Thanks to all who have stopped by and/or left comments as the Wasa blog gets underway.
A couple people mentioned that this blog has inspired them to try yoga. I know the feeling. My husband inspired me to try yoga years ago after I watched him ease into a backbend with grace. I’ve mentioned that before, but what I failed to mention was the fact that I didn’t like my first yoga class. Or my second. Or third;
I knew the benefits of yoga – flexibility, awareness, inner stillness – were practices I needed in my life, but during class I couldn’t hold the poses. It takes time to find balance and build strength. Also, the teacher wasn’t a good fit. Plus, I kept slipping on my mat because I was wearing socks. Not to mention my loose-fitting t-shirt flipped over my head when I’d bend over for Downward Facing Dog.
So my first suggestion is to wear comfortable “stretchy” clothes. Slip off your shoes (and socks) before entering the studio. Bare feet help you “stick” to the mat. If you don’t have a mat, you can rent one. Sometimes they’re free, sometimes $1.
Okay, now you’re in the studio before class has begun. Believe it or not this can be the most intimidating part.
A few years ago I remember encouraging a friend to try a yoga class. We were traveling in San Francisco and the class was at 6am. I couldn’t attend because of another obligation (um, I believe it was sleep), but my friend was a super early riser and decided to try yoga for the first time. Ten minutes later she clamored back into the room complaining that when she walked in the studio all the students were gathering foam blocks, long white straps, and bolsters, and she had no idea what these were, if she needed any, and, if so, which ones she should take.¼br />
Oh gosh, I felt awful for sleeping in. I had completely forgotten how many times I’ve felt that exact same way when I’ve tried something new. Like the first time I tried a spinning class. I was standing in the cool dark studio when a group of women walked in all holding biking shoes (biking shoes? Oops! I didn’t have those). Then they began turning knobs, lowering the seats, and adjusting the handlebars. I was outta there in 30 seconds (I went back the next day – it turns out you don’t need biking shoes and the instructor showed me how to adjust the parts – but still).
Even just a few weeks ago I tried a new yoga studio and noticed the students folding blankets in a manner I’d never seen before. I’ve been practicing yoga for years and I still felt a bit out of place. I wasn’t sure if I should fold the blanket “my” way or “their” way. That question was answered when the teacher began class and showed everyone what she wanted us to do.
So, a few more suggestions: don’t worry about the blocks, straps, and blankets. They are props to help people (like me) adjust in certain poses. If you need a prop during a pose, the yoga teacher will bring it to you, or you can ask her before class begins. Also, consider brining a friend to your first class if that would make you feel more comfortable (a friend who has practiced before can show you the ropes; if not, you two can navigate the waters together).
Now class has begun . . . and you don’t understand a word the teacher is saying. Chaturanga Dandasana? Urdhva Mukha Svanasana? Virabhadrasana II? The same thing happened to me in a dance class once where the teacher was using terms I’d never heard. The students around me began spinning and hopping and twirling about as I stood there, motionless and a little annoyed (it was a “beginners” class). Finally I gave up and tried to sneak out of the room. A woman came over and touched me on the shoulder, “You just don’t know the lingo yet. You’ll get the hang of it,” she promised.
And I promise – you’ll get the hang of yoga lingo. I do, however, recommend finding an “intro to yoga” course if you’re trying it for the first time. After trying yoga and not liking it, I finally went to this 2-day orientation at Yoga Works. Instead of jumping right into sun salutations, we sat in a circle and talked. The teacher showed us how to breathe, answered our questions, and walked us slowly through the fundamental poses. That’s when yoga began to change to my life.
The other day, I was in a “blah” mood due to my seasonal affective disorder (self-diagnosed). To snap out of it, I came up with a list of ten activities that are fun. Not just enjoyable, but playful and lively. The kind of activities that make me happy, happy, happy.
10 Fun Activities
1. Rollerblading (I can’t help but grin like a fool whem I blade – I absolutely love it more than just about anything)
2. Dinner out with my husband
4. Downhill Skiing
5. Watching a good romantic comedy
7. Jumping on a trampoline
8. Throwing a Frisbee with my dog (she can leap in the air and catch it)
9. Riding rapids in a river
10. Snorkeling around coral reefs
Reviewing my list, it dawned on my how many were linked to physical activity – things that get my blood flowing. (Yoga isn’t on there because while I do enjoy it – love it, actually – I think of it as more of a calming practice.) I don’t know where the trampoline came from – that one just popped into my head. Well, I’m so getting a mini tramp for my bedroom. When it’s cold and windy and rainy I’ll get some physical exercise and make myself laugh while I’m at it.
Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
Alone in a cabin in the mountains, I put the kettle on the stove. My husband left yesterday to return to the city, and I have a few days to myself before more relatives arrive. I want to take this time to better develop my “home” yoga practice.
After hot oatmeal, tea, and a refreshing shower, I’m ready. In the past, I would quickly find myself intimidated or overwhelmed at the thought of practicing yoga without a teacher and other students, but I recently read an article that put me at ease. It suggested starting with one pose – just one – and building from there.
Well. In that case, Child’s Pose.
So that is what’s on my agenda as I walk over to the blue mat rolled out on the floor. It seems appropriate to “open” my practice, so I sit with my legs crossed and chant three Oms (can you believe it – no other voices to drown out mine).
Then I got on my hands and knees and folded back into Child’s Pose. I stayed in the active position instead of the passive position.
I’ve always loved this pose. A wonderful stretch. Also – and I’m not sure if the yoga experts would agree here – but to me it feels like a gratitude pose, bowing down and saying Thanks. Finally, it’s a relaxation pose – not just for the body, but for the mind.
I try to let go of my worries. I can hear the fire crackle in the woodstove behind me. I feel it’s warmth on my back. I sink into the Earth as the tops of my feet and the palms of my hands press into the ground. After a few minutes I lift my head. For awhile I turn around and gaze at the yellow flames through the woodstove’s glass door.
Not bad for my first day, I think. Tomorrow I’ll really shake things up with Child’s Pose and Tadasana.
My life is full of words. If I’m not writing an article, I’m writing in my journal. If I’m not blogging here, I’m blogging here. If I’m in the shower or walking the dog or cooking a meal, I’m “writing” in my head. Other times I’m reading books (more words) and magazines and newspapers.
Mostly, this is good. I love words. But I realize it’s also important to empty my mind of the 26 letters of the alphabet that are constantly buzzing around in various arrangements in my head.
We live in a world with constant noise: TV, construction, motors, whirring coffee machines – even tranquil spas and yoga classes play music. What’s that about?
Anyway, as part of my home yoga practice, I’m trying to incorporate a time to be silent. I’m not chanting a mantra (more words) or telling myself, “When this is over I need to write that thought down!”
Of course it seems our brains are always full of thought (at least my female brain is…my husband swears he’s thinking of “nothing” if I ask him. Actually, since I’m on the topic, what do babies think about? Can you have thoughts without language?)
Anyway, sitting in silence is an attempt to empty my mind…and to simply experience the quiet. A need that my bloggy friend Kathryn describes as a part of our days that is sorely missing in these times. It’s nice to invite it back into my life.