Reading The Brothers Karamazov (and other grinds)

I have been struggling with The Bros K. but today, today I may have broken through.

Things started to shift in Part 1, Book 3 for me.

I couldn’t get past the whining and the histrionics of the beginning chapters, not to mention all the impossible-to-keep-track-of Russian names. When I can’t hear a name in my mind, but have to rely on just the graphical pattern of letters, I get lost.

I went to book group having slogged through just about 100 pages, and hoped the others who had read farther could assure me that there was light and ease and joy coming in the future.

That didn’t really happen, but I was inspired to keep slogging, just because.

Because it was Dostoevsky.

Because it was a classic.

Because I’ve read longer and more turgid books and god dammit I would read the Bros K. Even if it killed me. And if Linda R could do it, so could I.

It seems like so many things I’m doing these days are like this: grinds.

The Yoga Challenge, The Ultimate Yogi, the Bros K.

But when I got home from book group, bound and determined, I experimented with reading some of it out loud, hoping I could tune my ear to it, hoping I could find a way in.

And it worked! And I did! I started laughing because the way his characters narrate their lives sounds so much like modern conversations. These language patterns sounded so natural, I could hear myself talking exactly this way.

Is this the wonder of this particular translation?

I don’t know, but I am happily reading the Bros K. now, and really digging it.

Today was Day 27 of the Ultimate Yogi. Only 81 more days to go. I decided to just do the damn thing. No expectations. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

But the last few days, I’ve been getting into it.

The Strength sequence is still a problem. Even when I think I’m doing okay and hanging in there, there it comes: that long hold in plank with alternate knees at the biceps. When that part comes, it’s nothing but oh fuck, oh god.

So hard.

All the other sequences I pretty much cruise through without a lot of suffering.

I’m starting to tire of his stories, though: the elephant sculpture one, and Hollow Bone.

 Enough.

Note to Self: Kath, if you ever put a program or video online and you want it to stay evergreen?

Don’t talk too much. 

Don’t tell stories. 

Just instruct the yoga and the breathing with as few words as possible, no jokes. 

Never make a joke. Because in all the world there is nothing staler than a joke on video. Especially on a video you want people to watch every day, or at least somewhat frequently.

The Yoga Challenge is 17 days in as of today, and though it’s going okay, there’s not the commitment that there was in the past. No, I shouldn’t say that. There’s the commitment, but things keep happening. Like Jury Duty happened to one person, and a medical problem flared for another one.

I don’t think there are too many people who can do something like this without a miss. Some things like jury duty can’t be helped. Some things like heart issues flaring, can’t be predicted, some things like college graduations can’t be missed. I get it, I do, but still.

So this will be it. I will really work hard to put it online next year. That way more people can do it. It’s not the daily yoga that’s the problem or the challenge, it’s the coming to class. So online might be the answer, I think.

The season is unlocking. Grass is greening, daffodil foliage is breaking through. I’m enjoying my long walks at the Hike and Bike with Stella everyday. That time spent with her is becoming an important and wonderful part of my day. She’s really a great little dog.

It’s feels good not to grind so much and just enjoy: the yoga, the reading, the season. Hallelujah.

Why Would I Do Such A Thing?

The other day Linda, someone who’s been practicing at my studio for as long as I’ve been in business, announced she’s going to do the April Yoga Challenge this year. For the first time. 

(This will be the 12th year I’ve offered it.)

“Why now?” I asked her.

She didn’t give me an answer. 

I asked her again a few days later, and she said something about being “tied here anyway” because of a class she’s teaching this semester.

I’m not sure this is is a a good enough why. I’m not sure it’s going to get her through a month of everyday yoga.

A while ago a good friend turned me on to Simon Sinek and his Start With Why TED talk and his book of the same name. I’ve been a real fan ever since.

Whenever I contemplate a new project, I always ask myself Why? And until I unearth an answer that will keep me going when I lose energy, or motivation, or heart for the thing, I don’t do it. I have to know my why first.

If I don’t have a strong enough why articulated at the get-go, I know I’m doomed. 

It’s okay if my why changes during the project, as long as I continue to have one. And it’s a good one.

I’m in the process of writing my April newsletter to my mailing list now. I’m describing the Challenge and laying out the  rules.  

