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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Focusing your mind - Bikram Yoga followup

This is a followup to the previous post which described physical changes after starting Bikram Yoga.

Before trying to describe the Behavioral changes over the last 6 weeks (Yes, it has been 6 weeks and so far we have made it to 40/43 days!), there are a few important physical changes that were left out in the previous post.

- Softening and shinier skin. With all that sweating your skin becomes extremely soft like a baby's skin. It also starts reflecting light. Your nose, forehead etc. reflect flash when photographed. The front part of your leg where the skin stretches over the bone also starts to get shiny.

- Hair loss (if you can call it that) in select areas of the body. Inner thighs, the inside of your arms near the elbows, the calf area, the few hairs on your chest all gone. There are a lot of guys who show up to class who are as hairy as they get, but just letting you know that for someone who did not have much body hair to start with this is was a good thing... and yes, your chest reflects a lot more light than before when flash photographed.

- Phenomenal ability to shut your ears from the inside. Well, guess all married men acquire this ability to filter out select sounds from the wife, kids, MIL over time, but this is like magic. You can stop listening to things without ear plugs! Like a switch. Needless to say the four women in the house are all upset with Daddy's new found skill.

There was also one day when I slowed down in class after the first 20 minutes when the towel turned a bright yellow where my sweat pooled on it. Having been through Jaundice in 5th grade was worried about having done something to my liver and started doing one set instead of two throughout the rest of the class. The teacher told me that it is normal for some folks to sweat yellow and to drink more water. Later internet searching showed that this is a reaction to the urea from the sweat (same urea from urine gets out through sweat) to some of the new bio-degradable laundry detergents. As it so happened we brought a new "eco" detergent from Costco two days back and it is not a concern anymore.

Now that we have all that documented for other people who might look for information, here is the part about the mind.

The first few days of Yoga was spent in coping with the body changes. It also came with guilt for not having treated the body nicely all this time since the accident, for abusing it with a lot of 14-18 hour work days, bad food choices etc. etc. Then there were thoughts of "why didn't I do this before. This place is so close to home" and some internal justification that it was not meant to be then and it is meant to be now.

After the first week, there was a total sense of detachment with "high decibel noise". When the kids or wife spoke, daddy listened. When they raised their voice, it was filtered out. Same thing at work in meetings where folks got all hyper. Invariably, you realize that when it gets to that point at work or home, filtering out does not change anything. The people who scream don't accomplish anything anyways and only when they calm down themselves do we get to a solution. The only times in the last six weeks this control was not exercisable was when someone lied and my face and ears turned red because blood rushed to my face. Most of this may be commonsense and things regular people do all the time, but it is a new experience for me.

For a person who was always "hyperactive" and quick to get excited over technical things, this is a big change. In other words my signal to noise has gone up by orders of magnitude. This is perceived by people around me as "operating at a higher level", "separating the wheat from the chaff" etc. etc.

Right now, the reaction to anything that is touted as a major problem is "okay, think. what next". There is a deep breath that is being taken before making any serious decision or before opening ones mouth in meetings or at home. Sometimes it is better to leave things unsaid and when you take that breath you realize it and stop yourself.

Controlling your anger is more difficult when you start yoga. The first week was tough. It was like you became a women and were going through PMS. There was a lot of frustration, anger, and happiness. Was really emotional. This went away after the first week.

This change might be perceived by some as a "he doesn't care anymore" or "is he going to quit?" or sometimes your kids might make statements to your wife like "daddy doesn't listen to me anymore" and your wife might think you are going to leave the house and go to the mountains. You walk away from situations where you would have stood and fought and the other person just goes "what happened? you don't want a fight?", "you not man enough?"..

Have realized that this aloofness is not a good thing right now at this stage of life, especially in light of the man enough part, and have corrected it in places.

Now for a sensitive topic. Internet sites, "Bikram quotes" from people who are writing negative articles about him, say that your drive to do things in bed is supposed to increase with yoga and this is something to brag about. On the contrary, the first two weeks after doing yoga, that was the last thing on my mind. All those pretty people you see in the studio and nothing stirs inside you. You go to Santa Cruz and there are good looking women frolicking in the beach and you don't get excited in any way.

Skimpy clad women are not new to me, even from ballroom dancing days. There it was all about blocking out that from your mind and focusing on the dancing. Here the issue seems to be that there is nothing to block. You expect your brain to work on blocking out a thought but it is like the thought didn't arise in the first place. Again, this is a personal experience and maybe something is different with me. If you tried yoga and went through the same or similar experience, please do drop a note in the comment box. There is not much out there in terms of experience from a guy's perspective. Probably guys are not outspoken when it comes to this topic and guess most guys would not want to talk about this, leave alone blog about this.

Have to admit that I have tried to think about this a little too long. Was this a reflection of how doing things in bed were in the past some way to feel alive or feel good about yourself and now that Yoga makes you feel good, you are okay with all that taking a backseat? Or is it the fact that sleeping earlier and focusing on your breathing taking priority over everything else? It is likely that the sleeping hours before the wife comes to bed and leaving hours before she gets up is the root cause and not some mind thing. Hence the request for others to share their comments. You might be perceived as self centered and selfish by your family if you went through similar things. Guys don't play "hard to get", girls do. So when a guy is perceived that way, something has definitely changed.

One theory (self analysis of course) is that even for a guy, there is a lot of hormone changes possibly going on what with compressing parts of the body and extending them and having blood flow to parts that have not seen such flows in ages. Maybe a side effect of those hormone changes? If you are touching your own forearm and go "wow.. this is smoother than my wife's hand" then maybe you have an issue. Even had a weird dream of me becoming like Lord Shiva in his ArdhaNarishvara form (half of his body is man and the other half is Parvathi).

Internet searches tell me that yoga by default reduces chemicals produced by body in stress situations (cortisol). It also stimulates all the glands in the body. From day 10 to day 30, could not care less about anything. Over the last ten days with some experimenting and self analysis, have come to the conclusion that :

- nothing wrong with me physically
- nothing wrong psychologically with respect to being turned on either but you have to willingly turn on a switch in your head and make it say you want it
- somehow the default setting for sensuality is turned off and you have to turn it on at will

So there again, if you feel your drive is gone and you don't seem be bothered by it, it may not be gone. It is very much there if you chose to go for it.

Having had no training as a doctor or a yogi and not having much data go with from the internet, this is the best I could do to summarize the last part. Yoga is supposed to make you realize that the "you" or "my" is not worth it. Guess you get there through a process where you first realize what the "you" is all about.

Recently the body and mind seem to have reached a steady state and the changes are not drastic. They are all gradual changes in strength, flexibility and the ability to focus or defocus on things and ideas. There is no more weight loss either. It has plateaued out.

Not going to add more posts on Yoga. If anything, will update these two posts or add things to the comment section. The real goal was to put these things out so that other folks looking for info. will at least see one persons perspective and add more data to their decision making process on continuing with Hot Yoga.

Life, just got interesting!


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