Two out of four; I’m half way to the completion of my summer yoga experiment. I’m embarking on this journey with an open mind, to discover how weekly yoga may impact my mental, physical and spiritual health.
Following Last Week’s Practice
I noticed a bit of stiffness in my neck throughout the same day, but none following that. I also felt less back pain and joint stiffness at the end of the week. Last week was what we call “Launch Week” at my gym, when brand new choreography is released in a branch of fitness classes we offer. I am a fitness instructor, and on Launch Week, I typically teach upwards of twice as many classes as my usual amount, which leaves me very sore by the end of the week. I can’t say I wasn’t stiff at all, but I can say that I noticed a marked improvement in how I felt, just by slotting that one Yoga class into the middle of the week. I should not be surprised; I’ve been well educated on the benefits of proper stretching!
This Week’s Practice
If you recall, there were a few things I wasn’t fond of in the class I attended last week, namely the late instructor, and the overly full room of loud, bad-breathed breathers. I purposefully chose a different class this week, so that I could experience another teacher’s practice, and a fresh environment. I’m pleased to report that the teacher was early, stayed late to chat with me, and there were no loud, bad-breathed breathers. The only breathing I heard today was when the instructor asked us all to exhale forcefully, and we did it as a group, which had a nice sense of comradery to it.
I came into the class slightly more comfortably after having just done Yoga last week. I began my morning in a similar fashion, getting up early and heading to the gym with ample time to warm up and get acquainted with the room. I also don’t have my own yoga mat (yet?), and there are only a couple of spares, so I wanted to make sure I got there early to get one.
I was tired today. I had lots of sun this weekend, and a restless sleep last night. I seriously considered turning the alarm off and just rolling back over, but then I remembered I made a commitment to myself, and the blogging community, to do four classes this summer, and I needed to get my lazy butt out of bed.
My experience today was entirely different than last week. I’m discovering that this is something that intrigues me about Yoga. I never know what to expect; no class is ever exactly the same. There are so many poses a teacher can choose from, based on the experience level of the participants, requests, or simply what he or she is feeling inspired to practice that day. In some classes, like the ones I teach, predictability and patterns are keys to success and the development of better cardio-vascular fitness, strength and stamina. In Yoga, predictability doesn’t seem to matter as much. There’s lots of time to sink into each pose, adjust, and re-adjust. I can see how familiarity with the poses would add value, but Yoga truly is a practice, and there’s always room to keep practicing and growing in the many facets of what it offers.
Some of the poses were familiar today, but some were new, and the order surprised me. Not knowing what was coming forced me to be mentally engaged in the class, and to pay attention. In Yoga, I have to listen and heed the instructions; I must be aware of what I’m experiencing in my body.
The Instructor Matters
I specifically appreciated three things about the way the instructor taught this morning (on top of her timely arrival and personable manner).
First, she made an effort to remind us to be aware of our mental state. She started the class with a relaxation time, in which she brought our attention to all parts of our bodies and our breath; she challenged us to let go of worrisome thoughts or our to-do lists of the day, and be present in the class. I needed this. Throughout, she reminded us to focus in on our breathing. At the end, she encouraged us to be grateful for something, and to set a goal for our state of mind for the rest of the day, whatever we each wanted it to be. She wasn’t specifically spiritual, but I was able to make it spiritual for me, in the way I wanted to.
Second, she gave detailed instructions, in a calm voice. She explained all poses with care, and reminded us to tighten up tiny details in our postures that would have altered their effectiveness if we’d forgotten them. She taught us how to breathe deeply, to the top of our lungs, into our belly breath, and within our body’s natural rhythm; she cued which types of breathing to do in each pose.
Third, she came to me when she noticed I was struggling, and whispered the question, “Would you mind if I offered you some assistance?” I gladly accepted, and she helped re-align my legs and hips into the proper placement, which in turn enabled me get the most out of that stretch. I clearly needed this too, and she acted on it.
I felt more satisfied after this class than last week’s. That could be partially caused by simple familiarity, but I imagine it mainly had to do with the room being less full, and the instructor’s style. I will certainly try to make it to one of her classes again.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts last week on how Yoga has impacted you. Any tips on choosing a Yoga mat?