The game of the Challenge is that if you agree to come to class every day for 30 days, you only pay $30 for the entire month. There’s a leader board on the back wall where you sign in every day, and others can see your attendance and scribble notes of encouragement to you if they want. 

It’s really fun, but it’s also hard. But not because of the yoga. It’s hard because of the everyday. That’s why you need a strong why going in.

So I started writing this sort of rah-rah newsletter to my people, encouraging anybody thinking of doing the Challenge this year to know their why first. 

Just for fun, I tried to think of a few good whys for myself. Why would I commit to such a thing? 

I came up with 4. There could be many more, but these four would work for me.

1. For My Health

2. To Align More Closely with my Aspirational Self

3. To Set a Good Example

4. For Accountability 

Health

I want to shed some winter weight. I want to get stronger, more toned and energized. A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would be a good way to support my healthier eating resolution, or even a detox. 

Aligning with My Aspirational Self

When I invision my best self I see a person who does yoga everyday and looks like they do yoga every day. I see someone healthy, glowing, and energetic. Someone getting life done. Someone who’s not enslaved. Someone calling the shots on their own life, or at least recognizing where choices can be made, and making good ones. 

A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would give me an opportunity to live, at least for a month, in alignment with what I’m always saying I want to do, but so often don’t.

Good Example

Here is my favorite chicken-crossing-the-road joke:

  • Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
  • A: To prove to the possum that it could be done.

I want to be the chicken. I want to prove that something hard can be done. I want to do something hard and not get hit by a truck doing it. I am aware that people are inspired by other people and that we’re all watching each other. If I can be a good example, maybe you’ll be inspired. That’s how the world works, We’re all watching each other. If I can work the logistics of fitting a yoga class into my life for 30 days in a row, maybe you can, too. I am highly incentivized by being a good example. For nobody in particular. For everyone in general.

Also: Very few people in the world actually do what they say they’re going to do. So it’s inspiring to see someone actually persist and win at something hard.

Accountability

I’m an Obliger. Most people are. Obligers depend on an accountability partner to keep them connected to their goals. A 30 Day Challenge acts as that accountability partner, because if I don’t show up, I’m out. And everybody knows it. 

Also: Very few people do this, so it makes me feel part of a little tribe that I have to show up for and root on. And I like that. 

If you’ve ever committed to doing something hard, a marathon, losing weight— anything that demanded training and a long(ish) slog, you know what I’m talking about. You have to have your why tattooed on your brain or you’ll bonk.

I’ll be really curious to see how many people sign up for this and what their whys are. I’ll be writing a lot about the Challenge next month for sure. Stay tuned.

Also: if you’ve ever done anything like this, let me know how it went, and if your why played a big part in your success.

Power Yoga

Young man hand pointing with fiber optic light trail connection.

When you take an hour out of your day to do some stretching in a structured way, guided by someone with some expertise, you are making a conscious choice to increase your power.

Power can be thought of as “energy” or “personal vitality” and that kind of power is a known virtue of a structured yoga practice.

But power is also having the ninja ability to stay conscious. To consciously  choose this, not that: to stay out of the brain’s unconscious default mode.

Power is also the ability to stay aware and awake. To notice things like another person’s body language, as well as downgrades in our own attention: tiredness, inability to focus, hunger, thirst.

Power is the ability to decide. To say no, or yes, from a place where you feel resourced,  physically and mentally.

You bring this power to every domain of your life: food, Facebook, leisure activities, projects you take on, or don’t, and the ways you prioritize how to spend a day.

Try asking yourself these questions a few times throughout your day this week:

Is this activity compulsive or creative?

Am I  unconscious or conscious?

What am I cultivating by doing this?

What am I bringing into the world?

In the yoga room, of all the above questions, the most important one to keep asking is: What am I cultivating?

Is it my physical strength, stamina and flexibility?

Is it my ability to focus and concentrate?

Is it my ability to be patient with myself and practice self-care?

Am I practicing in a compulsive, driven way, focused on outcomes (mastering a pose) or is my practice creative, and open to unexpected insights?

And finally, this: As a result of spending an hour a day practicing here, what version of myself am I bringing into the world?

This is Day 1 of the Main Street Yoga April Yoga Challenge.

