Last week I started doing a yoga DVD at home. This was somewhat of a small miracle since I usually end up watching workout DVD’s on my couch. After successfully doing a 20-minute routine for a few days in a row, I decided to graduate to an even longer one - the “Pursuit of Happy Hips” DVD I got from Lululemon about a year ago but never did. So last night - I didn’t quite make it through the entire routine (there’s about 5 different ones), but I did make it through 40 minutes! That’s a 100% improvement on time - pretty darn good, if you ask me.
As I did the poses, I realized just how tight my muscles were. I could barely touch the ground in uttanasana. I needed to get to an actual instructor-led class. It was time for a come back.
I used to go to yoga every week. But then I got lazy. The Giants played a lot of Monday night games in August and September. So I told myself that I’d go back after Portland. But then the baseball playoffs happened, and that was all consuming.
But its been 3 weeks since the Giants won the World Series (had to sneak that in), so last night, I made a promise to myself that I would go. I kept repeating it to myself all day so that it stuck in my head. There was no getting out of it.
I printed out the holiday class schedule and noticed that the class before mine wasn’t scheduled tonight. That meant that I needed to get there extra early because - full confession - when in a group exercise class, I have to be in the front. Have to. And not for vain reasons, but mostly because I like to see first-hand what the instructor is doing, that and the instructor usually helps the people in the front the most.
I got there 40 minutes early and sure enough, was the first one in the room. Alex, the instructor, showed up a few minutes later. I’d been taking classes from Alex for about a year, but haven’t recently, so we spent some time catching up and I got a 1:1 session showing me different poses that would help me with my troubled areas.
But even better, we got into a really in-depth conversation on the practice of yoga. I got to tell him that in all honesty, yoga my least favorite kind of exercise. My arms are too short to do a lot of the yoga poses. They really are. It’s the one exercise where I will look at the clock and count down the minutes till its over.
He was ever so graceful with my opinions, and asked me to think about yoga beyond just poses. Think of the “connectors” - like - what can you do in a pose to make it even more effective. Because that’s what yoga is - getting rid of the gunk in our body to make us more effective. (That’s all he had to say to hook me in).
He went on to explain that there are subtle changes we can make to gain the most out of the practice. For example, when sitting in easy pose (indian style), bring your feet together. Then, connect your pinky toes with the ground and lift your heels. Subtle changes to poses like this will enhance the pose and make it more effective.
In theory, I got he was saying. And the closest I could relate to it was in swimming. When I’m swimming freestyle, sometimes I feel like I’m exerting a lot of effort. So I reposition my head to really keep my face in the water. That slight change in position will suddenly make me feel like I’m gliding effortlessly. Sometimes it takes me a while to find that. Sometimes I can hold it, and sometimes I’ll lose it again. But those are the subtle changes he spoke of that can make yoga practice most efficient.
I put in a special request, to focus on hips and piriformis in class, which I needed and we did a lot of. During one of the poses, a warrior pose against the wall, he said something that really stuck. I can’t remember what it was verbatim, but in essence he asked, “What can you release in your mind to make this pose more effective? What’s holding you back?”
I think a lot of times we are our own worst enemy. I know I am. I’m pretty good about not letting outside forces hold me back; it’s my mind that I struggle with the most. All year I have felt this struggle. This struggle of being unfocused and not willing my body to do what I want it to. Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I guess. But I’d been unwilling to ask myself that question, so when he said it out loud; it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I have no idea what the answer is...actually I do, its fear, but of what, I still need to think about. But just hearing it spoken was like addressing the elephant in the room (well, in my mind).
At the end of class, as we came out of savasana, he asked us to think of two words that would describe how we felt in that moment. For me, they were relieved and rejuvenated. My mind and my body felt refreshed and at ease. Like a whole bunch of gunk had left the room. What yoga is all about.
So please...please, please, please remind me, nag me, and force me to keep going to yoga. Every Monday night at 6 pm.