So, for some time now, I have been feeling like I need to take up yoga again. There has been a lot of unbalance in my relationship (though things are absolutely fantastic right now, if you don’t count the fact that Jake woke me up with his snoring last night). Additionally, work is a bit hellish at the moment, and I have been able to feel my body storing up rage. I got so frustrated loading the dishwasher the other day that I broke two glasses.
So I sucked it up, went down to the campus gym (I work at a university, remember, so we have great facilities) and signed up for the regular gym membership. Then I shelled out extra for the group exercise membership and for the yoga/pilates membership (an extra $200!). The regular gym membership is another $200 although that’s withheld from my paychecks throughout the year and so is pretty painless, but the total that I was shelling out was over $400. For someone who is still trying to pay off credit card debt, that’s a heckuva lotta cash.
Then I went to my first yoga class yesterday, and knew instantly that it was worth it.
I had an absolutely amazing instructor when I lived in Florida. I went to yoga at least 5 times a week, often more, and was one of the class models (which really only means that I sat in the front of the class and did all the poses so that students could watch me, which freed up the instructor, Charles, to walk around the room and correct people’s form). I was repaid in free massages, since he was also a professional massage therapist. Best gig ever. He was an older guy but we were great friends – I used to hang out with him at his house all the time, and he is the one who got me to become a vegetarian. At the time I thought that the yoga would stick and the veggie lifestyle wouldn’t, but it turned out to be the opposite.
The instructor that I saw yesterday wasn’t the greatest, but I know that’s at least partly because Charles fostered a very meditative practice, so I am used to going through all the poses slowly, accompanied by a mini-lecture of the names of the poses (in Sanskrit and English), an explanation of the bodily systems each pose benefits, and an explanation of how and why the poses fit into a yogic philosophy of life. The class I went to yesterday was an advanced flow class, and the first half was very high-paced Sun Salutations. Plus, I am incredibly out of shape (especially my hip flexors, which used to be my most flexible part but have lost almost everything they ever had) even if I am getting totally skinny via Weight Watchers. But then I realized I didn’t need to have Charles physically there. I could hear him in my head:
Yoga is not about competing against the other students in the class, it is about concentrating on yourself.
Honor your limits, even as you challenge them.
Turn off the part of you that tunes in to the world. Let the world and your thoughts flow by – notice them, but do not get attached.
Listen to your body as it tells you what it needs.
Breathe deeply, slowly, and be whole within yourself.
Everything takes time. Appreciate time; it is not your enemy.
The realization that I can hear him talking in any class I attend means that I don’t necessarily need to wait to take up my practice again until I find someone I click with as much as I did with him (which is the excuse I had been using). By the end of the class, I was feeling calm and centered. The instructor said that she really hoped I came back because I (apparently) have amazing backbends, and she wants to help me advance in this area of my practice. That was of course nice to hear, but is not the point. Yoga grounds me (as Charles would say, all you need to do yoga is your body and the floor...). I went home and had a huge salad for dinner and felt light and clean in myself.
I also got a haircut on Monday, and in addition to the usual forearm/hand and scalp massage that I get with the cuts, she also gave me a shoulder and upper neck massage. This was one of the things that reminded me of Charles and got me to go to the gym and finally sign up for yoga, but it also made me realize that I need to get massages regularly again, even if I have to sacrifice slightly in my budget. The BF is great at accommodating my need for physical touch, but he hates massages himself and would do a terrible job giving me one even if I asked for it (which I wouldn’t because I know better).
It is easy to carry our stress in our bodies, and for me, the clarity that someone else’s hands and words have to help me identify and release this is vital. One of my favorite exercises from Charles’ class was to lay in Corpse Pose (flat on your back, arms slightly away from the body with the palms up, legs slightly apart) and work your way up your body. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and clench the muscles in your toes and feet as tightly as you can, then release. Then work your way up your body – calves, thighs, buttocks, stomach, hands, arms, shoulders, jaw, face. You can identify where you carry your stress because when it comes time to tighten that part of your body, you will realize you don’t have to – it’s already tight. I never realized where in my body I carried my stress until doing this exercise (in my jaw).
I am looking forward to honoring myself in the months ahead, and to knowing that this will enable me to honor the others around me. Namaste.
What’s your favorite way to get centered? Let us know in the comments below, and then try these fine posts: