Birthday resolutions

For my birthday, I resolve to improve my communication skills.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that my communication skills, in particular, my speaking skills, have gone down since college and grad school. I am inarticulate and rambling. I work in a lab every day and don’t talk to a lot of people. I have been asocial for way too long.

I believe that anyone can learn anything. Adaptability, like mathematical reasoning, spatial awareness, artistic ability, and empathy, is an intelligence. Adaptability is the ability to learn new things, to quickly glean the essence of a new skill and plan a course of action that culminates in the mastery of that skill. It is the ability to become more intelligent.

The trait that comes hand in hand with adaptability is attitude. Having the right attitude is not indulging in the delusion that “I CAN DO ANYTHING”. It is accepting that I can’t do it now but might be able to tomorrow. It is acknowledging that I can change.

On that note, I will start by writing in this blog again. I noticed that during times when I write more, I am also more articulate. I will aim to write every day, but will set a goal of making at least one post per week. That’s one post per week for the next 52 weeks.

I drank the Kool-Aid, or maybe I just like doing extreme things.

Bikram yoga sounded like a stupid idea. I tried it anyways and have nothing but positive things to say about it.

I don’t like exercising indoors. I like running around outdoors. When I hit the treadmill in February, all I can think of is that I’m working hard but literally getting nowhere. I also can’t stand fitness classes. To me, they seem like forced enthusiasm for becoming less sedentary, like taking a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

So of course, I don’t like the idea of yoga. It’s hippie-ish and fad-ish. It targets 20 to 30-year-old white females who may also be Zen Buddhists. It markets itself as exercise but involves a lot of sitting down and staying still.

So of course, I already hate the idea of Bikram yoga– yoga in 105-degree weather. Ugh. I am the person who bikes in shorts in 40-degree weather. The only thing I hate more than sweating is sweating when you’re not supposed to, and in my mind, you are not supposed to sweat when you are barely moving.

Well, I attended my first Bikram class (and my fourth ever yoga class) at the Hot Yoga Spot in Albany, and there is a lot more to it than you might think. You know I’ve drunk the Kool-aid when I’m pretty much convinced that the inventor, Bikram Choudhury, is a fricken’ genius. Bikram yoga is practiced at 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity to replicate the environment in India, and all Bikram sessions consist of the same 26 poses.

A lot of people say that the heat revs up your metabolism and allows your muscles to work more effectively/efficiently to achieve the correct poses. Another idea is that sweating helps flush out toxins. I don’t buy that. Your metabolism will speed up at a certain point beyond our physiological temperature range, but you will also be hindered from accomplishing strenuous exercise by the fatigue and despair that accompanies heat or cold. The temperature range at which human metabolism increases beyond 37 degrees C is also very narrow, because after that we tend to die. And peeing, not sweating, flushes out toxins.

In my (amateur) opinion, the REAL reason heat is so beneficial is that it functions not as a metabolism-booster, but as a psychological aid in achieving focus and form. I may be wrong, but this is what I observed from attending that class:

1. Each Bikram class consists of the same 26 poses, so the Bikram philosophy clearly emphasizes achieving proper form and attaining perfection. Unlike Vinyassa, which is movement-oriented, Bikram focuses on still poses. Each motion is carried out with deliberation until the final pose is attained and held. The heat and humidity is so pervasive that it forces you to focus on perfecting your poses. I am a very easily-distracted person, so focusing on holding a pose would normally bore me. Bikram, however, simplifies the task– either focus on the heat and suffer, or focus on the pose and survive. The end result is that your mind ends up somewhere in between and you end up dissociating a little (that’s the best description I have). I remember holding a one-legged squat and realizing that both the heat and the muscle pain had faded to a buzz. I was aware that there was heat and pain, but I felt that I could almost choose not to feel it. It was very weird.

2. This may or may not apply to all forms of yoga, but Bikram in particular emphasizes self-awareness. The air is so heavy that every breath you take must be controlled and deliberate. You are physically not allowed to pant or become out of breath. There is also no instructor to imitate, so every movement must be conceived in your mind before it is synthesized by your body.

The purpose of heat is not to speed up your metabolism or warm up your muscles, it’s to slow your mind and body down so you can concentrate on perfecting your pose.

I am a convert.

I highly recommend that everyone who is young and healthy try Bikram yoga at least once in their lives. Just remember to drink a lot water beforehand.

I have too many hobbies.

At a friend’s graduation party, I spoke to a guy who happens to be an avid snake enthusiast, and was reminded of my obsession with birds back in middle school and high school. I sort of dropped birding in college. I birded Normanskill Saturday morning sans binoculars, and I can confirm that I’ve gotten bitten by the birding bug again.

The birding bug starts with, but doesn’t end with, birds. No no no. It starts with birds and purchasing a pair of binoculars. I’m looking at the Celestron 71332 Nature DX 8×42, which is $125 on Amazon. I’ll eventually want to get a spotting scope to look at shorebirds and hawks (probably $300). I’ll eventually include mammals and reptiles/amphibians. I’ll want a way to document everything, so I’ll want a camera– probably a DSLR ($500+). Now comes the question– do I want to try taking pictures from a distance, or focus instead on macros. The answer is: both, of course– birds at a distance, and herps up close. I’ll start with “digiscoping”– mating the camera with the spotting scope to achieve high magnification, but eventually I’ll want a real telescopic lens ($$$) to get real quality pics. I’ll also want a macro lens ($$$) to capture the fine details on the snakes and salamanders I plan to find. I’ll want to photograph other things too, so I’ll start looking for flowers, fungi, and bugs as well.

I just spent an hour talking myself out of dropping $125 on the binos. What starts out with looking for birds can very easily (I know myself) lead to a zillion other expensive hobbies, which I don’t have time for. It’s almost as if my need to pursue these follow-up hobbies transcends my desire to do them. It’s very weird, but I know myself. I have no self control.

My current hobby list includes:
-riding road bikes (Spring, summer, fall. This is the major time consumer.)
-riding mountain bikes (seasonal, between road biking and running season)
-fixing bikes (constant)
-running (I sort of do this when I put the bike away in the fall/winter. It’s seasonal, so not a problem!)
-collecting shells (also seasonal)
-fossils (on occasion)
-reading and blogging (constant. Well, blogging is new.)
-cooking and baking (constant. I keep cooking logs now.)

I’m planning on adding guitar to this list at some point– maybe as a winter thing. Ugh. I have too many hobbies.