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.
I’m at the BlogHer conference in downtown Chicago mingling with 800 other women (promise I’ll link to some great food and yoga blogs once I process all the info that’s pouring into my brain).
The first day, I decided to get some exercise by walking from the train station to the conference center. I was wearing sandals and carrying a heavy laptop bag. I got lost. One hour and five blisters later, I finally arrived. I was smart enough to take a cab back to the train station that night, but once I made it to the suburbs (where I’m staying with a friend) I had to walk another mile to their house. My friend’s husband, Brad, was with me, and he watched as I limped and cringed.
“Ow, ow, ow,” I said as my sandals rubbed against my blisters.
I slipped off my shoes.
“Ow, ow, ow,” I said again as the sharp little pebbles on the roads and sidewalks cut my feet.
“You’re a yoga blogger!” Brad said.
“What does that have to do with anything?” I asked.
“Some yogis walk over hot coals and stuff,” he pointed out.
Now that he mentioned it, I did recall reading a passage in a book about firewalking at a yoga retreat. Although none of the yoga classes I’ve attended have involved hot coals, we do practice in bare feet. Still, smooth wood floors and soft sticky mats may help strengthen my soul, but they don’t sturdy up the skin on my soles.
Walking home that night, I stepped off the sidewalk and onto the grass. It was long and cool and damp. It cushioned my bare feet and brushed in between my toes. I completely forgot about my blisters as I focused on how nice it felt to observe the world through from the bottom up. It had been a long time since I’ve walked barefoot in the grass.
To some, barefoot hiking is a hobby. Richard Frazine wrote a book about it called The Barefoot Hiker, and Common Ground, a sustainable living magazine, wrote an article about it here.
How often do we take time to feel the crunch of leaves or the slick slime of moss or the powder puffs of dirt through our feet and toes? Not to mention walking barefoot is gentle on the planet. I think I will start taking off my shoes more often, especially outside.
As quoted on this website, Sitting Bull said: “Healthy feet can hear the very heart of Mother Earth.”
Remember Mr. Men and Little Miss?
I was a child of the 70s and loved those characters. I think Mr. Funny was my favorite, but last Sunday I was reminded of Mr. Forgetful.
It was mid-morning, and my husband and I were exiting a crowded parking lot. The pavement was packed, and cars were bumper to bumper as everyone tried to work their way out onto the main road. A couple policemen were directing traffic and one waved us on. Two seconds later a second policeman held up his hand indicating we should stop. Confusion ensued as my husband rolled forward then hit his breaks as he tried to follow the directions. Cars honked. A red truck squealed his tires and raced around us, cutting us off and running over a couple of orange cones.
Guess where we were leaving?
We had just finished listening to a sermon about treating others kindly.
How quickly we forget (and I’m not just talking about the guy in the red truck…I found myself feeling annoyed with the traffic too!).
At times I’ve noticed Mr. Forgetful making an appearance in yoga class. Here’s what happens: we spend 90 minutes stretching and meditating and bowing and OMing, but as soon as class ends we’re all shoving our blankets into the shelf (each one folded in different ways), tossing our blocks in a disorganized fashioned into a bin, and then racing out the door as we reach in front of others to grab our flip-flops.
I hate to admit that I’ve been guilty of this before. But I guess I’ll be Little Miss Confession today. After one of my yoga teachers suggested people should put their props away more mindfully, I really began to pay attention. Blankets should be folded and stacked the same way to prevent the pile from tumbling. Blocks should be stacked to maximize space. Straps should be hung without tangles.
And it’s really that simple.
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