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The Bikram Chronicles: Birthday, Booze, and Bikram

Last week I only did Bikram 3 times. What?! It was my birthday and people kept twisting my arm to celebrate! Let me let you in on a little not-secret about your late twenties: 2-3 beers = a hangover. A manageable one; the kind where you just need a shower and a coconut water, but you still won’t feel “right” the next day. So say, hypothetically, that it’s your 29th birthday and you have 5 beers and a shot of whiskey (ok, a sip of whiskey, you give most of it to your good friend Powell because even though it’s free, it seems like a bad idea, and he’s a dude so can drink more than you). Do you think you’ll want to go to Bikram the next day (or work? but you’ll go anyway)? Answer hint: you won’t. I also had a freelance nightmare project to wrap up, which was sucking up my soul time.

The celebrating, though, must be tempered, and so I made sure I got to the Bikram studio at least a few times. Only one of those times did I go with a hangover, and it was the best/worst decision of my week. My equilibrium was off, so I had a lot of difficulty getting into poses. I skipped Camel Pose altogether because it always makes me dizzy and I was hanging on by a thread at that point. Instead, I lay on my back and watched the thermometer near the window tick up to 109 degrees. I nearly kissed the instructor when he opened the door, except that would’ve involved getting off my mat. But afterwards I felt about 80% better, and proud of myself for not just watching Netflix all day.

This week is set to be even more hectic than last, though, so the only way I’m getting to Bikram is if I do that thing that I hate: wake up early. Shudder.

Today’s Bikram Tip:
Coconut water is your best friend if you’re feeling hungover dehydrated.

Proust! Slàinte! ¡Salud!

This isn’t a pose used in Bikram. It’s just hilarious.

The Bikram Chronicles: Santa in September

Two days ago I entered the Bikram studio just moments after witnessing one of the purest of pure New York moments it is possible to encounter: a man in a Santa costume expressing his road rage over a minor fender bender by beating a wooden baseball bat into the hood of another car. Only here can you pack that much crazy into a regular Wednesday evening in September, so I paused to join the little crowd of people who had gathered on the sidewalk. It just so happened that at that moment I was FaceTiming with my best friend who lives in Australia, and I flipped the screen around so she could check it out as well. You’re welcome, by the way, Sarah! Think of that as a gift from me to ease your homesickness! But the very best part was when the little boy next to me looked up at his dad and said, “Santa’s angry.” I actually had to bend over and catch my breath from laughing.

It turns out that when you stop to watch Santa lose his shit, you arrive at Bikram after all the good spots are taken, and so I put my mat down in the front of the crowded room and lay down in savasanah, trying really hard not to think, Why was he dressed like Santa? It’s September!

Being that I only arrived about a minute before class, I didn’t have a lot of time to clear my head before we were beginning the first asana of the session. But something funny happened when I stood on the mat and looked at myself in the mirror- my head cleared itself. It was the first time I was practicing right in front of the mirror; generally I avoid it and leave those spots for the advanced students who actually want them. But seeing myself doing the poses so clearly honed my focus. Not only was I able to do all the poses, but for the very first time I actually felt stronger. I was so focused, in fact, that I completely forgot about the Santa incident until the next night when a friend asked how the yoga was going. I decided to skip yesterday due to being pretty fried after work, so I had to think about the previous day’s session, and Santa’s road rage came flashing back to me.

It occurred to me that if I hadn’t been late, I wouldn’t have been so close to the mirror, and wouldn’t have had such clarity in my practice. If you think about it, Santa inadvertently gave me a gift of sorts; well, you come to this conclusion if you do some mental gymnastics around the facts that:
1. Santa isn’t real; he’s somebody’s embarrassing uncle in a costume
2. that particular Santa had probably just drank a bottle of Jäger when I encountered him
3. his road rage had nothing to do with my special snowflake Millennial existence
4.I actually hate the phrase “everything happens for a reason” because… no. Sometimes shit just happens.

Anyway if you ignore all that cynicism you get serendipity. So I’m going to go with the serendipitous view of the whole thing.

Namaste, Santa! I hope you get into AA and Anger Management and that everything works out for you!

Santa

The Bikram Chronicles: Seeing Stars

Bikram session number 3 completely kicked my ass. Like it picked my ass up, and booted it across the yoga studio while cackling maniacally. I was dizzy and nauseous and had to sit some of it out when I began seeing stars. This pissed me off. I am not a goddamn quitter! And then I remembered I was in a yoga studio and I was supposed to be zen and all that shit. So I returned to my breathing and resolved to be gentle with myself. Besides, when you start seeing stars in the middle of a pose, it’s better to take a break than to pass out on your mat, that is if you don’t pass out on the person next to you- and the person next to me didn’t look terribly friendly. If I’m going to faint, I’d rather it not be on someone who was scowling with her eyes closed during her pre-class savasana.

In the middle of this little psychological argument I was having with myself about mental and physical will power vs. the very real possibility that I could faint, the instructor gleefully regaled us with stories of how he’s a notoriously difficult teacher, and that people avoid his class because he pushes so hard. No shit, I was thinking. I was also thinking, I can’t wait until I’m better at this shit so I can take your class without feeling like a 300 lb sixth grader who just climbed a flight of stairs! 

