Yoga, Part Next, Inc

I am mindful that my little seeker brain hunts for new things to adore, exhausts them and moves on to the next target. It’s been my modus operandi for most of my life, with a few things excepted. I am, by nature, a seeker. I love new things. Until recently, I viewed this as a shortcoming in myself. “I don’t stick with things,” I would chastise internally; “why can’t I just be happy with the familiar? Why can’t I just pick one or two things I like and be satisfied?”

I came to realize, though, it is not a fault – it is simply the way I am, and I’m not alone. We scanners, we hunters, turn over new rocks and explore. While I may not be on the frontier of exciting new discoveries, I carry some personality traits of people who are.

As I write this, it reads to my eyes like hopeless bragging. I’m writing it, anyhow.

I can use these traits to my advantage and even help others by showing them new paths themselves. Sometimes, we need someone to explore with us, or for us, before we’re willing to go there ourselves. It makes me feel good, having gotten friends into motorcycling, birding, skydiving, knitting, herding and various other activities. Opening doors for myself as well as for others is immensely rewarding.

It’s taken a lot of mental heavy lifting to understand I am not deficient. Before we became so specialized, humans needed to be Jacks of all trades, we needed to have a diverse skill set to survive. Certainly, specialization has made things easier in many respects and we’ve been specialists for millennia… but some of us still don’t want to settle in. We want adventure. We want to go down the unexplored path to see what’s around that next bend – literally and figuratively.

Bearing that in mind, I am trying to be realistic about my future with yoga, as phrases like, “this feels like home” float through my head (even as my quadriceps are on fire.) The moving meditation yoga provides forces me to focus on every aspect of my body – there is no room for worrying about anything outside that studio.

One of the many ways I have fallen down in Buddhism is through meditation – my monkey mind has a terrible, terrible time with being still. The few times I managed to get a good bead on it in temple with Mark were fleeting, but wonderful. Where I found success, though, was through walking meditation; giving my body something simple, consistent and constant to do that allowed my mind to wander.

Yoga is similar to walking meditation, only much more intensely-focused on the body. Instead of freeing my mind to do its own thing, it forces my mind and my body into singularity, something I am not very good at.

Tonight marked my fifth yoga class, and it was the best one yet. Misty was my instructor, and I had not yet been in class with her. She is more my vision of The Yoga Instructor Archetype: She is a tiny, very bendy, slip of a girl, but she has a personality that is at once huge but not intimidating. She has taught yoga for eight years, and it is clearly her passion. She put all of us newbies thoroughly at ease, and there was a lot of laughter and smiling as she taught.

Normally in Hilltop classes, people don’t ask questions; the instructor guides us through the poses, giving a lot of detail and pointers as she sees fit, putting hands on those who need a bit of assistance, but it is not a very interactive experience. Tonight, though, Misty encouraged questions, slowed everything down, and really taught us yoga. She explained some core concepts that will make a huge difference in our practice.

Toward the end of class, we did handstands. It was glorious.

I don’t think I’ve been in a handstand since I was in my teens. “Being upside-down is a wonderful thing,” Misty said, once we were all back on the ground. “Even setting aside the physiological reasons, spiritually, it is kind of amazing to have your world flipped upside-down.” Everyone in class was grinning and giggling, kind of amazed with ourselves. “I haven’t done that since I was 12,” one woman in her late fifties said. I will probably be doing handstands all over the house now.

Misty worked us hard, even though we weren’t really flowing, we were learning. And that was great.

Ordinarily, my hamstrings are tight enough to be plucked like those of a guitar. This is Dandasana, a surprisingly active pose:

The feet are flexed hard, quadriceps fully engaged, core engaged, spine reaching as tall as possible. We fold forward, keeping length in the spine and not rolling the shoulders forward. Some people are able to do this:

I am not. For the first week of class, I could only reach my hands to my ankles and lean maybe a few inches forward. Yesterday, though, huge breakthrough – I could grab my feet! Looking more like this:

This is a big deal for me, because it means I’m loosening up more quickly than I would have guessed. This makes me very very happy, indeed. 🙂 I need this body to change, and it’s happening.

At the doctor’s office today, I was down about ten pounds from my last visit three months ago. I started trying to work on things about a month ago, and I’m hoping I’ve put on a wee bit of muscle mass, so I’m guessing I’ve lost more than ten pounds of fat. And I’m not working that hard, not at all.

The more I learn in class, the more I can practice at home, too, so my practice will expand with experience.

I’m really enjoying the whole experience of yoga. It is demanding without being brutal, it is calming while being active, it taps into areas of my body that have been untouched for decades. It is gentle, but powerful. At least, thus far – watching the “power” classes… that might border more on the brutal side.

I suspect it only appears that way to the outsider, though; we work into yoga at our own speed, letting our bodies determine how much is enough. We progress gradually, pushing gently but not over-exerting. Being mindful, and working in harmony with our bodies.

Should anyone local want to explore a class or two, I’d love to have someone come with me to share the experience. No bendiness or fitness required, obviously – just look at me!

Thank you, Misty, for breaking the form of the class tonight and answering our many questions.

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