I enjoy the beginning of yoga class because the opening is generally “easy” – well, at least physically (the meditating part can bring up its own set of challenges).
But before we practice some of the more difficult poses, we usually we open by sitting in Sukhasana for a few minutes. And then maybe move onto our hands and knees to practice Dog Tilt and Cat Pose. It’s a place for gentle movements. A time to bring awareness to our breath.
The other day at the beginning of class, we were on our hands and knees with a neutral spine (tabletop). The teacher asked us to lift our right arm off the ground and straighten it so it pointed forward. Both of our arms were engaged. The left one pushing the floor away, and the right one reaching for the wall in front of us (in a way where we weren’t scrunching our shoulder blade up to our neck). She had us hold that position. For a long, long time. It was hard. (Don’t believe me? Try it.)
“Some poses can be deceptive,” the teacher said. “Not as easy as they seem.”
I love that about yoga. I love that I don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment or special shoes to build flexibility and strength. I just need my body, my mind, and my spirit.
I was “birthed” into the world of yoga through the Iyengar style where precision and alignment are emphasized. My teacher would adjust our poses starting from our pinky toe (literally – she’d have us lift it up and try to spread it away from our other toes) all the way to the tops of our heads (which, she would tell us, should be lifting toward the ceiling, as if a string was attached to our scalp and someone was pulling).
I’m one of those follow the rules, read the directions, life is in the details type of girls, so I ate Iyengar yoga up. The fact that my hamstrings are tight, my shoulders are scrunched, and my hips are narrow make Iyengar a fitting practice because I benefit so greatly from the blocks and straps and blankets that are generously encouraged in that style of practice to help with proper positioning.
From time to time I’ve experimented with other yoga styles – this article describes various kinds – and recently I found myself in a session where the teacher was leading a flow with pretty much no regard to form whatsoever.
At first I was distraught.
“Beautiful!” the yoga teacher said when I moved into Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II).
“Oh, yeah, right,” I thought to myself.
In an Iyengar class, the instructor is always adjusting my Warrior II pose. I’m like a toy where you push one section in and another section pops out. If she moves my left thigh, my right knee tweaks to a different place. If she tilts my pelvis, my arms plummet. If she tells me where to fix my gaze – whoops – there goes my thigh again.
Anyway, I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to spend the entire practice mentally upset that this yoga teacher wasn’t going to focus on form. Other than calling out the pose, she was giving no instructions, and deep inside I knew that was okay. Because yoga really isn’t about form. Not at its core. It’s about being in a present state of mind. Finding a place where I’m not worrying about the future or obsessing over the past, even if those thoughts relate to yoga itself. As I continued the flow, I let go of the details and the precision and simply enjoyed the movement.
I felt warm and flexible and free.
Tonight for dinner I made tuna salad…without tuna…or mayo.
How, you might ask, did I make such meal?
With vegetables and seasoning.
I’m trying to incorporate as many veggies into my diet as I can, so I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. One of the most interesting I’ve seen so far is “Better than Tuna” from this book. First, I whipped out my food processor. Then I discovered my food processor was broken, so I whipped out a knife and cutting board. I finely chopped three big carrots, two celery stalks, a quarter of an onion, half a red pepper, and a tomato. I drained the tomato and threw all the veggies in a bowl.
For the seasoning I mixed in one-half teaspoon Celtic sea salt, one Tablespoon parsley, one-half teaspoon kelp, and three Tablespoons of Vegenaise.
Looking at the concoction, I wasn’t sure what to think. It looked pretty appetizing, but there was only one way to find out for sure. I served the “tuna” in a toasted whole wheat hamburger bun. I also set out a platter of blue corn tortillas with hummus (I cut the tortillas into “chips” and baked them in the oven first). To drink? Fresh vegetable juice.
Numma, numma, numma. It was delicious. I highly recommend it (hopefully your food processor is working though because all that chopping was labor intensive). I’m so excited for lunch tomorrow to eat the leftovers.
During yoga class the teacher, Tina, tells me to lift up a bit. I’m squatting in a pose (it’s sort of this made up pose that I’ve dubbed the Tinasana) and Tina says my middle is sagging.
“The muscles in your body will automatically revert to being lazy if given the chance,” she says.
Lazy? But I’m working so hard, I think.
Later, in Warrior II I’m concentrating on my arms when Tina reminds me to firm my thighs. If I don’t pay attention, they become lazy.
Yet another pose and my feet are splaying instead of pointing in the right direction. Guess why?
Really. Out of all the things in the world, I don’t consider myself lazy. But apparently even when I’m truly working on my alignment there are parts of my body that are secretly trying to get away with as little as possible.
After class I start thinking . . . does that apply to other areas of my life?
No way. I’m motivated! Diligent!Relentless in my pursuits!
Except in the mornings. I like to linger in bed. It’s warm and cozy. Plus I’m still sleepy. By the time I do get up, shower, and eat breakfast, I’m always surprised at how much of the day has gotten away from me before I make it to my home office.
And walking. I love my afternoon walks. Love them. Then why do I skip them from time to time, opting instead to sit and work a little longer?
Speaking of work, I realized something as I began investigating this whole laziness issue. If I have ten things on my “To Do” list, I tend to opt for the easiest projects first. When I do start working on a hard topic (say an article that requires a lot of research or possibly a personal essay that forces me to do some inner work), I will drop it as soon as I feel stuck. I tell myself I’ll get back to it and turn my attention to the easier assignments again.
Isn’t it funny the insights yoga gives us into our lives? So if you’ll excuse me, I have an article I’ve put off. I’d better get working on it.