But struggling yesterday was not necessarily a bad thing. As I was eating my dinner an hour or so later, all I could think about was getting back in there the next day. It was the first thing on my mind this morning too. Hopefully today’s session will be an improvement.

Let’s just say I totally get how some people become super obsessed with Bikram, though I’m still slightly unsure how to keep this going considering what a time commitment and a hassle it can be: from the round trip commute to the shower after class the whole thing takes about 3 hours. If this is going to be a regular thing for me I’m going to have to become that thing I hate: a morning person. Plus, I have to lug my mat back and forth since they don’t do storage. There’s also the laundry situation. Bikram clothes are completely soaked after class and need to be cared for properly or they will mildew. Most New Yorkers do not have a washer dryer. I am one of them. So this is a pain in the ass…

Bikram is just a pain in the ass. Literally and figuratively. But I’ve already drunk the Kool-aid (and paid for the Groupon), so forward march, or stretch, or whatever.

A Little Break

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Last week, my wonderful, beautiful, brilliant, and totally badass grandmother, Marie Sullivan O’Brien, passed away at age 87. I’m working on writing a tribute to her, but haven’t got a finished product yet because, to put it simply, I am grieving. Check back in a few days when the Ugly Cat will return with some new posts. 

Her obituary, written by her eldest child, my aunt Erin, is a lovely read, and can be found here

 

Spring Is Here! Flowers! Fresh Air! Aaaand Street Harassment!

Spring is an awesome time of year (vitamin D, open toed shoes, margaritas at outdoor cafes!), but with it comes an uptick in street harassment that already has me grinding my teeth. It’s been a while since something has ticked me off enough to weigh in on it. I have been suffering from sexism fatigue for the better part of the past decade; there are so many sexist tropes that are widely viewed as acceptable: rape apologism, victim blaming, insane beauty standards, the pay gap, etc.. When I read some dumb shit Bill O’Reilly says about the downside of women holding office or get called 20 different versions of “sweetheart” by the barista in Financier at Grand Central in a 3 minute conversation my eyes start to glaze over and I often just lie back and think about England.

I can barely muster up the energy to flip the bird to the men who make sucking and kissing noises at me while I’m out for a run. That, and I don’t feel like dealing with the aftermath of flipping them off (“Bitch. Dyke. I’ll rape you. Fucking skank. I was just being nice, fucking bitch.”) Or dealing with the equally exhausting conversation later when I vent to the wrong person. “What were you wearing? Maybe you shouldn’t have given him the finger? That didn’t really happen.”

It happened. It happens all the time and it happens all over the world. Yes all of those things have been said to me. I’m sorry to report that this happens so frequently that any feelings of incredulity you may possess do not erase its prevalence. Also, what does my outfit have to do with the fact that a grown ass man has so little self control or respect for himself that he can’t keep his pervy thoughts inside his own damn head so that I can go about my workout without looking over my shoulder? His desire to comment on my body does not my trump my right to walk through the world without my shoulders up around my ears. It’s so laughable to think of the situation in reverse that recently several parodies of women harassing men on the street have been floating around the internet. They are equal parts cringe-worthy and absurd. Mostly the men are just puzzled because they’re not used to being talked to like that.

For women, street harassment is a part of daily life. The funny/not funny thing is at this point street harassment is almost like white noise to me. As is the cultural attitude surrounding it that puts the onus on women to not be harassed, as if possessing a vagina magically makes us capable of  keeping another human being from doing the dumb shit they’re intent on doing. (Seriously, if this is true, please point me in the direction of the on-switch. I’d like to get a move on world peace.) This attitude insists that women are responsible for street harassment if they are attractive, if they wear a certain type of clothing, do not extricate themselves from a situation immediately, don’t reply to the harassment “correctly”, or that it’s not really a problem at all.

I’m all for personal safety and for safety precautions, but that’s been the prevailing dialogue of this age-old issue from the start and it obviously doesn’t solve the problem or get to the root of it. And the root of it is the “boys will be boys” attitude towards the men who don’t have any respect for women’s boundaries. And I call bullshit on that because most men manage to get through life without saying “nice ass” to a jogger when they pass her in their car. Most men have enough common sense and curtesy to know that not every thought in your head should pop out of your mouth, and that it’s not cool to say things that make other people feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

This is why Hollaback has become a global force for or change. And Hollaback is the tits, by the way. They do such good work in combatting street harassment and have so many resources. Back in their early days, I submitted a post on behalf of a friend, and was quoted in AMNY about it as well. It’s since been archived, which just goes to show that this issue isn’t going anywhere and there’s plenty more progress to be made. If you’re already feeling the cat-calling fatigue, or you’re just interested in learning more about street harassment, get on over to Hollaback and check them out. Or add your experiences to the comments below if you just feel like venting.

Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on Creepy Guy Syndrome.

Note: If you’re about to talk any of that MRA noise, your comment will be deleted. Ain’t nobody got time for that.