 

Don’t Let a Yoga Class Hijack Your Yoga

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Tonight there were a few people in Power Yoga that were anxious about it. They signed up for the Yoga Challenge but they were leery about this particular class. One of these people was Liz. So I wrote this post to her, and to anyone who has found themselves in the deep end of the pool in a yoga class.

Dear Liz,

Don’t let the Power hijack your Yoga. Don’t let other people in the class hijack your yoga. In a big class setting, you have to own your practice.

You are responsible for keeping your own attention on your own body. Do not not let a yoga teacher, or that student on the mat in front of you, hijack your power, your brain, your intention.

It’s really hard.

Everyone around you is, or seems to be, rocking it. And you?  You’re falling and sweating and struggling. Everybody else is in the pocket. And you? You’re panting and flailing, and questioning the point of this, and your place in this scene.

Because this IS a scene. This is the “Power Yoga” scene and you are feeling like you are clearly NOT cutting it.

The “Power Yoga” has hijacked your yoga.

But here’s the thing: at any moment in this sweat fest, you can reframe it. You can, if you remember to do it, switch glasses. You can put on those magnifying classes right there on your mat, and focus them inside. You can pause, and put yourself in slo-mo for awhile.

You can work on precision and focus. You can breathe in. You can breathe out.

You can be calm and human.

You can make conscious choices, seek flow, extend your abilities.

Then, when the storm is over, you can restore yourself.

So don’t do what you’re told, do yourself. Your best self. Your perfectly imperfect self. Your alive self.

Anyone can do Power Yoga. As long as they stay in their power.

Love you,

Kath

Manatee Yoga

It’s not that I don’t like Yin, I do. I like it too much. But I feel like a manatee when I do Yin.

I’m an unrepentant flow-hacker and there is no way to get into flow for me during Yin. Yin is like therapy, or a massage.

Yin is for an off day.

I understand that there is a time and place for passivity, but only when the body is broken down from activity. And that’s not where I’m at now. Or yet.

I think once my challengers have a whole week of yang under their belts, then the yin will be welcome.

It’s on. Bring it.

It’s on. Bring it.

Today is April fool’s day. The first day of the Yoga Challenge. A rainy, cold, and crappy day.

I had to get up and get going. I had to be “on.”  Lots of “on.” First-day- of-Yoga-Challenge “on.”

Class started slow, then amped up.  With lots of breathing.

Breathing is hard. Harder than it should be, given that we do it all day long and should be experts at it by now.

But we’re not. It’s exhausting. It’s exhilarating.

After class I sat at my table in the window at Night and Day and played with my Feelings and Needs cards. From the Feelings Deck I picked: Calm, Comfortable, Hopeful, Relaxed, and Open.

From the Needs deck I picked: Authenticity, To Be Seen for Who I Am, Freedom, Balance and Power in My World. Those were the needs that were met, resulting in Calm, Comfortable, Hopeful, etc.

I have a pretty good life. I know it. I appreciate it. I designed it this way. I protect it.

It’s not like it just fell in my lap. It comes fairly easily now, and I get a lot of support to sustain it, but at the same time, I designed it this way. I made certain choices: Partner (huge), and friends, primarily. But also the choice to care, to give a shit, and to support the people around me who are doing good things in the world.

So I sat at my table and felt mellow. And grateful.

And then went home and took a nap.

Because of all the “on.”

Doing the April Yoga Challenge as a Project or a Streak

Empty studio

You can do he April Yoga Challenge as a Project or a Streak.
I make the distinction between the two in my book, The Project-Driven Life.
A “Project” is persistence toward a goal.

A project requires a commitment.
You’re excited about it, yes, but you also know there’ll be hard parts where you’ll just need to suck it up.
The payoff for completing a project is an intense feeling of self-mastery which inevitably catapults you into your next project.

A “Streak” is just a game you play with yourself. Commitment is minimal to none. You streak because you just want to see,

How long can I go before I bonk?

When you do the April Yoga Challenge as a streak, you’re telling yourself that you’re not sure, but you’d be willing to bet you can’t do it for 30 days.

But who knows??

Maybe….

So on April 1st, you start the Streak.

So what’s it going to be: Project or Streak?

Something to think about…