Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Thursday, August 22

Infinite C-U | Champaign, IL

Bonus review! This isn't about a yoga studio, but I've taken up a four-week boot camp class to kick my ass back into gear. Since I am tracking my own progress as much as sharing with you all, I thought I'd document my first week of classes here!

LOCATION: Just off of Mattis, behind the Sonics (ironically), on Springer Dr. Very easy to get to and includes a free parking lot.     
DOJO: Class is held at Song's Kung Fu. Big, open, and with padded floors. There are some windows and mirrors, but I pay little attention to anything outside my space once things get going. Bare bones, really, which I love. And on Fridays, if the weather is kind, we go outside! 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Infinite CU is not a quick fix program. It is not a fad. It is not a magic pill or potion or elixir.  It is more than just fitness. It is more than just nutrition. It is more than just community support. Infinite CU is a lifestyle. We want you to develop healthy HABITS. Whether you do 1 boot camp or 20, we want to give you the tools to be healthy the rest of your life! ($120 for a 4-week session, three classes a week, an hour each—I paid online.)
INSTRUCTORS: Keybeck: On March 22nd 2011, I began teaching a fitness class that I called Infinite. I would teach it at my dad's Kung Fu studio during times when there wasn't any marital art classes. I didn't want my class to just be about losing weight. I wanted to connect with PEOPLE. I wanted people to get the same experience out of fitness that I did. I wanted people to completely change their lives by first "Starting with You Health". Just like I did. In February 2012, Infinite CU transformed from a group fitness class into life changing 4-week boot camps with a thriving community! It has been awesome to help so many others change their lives and to now develop others into boot camp trainers... so they can help people the same way I do. Back in 2010, I could not have imagined I would be doing this!

Marcela: I have been with Infinite for about 2 years now. I’m also a beachbody coach. Fitness has always been a part of me. I participated in extracurricular activities in school. In junior high I was in the cheerleading squad and volleyball team. I also like to participate in running events. In high school I was part of the dance team, tennis and soccer. The workout programs I have completed so far P90X, P90X2, INSANITY, TURBO FIRE, Insanity Asylum, and currently doing Les Mills Combat. In April I will be participating in the Illinois Marathon, I will be doing the  I-challenge (5k on Friday and Full marathon Saturday). In May I will be doing the Tough Mudder. I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself. My favorite types of workouts are cardio and anything that involves kicking and punching. Turbo Fire is by far one of my favorite workout programs.
CONTACT: Infinite C-U

I've had a rough go at it since my buddy, Qi, passed away. I thought I was getting through everything the best I could, but suddenly it had been six months and I hadn't been to my regular yoga classes. I now I have back and knee problems from not taking care of myself. I put on way too much weight. When did this all happen? It was time to change. As I started seeing a new acupuncturist (who I adore, and highly recommend), he had me on some supplements to tackle the digestion/hormonal issues that had been plaguing me for years. He also took me off of wheat and sugar. Meanwhile, I'm also seeing regular posts on facebook by my pal, Janet, talking about how amazing she felt after her boot camp classes. Well, you read that enough times, and you think, "I want to feel like that too!" So I just signed up and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, I was out of town when the first two classes started, but as of tonight I've been through one round of classes (legs, chest/back, arms/shoulders ). Holy. Crap. My first day at class was legs, which Keybeck snickered at a bit by saying I picked a hard day to start with—but I figured I would at least know right away what I was in for at it's worst (best?). Yeah, that class kicked my ass... or legs... or... As I walked into my house, barely, wobbling, my boyfriend laughed and asked how it went. I was fearful of having to hike the next day with my girlfriend. Quite sure I would fall over. But I loved the sense of accomplishment. The format was a cardio warm up—a bunch of leg work via evil things like burpees—ab work—cool down.

