If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer of Yoga

I started my summer break declaring this to be the Summer of Yoga (last year I declared it to be the Summer of Core, but that didn't get past the first week) and taking a week of hot yoga classes. Unfortunately hot yoga in SouthLite does not compare to hot yoga in Emerald City (where I first tried it).  It turns out that we have Bikram style here in SouthLite and I really don't like this style at all. Bikram is very rigid and, I felt, a little judgmental.

However I did not let that dissuade me and I ventured forth in my yoga explorations.  I tried new yoga classes at my gym.  This was especially easy because during the summer months most yoga instructors go on vacation and we had a lot of "substitute" yoga teachers in my regular classes. When I found one I liked, I tried one of their regular classes.  I also branched out and tried a yoga studio outside of the gym. This studio came highly recommended and I decided to try a restorative class for my first session.  Unfortunately it didn't really thrill me but the instructor was "subbing" for the regular teacher and she described some of the other classes that they offered.  One, yin yoga, really stood out to me and I tried it the following week.  Long story short, I fell in love.

Yin yoga is passive yoga.  It is all about easing yourself into a posture and staying there for around 5 minutes.  There is no straining and only minimal use of muscles.  It is far more of a meditation than a workout but it puts me in a complete state of calm mellowness.  I can no longer live without it.  The instructor is the owner of the studio and she is fabulous; a great person with a warm, welcoming personality and a lot of knowledge.  I've been going twice a week all summer.

While b was gone I was doing 5-6 yoga classes a week, both at the gym and this new studio.  My attendance at tai chi classes suffered greatly.  I also realized that our trip, which entailed many hours of sitting in a car, was completely at odds with my new yoga practice.  So I would sit in the passenger seat trying to fit as many postures into a Yaris as possible.  b also agreed to try a few classes with me when we arrived at big cities.  We found a yin yoga class in the City of Glass.  It was 90 minutes long and we both felt much better afterwards.  I still preferred my instructor at home (b has since tried her class and agrees) but it was a very welcome break.

At our next big city we tried hot yoga.  It was not billed as Bikram so I was hoping for something different but alas it was the same 26 movements I had come to detest at the beginning of the summer.  b was a trooper and made it through the whole hour but was less then pleased with the experience.  The studio was lovely (they had a strict rule of silence before and after class that was interesting) and the instructor was an adorable young woman with a big pregnant belly.

On the trip out to meet b, I read Dederer's Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses from my summer reading list.  It is an interesting read, as she details a specific time in her life through her experiences learning yoga.  Each chapter is a different pose and she provides a fair amount of background information on the pose and on the history and philosophy of yoga.  Between reading the book and taking many different classes with different teachers and different styles, I've learned a lot about what I do and don't like about yoga.

It seems I like the extremes.  I really enjoy vinyasa yoga, which is characterized by putting poses together into a flow.  It is more aerobic and sometimes is combined with the word "power" to denote a more intensive class.  I especially like this type of yoga in a hot room so you are sweating before you even start moving and by the end you're not sure how you can still be standing.  But I also adore yin yoga, which is quite the opposite.  What I am not so thrilled with is the in-between.  If the instructor is really good I can appreciate a class that is just based on postures, especially if there is a lot of instruction on how to do them correctly.  I like to hear about philosophy.  I like to be physically adjusted (I am a kinesthetic and visual learner; I do the worst when someone is describing to me how to get into and out of postures--which is what happens in Bikram).  I don't need a particularly chatty or close community but I do like to feel welcomed when I arrive.

Ultimately I do yoga because it makes me feel great during and afterwards.  If it doesn't do that, I'm out of there.


Catherine said...

I read Poser this summer too. What struck me was how yoga helped soothe her all-pervasive anxiety. It made me think I should give it a try.

BTW--if you're looking for an excellent novel--read Room by Emma Donahue. Excellent.

Maggie May said...

I realllly look forward to starting a yoga practice when ee is a bit older. And I want to read that book.

ruthpennebaker said...

i'm mixed on yoga teachers' philosophizing. think this originated from hearing too many of them opining after 9/11 that they felt sorry for the highjackers, who were clearly in such a bad karmic state. my own opinions about the highjackers, l have to say, were a bit more harsh