Pain, Pleasure, & Plateau
#YogaEveryDamnDay – 6 Week Challenge: Half Way
Day 21 was filled with frustration for me. I woke up crooked, feeling more sore and tight than the week before. I don’t want to go, and I haven’t wanted to for the previous two days, either. I feel like I’m wasting my time – my precious time!
Then frustration and reason got together and start weighing out the “facts”: Why am I doing this thing? I’m losing weight, which is almost certainly muscle mass, and with that goes strength… while the goal of flexibility eludes me! This seems like a lose-lose situation.
Am I speaking sense, or is this just a coping mechanism, trying to justify quitting something that isn’t coming easy? Perhaps it’s just time to step back and re-evaluate myself.
Either way, it doesn’t matter: Thanks to What Should Baz Do readers, I’m committed to going whether I’m enjoying it or not.
“This needs to change if I am going to come out of this challenge better prepared for unknown future chapters of life (AS DECIDED BY YOU GUYS!)” – Baz
Week 1 – Pain and Gain
When beginning any new training, it is expected that changes will be more noticeable at the start. This includes the ‘Pain’ of trying to do something your body hasn’t done before, and the amazing gains as your brain learns new movement tasks and becomes proficient at repeating them.
For me, I notice the pain quickly and regularly as I begin moving into most postures. Fifteen years of Rugby League without proper warm down or stretching afterwards have not been kind to my joints. I remember Sundays in my hometown playing for the U/19 team, then reserve grade, then A-grade, one after the other – Afterwards, I’d have a drink in my hand before making it to the showers. Warm down? Recovery? What’s that?
Broken elbow, leg, and arms from sport, motorbikes, and tall slippery trees, respectively. And many a rolled ankle, dislocations, and strained ligaments. They all remind me of their presence each time I wrestle my body into this contortion or that. I’m fighting myself, beating myself into submission – and my body is fighting back.
However, the body and brain are very adaptable beasts: muscle spindle fibers, pain receptors, and Golgi tendon organs start to reset their limits, firing less rapidly; and my brain learns the new positions, relaxing it’s cautionary control, and allowing my body to move a little more freely.
“STOP IT, YOU’RE HURTING OUR PRECIOUSES!” – Pain receptors everywhere
Week 2 – Pleasure and Reward
Because Bikram is the same 26 postures repeated in the same sequence, it doesn’t take too long for your body to become familiar with the postures. This certainly doesn’t mean it submits completely: My legs are still like two cardboard cutouts attached to the sides of my pelvis with super glue – not the flexible “Gumby” legs I would appreciate!
What it does mean, is that my body became familiar with the positions, and pain receptors don’t scream at me quite so loudly to “STOP IT, YOU’RE HURTING OUR PRECIOUSES!”
When this noise quietens down, I’m able to find the positions (sort of) and gently push the boundary. It becomes easier to focus on my breathing and gently deepen into the stretching positions, and I feel the benefits.
The best part of week two are the little things: Noticeably gaining balance in standing postures; Relaxing and being aware of my breath all class; Being able to grab my feet in Floor Bow without rolling around grunting; Walking home and being more aware of my breathing and muscle contractions;
Week 3 – The Dismay Of Plateau
After overcoming the pain of beginning, then feeling the benefits, it’s a huge disappointment to notice one day that you can’t do something you could do last week.
What is going on here? Why am I going backwards? Perhaps I’m over-training? what other factors are to blame… diet? sleep? hydration? stress? And the more dramatic – did I back bend too far the other day and now I’ve compressed a vertebral disk or something? 😐
These are the thoughts that have run through my head during a few moments of weakness this week as my mind tried to justify taking a day off: A “rest” day. On these days, I’ve forced myself to go be a yogi because, well, I said I would, didn’t I?! 😉
It’s normal that results become less obvious over time – because beginners have the most to gain – which can become frustrating when the improvement doesn’t continue on in a linear fashion. When the “Dismay of Plateau” arises, some qualitative data can be very encouraging: “before & after” photos; time or weight record keeping; or noting important milestones, can be the kick in the backside you need to keep you on track. One of my milestones for this week is “being able to touch my fingers behind my back – left and right side” (pictured below)
What To Do Now – Two Solutions
“This small singing girl put a smile on my face which stayed with me into the hot Bikram studio – I ended up having one of the best sessions so far, with the smile still on my face.” – Baz (Day 21)
1. Sometimes, More Is More: Do Your Homework!
Have I been 100% committed to this, or have I just been going through the motions to complete the challenge?
I’ve been doing yoga every day, and I’ve been doing my best while there. But have I really been committing to improving flexibility when I’m outside of that hot room?
Going into this challenge, I reasoned with myself that doing a challenge to increase flexibility should encourage me to take complimentary actions. I hypothesized that diet, sleep, stretching, massage, foam rolling and practicing at home would improve in an attempt to improve the overall benefit of the practice.
Have they? I don’t think so. I have been doing some of these things, some of the time, but there is definitely room for improvement. This needs to change if I am going to come out of this challenge better prepared for unknown future chapters of life (AS DECIDED BY YOU GUYS!).
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Day 21 of #YogaEveryDamnDay: "They see me rollin!" Spent over an hour on the foam roller before yoga today, my new best friend… started at the baby cows. @VirginActive #TheresAFineLineBetweenPleasureAndPain #Bikram #warmup #loosenup #flexibility #deeptissue #YogaEveryDamnDayWithBaz #rollin #FoamRoller #yoga #release #VirginActive #challenge #whatshouldbazdo #Day21 #halfway #gym #triceps are still there 😉
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Still Day21 of #YogaEveryDamnDay: after rolling came some balancing hip opener poses. Trying to loosen up for Bikram afterwards. Got to step up the homework if i'm wanting to see improvement in the yoga practice! #Day21 #YogaEveryDamnDayWithBaz #halfway #balancing #pose #hipopener #yoga #homework #VirginActive #virgin #play #6weekChallenge
2. Let It Go: Yeah, Like Elsa!
I’ve had good days and bad days in the first 21. One thing I’ve noticed is that my mood plays a massive role in determining how much I get out of the practice. If I’m running late, I’ll have a wobbly and distracted class. If I’ve had a frustrating day and don’t “let it go” before I go in, I’ll struggle. When I go in too ambitious, trying too hard, things fall to pieces. But, when I’m on time, relaxed, and positive, the practice is always rewarding
On the walk to yoga (after starting this post, and self-massaging on the foam roller for an hour), I passed a mother and her five year old daughter, walking in the same direction. The little girl was singing at the top of her lungs as she walked ahead of her mum.
“Let it go! let it go! Turn away and slam the door. I don’t care, what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway…”
This small singing girl put a smile on my face which stayed with me into the hot Bikram studio – I ended up having one of the best sessions so far, with the smile still on my face.
If I can consistently “Do my homework” and “Let it go”, like Day 21, then I have no doubt this challenge will be worthwhile.