Faux-yoga

Walking past the sweaty and straining gymmers, with veins popping out of their necks and surrounded by weights, I step into the faux-yoga studio, complete with a non-working fountain and fake stone garden.

This is gym yoga.

Attending a class named just “Yoga”, I had no idea what I was in for.

Chris, the Tai Chi master, was taking said “yoga” class. It was a slow and relaxing combination of Tai Chi, yoga and meditation. How divine.

“Step one foot out to the side, reach down with your one arm, and lift the other towards the sky”. While I’m busy placing my feet absolutely Ashtanga perfectly, everyone else is already flopped over and hanging around in the triangle pose. Right, specifics do not matter in this class.

“If you’re struggling, grab a block and rest your hand on that for support.” Huh? Blocks in yoga? Ah well, give it a go. I placed a block down and leant on it for support and immediately threw it aside. Such cheating!

What felt like 5 minutes later, “Okay, let’s rest and prepare to end the class”.

Sure. Okay. Cool.

People bash gym yoga classes and say that they don’t teach proper yoga principles and blah blah blah…whatever…I enjoyed the class. It was super-chilled, super-relaxing and I left feeling super-awesome.

I’m going back again to another vague “yoga” class to see what I get. It’s like a lucky packet ūüôā

The art of ‘mild torture’

This evening marked my first Hatha yoga class.¬†My friend and yoga teacher, Clare, assured me that it is a ‘lovely, slow, gentle form of yoga’ and ‘I’ll really enjoy it’.

Bollocks!

In my quest to explore the world outside of Ashtanga, my eyes are opened to a whole lot of other ‘styles of yoga’ (from hereon in referred to as ‘mild torture’).

She was quite correct in that it was a lot slower and gentler. She refrained from mentioning that each posture is held for what seems like an eternity and makes you feel like you are made of inflexible heavy metal. Galoomphing in and out of postures, holding each one while trying to stop my strained and shaky muscles from seizing, it was far from lovely.

On the other hand, my headstand is progressing nicely. If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that this is an almost impossible feat for me. Back-bends are still nowhere.

The problem with this stupid yoga thing is, that no matter what ‘mild torture’ you choose and how revolting it is to make it through the class, you feel so damn good afterwards. I will make it my mission to find a ‘mild torture’ that is pleasant, elegant, flowing and peaceful (like all the yoga images you find that make you believe that yoga is relaxing) and still leaves me with the same feeling afterwards.

Vive La Revolution!

 

Yes well, meh!

Ha! So you can tell from the nothingness between my last post and now that I had another break-up with yoga for a bit. It seems like I have a very up and down relationship with this silly yoga thing. I keep on going back, though.

I suppose it’s like a virus that lies dormant in my blood for a while and then pops up and takes over a bit. A good virus, though.

As I get older (meh!) and wiser, I have started to pay more attention to what I want to do instead of what supposedly should be doing. I seek more activities that suit my personality, not grate it. I now do a yoga class every now and then, of whichever type I want to, instead of being suffocated by the discipline of Ashtanga.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Ashtanga practice and classes and I still do, but I’ve learned that I get more out of approaching yoga more¬†leniently and gently than restricting my ‘freedom’ with Ashtanga.

There’s a big lesson here, actually. To be honest, my relationship with yoga has actually taught me a lot about myself that I kind of knew was there, but didn’t really pay attention to. It has taught me patience, kindness and respect for myself and others.

My goal with this blog was to share my Ashtanga journey and I have, it now just takes a different turn…

I’m back!

It’s been a while since I attempted a yoga practice because of my shoulder injury (and a recurring disc issue), but I finally gave it a little go this morning…

It felt really good being back in the yoga realm and I really have missed it – my body felt like a concrete block and my mind was all over the place. It’s mad. I only realise it now, after having had a practice this morning, how out of touch I was with myself on my temporary yoga break-up.

I managed better than I thought – with vinyasa modifications and a ‘hell no’ to twists, @claremelina helped to ease me back into the yoga world.

I still have to take it easy, though, and am currently addicted to spinning, swimming and pilates, so I will slowly start practising again.

I’ll say ‘I’m back’, quietly, and you’ll start getting some yoga posts from me again soon. Practising with an injury (well, two) is my new challenge and I’ll share my progress with you.

Yoga can wreck your body? My story…

The entire yogic community worldwide has been up in arms over the recent New York Times article: “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”. It’s been praised and criticised, taken to pieces and analysed to the point of being anal. To me, it doesn’t particularly matter how researched the facts were, or who is to blame for injuries, but let me tell you my story…

About 2 months ago I went to a led Ashtanga Primary Series class, led by a teacher I had not been taught by before. Upfront, I told her my issues with headstands and backbends, so that she can assist me when it comes to it.

