now. At first I felt guilty and shameful. To an extent I still feel that way. But my love for yoga is unabated. Nothing can compare. Sometimes love is circuitous.

I have underestimated myself, my strength, my capabilities. I am capable of anything. When I start my personal practice again, whenever that is, I will not pick up from where I left off. I will do even more. How much more? How about the entire thing?!

I’ve realized I need not banish studio practice by the wayside. It does offer positives. Camaraderie. Heat. Feedback. Perspective. A mechanism that exists outside of my own insular world. Variety.

I am no longer just an Ashtanga whore. My mentoring has opened me up to the different kinds of yoga Addicted to Yoga offers: yin, vinyasa flow, heated flow, beginning yoga. All of them are  valuable, all emphasize different things, and each instructor has their own trademark and energy.


March 17, Sunday:

I have been ardently practicing. I have not been logging.

Getting back into the swing of things here.

Three months may not seem like a long time, but there was undeniably a substantial let down after slightly falling off track. I put blood, sweat and tears into my practices for those three months.

That’s okay. It’s still here. It is always within me.

Hard work conquers all.

I have been busting my ass this week.

Part of it is that I feel like I have lost time to make up for. That’s how I always feel, in one way or another. It’s a symptom of my uneasiness.

But particularly so with yoga. The first Tuesday of this month was the beginning of my Level 2 Teacher Training. Polina threw some mentoring at me.

I foolishly got high about an hour before. But you know what? That was actually the best thing that happened to me. I was a pulsating ball of anxiety due to that intoxication. I still did a good job.

After that I simultaneously practiced and observed for the next three classes (four total). I don’t know about you, but when I get high, my physical ability collapses. I get tired much more quickly.

Dave’s class: beginning yoga in the heated room. This is a very small room that could comfortably fit eight or nine people. It occasionally has 12-14. I believe this particular occasion had about 10.

Tina’s class: beginning yoga in the big room. Pretty easy, but still worked up a sweat.

Juliette’s class: heated flow in the heated room. Juliette will kick your ass! Oh my Lord! At the time this was definitely one of the hardest, in terms of physical tenacity, classes I’ve ever participated in.

It may have been my first heated flow class. Before the night started I had long been a bit of an Ashtanga whore. “If it ain’t Ashtanga, it’s done!” I wanted little to do with the beginning, flow, yin, etc. classes. They were beneath me.

This night changed my life. I gained tremendous respect for heated flow. My mat was soaked.

Juliette is a fun teacher! She’s like a good-natured drill sargeant. Loud, booming voice. Powerful body, with coiled muscles for quadriceps and hamstrings. Yet strangely pleasant in her directions.

After that was yin yoga with Mishelle. This was unequivocally the least enjoyable class. Mishelle was nervous, feeling incapable compared to the previous instructor (Polina or Dave; I forget which) whose class she was now taking over. She did not own this class; she supplicated.

I still enjoyed it, however. It gave me an opportunity to recover. To focus even more fully on breath, to relax, to learn a new perspective on staying with a pose for 1-3 minutes rather than 3-5 breaths.

What I enjoyed most of this time spent at the studio was the camaraderie. Being the token black man at the studio, I’ve gained a certain amount of notoriety, but heretofore I’ve rarely felt at ease. That night things began to change.

Tiffany (non-Asian edition; there are a lot of Tiffany’s at that studio, and two of them are Asian), the one whom I initially met during teacher training Level One, was working the front desk. For reasons unbeknownst to me I am quite fond of Tiffany, and I feel a certain reciprocity from here. Maybe even a romantic reciprocity. While this is an avenue I am not quite prepared to explore, I very much enjoythe opportunity to chit chat with her. Which, if you would know me, is extremely out of the ordinary.

Chadd (dddd; shoutouts to Ganondorf) was around, and since I was waiting on Tiffany to get off so she could give me a ride (we both live in Pomona — yay!), we were just shooting the shit.

Going back: why have I been hard on myself? In the week that followed, I did not practice. Instead, I waited until the following Tuesday (this week).

Then I followed that up with mentoring with Lindsey Wednesday, practicing/observing/scribing after I was done (you mentor a section of the class, about 10-15 minutes; from there you blend in).

Thursday was without practice.

By Friday evening I was feeling antsy, going on ~40 hours without yoga. I partook in Genesis’ heated flow class, making it the first time I had ever taken her class.

And that was the hardest class I’d ever done.

Genesis was ruthless. Sure, she had this breezy, light, airy, “isn’t this fun?” voice about her, but she worked us significantly harder than even Juliette. Or was it just me, my inexperience with heated flow? Either way I have never sweated that much. I went through four hand towels. I had to wipe down my mat multiple times or risk slipping and sliding. My white wife beater was like a towel: there was so much sweat I could wring it out.

Saturday: Ashtanga with Polina. Two hour class, although in reality it was about 90 minutes. We did almost the entire primary series. Again: I worked my ass off.

Something is different. I still feel a bit out of shape, as far as cardio/endurance is concerned, but at the same time the endurance of my strength has improved by leaps and pounds. My focus is tremendous. I am facing my fears and putting my all into each practice, every single day.

And even more impressive: it is becoming something I look forward to more and more! Sure, some — many — days I am loathe to start. But I understand nothing makes me feel like the way yoga does. Nothing comes close! I am truly becoming addicted to yoga. It feels great!

Suffice to say I’ve stopped lifting.

Physically speaking, my body still has so much growth. I put on a lot of pounds when I slipped up, but even though my body seems less muscular from the peak of my personal practice, it’s still all there. My core remains weak relative to the rest of my body, though, and my No. 1 focus is remaining conscious of activating the bandhas. The harder you work the harder this is to do, but I will not be denied.

Which brings me to Sunday. Teacher training. Polina told me I’d be mentoring, from Surya Namaskara A to Prasarita Padottanasana D. She was late, however, so I began from Padangustasana.

I was very nervous throughout the morning, and even minutes before beginning. I wrote up the script in the morning, but did not practice saying it aloud, going through the motions, as much as I wanted to. I did not feel prepared, which made me particularly nervous considering Polina said on many occasions that if I wasn’t on my Ps and Qs, her class was not like others, and she would embarrass me.

I didn’t necessarily believe that, but at the same time Polina is intense. And obviously she’s the No. 1 owner. Win her favor and much is gained.

I knocked it out!

Of course I wasn’t perfect. But the fears I had just seconds before I began went out the window. I knew I had to trust myself. Okay, I prepared as much as I could. When it’s time to begin, throw all rational thought out the window and just let it flow. Perform. I become another person. My soul takes over. I know yoga. I practice this all the time. What is there to be afraid of?

I was not perfect, but that was not, and is not, the goal.  The goal is to be unique: to be my best self. To stamp my signature style, flavor, appeal, and brand on the practice and have fun with it.

Mission accomplished! I had a blast!

Polina was very impressed! Almost floored, even. In the midst of my instruction I saw a glance, kind of a half-smirk, out of her mouth, as if she was thinking: “I was right! I suspected he was a hot prospect, I have been waiting for this moment, and here it is! He’s got it!”

I have decided to temporarily replace my personal practice with “mentor” practice — going through the different sequences as if I am teaching a class. Familiarizing myself with my cues, my script, the names of the poses. Tailoring some cues towards advanced classes, other cues towards beginners. I’m going to need to be a jack of all trades! I get the feeling that, soon after I’m certified, I’m going to be doing a lot of teaching.