Day two: I'm just barely getting over my legs—over three days later. We go into back and chest working with resistance bands. We start with cardio (crap, my legs again!) and then go into a bunch of moves using the bands and a TON of push-ups. Uh oh. I can't do even one push-up. But I trudge through, doing half push-ups and note where I am. How cool will it be when I do my first full push-up? Two or three? Make it through the whole class?!?! We end with ab work and a little bit of cool down, but definitely show up early to do your stretching + maybe finish with a little bit too (this is a great time to take advantage of all that yoga knowledge you've accrued—not only in stretching, but in activating your core throughout class and remembering your form... shoulders down, pelvis positioning, relax your jaw/hips, knowing your edge and going there. Those are some of my internal reminders anyway).

Day three: My shoulders are still killing me—I wonder what we'll do today. What did you say? Arms and shoulders? Well, crap. Ok, let's do this! Come to find out, my favorite work out so far. I needed a little ego boost after all those push-ups (or whatever you call what I was attempting to do). From the cardio warm up to the arm work to the ab work—that class was made for me!

Tomorrow we do legs again—eeks! But I'm so happy with not only my few accomplishments, but also for what will come, in seeing how far I go. Keybeck is an excellent instructor, always kind in his encouragement and with amazing energy. The class I'm in comes in all shapes and sizes, so that was comforting for this out of shape girl. And, as I said on facebook, "I hate going, I don't like being there, but I just keep repeating to myself it's only 1 hour out of your day, keep pushing... and when it's all done, I feel amazing + ridiculously proud of myself + stinking (p-u) with accomplishment."  

Thank you—to Janet for inspiring me and to Keybeck + Marcela for being a fantastic coaches—namaste

Four Elements Yoga | Austin, TX

That sweet, lil bunny face was the mascot of our class—and the only good thing I can report about this experience, unfortunately. Buckle up, I have to conquer a bad review, which I hate doing more than anything on this blog. <sigh>

LOCATION: Hoofing it around Austin again, there really is so much construction I can't imagine driving anywhere around here. But this city will be gorgeous in a couple years. That being said, pretty easy to find and near my hotel, so bonus!   
STUDIO: I liked the set up of this space, which is upstairs from a restaurant. Two practice spaces (one with aerial yoga and one with aerial silks). The instructor told us the space was built for the aerial work—with reinforced steel beams that are high enough to allow some decent air between the silks and the ground, if needed. There was a bathroom I didn't check, when you walk in the front door you're immediately greeted by the front desk. I do wish I would have known which room we were going into, we all hung out in the reception area until class started. And that was awkward.
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Aerial Asana (All Levels)—Aerial yoga is a unique class blending yoga and aerial work. Yoga asanas or poses are practiced in, around and supported by a fabric hammock similar the ones you might see an acrobat dance in at the circus. Aerial yoga can be a gentle and restorative class for those who wish to stretch and move at a slow and gentle pace; aerial yoga can also be tailored to the more advanced practitioner looking to deepen and explore poses in a new way. This type of yoga is easy adaptable to any fitness level and a perfect place to begin working towards inversions with the gentle support of the fabric. Yes, tricks, flips, spinning, swinging and conditioning in the air are also available for the adventurous at heart! $25 (I paid online to reserve my spot, I highly recommend this for Aerial classes, if you just show up there's a good chance you won't get in).
INSTRUCTOR: Lydia: Lydia is Four Elements Co-owner, having opened Four Elements blending her life-long love of movement and her understanding of healing through movement. Lydia has a bachelors in Psychology having graduated Summa Cum Laude from St. Edward's. It was during her time studying psychology that she began to understand how movement, dance, yoga and aerial arts can offer deep change and lasting healing and personal transformation. Lydia put her PhD aspirations on hold indefinitely and instead turned her energies to sharing the inspiration and passion for aerial movement and aerial yoga that she had discovered. Aerial Yoga confronts your limits, trust, fear, self-love, are just some of the areas that you can expect transformation in Lydia's Aerial Asana classes. She strives to make aerial movement accessible to everyone and welcomes the brand-new beginner! Expect to break through your barriers!

So... yeah. I really did try to question myself. Are you reading this wrong? Are you being sensitive? Are you staying open? No. No. Yes. We started off class talking about what people needed, as Lydia brought down the swings from the ceiling (which was a really smart set up, by the way, short of the fact you can't adjust them for different people's heights). I asked for shoulder openers, as I often ask for—saying I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Lydia dismissed that pretty quickly saying, "Yeah, we all do that." Ok.