When it came time to push into a backbend, the teacher came to assist me. She very gently talked me into preparation poses, purring praises as I progressed. When attempting a full backbend, my elbows tended to bow outwards, so she held them in line as I attempted to lift my upper body off the ground. I gave it my everything and managed to get myself off the ground…slightly…I was dripping with sweat and out of breath (yes, that’s how bad my backbend attempts are). Nonetheless, the coaxing continued and I was pushing myself further than I was comfortable…and then some, and then some more.

It was a crazy experience and I broke down in tears, from exhaustion and from the effects of opening up the heart chakra. It was all just very weird for me.

I went home to forget about the experience and woke up the next day with a very painful shoulder, like I had pulled a muscle. I figured that I had just pulled something and it should heal quite quickly.

Well here I sit today, with tendonitis from a tendon tear in my shoulder and a damaged AC joint.

Some would blame the teacher, saying that she should not have been pushing me past my limits. And I agree to an extent. I don’t agree with blaming anyone else for things that I do and that happen to me in my life, but teachers do need to start trying to understand when students don’t want to push themselves further. It’s not a difficult science, if she says “No, I don’t want to”, it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s her understanding her body enough to know that pushing something further will lead to injury.

I agree to a certain extent with the comments on the New York Times article that yoga has become about ego, and I can see it around me. But I do believe that is a serious generalisation and there are many people out there who practice yoga intelligently, know their limits and never use ego as a reason to do any asana in a particular way.

I don’t believe that ego was the cause of my injury. I don’t believe that I was competing with myself to prove that I could do this. To some extent, I did get excited at the thought that maybe, just maybe, I’ll lift myself off the ground more than usual and feel that feeling of accomplishment, of self-pride, but that is not the sole reason I did it. The main reason was that of trust. I trusted this gentle, soothing voice next to my ear, holding my elbows and telling me I can do it, pushing me deeper and deeper into a place I wanted to be.

I was not ready and I should have been more assertive about that.

I’ve not been back to a class since then and I am doing some work on healing my shoulder injury, but the most difficult obstacle to overcome is that of being able to trust again.

That will take far more time than muscular healing.

Today I learnt…fasting isn’t for sissies

“Verily Yoga is not possible for the person who eats too much, nor for the one who does not eat at all, nor for the one who sleeps too much, nor the person who is always awake.” Bhagavad Gita, VI.16

Yogis values are all about respect for your mind and body and fasting comes into play in this respect. See my blog post below about my first fasting experience:

Today I learnt…fasting isn’t for sissies

Yogic values…how it all seeps in

I have two main blogs that I update regularly, this one and my personal random blog PopcornCandi. PopcornCandi existed before my yogic journey began and since then, I’ve started to see material for each of them merge into each other. Even though I am not a hardcore regular yoga practitioner, I’ve found the yogic values seep more and more into my everyday life.

The biggest influence being food. Yoga works best with a light, vegetarian lifestyle – which I kind of had in the beginning – that has become more serious as the months have passed. Exposure to people with similar beliefs reinforces the reason I decided to change to a vegetarian lifestyle in the first place. Read my post from my other blog on the challenge of a guilt-free lifestyle, I’d love to hear your comments: Guilt-free food?

 

‘Practice and all is coming’ – Sri Pattabhi Jois

‘Practice and all is coming’ – the famous saying from Pattabhi Jois is scribbled on the notice board at my yoga studio.

True, true words. Okay, so he did dedicate his entire life to yoga, which does help, but still true words!

I can’t say that I religiously practice my yoga, but I do have some sort of practice going on. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with the fact that my progress in Ashtanga is super-slow and that I can’t ever imagine being able to lift myself up into a headstand or back-bend.I’m okay with the fact that some days I just can’t make it to the studio, or even onto my mat at home. I’m okay with some days being good and some days a train-wreck. I’m okay with the occasional retarded chicken practice. I’m okay with being the eternal beginner.

You know why?

Because it is MY practice. I get out of it what I want to and it all belongs to me. That’s the beauty of Ashtanga – once you know the sequence of postures and the basics, you make it your own, whatever that may be.

It’s mine and I love it.

(I had a longer blog post written and all ready to go when my internet failed me and I lost it all, so you got the summarised version now…)

Morning Madness – The Valium (yoga blog post)

It seems that I may have found the Valium for the Morning Madness … Morning Mysore. In a studio. With other heated bodies.

I’ve been neglecting Mysore classes and finding all sorts of excuses to not go, but today showed me how important it really is for your practice. The heat and energy of the other bodies as well as the calmness of the breathing egging you along, really helps.

That’s what I enjoy about Ashtanga – always surprising me.

To any other beginners out there, just give it a go. If you have a good teacher, he/she will be patient with you and help you along.

As for back-bends…they can still kiss my asana. The battle continues!