Lydia moved me to a new location, so I could swing freely of walls, but she moved me to a swing that was too tall for me. At this point, I'm staying quiet to see how this all unfolds. This is only my third class, so maybe she has something different in mind I haven't experienced yet. We then spend probably half the class working with arm strength + shoulder openers (my biggest weaknesses on both accounts, so this is needed!). But with every shoulder opening she would walk over to me and say, "Open up! You need to move your shoulders back and down." She would try to guide my shoulders back further. She even went so far to say, "You asked for this, that's why I'm picking on you." We pick on people in yoga classes? Finally on the last, frustrating instruction from her I say, "Sorry, that's as far as they go—it's why I asked for shoulder openers." Yep, Lydia, I spend over 15 hours a day at a computer. Maybe that's more than what everyone does....

But I honestly wasn't irritated at this point—swear. It's the whole class that built up to my current disappointment. We eventually move into some downward dogs (that I can barely touch the floor for + the swing is now digging into my hips—and at this point I realize there are other ladies struggling with the wrong heights of their swings too. Lydia does instruct me to get a towel to pad the swing. Saying we have to fidget with the swings to get them to work with us—sure, totally agree. But starting with the correct height would do me wonders at this point). We learn to activate the back muscles and to fly/swing back and forth. This is fun. One women struggles with this pose, and the instruction to her is also a bit abrasive. Then we go into a position where we stand in the swing with both feet and basically move into a position which frees our feet and we're using our arm strength to hold ourselves up. Again, I have horrible arm strength, so this wasn't successful. But, as always, I try challenging poses three times to help train my brain into a new way of activity for my body—knowing at the very least I'm going in a good direction, even if I can't accomplish the position. After those three times I wait patiently as others work on the pose + admire those who have been working with this class for awhile. Lydia checks in, "Are you doing ok?" Not in a nurturing way, so much as it seemed to be in a "You're in over head, aren't you." kind of way. I responded with, "Yep, great! Thank you."

We then move to sitting in the swing—and this is just horrible timing, but the bunny decided to flop on his side and show us all his belly. No one else noticed this but me, and so I was the only one who let out a giggle when Lydia asks us all to sit in the swing. She responds with, "You think it's funny to sit in the swing?" ... pause, it's official, she doesn't like me. "Um, no, I think it's funny that bunny flopped over and showed us all his belly."

So... we go into some upside down hanging poses, which feels so good on the spine. Lydia is definitely excited by more advanced students—which I know has to be pretty normal for instructors, but at this point in the class I'm just insulted.

And then we're asked to watch as Lydia demonstrates the harder moves that some of us may not be able to do (ahem, Anni)... she then flips into the only three moves I know how to do on my home set up (did I mention I put in an aerial swing in my garage? I love it, but definitely need some more classes so I can do more than these three positions):

gargoyle, vampire, and shoulder stand

So—I get into the swing, I flip around into all three poses and I decide to take advantage of some core work and hold the shoulder stand for as long as possible. Now I have Lydia's attention—she compliments me on my core strength, but unfortunately, it's just too late. There's no way we can connect during this class. I've checked out. I'm so disappointed. In my other aerial classes I've had so much fun, never feeling judged for my abilities (or lack there of), but thanks to the internal awkward moments of "No, really, I'm ok... I know I'm a curvy girl who looks like she has no fitness what so ever, but I got this." Or the other funny moment for me—when Lydia first asked if I mind being adjusted, I thought she said, "Do you like tex mex?" Surely she didn't say that, "Huh?" Again, "Do you like tex mex?" Ok fine, I do, "Sure!" She then went to adjust me... oh... curvy girl is apparently a little hungry too, lol.

I really would like to think that Lydia and I just weren't on the same page—she seemed amazing with her regulars. But if I were to visit Austin again, and this studio, I would opt for a different instructor.

Monday, August 12

Be Yoga | Austin, TX

First yoga class in Austin! I hadn't been feeling very good all day—something I ate. So I thought I'd try sweating it out. Whew, it worked. Check out my first experience with Forrest Yoga.

LOCATION: There is a lot construction going on in downtown Austin—so I'm guessing driving to here may not be as easy, and on top of that a lot of parking spots are missing for the construction. I, luckily, walked and had no problem. Plus, on my walk I discovered all of Rainey St and how cool it is.  
STUDIO: What a refreshing space. It's the first floor of a corporate/city building.  The front is clear from the street, name and all. The inside is sparse and calm. All in one room, you walk straight in to the check-in desk. This is where you pay (donation-based of $10-20, cash or charge). Behind check-in is a water fountain and bathroom, the rest is all practice space. One wall is all mirror, which I'm not a fan of, but I took off my glasses and once we started practicing I wasn't aware it was even there. There was high ceilings with exposed beams—slightly industrial, with beautiful lighting.    
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Forrest Yoga, designed by Ana Forrest, uses dynamic pose sequencing, taught with compassion, to deeply engage the breath into every cell while building strength, intelligent body awareness, and flexibility. In a warm setting, we infuse the benefits of sweating out toxins with teaching students to deepen their relationship with their authentic selves. The classes are a series of carefully constructed postures designed to strip numbness from your core, help you breathe and move in ways that release emotional shielding, and prevent and heal injury.
INSTRUCTOR: Rebecca Bachman: I came to yoga six years ago as an intensity junky with with sport ADD and anxiety. Fueled by coffee, I haphazardly pin-balled from one minor injury to the next, practicing asanas as a mere cool-down/physical therapy, where I could challenge my brain to be a little more still, with only a vague awareness of the connection between the two. And then, one fateful morning last fall, I found myself deep in my first Forrest Yoga sequence and thought, "Aha!" Finally, it found me: the intersection between athleticism and relaxation; intensity and safety; inward exploration and bold expression that I always craved. With the balance between these extremes in mind, I set out to learn the tools to heal, strengthen, and thrive inside and out. I completed a 200 hour teacher training with Ana Forrest in May, 2013. Now fueled by heat and energy harvested from deep within, I am itching to share the tools for exploring this exciting new balance.

My first class in Forrest yoga and my first class alone—I ended up being the only student. I've been one of two before, but never the only one. And I always thought it would be amazing, but once confronted with the scenario, I was pretty intimidated. The instructor would only be watching me, eeks! But Rebecca was wonderful and calming—the attention to detail was amazing and nurturing. Short of my fear of tooting + knowing I couldn't pretend it was someone else, it was great! :) 
I do have to say this—Forrest yoga, pretty similar to Hatha only Rebecca did really have me focus on stretching and tailbone positioning to protect the spine. Not that Hatha wouldn't do that, but because Forrest was created by a woman, it takes into consideration the female body and how to adjust to it more (which again, I'm guessing most of my female instructors are too by default of their own bodies). But I believe the way Rebecca focused in on locations was a little different. Most obvious was the instruction  to let the head go. Triangle, reversed triangle, even coming up from a a laying position—let it go. It was a real nice release to let gravity open up the neck while I'm working on a balance pose. It also was an interesting way to change up the balance and activate the core more. 
Speaking of core, holy cow. The other part of Forrest is it activated a lot in me, I can't believe how much sweat poured out while holding these poses. I felt bad when I was adjusted—I was disgusting! But, thank goodness, I felt like I had completely detoxed by the end of class, and was grateful for the extra push Rebecca provided through each pose—through how long we held, through increasing the breath more, through the release of certain parts for a nice stretch, and through activating the core through pelvis/tail bone positioning. 
I don't feel like I know enough about Forrest yoga to really say what worked or not—or how it worked, but I'd like to take a couple more classes to see if I react the same way and know if it's really for me. It may intimidate someone as a very first class, because it asks a lot out of the body. But the beauty of it is you're in the pose longer to understand it more—which is priceless for a newbie.
Thank you for a wonderful experience, Rebecca, namaste.